For immediate release:                  June 6, 2019

Contact:                                          Maura Browning, Communications Director

                                                       (573) 526-0949

Ashcroft Rejects Two Referendum Petitions

Jefferson City, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft today held a press conference to announce the rejection of two referendum petitions for failing to comply with the Missouri Constitution. 

On May 17, 2019, the legislature passed HB126, called the “Heartbeat Bill”. The Governor signed HB126 on May 24, which included a section that made a portion of the law effective immediately. It stated: “Because of the need to protect the health and safety of women and their children, both unborn and born, the repeal and reenactment of section 188.028 of this act is deemed necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health, welfare, peace and safety and is hereby declared to be an emergency act within the meaning of the constitution, and the repeal and reenactment of section 188.028 of this act shall be in full force and effect upon its passage and approval.” This emergency clause was approved, as required in Article III, Section 29 of the Constitution, by two-thirds of the legislature. 

Article III of the Constitution reserves the people’s power to approve or reject acts of the legislature, called a referendum, which may occur on bills passed by the House and Senate. To begin the referendum process, a referendum petition must be filed with the Secretary of State not less than 90 days after the end of the legislative session during which the bill was approved. Once filed, the referendum petition is examined by the Secretary of State, and transmitted to the Attorney General and Auditor for review. State law requires the Secretary of State to approve or reject a petition. If approved, the referendum petition may be circulated for signatures, and will be placed on the ballot of the next general election if it meets the signature requirements as described in Article III, Section 52(a) of the constitution. 

There are certain limits to the people’s right to a referendum. Specifically, Article III, Section 52(a) makes exceptions for “laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and laws making appropriations for the current expenses of the state government, for the maintenance of state institutions and for the support of public schools.” 

Because the legislature approved HB126 and its emergency clause with the constitutionally-required two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, HB126 may not be referred to the people. 

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