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Don Corrigan

Court Actions Deliver Setbacks To Ballot Initiatives

April 25, 2012
Whether it's legalizing pot or nixing Missouri income taxes, the number of initiatives submitted to the state for the upcoming Nov. 6 ballot is mind-boggling. A record 143 were sent to the Secretary of State's office for approval.

However, the air has already gone out of some of the petition drives to get the initiatives before voters. In some cases, such as the drive for a Voter ID law or a plan to put a lid on the interest rates charged on payday loans, adverse court actions have delivered setbacks to ballot efforts.

The Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU) vows to fight on. At a press conference last week at the Second Presbyterian Church, 4501 Westminster Place, Rev. David Gerth said MCU will continue to gather signatures for the payday loan ballot issue, while the ruling that throws a wrench in their efforts is appealed.

"First we had the payday loan company lawyers threatening our clergy with lawsuits," Gerth told the Word. "Then we had their lawyers filing suit saying the petitions were too vague. All of this has served to galvanize our efforts. It's unfortunate that trying to bring some economic dignity to the lives of people meets this kind of resistance, but we won't quit."

Your Vote Counts Act

The drive to get signatures for the Your Vote Counts Act has been "suspended," but not because of any court action. That ballot measure would require the state legislature to abide by ballot measures approved by Missourians – and only a two-thirds vote by both the state senate and house could void the people's will.

The Your Vote Counts Act was inspired after the state legislature began rewriting the so-called puppy mill initiative passed by voters as Proposition B in November 2010.

Dane Waters, campaign manager for Your Vote Counts and national political director for the Humane Society, said "suspended" is precisely the right word for the campaign now.

"We are suspending operations because the legislature has responded to our concerns," said Waters. "But the option is there to revive Your Vote Counts for another election cycle, if necessary. The legislature has to respect the will of the people. We found people were very supportive of our efforts when we were out getting signatures to get on the ballot."

Voter ID Law Foiled

Another ballot measure for voters in November was a law to require photo identification in order to vote in state elections. That measure was not a grassroots effort, but was a ballot proposal that came out of the state legislature itself.

In late March, a Cole County circuit judge declared the ballot language by the legislature to be "insufficient and unfair." That action was applauded by Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

"I'm pleased the judge saw through this deceptive attempt to trick Missourians into thinking this proposal is about passing a Voter Protection Act," said Carnahan. "In reality, this proposal has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters."

Nixing State Income Taxes

A measure to end the Missouri state income tax, and replace it with higher sales taxes, also was struck down by a Cole County circuit judge this month. The judge said the ballot language was flawed, as was the estimate of the cost of the measure to the state in the ballot wording.

The measure to kill the state income tax, and to make up lost revenue with an expanded state sales tax, has long been championed by billionaire Rex Sinquefield. He has lobbied to get legislators to okay his tax restructuring plan, but lacking success there, he has turned to the ballot initiative route.

Legal Pot On Track

One ballot measure that has not faced a challenge, has no organized opposition, and seems to be on track, is the petition drive to get legalization of marijuana on the ballot.

"So many initiatives have been thrown out because the wording on how much passage will cost the state has been challenged," said Dan Viets of the "Show-Me Cannabis Initiative."

"Our initiative can only help the state economically, because it ends the pointless state expenditures on enforcement, and it will raise money directly through taxes on a product that now goes untaxed," Viets said.

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