There is a move afoot in the Missouri General Assembly to curb initiative petitions. It’s a Republican-backed effort aimed at reducing the number of initiative petitions.

There is general agreement that we have had too many of them in recent years. Why the increase?

The reason is in plain view: Failure of the Legislature to act on issues important to Missourians.

This is especially true of any measures to raise taxes. House and Senate members are afraid to attach their names to any tax hike because they fear it will harm them politically. There are other issues that members of the General Assembly can’t reach agreement. People become irritated with a “do nothing” Legislature. The only recourse for them after years of a “do nothing” Legislature on issues is to gather signatures to put the matters before voters.

A legislative analysis estimated that mandating a large fee to file petitions could lead to a 75 percent reduction in initiative petitions. One bill would require a $500 refundable fee for filing referendums and initiative petitions.

Democrats have voiced opposition to measures that would change the present system. We agree with House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade who said: “Sometimes direct democracy is the only way to achieve progress when an unresponsive Legislature refuses to act on important issues. An attack on the initiative process is an attack on democracy itself . . .”

Secretary of State John Ashcroft, a Republican, favors limiting the number of initiative petitions. He told the House elections committee that the proposed changes are “not an attack on our way of life or our government. We are a republic and I do think that the normal process should be to go through our Legislature.” That’s fine, but if there is a “do nothing” Legislature for too long on bringing important issues to a vote, the only recourse is for the public to take action through the initiative petition process.

The Legislature has no one to blame but itself for the high number of initiative petitions.

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