Kinder, GOP lawmakers challenge Mo. health care ballot summary | St. Louis Public Radio

Kinder, GOP lawmakers challenge Mo. health care ballot summary

Jul 10, 2012

Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder (R) and GOP legislative leaders have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) over the language used in a ballot initiative regarding health care exchanges.

The language approved by Carnahan asks if the law should be amended to, “deny individuals, families, and small businesses the ability to access affordable health care plans through a state-based health benefit exchange unless authorized by statute, initiative or referendum.”  Kinder says the language skews the ballot question’s true purpose, to bar the governor from creating an exchange by executive order.

“This is just the latest example of an elected official playing games with the integrity of the legislative process," Kinder told reporters in Jefferson City.  "What she has done is a slap in the face to the General Assembly and an insult to Missouri voters, a large percentage of whom have already been heard from on Obamacare.” 

Carnahan's spokesman, Ryan Hobart, referred to the lawsuit as “political theater in an election year,” and said they’re confident it will hold up in court.

"We understand it’s election season and some people will do anything to get in the news, but it’s hard to take Lt. Governor Kinder seriously when this is what he calls fair ballot language," Hobart said.  "It’s our obligation to make sure voters have a fair, accurate summary of what they’re voting on and our summary provides that." 

Kinder's lawsuit was filed in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City.  Also joining the suit as plaintiffs are House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville), Senate President Pro-tem Rob Mayer (R, Dexter), House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R, Eureka), and Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey (R, St. Charles).  Kinder also flew around the state in a private plane, holding press conferences in Cape Girardeau, Springfield, Joplin, Jefferson City and St. Louis.  When asked, Kinder confirmed that his re-election campaign paid for the airplane's use, but also said there was no conflict of interest in his using campaign funds to pay for a trip that's part of his official capacity as Lt. Governor.

"I'm paying for this trip," Kinder said.  "There's not a nickel of taxpayer money fueling that airplane." 

Meanwhile, two other Republican candidates for higher office also traveled around the state Tuesday and sharply criticized Carnahan, and Attorney General Chris Koster (D), over the health care exchange ballot language.  House Speaker Pro-tem Shane Schoeller (R, Willard) is running for Secretary of State.  He called on House Speaker Tilley to create a legislative committee to examine the ballot writing process and craft bills to change the current system.

“We have a system where our Secretary of State (crafts) the ballot language, and the Attorney General approves (it), without accountability for the taxpayers," Schoeller said.  "I am hopeful that by creating an interim committee we can begin the conversation on creating a fair, more accountable and transparent process.”

In addition, Republican Attorney General candidate Ed Martin said Koster should have rejected the language authorized by Carnahan.  The Attorney General’s office has so far not responded to requests for a comment. 

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport