Should the Missouri National Guard be its own department? Voters will decide Tuesday. (2024)

JEFFERSON CITY — Voters will soon decide whether the Missouri National Guard will operate as its own state department — a seemingly innocuous change that garnered little pushback as legislators placed the question on the Tuesday ballot.

Jacqueline Wood, contract lobbyist for the Missouri National Guard Association, said passage of Amendment 5 would remove a layer of bureaucracy from state government and give the National Guard more autonomy over its budget and legislative proposals.

Should the Missouri National Guard be its own department? Voters will decide Tuesday. (1)

The Guard is currently housed within the Department of Public Safety, one of eight divisions, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Gaming Commission, Capitol Police and Fire Marshal, among others.

But state Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat and one of only two House legislators to vote against placing Amendment 5 on the ballot, said the amendment is unnecessary and raises “red flags.”

“What this looks like to me is they want to set up a state military force at the whim of the governor,” Merideth said.

He pointed to an amendment added on the House floor that says, in part, that the Guard will “protect the constitutional rights and civil liberties of Missourians, and provide other defense and security mechanisms as may be required.”

The Guard’s current state mission, as mentioned on its website, “is to provide trained and disciplined forces for domestic emergencies or as otherwise required by state law under the authority of the governor.”

“To change it from emergency response to protecting the constitutional rights of Missourians — I don’t think that’s the job of a military force at the discretion of the governor,” Merideth said. “That’s the job of the courts.”

He wondered whether the National Guard could be positioned at the Illinois border to block women from getting abortions, because state law says life begins at conception.

Merideth also referenced the state’s Second Amendment Preservation Act, which he said could also be a factor in the future role of the Guard.

“This is the same state that passed a law that says that all federal gun laws are unconstitutional and enforcement illegal,” Merideth said. “What’s to stop the National Guard from becoming a force against the federal government” if “a Republican governor decides that the federal government shouldn’t be allowed to enforce gun laws?”

Wood said the Guard already protects constitutional rights. And she referenced an existing provision in the state constitution that gives the United States government authority over the Guard.

“The governor shall be the commander in chief of the militia, except when it is called into the service of the United States, and may call out the militia to execute the laws, suppress actual and prevent threatened insurrection, and repel invasion,” the constitution says.

“The federal government can call the National Guard into service, and when they do that, the governor doesn’t have authority,” Merideth said. But, “Republicans in the last number of years have made very clear they don’t actually care about federal preemption.

“This seems like one more attempt to give them a tool in their toolbox to discard (federal) preemption and think they can do whatever they want in Missouri,” Merideth said.

“There are no additional powers, authorities, duties — anything to anyone,” Wood said.

State Rep. Lane Roberts, a Joplin Republican and a former director of the Department of Public Safety, was the only other “no” vote in the House for placing the question on the ballot. He said his “no” vote “was a matter more of reservation than opposition” and said he supports Amendment 5.

Roberts said, at times the state and local government “have a mission or an objective and sometimes they’re not the same.

“The director of public safety, being that on-the-ground, at-the-location decisionmaker, sometimes would have the ability to ensure that the decision is harmonious, rather than going to the governor who frequently can’t be on the ground all the time,” Roberts said.

“I could not point to any significant issue of that nature that’s happened at least while I’ve been here,” Roberts said. “But I could see the potential.”


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Should the Missouri National Guard be its own department? Voters will decide Tuesday. (2024)


What authority does the governor have over the Missouri National Guard? ›

"There aren't any specific federal restrictions on what a state governor can do with their National Guard other than obviously, they can't use the guard to violate constitutional rights or otherwise violate federal law." Nunn's expertise revolves around the domestic actions of the U.S. military, including the guard.

What is the purpose of the Missouri National Guard? ›

Our STATE MISSION is to provide trained and disciplined forces for domestic emergencies or as otherwise required by state law under the authority of the governor.

What is the process for ratification of amendments to the Missouri Constitution? ›

Under this joint resolution, if approved by the voters, any constitutional amendment or new constitution takes effect when approved by both a simple majority of the votes cast on the measure statewide and a simple majority of the votes cast in a majority of the state representative districts.

Who controls the National Guard in Missouri? ›

The Missouri National Guard is available for national emergencies and can be activated by the governor for state emergency duty. The Missouri State Archives holds records from the Adjutant General's office reflecting the service of Missourians in foreign and domestic wars between 1812 and World War II.

Who has power over the National Guard? ›

Most of the time, state National Guards are activated and commanded by the governors of their respective states or territories, but presidents (with input from top officials) can federalize the guard in certain cases. (The DC National Guard is solely under federal control.)

Why is the National Guard so important? ›

Established in 1636, the Army National Guard is the oldest component of the U.S. Armed Forces and serves as the primary combat reserve of the U.S. Army. The Army National Guard has played a significant role in all of America's wars and major contingencies since the birth of the nation.

Why do we need the National Guard? ›

National Guard Soldiers serve both community and country. Our versatility enables us to respond to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counterdrug efforts, reconstruction missions and more. The Guard always responds with speed, strength, and efficiency, helping to defend American freedom and ideals.

Why is National Guard important? ›

The National Guard is the primary combat reserve of the Army and Air Force, seamlessly providing enduring, rotational, surge and follow-on forces to the Joint Force to fight and win the nation's wars and defend the homeland.

Who has the executive power in Missouri? ›

The Executive Branch, headed by the Governor, consists of all state elective and appointive employees and is responsible for executing the laws of the state.

Do voters have to approve changes in the state constitution? ›

A constitutional amendment can be initiated by the Legislature if it passes both houses by a two-thirds vote. A constitutional amendment does not need the Governor's signature, but becomes part of the constitution only if the electorate approves it at the next general election.

Where is the source of political power in Missouri government lies? ›

Section 1 Source of political power—origin, basis and aim of government. That all political power is vested in and derived from the people; that all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.

What can the governor do with the National Guard? ›

The governor can call the National Guard into action during local or statewide emergencies, such as storms, fires, earthquakes or civil disturbances. In addition, the President of the United States can activate the National Guard for participation in federal missions.

Does the governor have control over the National Guard? ›

(In “Title 32 status,” National Guard members remain under the control of the governors of their home states and are not considered to be performing active-duty service as part of the regular Armed Forces.

Does the Missouri governor have the power to call out the National Guard? ›

As many as 200 members of the guard are being deployed under the authority Parson has as governor. Both the president and the governor of a guard's state hold authority over the guard. This duality of power between the federal and state governments does not exist in other branches of the military.

Who is the boss of the National Guard? ›

General Daniel R. Hokanson serves as the 29th Chief of the National Guard Bureau and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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