Sen. Steven Roberts Opposes Legislation Impacting Missourians’ First Amendment Rights and the Initiative Petition Process

JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, opposes two pieces of legislation moving through the Missouri Legislature, calling the bills attacks on Missourians’ First Amendment rights and their ability to participate in the democratic process.

Senator Roberts stands on the Senate floor to discuss legislation.

The first bill, Senate Bill 26, creates the offense of “unlawful traffic interference” – a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class E felony for subsequent offenses. Senator Roberts believes the provision deliberately targets the First Amendment rights of protesters.

“Protesting is fundamental to our democracy and is one of the most patriotic things we can do as Americans,” Sen. Roberts said. “Without protests, where would we be as a country with regard to segregation, women’s suffrage, labor rights? As a Legislature, we should not be criminalizing behavior that is often at the heart of reforms in this country.”

A second piece of legislation moving through the General Assembly is House Joint Resolution 20, which creates new provisions for the state’s initiative petition process that Sen. Roberts believes will make it more difficult for Missourians to directly participate in the democratic process. For instance, under current law, an initiative petition to amend the Missouri Constitution must be signed by 8% of the legal voters in six of the eight congressional districts in Missouri before it can be placed on the ballot. House Joint Resolution 20 increases this percentage threshold from 8% to 10%. The proposed resolution also requires initiative petitions to be approved by two-thirds of voters, rather than the current simple majority, in order to go into effect.

“By raising key thresholds for the initiative petition process, I believe we are stacking the deck against everyday Missourians seeking to have their voices heard at the ballot box,” Sen. Roberts said. “All together, I believe this is part of a worrying trend to stifle Missourians’ voices.”

For more information, please contact Sen. Roberts’ office at 573-751-4415.