Early childhood IP summary rewritten by appeals judge

  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The early childhood initiative petition (IP) language was again changed this evening, as the Court of Appeals overturned the circuit court decision from May to vacate the fiscal note.

Judge Alok Ahuja signed an opinion deeming the fiscal note as fair and sufficient, but declaring the summary statement, which signatories of the IP signed below, as unfair and insufficient. The new language is certified to the Secretary of State.

The new language reads as follows:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • increase taxes on cigarettes each year through 2020, at which point this additional tax will total 60 cents per pack of 20;
  • create a fee paid by cigarette wholesalers of 67 cents per pack of 20 on certain cigarettes, which fee shall increase annually; and
  • deposit funds generated by these taxes and fees into a newly established Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund?

This is the fourth time an IP’s summary has been rewritten; the Secretary of State and General Assembly have also rewrote the language.

The next step in the appeals process is the Missouri Supreme Court, which has until Wednesday, July 13 to rule. Legal experts declare the short timeline for appeal unlikely to occur due to the need to transfer the case.

Raise Your Hands for Kids is backing the petition, and spokesman James Harris stands by the IP as a much needed fix to the early childhood system in Missouri.

Earlier this year more than 330,000 Missourians signed the early childhood education initiative petition because they wanted voters to decide if Missouri should finally start investing in our children’s future,” said Harris. “For a generation, politicians in Jefferson City have failed to adequately fund a system of early childhood education, which has harmed our kids at a critical time in their personal and academic development.

More than 330,000 Missourians saw this initiative petition, which raises Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to provide long overdue funding for early childhood education, as our opportunity to right this wrong and begin to train our workforce of the future. Early childhood education has been proven to help reduce crime, strengthen the economy, and reduce future government spending. This initiative is Missouri’s only change to immediately begin providing our children and families with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Our opponents continue to push in court to overturn the will of these 330,000 Missourians and prevent a robust system of early childhood education,” said Harris. “While we respectfully disagree with the opinion of the court today as to the ballot summary, we recognize that never in Missouri’s history have the courts prevented a campaign that obtained the required amount of signatures from making the ballot due to a ballot title or fiscal note challenge. Therefore, we plan to review the opinion and file the appropriate appeal so that a higher court can clear the way for this initiative to appear on the November ballot. More importantly, we look forward to taking our campaign for early childhood education to every corner of the state this fall. Now is the time to make a real difference in the lives of Missouri’s children.”

However, IP opponents, the Missouri Petroleum and Convenience Store Marketers Association (MPCA) cried foul.

“The Missouri Court of Appeals-Western District has rendered a clear and correct decision that the ballot description of Big Tobacco’s proposed amendment is unfair, insufficient and likely to mislead voters,” said MPCA Executive Director Ron Leone. “This unfair, insufficient and misleading ballot summary is on every petition Big Tobacco asked voters to sign. The appeals court’s ruling is so decisive that Secretary of State Jason Kander should immediately direct local election authorities to halt the signature verification process on the fundamentally flawed petitions. And Big Tobacco, which put Joe Camel’s nose and entire hump under the tent to hijack this proposal, should now fold its tent, end the campaign, and leave the state.”

We Deserve Better, a campaign opposing the RYH4K IP also weighed in with a statement.

We are grateful that the Missouri Court of Appeals raised its hand for voters and held that the ballot summary for Big Tobacco’s proposed amendment to our state’s Constitution is insufficient and unfair.

Proponents of this flawed measure should have abandoned their court fight and accepted the ballot summary changes from the beginning. Instead, they knowingly circulated their flawed petition and misled voters. Having violated the law, Big Tobacco should now forfeit any place on Missouri’s ballot.

The tax initiative, which has been hijacked by North Carolina-based RAI, has faced growing opposition in recent weeks from education, medical research, public health and patient groups. These groups have equally diverse concerns, ranging from the funding and drafting of the measure by Big Tobacco to the impact on K-12 public education, health and research in our state.

Among those publicly opposing the initiative are: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Missouri, BioSTL, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Concerned Women for America, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Missouri Family Network, MOBIO, Missouri Association of Rural Education, Missouri Cures, Missouri National Education Association, Missouri Retired Teachers Association, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Tobacco-Free Missouri and Washington University in St. Louis.

Read the full opinion below.

Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.

Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.

To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.