Signing a petition this season could give someone permission to use eminent domain to take your property. Or it could tie the hands of your local elected officials. No kidding. So you want to be very careful when you are approached. Here are some hopefully helpful hints.
“The initiative petition process gives Missouri citizens the opportunity to directly participate in our democracy.
“Any registered Missouri voter can sign an initiative petition … on petition pages that contain the official ballot title and the full and correct text of the proposed measure.” (Make Your Voice Heard, Missouri’s Initiative Petition Process – Jason Kander, Secretary of State; page 2)
So, when you are approached by someone who seems to have a great idea and wants you to sign a petition, what should you know and do before you sign? Here are a few ideas.
• Know The Law – Every petition must clearly state the Ballot Title and have attached to it a copy of the fiscal note, which will tell you how much it is going to cost the state (YOU!) and the FULL AND CORRECT TEXT of the legislation the ballot initiative supports.
• Beware the “Presentation” – You are going to be offered a very simple reason to sign the petition that is going to sound really attractive. Before you sign,
• ASK TO SEE THE FISCAL NOTE. Are you OK with the cost? Remember, you are going to help pay for this! If so, then
• ASK TO SEE THE FULL AND COMPLETE TEXT. If it is short, sweet and you understand it, then go ahead and sign if you support the issue. If it is longer than a couple paragraphs, or you do not understand what it says you probably should not sign it. You may support the issue, be OK with the cost, but NOT like the way it is going to be implemented. Remember, initiative petitions in the State of Missouri are creating additions to the Constitution. They are very difficult to change once passed.
• Watch out for high pressure. Do you ever get angry when you hear of legislators who vote for bills they have not read? Then why would you sign a petition to change our State’s Constitution without reading it. If the petitioner says, “This will likely be your only chance to sign”, then turn around and run! Remember, when you sign a petition, you are legislating from the sidewalk!
We have enough laws on the books that were not read before they were passed. Don’t contribute to the problem by signing something you have not read.
I am thankful that we have the initiative petition process available to us as a tool we can use when the government will not hear us. Let’s be sure we use this tool responsibly and with great care. We have to live with the consequences.
S Nick King
Missouri State Representative - District 17