Constitutional convention issue up to state's voters

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Voters will decide in November if a constitutional convention is needed to change the state's charter.

The Missouri Constitution requires that every 20 years voters decide if a meeting is needed to revise and amend the state charter.

Voters rejected the notion in 1982 and 1962.

Preparation for the vote began last year, said Dan Ross, deputy secretary of state. If voters approve the question, it would set off a chain of events Missouri hasn't experience since the 1945 convention, including calling a second election within six months to select delegates.

Although the matter is scheduled to go on the ballot this year, there has been little talk about it around the Capitol.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, was stunned when told of the provision and that previous votes had been held in 1962 and 1982.

"I was a living, breathing voter in 1982," Kinder said. "I remember some of the stuff that happened that year -- managing Bill Emerson's second campaign for Congress -- but I sure don't remember this being on the ballot. That's amazing. I'm nonplused. We have got to get busy and comply with the Constitution, it seems."

Not much buzz

Damon Porter, chief of staff to House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, said he wasn't sure if Kreider was aware of the issue, but agreed there has been no buzz about it among legislators.

"I guess nobody really thinks about it," Porter said. "I haven't heard any great furor to call a constitutional convention. I guess that shows, for the most part, that people believe the Constitution is working well and doesn't need a major overhaul."

Former Republican state Sen. Emory Melton of Cassville was in the Legislature in 1982. He said no major effort was taken for or against calling a convention.

There would have to be tremendous dissatisfaction with the Constitution for a convention to be called, Melton said.

"If you turn it over to a constitutional convention, special interests would all want to get their oars in the water," Melton said. "Everyone is afraid to call a constitutional convention, because it might infringe on what people have now."

Melton said a target for elimination at a convention could be the so-called Hancock Amendment, which limits growth in state revenue and requires most tax increases to go to a public vote.

Kinder said he would like to see some constitutional changes, such as requiring judges appointed by the governor to undergo Senate confirmation, as is the case with nominees for the federal bench.

"However, I don't see a need for convening a whole constitutional convention," Kinder said.

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