Those groups pushing the latest change to the Missouri constitution better have Missourians on the street corners asking people to sign and better be pushing only one issue at a time; that is, they better if a bill moving forward in the House becomes law.

Rep. Michael Parson (R-Bolivar) says he’s seen too many out-of-state residents trying to come into Missouri and change the state constitution. He also wants to stop what he sees as abuse of the initiative petition process due to lax state regulations. Parson sponsors HB 1763 which would prohibit non-Missouri residents from soliciting signatures here, would prohibit paying per-signature and would prohibit seeking signatures for more than one petition at a time.

Backers say the initiative petition process has been abused in the past. One representative, though, says the bill restricts the federal constitution’s guarantee of free speech rights. Another representative questions whether it would hamper cross-state cooperation, such as in Kansas City, which has seen a number of bi-state proposals over the years.

The bill places the restrictions on those circulating initiative petitioners. Violations would cause collected signatures to be discarded by the Secretary of State. An amendment added during House floor debate would make it a felony to knowingly sign a false name on a petition or to sign a petition more than once.

Kansas City Representative Beth Low (D) defended the prohibition of asking for signatures on more than one petition at a time. She explains that would discourage a "bait and switch" tactic some have accused circulators of using. Under such a scheme, a solicitor asks for signatures on two petitions with opposing effects, only explaining one. The circulators then submits to the Secretary of State’s office one of the petitions and throws the other away.

Rep. Steve Hobbs (R-Mexico) also supports the provision that prohibits soliciting for more than one petition; only he uses a more practical argument. He says he’s tired of having to "run the gauntlet" of petition circulators during routine trips to the hardware store on Saturdays.

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