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Fitzpatrick sues Ashcroft over ballot measure language

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick has sued Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over what he called “erroneous and biased” summary language for a proposed ballot measure expanding the treasurer’s investment options. 

Amendment 1, which passed the legislature in May as HJR 35, would give Missouri’s state treasurer the ability to invest in certain municipal securities or in “other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities as otherwise provided by law” if approved by voters. 

The ballot language provided by the Secretary of State’s Office asks voters if they wish to: 

    • allow the General Assembly to override the current constitutional restrictions of state investments by the state treasurer; and
    • allow state investments in municipal securities possessing one of the top five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating?

Additionally, the fair ballot language informs voters that a “yes” vote would: 

“[A]mend the Missouri Constitution to grant the General Assembly statutory authority to invest state funds and also expand the state treasurer’s investment options.  Currently the Constitution grants the General Assembly no statutory investment authority and limits the treasurer’s investment options.  This amendment will allow the General Assembly by statute to determine investment avenues for the state treasurer to invest state funds, as well as allow the state treasurer to invest in municipal securities.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cole County Circuit Court, alleged the language was “misleading and undeniably false” as the Missouri constitution already grants the treasurer “exclusive authority to invest state funds.” It also said the language would mislead voters to wrongly conclude the General Assembly would be the sole authority for determining investment opportunities for the state treasurer to utilize. 

The lawsuit said the use of the word “override” is “intentionally argumentative and likely to create a prejudice against the proposed measure.” 

“Regarding House Joint Resolution 35, the Missouri Legislature and the Treasurer’s Office had the opportunity to draft appropriate ballot language but chose to defer the writing to my office,” Ashcroft told The Missouri Times. “Based on the resolution verbiage (HJR 35), I believe the ballot language my office prepared, and then subsequently approved by the Missouri Attorney General’s office, to be fair, unbiased, and clear to Missouri voters when they head to the polls to consider this constitutional amendment.”

Fitzpatrick asked the court to throw out the secretary of state’s ballot language and instead suggested it ask voters if they wish to: 

    • Allow state investments in municipal securities possessing one of the top five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating; and 
    • Allow the state treasurer to invest in other reasonable and prudent financial instructions and securities as authorized by the General Assembly? 
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