Jefferson City, MO, May 9, 2017 – A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 638, passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 2016, was filed in Cole County circuit court on May 9th.
The lawsuit claims that the General Assembly ignored the constitutional limits to their legislative authority. The Missouri Constitution includes clauses that prohibit legislators from changing the purpose of a bill or including multiple subjects in one bill. The lawsuit claims lawmakers violated both provisions, and that it is illegal to make substantive changes to a bill’s title.
The lawsuit is asking the court to strike down the entire bill.
The plaintiff in the challenge is Ron Calzone, a political activist and one of the founding directors of Missouri First, Inc., a think tank devoted to promoting constitutional governance. Although not an attorney, Calzone filed the suit “pro se” (Latin, “for oneself”), in part to demonstrate that the abuses by the General Assembly are so blatant that even a non-lawyer can succeed in legal challenges against some of their bills.
Calzone won a similar case in 2016. He had challenged SB 672 (2014) on the same grounds as the case filed today. A Cole County judge not only agreed with the lawsuit’s claims about the unconstitutional procedures used to pass that bill, but the landmark decision also struck down the entire bill. (Read about it here.) Past court opinions on procedural challenges usually preserved the original part of the bill.
In spite of the Court’s February 2016 admonition to legislators, they continued to pass bills in violation of the Missouri Constitution. Senate Bill 638 was one of 21 such bills Missouri First tracked last year. Calzone plans to challenge more of those 21 bills later this month.
Flawed Civics Exam Requirement
SB638 was originally introduced by Senator Jean Riddle to create the “Missouri Civics Education Initiative”. It required, as a condition of high school graduation, that all students in public, charter and private schools in Missouri pass an examination on the provisions and principles of American civics. The examination “shall consist of one hundred questions similar to the one hundred questions used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that are administered to applicants for United States citizenship.”
Bills with a likelihood of passing act like avalanches picking up other bills as amendments as they gain mass and momentum on their way toward passage. SB638 jumped from a 4 page bill on this limited topic to one of 58 pages that was an omnibus bill about elementary and secondary education including sections on charters, dyslexia, remediation and gifted education in Missouri schools[…]