JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – It’s the last week of the legislative session and Democrats continue to hold the floor in the Senate, demanding that the so-called “ballot candy” be removed from the initiative petition legislation. 

With the clock ticking to the Friday deadline, Democrats said they are prepared to filibuster for the entire week if they have to until the “ballot candy” is removed. Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, has stated on the floor multiple times that if the language regarding non-citizen voting and foreign fundraising is removed from the ballot language before voters, Democrats will sit down and let the legislation come to a vote. 

“The ballot candy in this bill is illegal,” Rizzo said. “It comes down to if this body or the body across the way, or the legislature in general is going to blow up the end of session because they are more concerned about deceiving voters on what they are voting on then having a fair fight. That’s it.”

After exceeding 24 hours this afternoon, Gov. Mike Parson said in an exclusive interview with our Missouri State Capitol Bureau Reporter Emily Manley this whole scenario is ridiculous. 

“People delayed this process until the end of the session and just caused a lot of chaos this year,” Parson said. “This should have been done early on because it should have been a top priority for everyone.”

Initiative petition legislation has been a Republican priority for years, increasing the number of votes needed to approve a constitutional amendment. 

“This has been debated all session and I think there is a hope that we’re able to find a resolution to move forward so that the rest of session is able to operate,” Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, who is sponsoring the bill, said. 

Since the bill came up for debate Monday afternoon, Senate Democrats have used the time to filibuster, preventing the legislation frocomingme to a vote. 

“We heard the sponsor say that hopefully we can work towards a resolution; I feel like we did that once already,” Rizzo said. 

The Senate passed Coleman’s legislation earlier this year. When Senate Joint Resolution 74 was sent over to the House, Republicans added back in language asking if only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote on constitutional amendments and ban foreign interference in ballot measures, both of which are already illegal. 

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“I don’t think I’m going to change anyone’s mind on this issue at this point, but I think in order for us to move forward on other important business, the ballot candy has to come out,” Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said. 

Currently, to approve a referendum, it takes a simple majority, meaning more votes for than against, of 51%. This legislation would require a simple majority statewide and also a majority in five of the eight congressional districts.

This is the process voters used to approve and legalize recreational and medical marijuana and expand Medicaid. 

Democrats say they will not allow the bill to move forward with the ballot candy attached. They are recommending the body either send the bill back to the House for reconsideration or go to a conference to find a compromise. 

“The underlying issue is undoing one person, one vote,” Arthur said. 

Parson said Tuesday that it’s already illegal for non-citizens to vote in Missouri. Years ago, the governor said he carried the legislation himself when he was a senator. He blames election-year tactics as to why this legislation is still not passed. 

“I’ll be honest with you, IP should have been done in January and February,” Parson said. “It’s ridiculous to have this happening at the end of the session.” 

The governor said that for years, special interest groups used the initiative petition process to go behind the General Assembly. 

“I don’t like the idea of people going out there and having private attorneys write the language, giving it to the secretary of state and people of Missouri try to figure this out on their own without any hearings or without any input,” Parson said. 

The debate on this legislation comes at a time when groups are trying to use the initiative petition process later this year to put questions on the ballot to legalize sports betting and overturn the state’s abortion ban. 

Under the constitution, lawmakers must adjourn by Friday at 6 p.m. Democrats said they are prepared to filibuster until the clock runs out.

Republicans have been tossing around a maneuver that can be used to end the filibuster, better known as the “previous question.” This would immediately end debate and force a vote on the legislation. While moving the “previous question” is done often in the House, it’s a motion that hasn’t been used for years in the Senate. This maneuver could also have long-term consequences in the Senate.