Leaders of the grassroots effort to rein in Missouri's exploitive payday loan industry were keeping up a brave front after a judge's decision throwing out the ballot summary and cost estimate of their initiative petition.
But unless the Missouri Secretary of State's office can quickly prevail in a legal appeal, the issue stands little chance of appearing on a statewide ballot in November.
That would be a shame. A broad coalition of faith-based and consumer groups turned to Missouri's initiative petition process after the Republican-controlled legislature failed for several years to allow a fair hearing on the sky-high interest rates and other abusive short-term lending practices permitted under Missouri law. A drive to collect signatures was proceeding well.
Now, with a May 6 deadline to turn in signatures, Cole County Judge Daniel Green has announced the summary on the petitions, written by the secretary of state, isn't specific enough; and the cost estimate, prepared by the state auditor, is too narrow.
There has got to be a better way to handle challenges to initiative petitions in Missouri.
The secretary of state's office certified the payday loan reform initiative in August. Opponents had 10 days to legally challenge it. State law says such challenges "shall be placed at the top of the civil docket." And yet it took seven months for the judge to announce a decision, which has the potential to wipe out all of the hard work of citizen volunteers and leave them no time to recoup.
Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.