A Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday that signatures collected for a citizen petition to raise the tobacco tax in Missouri are valid, and that the measure belongs on the ballot in November.
During a hearing last week, backers and opponents made their arguments regarding three lawsuits alleging that the registered voters who signed the tobacco petition did so after reading a misleading summary of what they were signing.
Circuit Judge Jon Beetem’s decision is an initial victory for Raise Your Hand for Kids, the nonprofit pushing the petition to raise money for early childhood education programs, and for Secretary of State Jason Kander, who certified it for the ballot and vowed only to throw it out if a court ordered him to do so.
But opponents have already said they will file an appeal.
The petition seeks to raise the tax on packs of cigarettes from 17 cents a pack to 60 cents. But it’s been met with widespread opposition and legal challenges, due largely in part to a prior court ruling that determined the summary presented to those who signed the petition was misleading.