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“Clean Missouri” loses first round of legal challenge

On Friday, September 14, Judge Daniel Green of Cole County ordered the “Clean Missouri” initiative must be removed from the November ballot. “Clean Missouri” would establish stricter ethics laws, but would also change the way legislative districts are drawn.

Two lawsuits were filed against the measure after the Secretary of State certified the proponents had collected a sufficient number of signatures. The lawsuits alleged five counts:

  1. The initiative contains multiple subjects;

  2. The initiative amends more than one article of the Missouri Constitution;

  3. The initiative fails to accurately state what would be deleted;

  4. The initiative fails to state the full text of the measure; and,

  5. The initiative facially violates the First Amendment.

The Judge ruled in favor of Plaintiffs on the first two issues: the multiple subject claim and multiple article claim.

With respect to the multiple subject claim, the Judge found Clean Missouri’s initiative “hauntingly similar” to the petition struck down by the Supreme Court in Missourians to Protect the Initiative Process. The court concluded the initiative contained numerous proposals which lacked any readily identifiable and reasonably narrow central purpose. The Court found the initiative combines a redesign of the process and standards used for reapportionment of the General Assembly with a series of provisions meant to avoid misconduct by state and local executive, judicial, and legislative officials.

The Judge also ruled in favor of Plaintiffs on the multiple article claim, finding the initiative amends and repeals more than one Article. The court found the creation of a new executive post and the addition of duties to the State Auditor are amendments outside Article III (the Legislative Department).

The Court found for Intervenors/Proponents on the remaining claims.

The case has now been appealed to the Western District. Intervenors/Proponents have appealed the court’s decision on the multiple subject and multiple article claims. Plaintiffs have cross-appealed the court’s decision on the “full text of the measure” claims.

“We are pleased with the ruling in this matter,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “While we always do our best to comply with the state’s ethics laws, making them more complicated only increases the chance of honest mistakes. Also, combining two or more questions into one ballot initiative will not allow voters to approve one and disapprove the other, which is the reason such initiatives are not allowed,” he said.

Oral argument will take place in Kansas City at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 20. State statute provides that September 25, 2018 is the last day for a court order placing the measure back on the ballot (see Section 115.125, RSMo).

Marc Ellinger, partner in Ellinger and Associates, LLC, and attorney for the plaintiffs provided information for this story.

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