The Tuesday Count: Alaska initiatives moved from August to November ballot

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April 22, 2014

Edited by Ryan Byrne

Tuesday Count Lineup:

1 certification
79 measures for 2014


Topics featured in this report:

AK and HI ballots (News)
Marijuana (Quick hits)
GMOs (Spotlight)

Alaska 2014 ballot measures
According to Section 4 of Article XI of the Alaska Constitution, the lieutenant governor shall place citizen’s initiatives on the ballot for the first statewide election held more than one hundred twenty days after adjournment of the legislative session following the initiatives' filing.[1] Previously, Alaska's certified initiatives were to be voted upon on primary election day, August 19, 2014, but the Alaska Legislature failed to adjourn on Sunday, April 20 and continued to work into Monday, April 21. Thus, the legislature worked on the 120th day before August 19, which, as the constitution states, means that the initiatives cannot appear on the primary ballot.[2] Gail Fenumiai, the state's election director, said the three measures are now set for the general election ballot on November 4, 2014.[3] The moved initiatives are the Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would legalize marijuana with restrictions, the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, which would increase the state's hourly minimum wage to $9.75, and the Bristol Bay Mining Ban, which would require the proposed "large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation" near Bristol Bay to seek final legislative approval.

However, the one certified veto referendum, Ballot Measure 1, will stay on the primary election ballot. Governed by Section 5 of Article XI of the Alaska Constitution, veto referenda are filed within ninety days after adjournment of the legislative session at which the act under question was passed. Following, the lieutenant governor shall place them on the ballot for the first statewide election held more than one hundred eighty days after adjournment of that session. Since Ballot Measure 1 was filed following an act in 2013 and certified on September 3, 2013, the referendum was set to appear on the next statewide ballot following the one hundred eighty day requirement, namely, the August 19, 2014 primary ballot. Ballot Measure 1, also known as the Oil Tax Cuts Veto Referendum, would repeal Senate Bill 21, which grants tax breaks to oil companies.

According to the Washington Post and Anchorage Daily News, the ballot changes are likely to aid U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D) in his bid for reelection, as the three initiatives may increase voter turnout amongst demographics more inclined to vote Democratic.[2][3] Similarly, Florida's Democrats may be aided by the state's two initiatives, the Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative and the Water and Land Conservation Initiative.[4][5]

In other news from the non-contiguous United States, a third legislatively-referred constitutional amendment was approved for the November 4, 2014, ballot in Hawaii. The Bonds for Dam and Reservoir Assistance Amendment would authorize the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds and use the proceeds from such bonds to offer loans to assist dam and reservoir owners in improving their facilities. The measure was introduced into the Hawaii Legislature by State Senator Donna Mercado Kim as Senate Bill No. 2876 and was approved in both legislative chambers with no opposition.[6] However, a similar measure was on the ballot in 2012, but did not garner enough votes to become law. In Hawaii, a majority of the total votes cast in an election are required to approve a ballot measure, not just a majority of votes cast on the ballot question. Therefore, voters who do not vote on the ballot question are effectively voting “no.”

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2014 Count
Number: 78 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming

Quick hits

Marijuana ban initiative may put pro-marijuana movement on the defense in Montana: Steve Zabawa, the owner of a car dealership in Billings, proposed a Marijuana Ban Initiative. The measure, upon voter approval, would require that drugs illegal under federal law be considered illegal under state law.[7] The specific intent of supporters is to ban marijuana, which is listed on Schedule 1 of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Steve Zabawa, the measure's sponsor, argued that marijuana should be considered illegal until the drug is legal throughout the country. He said, "If it’s an illegal drug by the federal government, it should be illegal in Montana. The federal government trumps the state, so why do we want to put our citizens in jeopardy ."[8]

Competing gun measures in Washington both fair well in poll: In Washington, two contradictory initiatives will be on the ballot in November, yet both have majority support in a new poll. Initiative 594, which would require universal background checks, was backed by 72% of those surveyed. Initiative 591, which would prevent the state from confiscating firearms without due process and implementing background checks more stringent than those established by the federal government, was backed by 55%. According to the Elway Poll, 40% of those surveyed supported both measures.[9]

Group of Pennsylvania legislators calls for constitutional convention: In Pennsylvania, seven legislators have called for a constitutional convention to prepare amendments to Section 14 of Article III and Sections 1 and 2 of Article VIII of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The two sections are related to the public school system and taxation, respectively. The Constitutional Convention Question would, upon voter approval, require any proposed amendments resulting from the convention to be submitted to voters for ratification.[10]

Spotlight

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Its Election Day in King County, Washington: voters weigh $130 million dollar annual regressive tax increases to fund Metro services and road repair

Activists on both sides of Proposition 1 have run out of time to sway voters, who are going to the polls today to either approve or reject Metro's fourth tax increase request since 2000. Opponents argue that Metro needs to get its act together and produce a sustainable spending plan instead of imposing even more regressive taxes on the people of King County. Proponents and Metro officials propose a simple, necessary decision: higher taxes through approving Proposition 1 or devastating public transit service cuts.[11]

Find out which side will succeed in convincing voters by following Ballotpedia's article on Proposition 1 to see election results when they are made available later tonight.

Maui citizens exercise their initiative power for the first time to impose a moratorium on genetically modified organisms, big agriculture company fights back:

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The year of 2014 will inevitably be one of huge historical significance for Maui County, where environmentalist and natural health activists have filed the island county's very first initiative petition. The Shaka Movement proposed an initiative that would, if approved, impose a moratorium on all genetic engineering practices and operations until they are proven to be harmless to the environment and to county residents. Moreover, because the initiative targets powerful agriculture companies such as Monsanto, the county's first exercise of initiated direct democracy is bound to feature a heated campaign battle between bio-tech advocates and the lively anti-GMO grass-roots movement.[12][13]

On April 8, 2014, the Shaka Movement leaders and more than 400 volunteer signature gatherers celebrated as they turned in over 9,500 signatures to the county clerk. The group collected these signatures in less than six weeks, even though county code gives them six months to complete circulation. They need 8,464 of these signatures to be valid to qualify their initiative for the ballot. The group, holding over 3,000 additional signatures in reserve, is supremely confident that the petition will be sufficient. County officials noted that it will probably take the full 45 business days allowed to certify the petition since this is the first time they have ever been through the process.[13][12]

Supporters of the initiative claim that biotech companies have used Maui County as a site for large amounts of biological engineering and chemical testing. They claim that, because of the recent discovery of certain strains of "super weeds" and "super bugs" that are resistant to the herbicides currently in use, these agriculture companies are testing even more powerful herbicides, as well as genetically modified plants to go along with them. Alika Atay, one of the chief petitioners for this initiative, said, “They’ve turned us into guinea pigs for their experiments. We say: ‘Nuff Already. If there’s a doubt, vote it out, until we’re absolutely sure it’s safe.'”[12]

Monsanto is currently spending heavily to oppose a measure banning GMOs in Jackson County, Oregon, donating over $183,000 to the million dollar campaign against the initiative. Monsanto is expected to spend as much or even more to defeat the initiative in Maui County, where the national agro-business is more active and has larger operations. In fact, Monsanto has already begun to fight back. Monsanto officials organized a rally in opposition to the GMO initiative in front of a Maui County government building. Fearful for their jobs, labor activists and Monsanto workers yelled slogans, held signs and wore shirts with pro-bio-tech messages. Monsanto employee Lowella Oasay said, "I think the initiative will threaten not only agriculture, but a lot of great jobs for the people of Maui." Monsanto representatives claim that they have submitted a large volume of research, studies and tests showing their products to be safe and free of harmful side effects.[14]

See also

2014 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2014 Scorecard

References

  1. Alaska Legislature, "Alaska’s Constitution: A Citizen’s Guide," accessed April 22, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Washington Post, "Minimum wage and pot are now expected to be on Alaska’s November ballot," April 22, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anchorage Daily News, "Voter initiatives on pot, wages and Pebble move to November ballot, but oil tax vote stays on for August," April 21, 2014
  4. Reuters, “Analysis: Florida Democrats may get buzz from medical marijuana”, January 27, 2014
  5. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Medical marijuana measure in Florida a key test of pot's political potency for Democrats," April 14, 2014
  6. Hawaii Legislature, "S.B. No. 2876," accessed April 21, 2014
  7. Montana Secretary of State, "2014 Proposed Ballot Measures," accessed April 21, 2014
  8. Missoulian, "Ban on all marijuana proposed for Montana ballot," April 19, 2014
  9. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Poll: Majority support for both gun initiatives on Washington ballot," April 15, 2014
  10. Pennsylvania Legislature, "Senate Bill No. 1285," accessed April 17, 2014
  11. Kirkland Reporter, "King County proposes April ballot measure for Metro funding," January 23, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 CT Post, "Over 11,000 Maui County Citizens Stand Up and Say "Nuff Already" to Biotech Experimentation with a History Making Social Action," April 14, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 CT Post, "Maui group gathers signatures for GMO initiative," April 8, 2014
  14. KITV 4 ABC, "Over 11,000 signatures gathered for moratorium on GMO companies," April 8, 2014