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Court upholds language on local control measure

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A Missouri appeals court has ruled that language used to summarize a ballot proposal giving St. Louis city  control of its police department is fair.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of opponents of local control, including well-kn0wn activist Jamala Rogers. The suit alleged that the 100-word summary that will appear on the ballot in November was not fair because it did not address provisions they said exempted the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from the Sunshine Law and gives the SLMPD access to tax records that no other law enforcement agency has. 

The appeals court rejected both of those arguments:

  • On the Sunshine Law question, the three-judge panel ruled that the initiative does not address records made during a criminal investigation. Instead, the court said, the petition gives the Civil Service Commission the right to adopt rules for the police department, which would have to include ways to keep disciplinary records private - an exemption already allowed in the Sunshine Law. 
  • The court also ruled that the initiative does not address the issue of tax disclosure. Opponents had argued that a new section of law created by the ballot measure forbidding any state official from obstructing an investigation conflicts with a state statute that prohibits the release of tax information. The court said that section already addresses working with law enforcement. "Even if the Initiative Petition had the effect of authorizing somewhat greater access to tax  information than previously existed, in the context of the Initiative Petition as a whole, and in  light of the applicable  100-word limit on the summary statement, we would not find that the  omission of this detail rendered the summary statement insufficient or unfair," the court wrote.  

Also today, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported that Cole County circuit judge Jon Beetum will rule next month on whether initiatives that call for a boost in the minimum wage and restrictions on payday loans should be on the November ballot.

Secretary of state Robin Carnahan ruled earlier this month that supporters of those proposals had not gathered enough valid signatures. Lawsuits filed last week contend that some valid signatures were not counted. 

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.