The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld the State Auditor’s authority to prepare fiscal notes and summaries for citizen-initiated ballot questions.
The 1997 law that gave the State Auditor the authority to write the fiscal notes had been struck down by one Circuit judge, while another ruled in the Auditor’s favor. State Auditor Tom Schweich says the High Court’s decision insures that voters will continue to get a clear picture of the cost of a proposed ballot initiative.
“Had it been ruled unconstitutional, there wouldn’t have been that guidance for the voters," says Schweich. "It really would have just been subject to advertising campaigns by well-funded special interest groups.”
The Supreme Court also ruled that the fiscal summaries and ballot language for three ballot initiatives are fair and sufficient. Those ballot questions would raise Missouri’s cigarette tax, raise the minimum wage, and cap interest rates on payday loans. They have yet to be certified.
Attorney Chuck Hatfield of Jefferson City defended the lower court’s position before the Supreme Court. Although not satisfied with the ruling, he says it does add clarity to the ballot initiative process.
“The Auditor himself actually said that he felt he needed some guidance from the courts," says Hatfield. "Now we have that, and I think as the initiative process goes forward in the future, we have some clarity on what roles the state officials should play.”