- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A nonprofit manager is suing Missouri over a law that deals with issues ranging from fire sprinklers to shingles to initiative petitions, saying it was changed too drastically as it moved through the Legislature and had new provisions pinned on like holiday ornaments.

Missouri First Director Ron Calzone called the legislation an “egregious” examples of what’s sometimes referred to as a Christmas tree bill, one to which otherwise struggling provisions are tacked on as it becomes apparent the bill is gaining traction and could become law.

“I’m not sure we can even say that. What we have here is some Christmas and Halloween and Valentine’s Day all mixed in,” said Calzone, whose think tank promotes limited government. He is not a registered lobbyist but works to influence lawmakers, although he said he’s not paid for that work. His lawsuit seeks to strike down the legislation.

Attorney General Chris Koster’s office, which defends state laws in court, said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

At issue is a bill signed into law last year that originally would have allowed county commissioners to propose initiative petitions to cut a county prosecutor from a full-time to a half-time position in certain counties.

But lawmakers later bulked up the measure with language from a slew of other bills, with House members adding 17 amendments in a one-day blitz. Covering topics such as a school lunch program, fire sprinklers and shingle recycling, the additions came from both Democrats and Republicans.

Calzone said that violates constitutional limits against changing the purpose of a bill or including multiple topics in one piece of legislation, which he said limits transparency and hampers efforts by citizens to track different measures.

Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who sponsored the bill, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. But Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, ushered the legislation though the House and said any changes are made publicly and are “accessible by anybody in the state.”

The lawsuit also cites concerns with so-called special laws, which are provisions catering to niche populations that in most cases are prohibited by the Missouri Constitution if a more general law could be applied. Calzone cites one measure within the bill that would allow voters in the city of Savannah to propose initiative petitions for local ordinance changes.

“That’s why we have the court system to analyze the constitutionality of legislation passed by the House and Senate,” Jones said. “Thankfully, we can have anybody challenge the constitutionality of a law.”


Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine.

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