JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A disagreement between Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick has been settled by the state supreme court. It has to do with Missourians’ constitutional right to direct democracy through the initiative petition process.
The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday to decide if Bailey could override Fitzpatrick regarding the cost of initiative petitions asking voters if abortion rights should be restored. Bailey appealed a Cole County judge’s decision last month. The decision came down today.
The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgement saying that Attorney General Andrew Bailey must comply with his duty to approve Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s fiscal note summary in the next 24 hours.
Back in March, 11 abortion rights petitions were filed with the Secretary of State’s office to roll back the state’s abortion ban. In April, the amendments hit a snag when the attorney general disagreed with the state auditor’s fiscal note, meaning how much it would cost the state if approved by voters. Then, a lawsuit was filed against the state for holding up the constitutional amendments, as supporters waited for the ballot summary to be released.
Bailey estimated the referendums to cost roughly $12.5 billion saying he believed the state could lose Medicaid funding or lost revenue from people who wouldn’t be born. Compared to Fitzpatrick’s estimate for $51,000.
Last month, a Cole County judge ruled Bailey must approve the auditor’s estimate within 24 hours, but the attorney general appealed the ruling, sending the case to the state’s highest court.
Under state law, the attorney general is tasked with approving the legal content and form of a proposed initiative petition. The state auditor is required to come up with the cost and the summary for the amendment.
Under this ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court, Bailey has until 1 p.m. tomorrow to approve the auditor’s fiscal note summary, his office says he will respect the court’s order.
“At every level of our judicial system, the courts saw the Attorney General’s effort to derail the initiative process for what it was: a deliberate threat to the direct democracy,” states Anthony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy at the ACLU of Missouri. “As obviously unconstitutional as his scheme was, it succeeded in wasting valuable time. If the Attorney General and Secretary of State are serious about their oaths to the constitution, they will carry out their duties today, not cause more delay.”
The ACLU of Missouri, who filed the lawsuit, says the certification process has taken over 100 days because of the standoff between Bailey and Fitzpatrick.
Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office sent this statement to Missouri bureau reporter Emily Manley, “We disagree with the Court’s decision, as we believe Missourians deserve to know how much this amendment would cost the state, but we will respect the Court’s order.”
State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick issued this statement after the ruling:
“Throughout my career in public office I have consistently stood in defense of the lives of the innocent unborn and worked to make sure abortions do not take place in our state. As someone who is ardently pro-life, I will vote against these initiatives if they make it to the ballot. However, my personal stance cannot compromise the duty my office has to provide a fair assessment of their cost to the state. I want to thank the court for protecting a process that had worked for decades without controversy and will now continue to provide Missourians with the impartial information they are entitled to when they go to vote”