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'Your Votes Count' may defer initiative if legislators show 'more deference' to the public

This article first appeared in the United States, March 20, 2012 - Leaders of an effort to make it more difficult for the Missouri General Assembly to overturn the results of initiative petition drives say they might drop their latest campaign if state legislators would show a bit more “deference’’ to the public.

Dane Waters, campaign director for Your Votes Count, said that the campaign is continuing to collect signatures for its initiative-petition effort – a proposed constitutional amendment to require a three-fourths vote in both the state House and the Senate, or another vote by the public, to repeal or amend any voter-approved initiative.

Activists need roughly 160,000 signatures to get the proposal on this fall’s ballot. Signatures must be turned in by May 6.

But Waters confirmed that lawyers and the campaign leaders – including state Rep. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, and former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, a Democrat – have tried to see if there might be common ground that could result in a compromise.

If an agreement is reached, Waters said, the initiative petition drive might be put on hold.

“This has never been a campaign to bash legislators," Waters said. “There’s always a possibility that we would revisit the campaign, if the legislature would make it clear that they understood they needed to give greater deference to the voters on issues they care about.”

The initiative-petition effort has been prompted by legislators’ changes to 2010’s Proposition B, which imposed restrictions on puppy mills and was narrowly approved in a statewide vote. Rural legislators were incensed by some provisions and got some changed in 2011.

But backers also cite earlier legislative overhauls, which include approving concealed-carry four years after Missouri voters rejected it, and eliminating campaign-donation limits, which had been approved the voters in the early 1990s and eliminated by the General Assembly (with support of then-Gov. Matt Blunt) in 2007.

State Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said in an interview earlier this week that he hears comments from voters concerned that more than 40 initiative petitions currently are being circulated.

But Jones noted that only a handful get enough certified signatures to get on the ballot. And he predicts the same will be true this year as well.

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.

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