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May God bless you - Representative Bill Reiboldt
The election year of 2014 may well be remembered for the constitutional amendments/ballot measures that were placed before voters. There are nine statewide constitutional amendments, five of which went before voters at the August 5th primary. Three of those passed. The other four measures are set to appear on the November 4th General Election ballot.
The initiative and referendum procedure has been a part of Missouri’s constitution and the political process in our state since about 1910. We are one of twenty-four states that allow its citizens to initiate legislation through the petition process. This legislation can either be a state statute or a constitutional amendment. In addition, Missouri’s General Assembly can place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes. Missouri law has a single subject rule for all ballot measures and limits the number of sections of the constitution that any amendment may revise. No measure can be permitted for unconstitutional purposes, and any initiative that is placed before voters must also specify a funding source to cover expenditures the measure may mandate.
With the August Primary now history, it is time for Missouri legislators to turn their attention to the upcoming Veto Session, as required in Article III, Section 32 of the Missouri Constitution. Specified to begin on the second Wednesday of September, this year’s Session will convene September 10. Typically, it is over in a matter of hours, although this year could prove to be a different story.
Missouri’s regular legislative session runs from the first week in January through the second week in May. The only constitutional requirement of the session is to pass the state budget, yet each year many important legislative bills are introduced and heard in committees, debated on the floor, amended, perfected, and eventually passed out of both chambers before being sent on to the governor for his signature or his veto. These bills will either become Missouri law or be vetoed by the governor. Occasionally he will allow a bill to become law without his signature. If he chooses to neither sign nor veto the bill, it automatically becomes law forty-five days after the close of session. The vetoed bills will be taken up during the annual Veto Session.
Voting is important. Many of you are reading this column on Election Day and, hopefully, have already voted or are planning to do so before the polls close. Missouri election officials predict that statewide there will only be about a 25% turnout (or about one million voters) heading to the polls today. These 25% will cast their votes, speaking for themselves and the other 75% (or about three million registered voters) who will choose not to make their voices heard. Typically, approximately 60% of eligible voters turn out to vote during presidential election years and 40% turn out in non-presidential election years. Unfortunately, this turnout percentage is even lower in local elections. It would be great if all Missouri citizens would see the need to exercise their right to vote and express their opinions and views on important issues that help govern our state.
When we think of the importance of voting and try to encourage people to take this responsibility more seriously, the main obstacle we encounter seems to be mostly voter apathy. One survey reported that among non-voters, their main reason for not voting was that they were “too busy” to do so. Others have a perception that politics are controlled by special interest groups, so there is no reason for them to vote.
Unbelievably, another group of non-voters surveyed reported they were not interested in voting. Still other voters say they experience confusion and frustration when trying to make up their minds. The solution to most of these problems is for each voter to become knowledgeable about the process and the issues before making a decision. On today’s ballot the constitutional amendment language is straightforward and a “yes” means “yes” and a “no” means “no.”