The Tuesday Count: Abortion, nuclear weapons and petition rights dominate
Edited by Ballot Measures staff writers
To say there is a lot happening in the world of ballot measures would be an understatement. Proposals and certifications continue to trickle in. North Dakota certified their first ballot measure for 2014 this week, while Ohio altered the initiative process by reducing the number of days to circulate petitions. The question of Proposition 8's constitutionality was argued earlier today before the United States Supreme Court. GMOs, health care and nuclear weapons also are under consideration in state and local ballots.
North Dakota made headlines this week with a controversial legislative referral which has been described as the "strictest" abortion measure. The proposal bumps the 2014 ballot measure count to a total of eight certifications in five states. 2013 remains steady with only one certification.
Last Friday, the North Dakota legislature voted overwhelmingly to refer the Life Begins at Conception Amendment, also known as SCR 4009, to the 2014 ballot. The amendment adds a single new line to Article 1 of the state constitution, which states that human beings have a right to life at any and all stages of development. Ballot measures with similar language are often known as "personhood" amendments and have been defeated by wide margins in every state where they have reached the ballot. (See also: Abortion on the ballot)
Currently, a total of two measures related to the topic of abortion are scheduled to appear before voters in 2014. The other will be voted on in the state of Tennessee. The measure asks voters whether there should be a "fundamental right" to abortion.
In related news, today North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law what has been called "the most far-reaching law." The law forbids abortions once an embryonic heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
North Dakota wasn't the only active state this week. Colorado's deadline for submitting initiative proposals to the legislative council passed last Friday. A total of 37 proposals, including duplicates, were submitted. These initiatives relate to funding for public schools, health care, state sales tax increase to fund Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), establishment of a state-owned bank, criminal records, and marijuana penalties. According to reports, proposals about public school funding are in direct response to Senate Bill 213 by Sen. Mike Johnston that aims to overhaul the school finance structure. Read about SB 213 here.
Prior to petition circulation, initiative proponents must submit the original text of the measure to the directors of the Legislative Council Staff and the Office of Legal Services for review and comment. Once the proposed measure has been reviewed, the original, amended, and final drafts must be filed with the secretary of state.
- GMO labeling may be on the ballot again, this time in Washington: A measure may appear on a 2013 election ballot in the state of Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature. The initiative effort, which is similar to the California measure that was narrowly rejected in 2012, would require Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. According to initiative sponsor Chris McManus, "Yes, you can steer clear of certain items, but unless you know that they're there, how do you know to steer clear of them? Putting a label on the front of that just informs the consumer a little bit more about what they're buying." However, Heather Hansen, the executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests and opponent of the measure, said, "We think this is really intended to be a scare tactic, to ultimately scare people away from technology. And it's not providing any meaningful information."
- Texans may vote themselves the constitutional right to choose or decline health insurance coverage: According to the Texas medical association, Texas is the "uninsured capital of the United States" having more than 6.3 million uninsured Texans and featuring insurance rates that are 1.5 or 2 times the national average. The status of "uninsured" may soon become a constitutional right for all residents of Texas. The Texas State Highway Fund Amendment, also known as Senate Joint Resolution 5, may appear on the November 5, 2013 general election ballot in the state of Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment and, if it is approved, the measure would allow residents in the state to decide whether or not they purchase health care insurance. The measure stems from the events surrounding the Affordable Healthcare Act. The author of the bill is State Senator Donna Campbell.
Production of nuclear weapons will continue in Kansas City, but possibly without the support of the City:
The heated battle over the Kansas City nuclear weapon plant comes to an end next week when voters will choose to approve or reject Measure 3. This measure prohibits the city from financially supporting facilities that produce parts for, assemble or otherwise facilitate the construction of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapon protesters and peace activists became active when plans for a new nuclear weapons plant were revealed. At first, Kansas City residents collected nearly 5,000 signatures to initiate a measure that would block the construction of the new plant, but this measure was overturned by an overwhelming vote from the City Council and the issue went to court. The construction went forward after the court decision sided with Honeywell, the contractor that runs the plant, and the developer, Centerpoint Zimmer (CPZ). The massive 1.5 million square feet plant is nearing completion, costing $673 million to construct, and will replace the old plant, continuing production of 85% of the components for America's nuclear weapons.
After activists failed to prevent the construction of the new plant, they proceeded to petition for Measure 3, prohibiting the city's financial involvement in the operation of the plant. “What we want to do is get Kansas City out of it,” said Jane Stoever, who is a member of Peaceworks Kansas City and one of the activists who helped to gather the 3,500 signatures that put this measure on the ballot.
Those who support the measure, including the original circulators of the petition and Peaceworks KC, argue that the build up of nuclear weapons is no longer necessary and that the cost to the City is impractical. They also point to instances of health problems of plant workers reportedly caused by chemicals used in the nuclear facilities. Maurice Copeland, a former employee and supervisor at the current nuclear weapons parts plant, testified that more than 150 deaths have resulted from exposure to dangerous chemicals at the current facility, and many more are still ill.
Honeywell and CPZ representatives point out that the construction and operation of the new plant provides the city with job growth and financial benefits, making it valuable to the city and worthy of city funded incentives. Moreover, as the new plant is allegedly safer and more environmentally and health friendly, the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce opposes the measure, implying that it is anti-development.
Ballot Law Update
- SCOTUS weighs in on California's Proposition 8: Proposition 8 has been in and out of court since the measure was approved by voters in 2008. The measure, before it was declared null and void in the federal courts, created a new amendment to the California Constitution which said, "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Read more about Proposition 8's history here. This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the proposition and is expected to release its decision later this year. According to reports, there are currently 39 states with constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage.
- Gov. Kasich alters referendum laws, initiates petition effort: Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation on March 22 that triggered a petition effort to repeal the approved bill. Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, would restrict the collection of signatures to introduce a proposed initiative or referendum to 100 days. The introduction is required before circulation petitions in an attempt to qualify for the ballot. Citizens will still have 90 days to circulate petitions and an additional 10 days should the secretary of state deem there are insufficient signatures to qualify. However, SB 47 does eliminate the possibility of collecting more signatures during the validation process and requires that proponents wait until the secretary of state reports if the initial submission is valid. According to reports, citizens previously had anywhere from 16 to 58 days. Read more about the initiative process prior to the approval of SB 47 here. According to a spokesperson for Gov. Kasich, "The General Assembly thought it was important that the law needed to be clarified and the governor agreed with them."
- The signing of SB 47 triggered a 90 day window to initiate a referendum of the approved bill. According to reports, Democrats in the state house argue that the legislation is a violation of citizens' constitutional rights. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, We Are Ohio and the Ohio Fair Elections Network have not yet stated if they plan to proceed with a petition effort. The bill is also opposed by Citizens in Charge and the American Friends Service Committee.
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|Tuesday Count • 2013 Scorecard|
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2013
- 2013 ballot measures & 2014
- Local ballot measure elections in 2013
- Potential 2013 ballot measures & 2014
- The New York Times, "North Dakota Governor Signs Strict Abortion Law," March 26, 2013
- Krem.com, "Washington voters could decide to label genetically modified food," January 4, 2012 (dead link)
- Texas Medical Association, "The Uninsured in Texas," accessed March 26, 2013
- Texas Legislature, "SJR 5," accessed January 29, 2013
- Kansas City Here It Comes: A New Nuclear Weapons Plant!
- Activists march from current to new nuke-parts plant
- “Vote Yes: Prevent future K.C. financial incentives for advancing nuclear weapons parts plants”with Jane Stoever and Lu Mountanay
- Greater KC Chamber backs health levy, tourism tax ballot proposals
- CBS News, "5 possible outcomes of the Supreme Court Prop. 8 case," March 26, 2013
- Bloomberg, "Californians Favor Same-Sex Weddings as Court Weighs Ban," March 24, 2013
- The Plain Dealer, "Ohio House, Senate pass bill making it more difficult for voters to repeal, introduce laws," March 20, 2013
- Citizens in Charge, "Ohio Republicans Attack Petition Rights," March 21, 2013
- The Plain Dealer, "Kasich signs SB 47, starts clock for opponents to shut down bill," March 25, 2013