Boone County Court v. State

Decision Date06 April 1982
Docket NumberNo. 63576,63576
Citation631 S.W.2d 321
Parties., Appellants, v. STATE of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, Treasurer of the State of Missouri, et al., Respondents. Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Kandice Johnson, Asst. Pros. Atty., Columbia, for appellants.

John Ashcroft, Atty. Gen., William F. Arnet, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for respondents.


The Boone County Court appeals from a summary judgment that art. X, § 21, Mo.Const. does not require a salary increase for second class county collectors, mandated by § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981, to be paid from the state treasury. The question is whether the increase in salary constitutes an increased "activity" as that term is used in art. X, § 21, Mo.Const. If so, the state would be required to pay the amount of increase. Reversed to so require.

On November 4, 1980, the people of Missouri amended their Constitution, art. X, §§ 16 through 24 inclusive (the Hancock Amendment), to provide inter alia :

Section 21. State support to local governments not to be reduced, additional activities and services not to be imposed without full state funding. The state is hereby prohibited from reducing the state financed proportion of the costs of any existing activity or service required of counties and other political subdivisions. A new activity or service or an increase in the level of any activity or service beyond that required by existing law shall not be required by the general assembly or any state agency of counties or other political subdivisions, unless a state appropriation is made and disbursed to pay the county or other political subdivision for any increased costs.

Subsequently, Senate Bill 192, now known as § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981, was signed by Christopher S. Bond, Governor of the State of Missouri; it repealed § 52.420, RSMo 1978. The new enactment increases the annual salary of collectors of second class counties by one hundred dollars; it is otherwise a rescript of § 52.420, RSMo 1978, and imposes no additional duties for those collectors to perform.

On March 9, 1981, the Boone County Court requested the Treasurer of the State of Missouri to disburse to Boone County, a second class county, one hundred dollars with which to pay the salary increase mandated by § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981; the request was refused the following day. On May 1, 1981, William Frech, Richard Farmer, and Kay Roberts, filed a declaratory judgment action in their official capacity as duly elected judges of the Boone County Court, and in their individual capacities as taxpayers and citizens of Boone County, Missouri. Their petition requested the trial court to declare that art. X, § 21 Mo.Const., requires the State to fund any increase in activity or services which the General Assembly requires of a county beyond those required of the county as of the time of the adoption of the Hancock Amendment; that the salary increase for collectors of second class counties as mandated by § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981, resulted in an increase in the activity of the Boone County Court; that the State was required to pay from its treasury the salary increase; and that the State wrongfully refused to remit any funds to pay for the salary increase. Respondents denied that the salary increase constituted an increased activity for Boone County to perform.

Upon motions for summary judgment by both parties, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of respondents. The court entered a specific finding that the "increase of one hundred dollars in the salary of the collector of Boone County is not a new or additional activity or service within the meaning of section 21 of Article X of the Missouri Constitution, as amended." The trial court held that the State is not required to appropriate or disburse funds for the salary increase created by § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981.

Stated anew, the issue is whether the State of Missouri or Boone County must bear the added expense of this one hundred dollar increase in the collector's annual salary. With the exception of this increase, the parties agree that the salaries of second class county collectors are paid from the county treasury. 1

Appellant argues that the State of Missouri has financial responsibility for the salary increase because (1) the payment of the collector's salary is an activity conducted by Boone County at the mandate of the State, and (2) the salary increase in § 52.420, RSMo Supp.1981, is an increase in the level of that activity beyond pre-Hancock Amendment levels; that therefore, by the terms of § 21, the State must pay the one hundred dollar increase. Appellant also argues that its position is confirmed by reading the Hancock Amendment as a whole because the unmistakable intention and purpose of the amendment was to prevent increases in taxation without direct voter approval and prohibit state expansion of local responsibility without state funding.

Respondents argue that a salary raise alone does not constitute, under § 21, an increased activity for Boone County's government because it is not accompanied by an imposition of additional duties which the Boone County collector must perform and therefore does not increase his activity.

Rules applicable to constitutional construction are the same as those applied to statutory construction, except that the former are given a broader construction, due to their more permanent character. State at the Information of Martin v. City of Independence, 518 S.W.2d 63, 65 (Mo.1974). In determining the meaning of a constitutional provision the court must first undertake to ascribe to the words the meaning which the people understood them to have when the provision was adopted. State at the Information of Danforth v. Cason, 507 S.W.2d 405, 408 (Mo. banc 1973). The meaning conveyed to the voters is presumptively equated with the ordinary and usual meaning given thereto. Id. at 409. The ordinary, usual and commonly understood meaning is, in turn, derived from the dictionary. Id., Accord, Concerned Parents v. Caruthersville School District, 548 S.W.2d 554 (Mo. banc 1977); State ex rel. Curators of the University of Missouri v. Neill, 397 S.W.2d 666 (Mo. banc 1966); Rathjen v. Reorganized School District R-II of Shelby County, 365 Mo. 518, 284 S.W.2d 516 (1955). The grammatical order and selection of the associated words as arranged by the drafters is also indicative of the natural significance of the words employed. State at the Information of Danforth v. Cason, supra; O'Malley v. Continental Life Insurance, 335 Mo. 1115, 75 S.W.2d 837 (1934). To this extent the intent of the amendment's drafters is influential. 2 Finally, due regard is given to the primary objectives of the provision in issue as viewed in harmony with all related provisions, considered as a whole. State at the Information of Martin v. City of Independence, 518 S.W.2d at 65. By following these rules, the fundamental purpose of constitutional construction is accomplished, to give effect to the intent of the voters who adopted the amendment. Rathjen v. Reorganized School District R-II of Shelby County, supra.

"Activity" standing alone is a general word and its meaning in the present situation cannot be determined without employment of all of the aforementioned rules.

Art. X, § 21 refers to "an increase in the level of any activity or service" 3. "Activity" is defined in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1965) as "natural or normal function or operation ... an occupation, pursuit, or recreation in which a person is active ... an organizational unit for performing a specific function; also its duties or function." By comparison "service" is defined as "the performance of work commanded or paid for by another ... an act done for the benefit or at the command of another." Id. The word "any" as used in a constitutional provision is "all-comprehensive, and is equivalent to 'every'." State ex rel. Randolph County v. Walden, 357 Mo. 167, 206 S.W.2d 979, 983 (1947). The disjunctive word, "or", ordinarily indicates an alternative and "generally corresponds to the word 'either'." Council Plaza Redevelopment Corporation v. Duffey, 439 S.W.2d 526, 532 (Mo. banc 1969). Although usages of "service" and "activity" frequently overlap, it is illogical to view them as having the same meaning where, as here, both are used in the alternative. If these terms were intended to have the same meaning the use of only one of them would be necessary, and the other would be surplusage; included for no reason. Such a construction is not favored. See Rathjen v. Reorganized School District R-II of Shelby County, 289 S.W.2d at 523.

Read in the alternative as they are composed and broadly as required by the term "any", "service" refers to county governmental action performed for the benefit of its residents; "activity" refers to the general functioning and operation of county government in performing services. "Any activity" as applied to county functioning encompasses every increase in the level of operation in that government. To the extent that the county court is mandated to pay the collector more, an increase in the level of governmental operation results and therefore the salary increase is "an increase in the level of any activity". Art. X, § 21, Mo.Const.

This construction is in accordance with the objectives of the Hancock amendment as clearly understood by the voters; to control and limit governmental revenue and expenditure increases. Art. X, § 16, states: "The state is prohibited from requiring any new or expanded activities by counties and other political subdivisions without full state financing, or from shifting the tax burden to counties and other political subdivision." In Buchanan v. Kirkpatrick, 615 S.W.2d 6 (Mo. banc 1981) it was stated that:

(T)he central purpose of (the Hancock) Amendment ... is to limit taxes by establishing tax and revenue limits and...

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