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Initiative petitions OKed to curb legislative power over ballot measures

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 16, 2011 - The Missouri secretary of state's office has approved three more initiative petitions -- one dealing with racial profiling and two aimed at curbing the General Assembly's power to revamp or repeal laws brought about via initiative petition.

The approved ballot titles pertaining to the two initiative petitions dealing with initiative petitions are the same:

"Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prohibit the repeal or amendment by the General Assembly of a statute enacted by citizen initiative passed by the voters of Missouri, except by either a three-fourths vote of the members of each house or a vote of the people through a referendum or unless such statute explicitly provides that the general assembly may repeal or amend it by a majority vote of the members of each house?"

The secretary of state's office says the amendment would result in no additional governmental costs. To get on the ballot, backers will need to collect signatures from roughly 147,000 to almost 160,000 registered voters, in total, from at least six of the state's nine congressional districts. The number of signatures depends on which six districts are selected

Both proposals were generated by St. Louis activists, and appear to be in response to the legislature's actions -- approved by Gov. Jay Nixon -- to weaken Proposition B, the initiative petition narrowly approved last fall that sought to impose restrictions on dog breeders.

The racial-profile proposal reads as follows:

"Shall Missouri law be amended to require law enforcement agencies to take steps to prevent racial profiling that include implementing a complaint process,requiring corrective action for violators, and providing certain information about traffic or pedestrian stops to the attorney general for an annual report to the governor, legislature and law enforcement agencies?"

According to the secretary of state's office, "Compliance with this proposal may result in state and local law enforcement agencies purchasing/upgrading computer software or purchasing cameras for law enforcement vehicles. Those costs will vary by agency based on prior expenditures for these items and compliance decisions made."

Because it merely is proposing a change in state law, this ballot measure would require just over 90,000 signatures, collected from at least six of the state's nine congressional districts. The exact number of signatures depends on which six districts are selected.

The General Assembly tried, and failed, this last session to alter the number of signatures required and to expand the number of districts from which they would need to be collected.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.