Judge considering petition rules

Two weeks after ruling Missouri’s Constitution doesn’t authorize the state auditor to write fiscal notes for initiative petitions, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem was told Tuesday he should make that ruling a final one, so it can be appealed — and to make the same ruling in three other cases.

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After a nearly hour-long discussion, Beetem said he’d consider what to rule.

Jefferson City lawyers Chuck Hatfield and Khristine Heisinger — both of the Stinson Morrison Hecker law firm — filed all four cases for the same plaintiff, Ralph Brown of Springfield, challenging four different proposed initiative petitions to change state laws involving tobacco taxes.

All four cases question the auditor’s constitutional ability to write the fiscal notes and summaries suggesting how a proposed law, if approved by voters, would affect the state and local governments.

Beetem agreed with that claim on Feb. 28, in the first of the four lawsuits filed, saying in a three-page order: “(The Constitution says) ‘no duty shall be imposed on [the state auditor] by law which is not related to the supervising and auditing of the receipt and expenditure of public funds.’

“It is undisputed that the preparation of the fiscal note and summary involves estimating costs and savings from a proposed measure, not a review of monies (already) received and spent.”

But Darrell Moore, the former Greene County prosecutor who now represents Auditor Tom Schweich, told Beetem: “(You) take a restricted view of what an audit is, that it’s only a review of monies received and spent, and not a look at the past, present and future of monies received and spent.”

After the hearing, both Hatfield and Moore said Tuesday’s arguments were not just legal theory of interest only to lawyers and judges.

“State Auditor Schweich’s position is, this is an important duty that was given to the auditor, because people have a right to know what passing, or not passing, a proposition might cost them,” Moore said.

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