It took about 50 hours for a Missouri Senate gridlock to come to an end. The Senate has voted to send the hotly debated initiative petition proposal to a bipartisan group of negotiating lawmakers.

Democrats held up Senate work since Monday afternoon over legislation that would make it tougher for voters to change the state constitution. The sponsor, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, explained that her request keeps the measure alive, instead of forcing a vote, which could have killed it. 

“If there were to be an extraordinary measure that was made and that measure were to fail, this issue is dead next year,” she said. “It’s dead the year after. I’m unwilling to play those kinds of political games and I’d like to keep the issue alive and so I would ask the body to not kill initiative petition reform.”

The proposal would require a simple majority plus a majority of votes cast from most of Missouri’s U.S. House seats.

After failing to pass the Senate following the lengthy filibuster, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, applauded the majority party for still believing in democracy.

“This is not protecting the ballot for Democrats or Republicans or one issue or the other issue that you might like or dislike,” he said. “This protects the ballot box for Republicans and Democrats alike for the future, which is why John Ashcroft in 1992 implored Democrats to not do this.”

Democrats held up a vote over the language containing so-called “ballot candy”, attention grabbing provisions designed to lure residents into voting. Examples include prohibiting non-citizens from voting. But not everyone favors removing the provisions, including the ultra-conservative Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, who called out his fellow Republican Senators for not having a spine.

“That’s what this fight has been about all along and protecting life and liberty,” he shouted on the Senate floor. “I love hearing the bantering in back, the ones that are willing to kill this. I know the people are listening to this online and are fed up with the Republican Party because they have no backbone! They will have the blood of the innocent on their heads.”

Republicans argue that changing the initiative petition process is important as it should be harder to change the state constitution.

Despite Brattin’s shouting, Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, is pleased.

“We appreciate that this is an important issue for Republicans,” she said. “It is an important issue for all of Missourians and they should have that opportunity to weigh in, but what we want them to have the chance to do is vote on an issue and understand what that measure would do.”

The Missouri House of Representatives is expected to quickly decide whether it wants to negotiate with a group of Senators.

If the legislature passes the proposal, the resolution could appear on the August ballot, to prevent the passing of another ballot measure that would overturn Missouri’s abortion ban.

Lawmakers have until 6:00 p.m. on Friday to get this measure past the finish line.

Click here for more on SJR 74.

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