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Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

 

Cole County Judge Rules Decision By MO AG On Reproductive Ballot Titles “Illegal” & Requests Action Within 24 Hours

A Judge in Cole County is ruling that a decision made by the Attorney General is unlawful and is ordering Andrew Bailey to “approve” a fiscal note summary.

In a release by the ACLU of Missouri, they indicate that Judge John Beetm is ruling that the Attorney General acted illegally by refusing to approve the State Auditor’s fiscal note for 11 reproductive freedom ballot titles.

The Judge claims that prevented the Secretary from certifying the ballot titles, without which Missourians constitutionally could not begin to gather signatures to place the initiative before voters, thus causing them to miss the deadline.

The Judge’s order requires AG Bailey to “approve” the summary statement within 24 hours.

 

Read the full summary below:

Following the June 7th trial at the Cole County Circuit Court, Judge John E. Beetem ruled the Attorney General acted illegally by refusing to approve the State Auditor’s submitted fiscal note summary for 11 reproductive freedom ballot titles. His illusory refusal prevented the Secretary of State from certifying the ballot titles without which Missourians constitutionally could not begin gathering signatures to place the initiative before voters. The ACLU of Missouri took legal action against the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the State Auditor after they missed the deadline to publish the ballot titles.

“In recent months, the Attorney General has unveiled a reckless desire to impose his will on Missourians’ access to health care by violating the constitutional bounds the people of the state have granted the office to which he was appointed,” said Tony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy at the ACLU of Missouri. “His illegal actions have obstructed the statutorily prescribed timeline twice over, showing a depth of antipathy towards our right to direct democracy in an attempt to prevent Missourians from voting for their reproductive freedom.”

Judge Beetem’s order requires that the Attorney General approves the State Auditor’s summary statement for the fiscal note within 24 hours, as he should have done within 10 days of receipt on March 29. After the delivery of the notice to both the Secretary of State and the State Auditor, the Secretary of State can certify the ballot title, which includes both a summary statement and the fiscal note summary.

The final judgement reads, “This situation is made more preposterous by the fact that if, during such a challenge, the court agreed the fiscal note summary was unfair and insufficient and exercised its discretion to remand it back to the Auditor for revision pursuant to Section 116.175, RSMo, the Attorney General would once again be in a position to demand revisions to the fiscal note summary, which could result in a potentially never-ending cycle of demanded revisions, challenges, and remands of the fiscal note summary.”

The certification process, which should take approximately 54 days, has taken over 100 days from submission because of a standoff between the Attorney General and State Auditor. Legal challenges to the ballot title were stalled without a certified ballot title.

Previously obtained documents revealed that Attorney General Andrew Bailey, in an unprecedented effort, abused the authority of his office in an attempt to coerce the elected State Auditor to submit a fiscal note summary that contained inaccurate information.

“While the court’s decision is welcomed, we know this is only the first stop to give Missourians the opportunity to vote on a proposal that would enshrine access to reproductive health care,” said Tori Schafer, Deputy Director for Policy and Campaigns at the ACLU of Missouri.

The proposed reproductive freedom ballot initiatives were submitted by a retired pediatrician, Anna Fitz-James, on behalf of a Missouri grassroots group known as Missourians for Constitutional Freedom.

Read Judge Beetem’s final judgement and orders.

Read the proposed ballot initiatives:

2024-077

2024-078

2024-079

2024-080

2024-081

2024-082

2024-083

2024-084

2024-085

2024-086

2024-087

Reporter John Rogger