A Missouri judge has struck down the State Auditor's authority to prepare financial estimates for ballot initiatives.
The ruling by Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem comes in a challenge to a proposed tobacco tax initiative for which supporters are not gathering signatures. But attorneys who specialize in initiative petitions say the ruling ultimately could affect other initiatives.
Beetem said a state law requiring the auditor to assess the financial impact of ballot initiatives runs afoul of the Missouri Constitution. The constitution says the auditor shall not have any duties imposed upon him that are not related to supervising and auditing the receipt and expenditure of public money.
Meanwhile, State Auditor Tom Schweich (R) issued the following response to Judge Beetem's ruling:
"For 15 years, the State Auditor has prepared fiscal notes for ballot initiatives pursuant to the express language of the Missouri statutes. Today's ruling indicates that this statutory authority from the legislature is inconsistent with the Missouri Constitution. Our office will appeal this decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. Until the appeal is resolved, the legal status of pending ballot initiative fiscal notes is unclear."