SJR 74 and Initiative Petition Reform

Tuesday 2-21-2024, the Missouri Senate took the first step to what may be the worst anti-liberty legislation in years.

The Senate “perfected” what they are calling their “IP (Initiative Petition) Reform” bill, SJR 74. That means they will take one more vote then pass it on to the House of Representatives to consider.

SJR 74 doesn’t actually affect the petition process and that’s good, but as amended in the middle of the night it DOES set up a double standard for the people of Missouri to ratify (approve) proposed amendments to their state Constitution.

SJR 74 would raise the bar when the People propose amendments, but NOT when the legislature proposes amendments.

To be clear, the bar should be raised on approving ALL proposed constitutional amendments.


Both our state and the U.S. constitutions are designed to safeguard the liberty of the People by defining the role of government and building fences around the power the People have entrusted to government.

After all, the People of Missouri have declared, “That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.” Mo. Constitution, Article I, Section 1.

The People of Missouri didn’t give government unbridled power — “The people reserve[d] power to propose and enact or reject laws and amendments to the constitution by the initiative, independent of the general assembly, and also reserve[d] power to approve or reject by referendum any act of the general assembly, except as hereinafter provided.” Mo. Constitution, Article III, Section 49. Also see Article I, Section 3.

Put another way, when the People find the government to be oppressive or unresponsive, they can pull back the power they loaned to government or build the fences around their power even higher. As John Locke wrote a couple of centuries ago, and as is echoed in the Declaration of Independence, the People even have the God-given power to use force, if necessary. The petition process gives the People a remedy short of force and violence.

As perfected on Tuesday, SJR 74 would allow the legislature to tear down the fences the People build around government power easier than the People can build those fences.


The politicians in Jefferson City have rightly decided that it’s just not smart to allow a simple majority vote (which can come from just the urban centers of the state, BTW) to change the document that is most responsible for protecting our liberty. But they don’t seem to recognize that the legislature, itself, passes legislation that steals our liberty more than any other source.

They will tell you that petition proposed amendments don’t go through the extensive vetting and deliberation process that legislatively proposed amendments go through, so SJR 74’s double standard is justified, but the very process that gave us SJR 74 screams otherwise.


It sure looks like the fix was in from the start. Even the Freedom Caucus led us to believe that they were there to make sure SJR 74 would stay true to what hundreds of people rallying at the Capitol on their behalf demanded. There were three things their grassroots supporters wanted in a ratification reform bill:

  1. That it would apply to ALL the ways the Constitution can be amended, (1) Petition, (2) Legislatively proposed amendments, and (3) Constitutional Conventions. To do those things, Article XII needed to be amended, NOT Article III.
  2. That it would use Concurrent Majority Ratification (CMR), so rural Missourians would have a say in approving amendments.
  3. That the rural “say” would be assured by using state House districts (not Congressional Districts) as the second metric to CMR.

Sure enough, the Freedom Caucus made sure SJR 74 came out of committee with those elements. To that end, all the bills that amended Article XII of the Constitution, including some from Freedom Caucus members, were rolled into SJR 74. But they also were, at least, complicit with Senator Mary Elizabeth Coleman controling SJR 74, knowing full well that she could, and probably would, undo the things the their grassroots supporters demanded.


Sure enough, in the middle of the night, during a 20 hour Democrat filibuster, four times senator Coleman substituted the bill that came out of committee with versions that created a double standard for approving amendments — a double standard that puts the People at a disadvantage.

Those “senate substitutes,” as they are called, had varying amounts of “ballot candy” — much of which was intended as bargaining chips with the Democrats. The problem is no one can know what was a bargaining chip and what the bill sponsor intended to keep in the bill. That was the case with the double standard language.

Adding to the sausage-making mess is the fact that after 20 hours of filibuster everyone is tired and few are thinking optimally. That’s when things are missed, mistakes are made, and garbage ends up in the sausage.

Usually what happens after a long filibuster and an agreement is forged the version with all the bargaining chips is withdrawn and a NEW senate substitute if offered.

That didn’t happen on Tuesday.

After about 20 hours, an agreement was reached with the filibustering Democrats — they would allow the bill to come to a vote in exchange for removing the “ballot candy.” The ballot candy bargaining chips were removed with an amendment to the fourth substitute, but the double standard language was not fixed. Did they intend to leave the double standard language in the bill, or was that an oversight?

Did someone intend to leave a poison pill in SJR 74, knowing that voters will hate the double standard and vote it down?


The next step is for the Senate to “Third Read” SJR 74. During the Third Read they can debate the bill, but can not amend it.

If it is not amended, I think liberty-minded senators should vote “no.”

There IS a way to salvage the situation, though. They can “reconsider the vote” by which SJR 74 was perfected, which would allow them to go back and do the right thing.

*******ACTION ITEM*******

Call your state Senator and tell him or her that they should either reconsider the perfection vote on SJR 74 or vote “no.”

Forward this email to him or her and tell them that:

  • You do not trust the House to fix it.
  • If it goes to the ballot with the double standard, it will likely fail, and we won’t have another chance at ratification reform for many years.
  • If it goes to the ballot and passes, we will have a terrible provision in the Constitution that takes power away from the People.

Here’s a list of state senators:

Here’s how you can look up your state senator:

Courtesy of Ron Calzone