Missouri House Republicans move to prevent judges from rewriting ballot language

Missouri House Republicans move to prevent judges from rewriting ballot language

In 2020, the Missouri courts tossed out and rewrote the Missouri State Legislature's ballot language for a proposed change to the state constitution. And this week, Republicans in the state legislature pushed a bill that, if signed into law, would forbid judges to rewrite ballot language.

The bill, Missouri House Bill 850, was sponsored by Missouri Rep. John Wiemann, a Republican. On Wednesday, Wiemann and his allies moved to advance the bill. And some Democrats in the Missouri Legislature have been highly critical of Wiemann's proposal, arguing that it would make it easier for partisan language to find its way to the ballot.

Rep. Ashley Aune, a Kansas City Democrat who serves in the Missouri House of Representatives, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "We're trying to make democracy accessible for people, and when we allow a supermajority to dictate the language that is on these ballot initiatives, we do a disservice."

Wiemann has been using very partisan language in support of HB 850, arguing that it would prevent judges in Missouri from "legislating from the bench" — a term that Republicans often use when it involves rulings that they don't like.

Post-Dispatch reporters Jack Suntrup and Maria Benevento explain, "Wednesday's vote followed a separate effort earlier in the day making it harder for citizens to change the state constitution. That process, which requires a simple majority for passage, has been used to legalize medical marijuana, expand Medicaid and enact new ethics standards. If the legislation, which was given first-round approval on Wednesday, passes both legislative chambers and wins approval from a simple majority of voters, it would require support from two-thirds of voters in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to succeed."

Missouri is a red state with some blue urban centers — namely, St. Louis and Kansas City, which includes Aune's district. The Show-Me State has a Republican governor, Mike Parson, and two Republican U.S. Senators: Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Roy Blunt, who recently announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2022. And Republicans have controlled the Missouri House and the Missouri Senate since the early 2000s.

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