Lawsuits filed over 2 Missouri ballot measures

Sunday, August 19, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Supporters of Missouri ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage and limit payday loans are going to court after election officials concluded they failed to collect enough signatures to put the measures before voters.

Last week, lawsuits were filed arguing some valid signatures wrongly were not counted. Both lawsuits are seeking a court ruling that declares enough signatures were gathered to qualify for the November ballot. The secretary of state's office announced last week the minimum wage and lending measures had fallen short.

The secretary of state's office declined to comment Friday. Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce scheduled a hearing Monday over the lending ballot measure. A hearing on the minimum wage proposal has not yet been scheduled.

Supporters of the two initiatives were required to submit a number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the 2008 governor's election in six of Missouri's nine congressional districts. That amounts to between 91,818 and 99,600 signatures, depending upon the districts targeted. Signatures had to be turned in by early May.

Election officials reported the minimum wage measure was 1,091 signatures short in the 1st Congressional District in St. Louis and 510 signatures short in the 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of St. Louis city and St. Louis County and Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties.

The lending measure was 270 signatures short in the 1st Congressional District.

The wage initiative would increase Missouri's minimum pay to $8.25 per hour starting in 2013, with an annual cost-of-living adjustment in subsequent years. If the federal minimum wage increases above that, Missouri would adopt the federal rate and apply cost-of-living adjustments to that. Voters approved a 2006 ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to $6.50 with cost-of-living adjustments. It also required Missouri to follow the federal minimum wage if it was higher than the state's minimum. Therefore, Missouri currently follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The lending measure would limit the annual interest rate charged on certain short-term loans to 36 percent. In 2009, the Missouri Division of Finance calculated that the average payday loan carried an average annual interest rate of 431 percent. Payday loans give borrowers money in exchange for a check that is cashed on their next payday. Some other types of short-term loans are secured by vehicle titles or other means.

Opponents of the lending measure said their own analysis concluded too few valid signatures were submitted along with duplicate signatures and problems with the registration of petition gatherers. Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity said the proposal is "misguided" and would curtail credit options for some Missourians.

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