The Tuesday Count: Alabama measure to be decided in $3 million election
Edited by Brittany ClingenAlabamans take to the polls tonight to cast their votes on a measure that only affects a small percentage of the population in an election that will likely cost the state approximately $3 million. Amendment 1, upon voter approval, would end the assessment refund to cotton producers who do not participate in the assessment program for the cotton checkoff, as well as enable a second act: Senate Bill 256. The measure was primarily sponsored by Sen. Billy Beasley (D-28) in the Alabama State Senate, where it was known as Senate Bill 255. It is also known as Proposed Statewide Amendment Number One.
Senate Bill 256 would, upon the approval of Amendment 1, allow any authorized commission of cotton producers to petition the State Board of Agriculture and Industries to conduct a referendum on the collection of assessments without any provision for refunds to producers who do not want to participate in the program. If approved, the measure would amend Amendment 388 of the Alabama Constitution.
According to William H. Stewart, author of a commentary on the Alabama Constitution, "Numerous amendments to the Alabama Constitution now show the use of this document to allow very specific agricultural producer and agricultural marketing groups to enhance their economic status through the kinds of activities described here." These types of programs are common at state and national levels and are often called checkoff programs, though they are not always constitutional matters. Currently, only about 7 percent of Alabama cotton farmers choose to have the checkoff fees on their harvests refunded.
Those in favor of Amendment 1 believe that since all cotton farmers benefit from the work funded by the cotton check off, supporting the work should not be voluntary. Only one legislator, Rep. Harry Shiver (R-64) voted against placing the measure on the ballot, though he did not say why. David Pinkleton, chairperson of Conservatives for Good Government, has been the only person to speak out against the measure in an opinion piece for AL.com. In it, he encouraged voters to reject Amendment 1, arguing that the checkoff program is part of a "government bureaucracy" and that it should be removed from the constitution entirely and run as a nongovernmental project. According to the Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R), the runoff election in which Amendment 1 will be voted upon will cost the state approximately $3 million. Secretary Bennett also projected a voter turn out of 5 percent of the 2.85 million active voters in the state. However, it is likely turnout will be even lower than that, as runoff elections in 2004, 2008 and 2012 did not have turnouts reaching or exceeding that level of participation. There has been some controversy surrounding the placement of Amendment 1 on the runoff ballot, with a media editorial for the TimesDaily.com stating,
|“||But why would lawmakers place a statewide amendment on a runoff ballot?
The cynic's answer is that only those interested in the outcome of the amendment will turn out to vote. That's usually a low number because most amendments affect a narrow segment of the population, and they will be the most motivated voters. [...] [Statewide] amendments should appear on general election ballots, when voter turnout is at its highest. Tucking them at the bottom of a runoff ballot is suspicious and has a whiff of shifty politics.
|States:||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming|
- Californians may vote on the dissolution of their state in 2016: Timothy C. Draper, a venture capitalist based in the Silicon Valley, submitted signatures for the "Six Californias" Initiative on July 15, 2014. He stated, "California needs a reboot. Six Californias is our opportunity to solve the many problems we face today... Six states that are more representative and accountable. Six states that embrace innovation and strive to improve the lives of residents." Draper was the sole contributor to the ballot measure's committee and contributed $4.9 million. His plan to dissolve the state into six states has met with opposition, however. While not receiving contributions yet, Joe Rodota, a Republican strategist, and Steven Maviglio, a Democratic consultant, have established an organization called One California to battle Six Californias. Even if the measure is certified for the ballot and approved by voters in 2016, the California Legislature and the United States Congress would ultimately make the decision about whether to dissolve California into six states.
- Gov. Brown's signature needed for advisory question on Citizens United v. FEC in California: The California Constitution and state laws are silent on the legislature's ability to issue advisory questions. Nonetheless, the legislature has sent such a referendum to the governor's desk. The measure would ask voters whether the United States Congress shall propose, and the California Legislature ratify, an amendment or amendments to the United States Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and other related judicial rulings. The United States Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC held that political contributions and spending were protected as "free speech" under the First Amendment. All Democratic legislators, except those abstaining or absent, voted to place the referendum on the ballot, while all Republican legislators voted against doing so. The debate now comes down to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) who has had the legislation at his desk since July 9, 2014, and will make a decision as to whether the question will appear on the ballot or not.
- Horse racetrack gaming to fund education in Colorado moves closer to ballot: Voters will likely decide whether to allow limited gambling at horse race tracks in three Colorado counties come the November election. Proponents of proposed initiative 135, including former state representative Vickie Armstrong, submitted 136,342 signatures to the secretary of state's office on July 15, 2014. If at least 86,105 signatures are valid, the measure will be placed on the November ballot. Its approval would allow for gaming, such as slot machines, card games, roulette and craps, to take place at horse racetracks in Arapahoe, Mesa and Pueblo counties. An opposition group, Don't Turn Racetracks into Casinos, has formed to defeat the initiative. The group has already raised over $9 million, with the majority coming from casino operators in Black Hawk.
- Bail reform in New Jersey takes a questionable turn: New Jersey's efforts to reform bail procedures following 2007's repeal of the death penalty may be coming to a close via a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, though the process will not be without questionable legislative practices. The New Jersey Constitution only allows judges to deny bail for capital offenses, which no longer exist. At least six measures have been proposed this legislative session which would allow for pretrial detention of certain criminal defendants. In order for an amendment to be placed on the 2014 ballot, both chambers of the legislature must approve it by at least 60 percent by August 4, 2014. However, in order for the legislature to vote upon such a measure, it must be on their desks for at least 20 days prior to the vote. One of the bail reform measures, Senate Concurrent Resolution 113, moved closer to a direct democracy consideration on July 11, 2014, when the Assembly placed the measure on the chamber's desk. However, this legislative move has been called into question as only one member, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), was actually present in the chamber at the time. In order to meet the quorum requirement of 41 members present to place the measure on the desk, legislative staffers pushed the buttons on members’ desks to vote present, in their absence. The total present vote was 70 members, though some of those members reported not being in Trenton, and a few were even unaware that someone had voted in their absence. While SCR 113 has now been placed on the desk of the Assembly and Senate, the earliest an actual vote could occur is July 29, 2014. Reactions to the quorum vote have ranged from calling it a "standard quorum call based on past practice" to "unusual" and "stretching the rules."
No one surprised to see San Francisco ballot dominated by development vs. preservation issues:
San Francisco voters have become used to seeing measures concerning development on the ballot, and the November election will be no different. The city's electors face a long list of contentions ballot decisions, including an initiative proposing a development of the waterfront, competing Golden Gate Park renovation measures and an effort to steer the city's transportation policy in a pro-car direction. These propositions, joining the previously-referred measures proposing a soda tax and a $15 per hour minimum wage, will likely give San Francisco voters one of the most notable and important local ballots of the year.
The fall ballot will be the third important, regular city election in a row to feature a voter decision concerning the San Francisco waterfront. One initiative likely to be seen by voters was triggered by the June approval of Proposition B, which requires voter approval for any waterfront development that exceeds the city's current zoning with regard to height limits. The initiative asks voters to rubber stamp the development of Pier 70 for residential, recreational and commercial purposes. As Proposition B petitioners were collecting signatures for their new law, Forest City Development, which planned the project in question, decided to prepare for Prop. B approval and began circulating the petition for this Pier 70 development initiative before Proposition B had even qualified for the June ballot. Petitioners working for Forest City turned in 15,386 signatures on July 7, 2014. They need 9,702 of them to be valid to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Supporters of another initiative concerning development in the city's greatest park turned in signatures on July 7 as well. The group called the Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park filed a petition containing about 15,000 signatures in an effort to put an initiative measure on the November ballot that would require the city to maintain all fields in the western portion of the park as natural grass areas and would prohibit the construction of any nighttime lighting for these fields. The measure was triggered by the city's plan to renovate the Beach Chalet soccer fields on the western edge of the Golden Gate Park. The $14 million renovations were first planned and approved by the city's Recreation and Park Commission in 2010. The plan includes replacing the grass of all four soccer fields with synthetic turf, installing lighting, installing benches for players, erecting bleachers for 1,000 spectators, setting up a barbecue area and constructing a community room and renovated bathrooms. The Coalition to Protect Golden Gate Park filed appeals to the city to keep the project from going forward. They delayed the project but were ultimately ignored. This initiative is the last effort of the coalition to preserve the fields as natural grass.
The city supervisors fired right back at initiative proponents, however, putting their own referred measure on the ballot that seeks to overrule the coalition's initiative and authorize the project. If both measures receive more than 50 percent approval, the one with the most votes will be enacted and the other will be rejected.
The coalition seeking to preserve the natural grass insists that artificial turf can be harmful, is ugly and would diminish the beauty and recreational value of the park. Proponents argue that the artificial turf, lighting and other renovations will allow for much greater accessibility and will save countless gallons of irrigation water at a time when California is experiencing a drought.
A third initiative petition filed on July 7, 2014, focused on city developments of a different sort. The group called Restore Transportation Balance (RTB) submitted 17,500 signatures, nearly twice the required threshold, in an attempt to move the city's transportation policy in a pro-motorist direction. Specifically, the initiative would prohibit the city from:
- charging parking meter fees on Sundays;
- charging parking meter fees on holidays;
- charging parking meter fees outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
- putting new meters in neighborhoods without consent from the affected residents and businesses; and
- increasing parking garage, meter or ticket rates for at least five years, with increases tied to the CPI after that.
The proposal would also require the city to enforce traffic laws "equally for everyone using San Francisco's streets and sidewalks" and require representation for motorists in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
Supporters of the initiative argue that the city has been using "transit first" priority planning and policy to dictate city development for years and that it has produced a city in which it is very hard to drive an automobile, despite the fact that 79 percent of San Francisco households own or lease a car, and nearly 50 percent of San Francisco residents who work outside of their homes drive or carpool to work. Proponents cite the elimination of parking spots and parking garages, increased parking ticket fees, parking garage fees and parking meter rates, the expansion of parking meter zones into residential areas, the expansion of bike lanes and the elimination of car lanes as evidence that the city is developing in an unfair, anti-motorist direction. RTB spokesperson Jason Clark said, "People are getting fed up that a 'transit first' policy means making people who use a car so miserable that they have to use other, less desirable options. We're proposing a policy to change that."
Opponents believe that the transit first policy used by the city is best for the residents, the city as a whole and the environment and should not be disrupted by those seeking the personal convenience of automobiles.
| 2014 ballot measures|
|Tuesday Count • 2014 Scorecard|
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2014
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- Alabama Legislature, "SB 255 Text," accessed April 17, 2014
- Alabama Legislature, "SB 256 Text," accessed April 17, 2014
- Open States, "Alabama 2014 Session, SB 255," accessed June 12, 2014
- Stewart, W. H. (2011) The Alabama State Constitution (The Oxford commentaries on the state constitutions of the United States). New York: Oxford University Press.
- DecatureDaily.com, "3 statewide decisions on Tuesday’s ballots," July 12, 2014
- Choose Cotton, "Home," accessed June 27, 2014
- Margaret Koenig, "Email communication with Mary Johnson, Director of News Services for the Alabama Farmers Federation," June 12, 2014.
- AL.com, "Amendment 1: Say No to Big Cotton: guest opinion," July 13, 2014
- TimesDaily.com, "Runoff to cost $3M," July 12, 2014
- TimesDaily.com, "Constitutional amendments," July 8, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- NBC Bay Area, "Signatures in "6 Californias" to be Submitted for Ballot," July 15, 2014
- San Jose Mercury News, "Six Californias measure seems headed for 2016 ballot," July 15, 2015
- California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance," accessed May 28, 2014
- Huffington Post, "Six Californias Plan 'Deserves To Die A Quick Death,' Bipartisan Group Says," April 4, 2014
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Six Californias measure heading for 2016 ballot, backers say," July 15, 2014
- California Legislature, "SB-1272 Bill Analysis," accessed July 10, 2014
- California Legislature, "Senate Bill 1272," accessed July 10, 2014
- SCOTUS Blog, "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission," accessed July 10, 2014
- California Legislature, "SB 1272 Complete Bill History," accessed July 15, 2014
- The Denver Post, "Backers of casino-style gaming at Colorado racetracks submit petitions," July 14, 2014
- The Denver Post, "State verifying signatures for gaming measure to fund schools," July 14, 2014
- NJ.com, "N.J. Assembly takes odd step to put bail changes on the ballot," July 12, 2014
- San Francisco Chronicle online, "Signatures filed for 3 S.F, ballot measures," July 7, 2014
- San Francisco Business Times, "Prop B. Breakthrough: Forest City proposes height limit increase for S.F.’s Pier 70 project," May 15, 2014
- San Francisco Appeal, "Competing Ballot Measures Would Ask Voters To Make Decision On Beach Chalet Astro-Turf Plan," June 17, 2014
- San Francisco Government website, "City Attorney's ballot language for Transportation Initiative," archived June 11, 2014
- SFist, "Signature Fraud Allegations Fly Over Ballot Initiative Intended To Protect Motorists' Interests," July 9, 2014
- San Francisco Chronicle online, "Calling all cars … San Francisco motorists call for “transportation balance”," April 23, 2014