Missouri Judge to Hear Lawsuits Over Ballot Measures
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A Missouri judge likely will consider next month whether initiatives that call for increasing the minimum wage and limiting payday loans qualify for the November ballot.
Election officials concluded this month that the proposed measures’ supporters didn’t submit enough signatures to get them on the ballot. Lawsuits filed last week challenge that determination and contend some valid signatures wrongly weren’t counted. Supporters are seeking a court ruling declaring enough signatures were gathered to qualify for the November ballot.
The Jefferson City News Tribune reported Tuesday that Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem was likely to consider the case Sept. 5-7. The trial date was to be finalized after Beetem meets with lawyers involved in the case on Wednesday.
To make the ballot, supporters were required to submit a number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 governor’s election in six of Missouri’s nine congressional districts. That amounts to between 91,818 and 99,600 signatures, depending upon the districts targeted. Signatures were due in early May.
Election officials reported the minimum wage measure was 1,091 signatures short in the 1st Congressional District in St. Louis and 510 signatures short in the 3rd Congressional District in eastern Missouri, which also includes part of St. Louis. The lending measure was 270 signatures short in the 1st Congressional District.
Jefferson City lawyer Chuck Hatfield, who represents a client opposed to the lending measure, said some signatures also wrongly were counted.
“There are a lot of issues in the way that signatures are gathered,” Hatfield said.
A lawsuit filed by opponents of the lending ballot measure contends that more than 1,530 signatures counted from the 3rd Congressional District actually were invalid and asks the court to declare that the measure also fell short in that district. It also contests that officials’ decision to examine signatures based upon the current congressional districts rather than a new map based upon the 2010 census. Missouri is dropping from nine congressional districts to eight.
The wage initiative would increase Missouri’s minimum pay to $8.25 per hour starting in 2013, with an annual cost-of-living adjustment in subsequent years. If the federal minimum wage increases above that, Missouri would adopt the federal rate and apply cost-of-living adjustments to that. Voters approved a 2006 ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to $6.50 with cost-of-living adjustments. It also required Missouri to follow the federal minimum wage if it was higher than the state’s minimum.
The lending measure would limit the annual interest rate charged on certain short-term loans to 36 percent. Payday loans give borrowers money in exchange for a check that is cashed on their next payday. Some other types of short-term loans are secured by vehicle titles or other means.
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