Judge Strips Ambitious Anti-Corruption Amendment from Missouri Ballot

Update 9/17/18:  State Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), former State Senator Jim Lembke (R-Lemay) and former State Senator Bob Johnson (R-Lee’s Summit) joined Common Cause in filing an amicus brief Saturday, calling on the courts to let the voters decide on the initiative:

“The will of the voters should determine who legislates and what influences legislative decisions. The Clean Missouri initiative seeks to enact this fundamental principle… The voters of Missouri rather than the courts should decide the fate of this important initiative.”

MISSOURI – A judge has ordered that arguably the most ambitious and comprehensive anti-corruption, anti-gerrymandering, pro-transparency amendment proposed in 2018 be removed from the Missouri ballot.

The Cole County judge ruled Friday that the CLEAN Missouri amendment — Amendment 1 — covers too broad a scope and too many subjects, in violation of the state constitution:

“The Defendant and Intervenors-Defendants claimed that covering public officials in the executive or judicial branch, or public officials in county and local governments, is ‘properly connected’ with the single subject of the General Assembly,” Green wrote. “This Court decides that the inclusion of changes to multiple branches of government violates the guidelines and precedence articulated in [a prior court decision].” – Judge Dan Green

CLEAN Missouri vowed immediate appeal, but the clock is ticking. The secretary of state says the 2018 Missouri ballot must be finalized by September 25.

“We’ll be appealing immediately. The Secretary of State properly certified the measure so that voters may consider the measure, and voters will have their say on November 6,” stated CLEAN Missouri attorney Chuck Hatfield.

“We have always thought that this legal matter would be decided at the Appeals Court level. This is a speed bump, but the law is on our side, the people are on our side, and Amendment 1 will be passed in November to clean up Missouri politics.”

The CLEAN Missouri amendment qualified for the November ballot after the campaign garnered over 340,000 signatures from voters. Here is a brief description of what the amendment does:

  • It requires legislative records to be open to the public.
  • It requires state politicians to wait at least two years before becoming lobbyists.
  • It would ban most lobbyist gifts in the state (anything more than $5).
  • It would lower campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates.
    • “Establish new campaign contribution limits for General Assembly candidates— $2,500 for state senate, and $2,000 for state house.”
    • “Limit the ability of individuals and organizations to circumvent caps by counting money from single-source committees towards totals for original, actual donors.”
    • “Stop legislative fundraising on state property.”

A representative from the CLEAN Missouri campaign told me that though the bill is indeed comprehensive, it was written to be narrowly-focused to the legislature, anticipating a legal challenge from opponents.

State Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a brief in the case, defending the secretary of state’s certification of the ballot measure and rejecting the argument that it violated the state constitution’s single-subject clause.

“IP 2018-048’s single subject, and central purpose, is to regulate limited aspects of the Missouri General Assembly and its members,” he wrote.

“IP 2018-048’s [Initiative petition #2018-048, now known as Amendment 1] provisions all relate to the same readily-identifiable and narrow central purpose and do not violate the single-subject rule. The measure does not include the flaw that ultimately doomed the measure to fail in Missourians to Protect the Initiative Process.”

Read more about the amendment and the case here.

Amendment 1 has received broad bipartisan support from not just voters, but Republican, Democratic, and independent reformers in the state, and a handful of newspapers.

Photo Credit: eurobanks / shutterstock.com