Government & Politics

Clean Missouri will be on November ballot after high court refuses to hear challenge

Cassandra Gould, a reverend at the Quinn Chapel AME Church in Jefferson City and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, spoke  at a news conference in May for Clean Missouri, a slate of ethics reform proposals that activists want to put on the ballot this fall.
Cassandra Gould, a reverend at the Quinn Chapel AME Church in Jefferson City and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, spoke at a news conference in May for Clean Missouri, a slate of ethics reform proposals that activists want to put on the ballot this fall. akite@kcstar.com

Missouri voters will get to choose whether the state adopts a slate of ethics and redistricting reforms in November after an effort to toss the initiative petition from the ballot hit a dead end Monday.

Opponents of the initiative, called Clean Missouri, or Amendment 1, sued to have the issue removed from Missouri’s November ballot. They were successful at the trial court level, but an appellate court in Kansas City upheld Clean Missouri last week.

On Monday, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to take on the case, meaning the appellate court’s decision will be final and cement Clean Missouri’s place on the November ballot.

“We have no further avenues to block this poorly drafted amendment before it appears on the November 6 ballot,” Daniel Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement.

Mehan was among the plaintiffs who sued to remove the initiative from the ballot.

Clean Missouri proposes to lower campaign contribution limits, eliminate nearly all lobbyist gifts, require a cooling period before legislators and their staffers can become lobbyists and open legislative records. The initiative’s overhaul of Missouri’s legislative redistricting system is the most controversial part of the proposal.

“More than 300,000 Missourians signed petitions to put Amendment 1 on the ballot, and they’re going to have their chance to clean up Missouri politics on November 6,” said Clean Missouri campaign manager Sean Soendker Nicholson.

Chuck Hatfield, an attorney for Clean Missouri, said he was not surprised the Supreme Court refused to hear the case because he thought the appellate court ruling in the campaign’s favor was well-reasoned.

“These issues are best decided at the polling place and not in the courthouse, and I think what’s happened in this litigation reflects that,” Hatfield said.

Opponents of Clean Missouri had argued it violated a provision of the Missouri Constitution that limits the scope of initiative petitions and sought to mislead voters. Supporters said the sweeping changes all fall under the subject of reforming the legislature.

An attorney for the plaintiffs argued to a panel of appellate court judges that Clean Missouri wraps the redistricting reform in “vote candy,” or appealing ethics reform proposals.

“When we talk about making changes to our state’s constitution, we need to make sure any new amendments pass a high bar,” Mehan said. “The judiciary’s decision in this case is especially troubling because it establishes a new, low precedent allowing constitutional amendments to go before voters regardless of drafting errors and deceptive intent.”

Todd Graves, an attorney for the plaintiffs and chairman of the Missouri GOP, said in a statement he was disappointed the initiative will go forward.

”Voters will think they are voting for an ethics measure and they will actually be voting for the most radical legislative district line-drawing in the country,” Graves said. “It will place political parties above local communities and neighborhoods.”

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