There are just six weeks remaining in the 2023 session, and both chambers are hard at work
passing legislation. Until this point, the Senate has focused almost exclusively on Senate bills.
We passed House Bill 14 in February, providing raises to state workers, but otherwise no House
bills had been debated by the full Senate. That changed this week as House Joint Resolution 43
was brought before the Senate.
A joint resolution, regardless of whether it originates in the House or Senate, is one of two
ways the Missouri Constitution can be amended. The other path is through an initiative
petition of citizens. Either method places a constitutional question before voters. If a majority
of voters approve the ballot measure, the state constitution is amended. House Joint
Resolution 43 asks voters to raise the threshold for amending the constitution to 60%.
I support the right of Missourians to amend our state constitution, but I believe the current
50% threshold is too low. Compare our easy amendment process to what's required to change
the U.S. Constitution. It takes two-thirds of Congress (or two-thirds of states) to propose an
amendment, and changes must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Changing the
Missouri Constitution is a slam dunk by comparison. Once amended, the constitution can only
be changed with another amendment. Consider Amendment 3, the recreational marijuana
proposal that 53% of primarily urban Missouri voters approved last November. That measure –
written and funded by the state's existing medical marijuana industry – placed 39 pages of new
laws into our constitution that can only be changed by another vote of the people.
Raising the percentage of votes required to amend the constitution is a modest and reasonable
proposal in my opinion. Like any constitutional change, this will only take effect if approved by
voters. The Senate debated HJR 43 for several hours this week before tabling the measure for
now. I'm confident we'll spend more time on it in the coming weeks. I hope we can get it
passed and put before the voters in November 2024.
In other legislative activity this week, the House of Representatives approved its version of the
state budget. As the Senate Appropriations Committee begins reviewing the House budget bills
in the coming weeks, senators will have opportunities to offer suggestions and make requests.
As a fiscal conservative, I'll encourage my colleagues to be mindful of protecting taxpayers'
money. At the same time, I'll fight to ensure the 10th Senatorial District gets its fair share. As
chairman of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, one of my
top priorities is making sure our state's aging infrastructure is addressed. With Interstate 70
passing through three of the five counties of the district, it is absolutely essential to me the
governor's I-70 improvement plan moves forward and the effort is fully funded.
Advancing legislation and championing the district during budget talks is just part of being a
state senator, however. One of the most surprising things I've learned during my first three
months in the Senate is how much time is devoted to constituent issues. Helping residents of
the 10th Senatorial District navigate the red tape and bureaucracy of state government has
become one of the most satisfying parts of this job. Many of our departments are understaffed
right now, so things fall through the cracks. When necessary, my office can advocate for
citizens and make sure state government is responsive to their needs.
One area where we've been particularly successful is our state's foster care system, where
we've played a small role in connecting foster kids with loving homes. Another example has
been my effort to assist the family of fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz in their appeal
to have a highway marker honoring their loved one relocated to a more prominent location.
With help from Sen. Nick Schroer of the 2nd Senatorial District, we persuaded MoDOT to
revisit the original placement of the marker and bring greater attention to this brave soldier's
sacrifice. This is just one example of my office helping to bridge the gap between government
and the people. If you need assistance with any aspect of state government, I encourage you to
contact my office. We're here to help.
Senator Travis Fitzwater serves residents of Callaway, Lincoln, Montgomery, Pike and a portion of St. Charles counties in the Missouri State Senate. For more information about Sen. Fitzwater, visit senate.mo.gov/Fitzwater.