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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri Supreme Court declines to hear tobacco-tax case, leaving ballot measure in limbo

cigsinsand400flickrcurran.jpg
Curran | Flickr
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Discarded cigarette butts in a sand receptacle. Eleven people were indicted today over contraband cigarettes in Missouri and Illinois. (via Flickr/ curran.kelleher)

The Missouri Supreme Court has rejected a request that it weigh in on a lawsuit against a proposed tobacco tax increase.

The court's decision could kill off the initiative-petition effort to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The court's ruling came late Wednesday. It leaves in place an appeals court decision to rewrite the ballot summary for the initiative-petition proposal by a group called Raise Your Hand for Kids.

Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office has said that the ballot proposal would be in jeopardy if the Supreme Court did not weigh in, because state law requires that the petitions have the correct summary when signatures are collected.

The tax-hike supporters already have turned in about 330,000 signatures on its petitions proposing an increase of as much as $1.27 on each pack of cigarettes. The money would pay for health care and education programs for children.

Kander's office has yet to certify the signatures. Kander has yet to comment on the Supreme Court's decision.

The lawsuit challenged the initiative because, among other things, the ballot summary failed to state that one of the measure’s fees could increase annually to keep up with inflation.

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District, which issued Friday’s ruling, rejected the ballot summary — and then wrote a new one that refers to the annual hike.

The court fight does not affect a separate initiative petition proposal that calls for a 23-cents-a-pack hike in Missouri's tobacco tax to raise money for state transportation needs.

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