Government & Politics

‘A Trojan horse’: MO auditor slams GOP push to change how voters amend constitution

Missouri state auditor slams GOP push to change how voters amend constitution

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, talks about her resistance to changing initiative petitions in the state.
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State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, talks about her resistance to changing initiative petitions in the state.

Missouri’s top elected Democrat said Thursday that efforts by GOP lawmakers to repeal constitutional amendments approved by voters last November shows a lack of respect for those who sent them to the General Assembly.

“Why were voters so smart when they voted you into office, but not smart when they voted for these initiatives?,” Galloway said in an interview. “And I’m not sure that these politicians have an answer to that question.”

As the only Democrat in statewide office, Galloway is seen as a possible prospect to run for governor in 2020 or for the U.S. Senate in 2022.

Galloway said Thursday she’s focused on her current job. But with a new op-ed piece and multiple interviews with news outlets on this issue, she’s signaling her intention to maintain a high-profile in the Republican-dominated state capitol.

Amendments to the state constitution currently need only a simple majority of votes for passage. After the Clean Missouri reforms passed last year, Republicans including House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, have said it should be harder and the bar for the amendments should be raised.

Clean Missouri overhauled the legislative redistricting process, attempted to open lawmakers’ records to the public, lowered campaign contribution limits and eliminated nearly all lobbyist gifts.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said before the session that his office has a “number of priorities for the legislative session, but none more important than initiative petition reform.”

Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said Thursday there’s need to be a conversation about initiative petitions.

“Everytime the political winds change we don’t want to be changing our constitution,” Schatz said. “So maybe our threshold needs to be looked at.”

Galloway said the idea has nothing to do with reform and everything to do with distancing Missourians from their government.

“You hear ‘sensible reform,’ around the initiative petition process here in Jefferson City, but I think that’s just a Trojan horse to make it harder for people to have a voice in their Democracy,” Galloway said.

A slew of bills have been introduced already this year, including legislation that the measures would need to receive a two-thirds majority vote, or around 66 percent, to take effect.

Galloway’s opposition puts her on the same side of the issue as GOP megadonor Rex Sinquefield.

Sinquefield has donated tens of millions to various candidates and causes in Missouri over the last decade, and regularly used the initiative petition process to advance his priorities of tax cuts and education reform.

A spokesman for Sinquefield said earlier this month they oppose raising the bar for getting amendments on the ballot.

The Star’s Jason Hancock contributed to this report

Hunter Woodall is a political reporter for The Kansas City Star, covering the Missouri General Assembly and state government. Before turning to Missouri politics, he worked as The Star’s Kansas political corespondent.
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