Liberty Thought of the Week
by Paul Hamby
How easy should it be to change the Missouri constitution?
Ballot measures that passed have a mixed history. Some were good and some were very bad with unintended consequences. Ballot measures are direct democracy where the people vote to change our laws.
In 2022, Amendment 3 added 39 new pages into the Missouri constitution to legalize marijuana. Amendment 3 was a very poorly written bill. Now our state and county courts have to try to interpret vague or completely missing language on how to handle releasing citizens with marijuana convictions. The problem with a constitutional amendment like Amendment 3 is that most voters made a decision based on biased or misleading ads and 1 short paragraph on the ballot. 39 pages of legalese summarized in one paragraph!
“Setting aside whether you were in favor or opposed to recreational marijuana legalization, Amendment 3 is bad policy,” State Rep John Voss said. “Because the amendment changes the Missouri constitution.”
Rep Jamie Burger echoed Voss’ views. “It’s virtually impossible to change this now that it’s part of the (state) constitution,” said Burger, saying Amendment 3 represents policy that should have been addressed by state legislators. (Voss and Burger quoted from SE Missourian Newspaper)
Missouri is a Representative Republic, we elect representatives and senators to deal with difficult and complicated issues.
Amendment 3 passed with the majority of votes cast in only 16 political subdivisions (a small percent of the 114 counties or 163 house districts) The new laws, taxes and mandates were added to our Missouri constitution – untouchable by legislators.
More than 100 amendments have been added to our constitution since its adoption in 1945.
“I think much of the constitutional initiative petition is abused by out-of-state money investors where people have no economic ties to Missouri, or they don’t live here, or their families aren’t here,” Missouri House S peaker Dean Plocher said. “I think Missouri voters need to have more transparency about what is being brought to them when they vote for it in the constitution.” (AP)
How do we establish a fair standard for adopting changes to the Missouri Constitution – one that retains the people’s ability to rein in government — while also preventing the Constitution from being a dumping ground for special interests?
One solution would be to add a provision to the current requirement for a simple majority vote for a ballot question for a constitutional amendment. Using the Missouri House as an example, since 82 state reps (of 163) must approve a bill in the legislature, adding the requirement of a concurrent majority of House districts to the already simple majority vote would ensure that a true majority of the state’s interest is achieved. That is called Concurrent Majority Ratification (CMR).
CMR would require that two conditions be met before a proposed amendment is ratified or adopted: (1) a 50% + 1 vote statewide (2) a majority in at least 82 Missouri House districts.
Under CMR, the 2010 puppy mill bill would have failed, the 2022 amendment 3 legalizing marijuana would have failed, but the 1992 term limits bill for Missouri legislators would still have passed. It’s a higher standard that is fair. Missouri HJR 30, sponsored by state rep Ed Lewis of Moberly and SJR33 from Senator Mike Moon puts CMR on the ballot for voters to decide. HJR30 is in committee this week in Jefferson City. You can read the bills and contact your legislators at house.mo.gov. or senate.mo.gov