Missouri headed to court today over an abortion rights initiative petition effort.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is suing to try and require the state to wrap up its work on the 2024 ballot proposal. The state auditor and attorney general disagree over the projected cost of the proposed abortion amendment – derailing the potential gathering of signatures in support of the ballot proposal.

The summary for the proposed ballot measure was supposed to be completed by May 1.

How far apart are the state auditor and attorney general on the projected cost? About $12.5 billion.

State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican, said if the petition passes, the state estimates no costs or savings, but the impact is unknown. Local governments estimate costs of at least $51,000 annually in reduced tax revenues.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a fellow Republican, said the cost is about $12.5 billion.

In a Cole County Courtroom today, Jason Lewis, chief counsel for the attorney general, said it is using its legal authority to refuse to approve the state auditor’s projected cost. Robert Tillman, deputy general counsel for Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, said Bailey has no authority to assess the projected cost of initiative petitions.

Tori Schafer, an attorney for the ACLU, said the delay denies the constitutional right to access the ballot.

“We do feel that this is a purposeful delay,” Schafer told reporters. “We’re confident, again because they’re scared, they don’t want this right to abortion, or right to reproductive freedom, to go up on the ballot process. “Ultimately what we really want in this case is certification.”

The disagreement prevents the Secretary of State from deciding whether the abortion rights group can begin collecting petition signatures in an attempt to put the measure on the election ballot.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetum is reviewing the case. A decision is expected sometime after the attorneys file additional briefs next week.

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