Opponents and backers of tobacco tax hike make their case in court; ruling expected quickly

A trial began Friday to determine whether a proposed tobacco tax hike should remain on the ballot in November, something a Cole County Circuit court judge will determine this week.

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has already certified an initiative petition from the nonprofit Raise Your Hand for Kids, which seeks to raise the tax on packs of cigarettes by 60 cents to fund early childhood education programs.

At issue is the process citizens have for bringing a constitutional change before voters.

The summary in question for the tobacco proposal has become the main point of contention. A citizen lawsuit alleged the ballot summary didn’t explain how the fees could increase each year to keep up with inflation, and the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District agreed in July, ruling that the summary was “unfair and insufficient” and writing a new one.

Three lawsuits allege that the registered voters who signed the tobacco petition did so after reading a misleading summary of what they were signing. As such, they’ve now asked a judge to weigh in on whether or not the proposal should ever have been approved go before voters on Nov. 8.

Cole County circuit court is expected to make a decision early this week.  Both sides say they’ll appeal an unfavorable ruling. The case is expected to ultimately be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missourinet


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