Ballot Law Update: Residency requirements for circulators repealed in California
By Eric Veram
Since the beginning of the year, we have tracked 207 proposed laws in 36 states affecting the initiative and referendum process. Please note that some of these are constitutional amendments requiring voter approval before going into effect. The Ballot Law Update is released on the last Wednesday of each month. Stay tuned to the Tuesday Count for weekly ballot law news.
Wording for proposed Arkansas "personhood" initiative rejected again: On Friday, August 30, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the wording of a proposed initiated constitutional amendment that would grant "personhood" status to fetuses from the time of conception. According to reports, the submitted wording required the state to protect fetuses from conception until birth. Currently, the state constitution only allows protection insofar as the federal constitution does. McDaniel said the proposal was unclear on whether or not the term "protect" conflicted with federal law. This is the second time this year the wording of the measure has been rejected; the first time occurred in July.
Supporters of Oregon Measure 67 considering alterations for the next legislative session: In 2010, voters approved replacing Oregon's $10 corporate minimum tax with a tiered tax structure that maxes out at $100,000 in the form of Measure 67. In May of this year, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that corporations were permitted to use tax credits to pay the corporate minimum tax, a decision that the measure's supporters say violates the spirit of the law. The state legislature is set to convene in February, and Democrats are already considering what changes could be made to prevent revenue losses, projected at $90 million over the next decade, from the court's ruling. However, due to fear of legislative gridlock, some of Measure 67's campaign organizers are considering another initiative. Scott Moore, spokesman for Our Oregon, is one such supporter and said, "When voters passed the reforms to the corporate minimum tax, they did so because they believe that corporations, especially the very large ones, should be paying something." At least six such measures have been filed so far for the 2014 ballot.
Arkansas attorney general rejects wording of marijuana study measure: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has rejected yet another marijuana ballot measure, this one seeking to legalize the drug for people participating in a proposed study. The group Arkansas Concerned Citizens proposed an initiated state statute, ostensibly for the 2014 ballot, that would commence a 10-year study of marijuana. The drug would be legalized for participants in the study. This year marks the third time McDaniel has rejected the measure, as similar versions were rejected in 2011 and 2012. McDaniel cited ambiguities about the study and concerns over its legality at the federal level as his reasons for rejecting the most recent version.
Medicaid expansion measure receives go ahead in Ohio: On Thursday, September 19, the Ohio Ballot Board certified the petitions of a measure that seeks to expand the state's Medicaid program. Healthy Ohioans Work, the groups who is sponsoring the measure, says that they hope to not have to follow through with their proposal and instead wish to see the legislature step up and pass the bill themselves. The group says that the hope lawmakers will pass the expansion this fall in order to capture the federal funds that become available January 1, 2014. The measure was filed as an initiated state statute and will require 115,574 signatures to go before the legislature. If the legislature does not act, it will take another 115,574 signatures to place the issue on next year's ballot.
Judge rules on fiscal summary of Missouri Lending Charges Limits Initiative: Judge Dan Green, of the Cole County Circuit Court, has upheld the fiscal note and ballot summary prepared by the Missouri secretary of state for a measure that seeks to limit interest, fees and finance charges on certain loans. The fiscal note, which states that the state could lose up to $17 million in tax revenue if the measure leads to significant closures, was challenged by supporters as being misleading. Judge Green ruled that both the note and the summary are fair and sufficient. Supporters have until May 4, 2014, to turn in a minimum of 91,818 valid signatures.
Supporters of Cincinnati pension amendment sue to change ballot language: On Thursday, September 12, Cincinnati For Pension Reform filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Board of Elections in an effort to change the ballot language of a measure seeking to change the city's pension system. The group alleges that the board illegally expanded the text and purpose of the amendment through "conjecture and partisan argumentation. In particular they take issue with a section of the language that says the amendment would "require the city of Cincinnati to pay forecasted pension obligation shortfalls by creating new revenues, which may include new or additional taxes or fees, and/or other revenue sources..." The suit was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court and requests an expedited ruling.
You can read more about the lawsuit as it develops, here.
Casino opponents file suit to keep repeal alive: The group Repeal the Casino Deal has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the recent disqualification of the Massachusetts Casino Repeal Initiative. The suit was filed in response to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's decision to throw out the measure because it could violate the state constitution by resulting confiscation of property from casino developers. John Ribeiro, chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal, said that Coakley's decision was unfair to Massachusetts voters who should be able to vote on whether or not they want gambling expansion in the state.
Ohio residency requirements challenged in court: On Friday, September 20, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed a lawsuit in federal court against Senate Bill 47, a recently passed law that instates residency requirements on petition circulators. The bill also reduces the amount of time petitioners have to gather signatures. Ohio has had such a law in the past, but it was overturned in a federal court case in 2009. Reports indicate that SB 47 may be even stricter than the previous restrictions. A news release from the 1851 Center read: "Senate Bill 47 establishes an absolute prohibition of signature-gathering by anyone not residing in Ohio. This prohibits Ohioans from contracting with out-of-staters, even though there are virtually no Ohio businesses that offer petition circulation. Ohioans are also prohibited from seeking assistance from volunteers who do not reside in Ohio." Whether or not the lawsuit will be resolved in time to impact next year's potential ballot measures remains to be seen.
Big change made to California initiative law: On Monday, September 9, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 213 into law. The act repeals all residency requirements for petition circulators in the state, including those petitioning for ballot measures and political candidates. According to reports, this will settle two lawsuits currently pending against the state. One is Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County v Bowen, a suit currently in federal court in Los Angeles. The other case is actually a series of nineteen lawsuits filed by a Wisconsin resident against nineteen separate counties in California. The bill's legislative analysis indicates that the law was drafted in response to U.S. Supreme Court case Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, Inc. that struck down state statutes requiring petition circulators to be registered voters.
- Associated Press, "Ark. AG rejects wording of abortion amendment," August 30, 2013 (dead link)
- Oregonian, "No easy path for law targeting Oregon corporate minimum tax break," September 3, 2013
- Arkansas Blog, "McDaniel rejects another try at medical marijuana initiative ," July 2, 2013
- Arkansas Online, "McDaniel rejects marijuana study ballot measure," September 11, 2013
- IdeaStream.org, "Medicaid Expansion Advocates Cleared To Begin Ballot Petition," September 19, 2013
- Associated Press, "Judge upholds summary for proposed Mo. initiative," August 30, 2013
- Cincinnati.com, "Pension reform group sues to change ballot language," September 12, 2013
- Associated Press, "Mass. casino foes fight ballot question ruling," September 12, 2013 (dead link)
- Citizens in Charge (blog), "Lawsuit Challenges Ohio Residency Law – Again," September 23, 2013
- Ballet Access News (blog), "California Repeals All Residency Requirements for Petition Circulators," September 9, 2013