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Missouri Supreme Court hears challenge of election on Kansas City police funding

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(The Center Square) – Missouri voters didn’t know the exact cost of a ballot measure they approved last November to require Kansas City to devote 25% of its budget to its police department, according to the city’s arguments on Wednesday before the state Supreme Court.

Senate Joint Resolution 38 was passed in 2022 as a measure to stop “defunding the police” by legislators. More than 63% of Missouri voters amended its constitution to give the legislature the ability to increase minimum funding for a police force established by a state board of commissioners. Kansas City has the only police department controlled by the state of Missouri.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas then filed a complaint challenging the amendment’s fiscal note and alleged it resulted in ballots cast with misrepresented information in a 70-page brief.

“It still is apparent that this would have been defeated if the people in the state of Missouri had known there really was a cost,” James Layton, an attorney representing Lucas, told the justices. “Because there is a nearly $40 million cost in this instance.”

According to the official ballot title, “State and local governmental entities estimate no additional costs or savings related to this proposal.” The ballot language included, “If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.”

Jeff Johnson, an attorney from the attorney general’s office representing the state auditor, argued a new election shouldn’t be held with different financial information.

“This court should affirm the will of the Missouri voters in the November 8 election,” Johnson said. “The fiscal notes were fair and sufficient. This court should not allow the mayor of Kansas City to overturn the election on its merits.”

In a 63-page brief, the state argued challenging the ballot’s language after the election conflicts with the state constitution. It also stated Lucas failed to show any irregularities were of sufficient magnitude to cast doubt on the election.

Nicole Galloway, the state auditor at the time, was thorough in her responsibilities and Kansas City was already funding its police department with approximately 25% of its revenues during the past few fiscal years, Johnson argued.

“The problem here is that the statute doesn’t talk about increased costs,” Layton said. “The statute asks, What will this mandate cost? And this mandate will cost millions, not nothing. It will cost millions.”

The case includes multiple issues, including whether the Supreme Court has the authority to grant Lucas’ requests. The state’s regulations on post-election challenges also come into play, especially on matters regarding fiscal note summaries.

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