Judge rules against Missouri State Treasurer and allows the ballot language for Amendment 1 to stand

On Dec. 13, 2021, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled against a challenge brought by Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick (R) to the ballot language and summary of Missouri Amendment 1. The constitutional amendment would allow the state treasurer to invest state funds in highly rated municipal securities. It would also authorize the legislature to pass laws allowing the treasurer to invest in “other reasonable and prudent financial instruments and securities.”

The ballot language and summary were drafted by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) after the state legislature voted to refer the amendment to the November 2022 ballot. Ashcroft said the state legislature could have written the ballot language when it referred the measure but deferred to his office to do so.

Fitzpatrick filed the lawsuit in June against his fellow Republican arguing that the ballot language is “not a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the proposed measure.” Fitzpatrick argued that the use of “override” to describe the authorization of the state legislature to pass laws regarding what financial instruments the state treasurer may invest in is biased against the measure.

The ballot title and summary as drafted by the secretary of state are below:

Ballot title

Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to:

  • allow the General Assembly to override the current constitutional restrictions of state investments by the state treasurer; and
  • allow state investments in municipal securities possessing one of the top five highest long term ratings or the highest short term rating?

State governmental entities estimate no costs and increased interest revenue of $2 million per year. Local governmental entities estimate no costs and increased interest revenue of at least $34,000 per year.

Ballot summary

“A ‘yes’ vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to grant the General Assembly statutory authority to invest state funds and also expand the state treasurer’s investment options. Currently, the Constitution grants the General Assembly no statutory investment authority and limits the treasurer’s investment options. This amendment will allow the General Assembly by statute to determine investment avenues for the state treasurer to invest state funds, as well as allow the state treasurer to invest in municipal securities.

A ‘no’ vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution and limit the treasurer to investing state funds only in those currently approved by the Constitution.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.”

Judge Green did alter the “no” statement of the ballot summary to read: “A ‘no’ vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution and limit the treasurer to investing state funds only in those investment options currently approved by the Constitution.”

Secretary Ashcroft’s office released a statement saying, “We are pleased that the court ruled in our favor and that the Fair Ballot Language is certified to be used at all polling places. … This was ridiculous from the beginning. It was a complete waste of taxpayer funds in an attempt to force a specific voter outcome on the amendment. I am pleased that the court affirmed that our summary of what the amendment would do was fair and sufficient.”

A spokesperson for State Treasurer Fitzpatrick said that they planned on appealing the ruling. His office said, “While the Treasurer is pleased the order made necessary changes to the fair ballot language that at least made it intelligible, we still believe the summary statement is unfair and will create a prejudice against the proposed amendment and the fair ballot language contains a plainly incorrect statement.”

Currently, the state treasurer is authorized to invest in federal and agency bonds, time deposits in Missouri banks, repurchase agreements, banker’s acceptance, or short-term unsecured corporate debt. On average, the state treasurer has $3.6 billion invested daily.

Missouri voters have decided three ballot measures since 1956 that amended the state treasurer’s investment authority and approved all three.

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