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Lawsuit filed to keep ethics overhaul question off November ballot


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The constitutionality of an initiative petition seeking to overhaul Missouri’s ethics laws is being challenged in court.

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Paul Ritter, Kansas City attorney Eddie Greim is alleging that the ballot measure deals with multiple subjects — campaign contributions, redistricting, the Sunshine Law, and more — which is prohibited by the Missouri Constitution.

The initiative petition turned in more than 300,000 signatures, which were certified for the November ballot on August 2. The measure dubbed Clean Missouri, which is sponsored by the group also called Clean Missouri, would be Amendment 1 should it make it to the ballot.  

The measure is seeking to: eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly; require that legislative records be open to the public; lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates; require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists; and alter the way lawmaker districts are drawn in an attempt prevent gerrymandering.

“One purpose of the prohibition on multiple subjects in a single ballot proposal is to prevent `logrolling,’ a practice familiar to legislative bodies whereby unrelated subjects that individually might not muster enough support to pass are combined to generate the necessary support,” the lawsuit states.

The challenge calls on the court to have the constitutional amendment removed from the ballot.

“This is a desperate attempt from a few political insiders to protect a corrupt system where legislators take millions in lobbyist gifts while ignoring voters back home,” said Rev. Cassandra Gould. “We expected a last-ditch effort like this, because they know what we know: Voters are fed up with what they’ve been seeing in Jefferson City, and are really excited about the opportunity to clean up state politics with Amendment 1 in November.”

While the measure has won bipartisan support, it has also drawn opposition from Republicans over they way districts would be drawn.

Currently, state legislative districts are drawn by two bipartisan panels. Greim has experience with redistricting having defended new maps to the Missouri Supreme Court twice.

Under Clean Missouri, selecting the state demographer would become a multi-step process. Folks would apply to the state auditor to be the demographer and then auditor would submit a list of at least three names to the Senate. If the Senate majority and minority leaders agreed on a person, the process would end there. If they disagreed, they would each be able to take names off the list before the demographer would be picked in a lottery system.

It would also require a statistical test to measure the fairness of the redistricting.