A Cole County judge says he’ll rule “very quickly” in a court case involving an effort to remove the “Clean Missouri” measure from the November ballot.
Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Dan Mehan has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), arguing that Amendment One violates the state Constitution with multiple subjects in one ballot proposal.
A St. Elizabeth resident named Paul Ritter has filed a similar lawsuit, and they were essentially merged before a 90-minute court hearing on Friday afternoon in Jefferson City.
Both sides packed the courtroom on Friday, which was standing-room only. Others stood outside the building and waited.
Attorney Marc Ellinger represents Mr. Mehan, and he’s urging Judge Daniel P. Green to reverse Ashcroft.
“The initiative fails to comply with the requirements of the (state) Constitution,” Ellinger tells Judge Green. “For those reasons, it should held insufficient. You should reverse the Secretary of State’s decision.”
The proposed initiative would require legislative records to be open and would ban gifts worth more than $5 from lobbyists to lawmakers.
It would also require Missouri lawmakers to wait two years before becoming lobbyists and would lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates.
It also would have a state demographer draw state legislative maps, which is the most controversial part of the measure.
Attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represents intervenor Clean Missouri Incorporated, says the measure doesn’t violate the single subject clause because every provision mentions and involves the Legislature.
Hatfield tells Judge Green that Secretary Ashcroft made the correct decision.
“Your honor, more than 200,000 people have signed this particular petition and asked that it be put on the ballot,” Hatfield says. “Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who I doubt will vote for this measure, still believes we have the right to vote on it.”
Chamber President Dan Mehan, who sat in the jury box Friday with reporters because there were no other available seats, tells Missourinet the measure should be called “Fleece Missouri.”
Mehan says supporters are trying to confuse voters and says their aim is to change the way redistricting is done.
“Clean Missouri” supporters note that Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) has filed a court brief on behalf of Ashcroft, which says that “the plaintiffs’ claims fail on the merits.”
Supporters of the proposed “Clean Missouri” ballot measure say it would increase transparency and accountability, while opponents say its real aim is to change the way legislative redistricting is done.
Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent (R), who chairs a group that opposes Amendment One, says the measure is about “rigging the state legislative maps” to produce more Democratic seats.
Talent chairs the group “Missourians First.”
After the hearing, Clean Missouri supporters held signs outside the courthouse and addressed the media.
Former State Sen. Bob Johnson, R-Lee’s Summit, tells reporters Missouri voters have the right to vote on the measure. He predicts the court will rule in Clean Missouri’s favor.
Judge Green listened intently to both sides on Friday, and took several notes.
Judge Green asked a few questions, but didn’t speak in-detail until the end of the hearing. He had a message for lawyers and audience members, on both sides.
“Only thing I want to make clear to everyone is that courts do not sit in judgment on the wisdom or folly of these proposals. The court’s only function is to ascertain whether the constitutional requirements have been met,” Green says.
Judge Green tells the audience he’s aware that Secretary Ashcroft must finalize November ballot measures soon.
That deadline is September 28.
Judge Green has asked both sides to file court briefs by Tuesday afternoon at 5.
The judge told the audience that he anticipates ruling “very quickly,” after he reviews the filings.
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