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The Ballotpedia News Update

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Ballotpedia News

The Ballotpedia News Update provides a list of the latest news articles on Ballotpedia about elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government, state policies, ballot measures and more. Use the tabs to navigate to specific weekly reports or news archives. Read more about Ballotpedia's areas of coverage here.

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Ballot Law Update: Legislators try more subtle restrictions on initiatives in Arizona and Washington

By Josh Altic


As of February 25, at least 72 bills concerning ballot measure law were proposed or reconsidered in the 2015 legislative sessions of 21 states. Of the total, 66 were introduced this year and the other six were carried over from the 2014 legislative session in New Jersey. So far, two bills were defeated, being abandoned by their sponsors to die in committee.

The changes in law proposed this year range from efforts to make the initiative and referendum process more difficult or regulate campaign contributions to bills that would establish the power of initiative in non-I&R states or make the power more accessible. This edition focuses on failed efforts to impose initiative and referendum restrictions in Arizona and Washington and the softer bills proposed by legislators instead.

See "Changes in 2015 to laws governing ballot measures" for a periodically updated list of proposed ballot measure law changes organized by state. This page also includes a brief summary of each proposed bill, the status of the bill and links to more information.

Arizona legislators take piecemeal approach to more strict election laws after last year's veto referendum petition:

Since their last attempt at comprehensive election law reform was shot down by a citizen-initiated veto referendum, Arizona lawmakers are seeking to pass some of the same provisions individually, hoping to avoid the strong opposition from direct democracy enthusiasts.[1]

In 2013, the Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 2305, which contained comprehensive elections law reform, including provisions that required strict compliance with minutia of the initiative and referendum petition procedures. The bill also introduced new steps and responsibilities to be required of political committees sponsoring an initiative. Other provisions concerned early voting and restrictions on petition circulators. The bill was immediately faced with heated opposition. After a group called Protect Your Right to Vote, Arizona collected enough signatures to qualify a veto referendum question against the bill for the ballot, lawmakers decided to rescind the bill in 2014 through House Bill 2196. Despite this failed attempt, in early 2015, Rep. David Stevens (R-14) introduced HB 2407, which proposes changes to rules surrounding signature petitions and strict compliance provisions that roughly mirror parts of the defeated SB 2305.[1]

Washington legislator abandons bill forcing citizen initiatives to pay for themselves in favor of requiring declarations of fiscal impacts on the ballot:

Although Sen. Joe Fain (R-47) has abandoned Senate Joint Resolution 8201, which sought to require citizen initiatives to pay for themselves, he has introduced a softer bill—SB 5715—in its place. SB 5715 seeks to require the ballot language for citizen initiatives to include a statement of the fiscal impact if it changes state spending by at least $25 million over two years. Both branches of the Washington legislature are considering several different proposals with similar requirements. Fain is also sponsoring a bill that would require initiatives that upset the state budget to explicitly declare which taxes would be raised or which programs would be cut.[2]


First openly gay official elected to Burbank school board, two candidates advance to April election

By Abbey Smith

School Board badge.png

Burbank voters chose their youngest and first openly gay elected official in the primary election for the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education on February 24, 2015. Newcomer Steve Ferguson was elected to his first term on the board after running unsuccessfully for a seat in 2013. Incumbent Roberta Grande Reynolds was also re-elected to her seat. Both received at least 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast, allowing them to win outright in the primary without first advancing to the general election.[3][4]

The winner of the third seat up for election will be determined in the general election on April 14, 2015. Candidates Armond Aghakhanian and Gregory Sousa will face each other in that election, as they received the third and fourth most votes, respectively, in the primary election, according to unofficial results from the Burbank City Clerk's Office. Candidates Vahe Hovanessian and Jesse Tangkhpanya were eliminated from the race, as they received the fewest votes.[3][4]


Ballotpedia to absorb Judgepedia

By Ballotpedia's Municipal government team

Chicago's mayoral race will head to a runoff on April 7 after incumbent Rahm Emanuel failed to achieve the 50-percent-plus-one vote threshold needed to secure an outright victory. In the city council races, one of the 43 incumbents seeking re-election was defeated outright. Nineteen of the 50 city council races will move to an April 7 runoff to decide the winner.


Legalized marijuana in Washington, D.C.?

By Charles Aull


Update (2/25/2015 4:40 pm CST): Late Tuesday evening, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) coauthored a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), warning her of the consequences of allowing Initiative 71 to go into effect:

If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law.[5]

The letter went on to demand that Bowser submit to the House Oversight Committee any documentation related to the law's enactment and a list of relevant D.C. officials along with information on their salaries and the extent of their involvement. The letter can be read in full here.


Initiative 71 permits people 21 and over to engage in the following activities:[6]
  • possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use;
  • grow no more than six cannabis plants with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, within the person’s principal residence;
  • transfer without payment (but not sell) up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years of age or older; and
  • use or sell drug paraphernalia for the use, growing or processing of marijuana or cannabis.

A ballot measure legalizing the cultivation, possession and use of limited amounts of marijuana in Washington, D.C., officially goes into effect tomorrow, but not completely. A move by Congress in December has complicated the law’s future.

On November 4, 70 percent of registered D.C. voters approved the ballot measure, officially known as the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Act of 2014, though more commonly referred to as Initiative 71 (see box on the right). In most cities, after voters have approved a measure like Initiative 71, the next step in the process would involve discussion amongst elected city officials about how to implement the law and regulate its actions.


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