The Tuesday Count: Ballotpedia announces 5 most important 2013 ballot measures
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Edited by Brittany Clingenstatewide ballots are officially set in six states - Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington - for the general election on November 5, 2013. Going forward throughout the weeks preceding the election, Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count will be providing various reports and analyses of the measures that will appear on the ballot. For ongoing pre-election coverage, please see here.
Top 5 most important ballot measures of 2013
- See also: 2013 ballot measures
The five most notable ballot measures on the November 5, 2013 ballot include a measure to label genetically-modified foods in the State of Washington, a $950 million tax increase in Colorado, a proposed minimum wage increase in New Jersey and a proposed constitutional amendment in Texas that would take money out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund and spend it on water projects. A city-wide initiative in Cincinnati to address the city’s $862 million in unfunded pension liabilities rounds out the list of 2013’s measures to watch.
The list of this year’s most notable measures was compiled by Ballotpedia, which has provided comprehensive coverage of statewide ballot measures since 2008.
Leslie Graves, Ballotpedia’s executive editor, noted a unique feature of the 2013 ballot: With only 31 statewide measures on the ballot in 6 states, 2013 will have 28 percent fewer measures than the average number of measures on the ballot in an odd-numbered year. Historically, elections in even-numbered years see an average of 175 measures, while those in odd-numbered years see approximately 45. The statewide ballot measures in 2013 are light, even in comparison to ballots from other odd-numbered years.
The Five Most Notable Measures are:
- Washington State’s I-522: I-522, if approved, will require that foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering be labeled as such when offered for retail sale in the state, beginning in July 2015. A similar measure, California’s Proposition 37, lost narrowly on that state’s November 6, 2012 ballot after a long list of food companies spent more than $45 million in the waning weeks of the campaign to defeat it.
- Colorado’s Amendment 66: Amendment 66 proposes a state income tax increase of approximately $950 million, with the proceeds going to the state’s public education system. A similar measure, Colorado’s Proposition 103, was defeated in November 2011. Supporters of Amendment 66 paid over $11 per signature to qualify it for the ballot, beating the record set in 2012 when supporters of California’s 2012 Proposition 30 paid $10.86 per signature to qualify their measure, which was also a tax hike for education.
- New Jersey Public Question 2: New Jersey’s Public Question 2 proposes an increase in the minimum wage by a dollar, from $7.25 to $8.25, and automatic yearly increases based on the Consumer Price Index. Six statewide minimum wage increases were on the 2006 ballot; all of them were approved by wide margins.
- Texas Proposition 6: Texas typically votes on a significant number of proposed constitutional amendments in off-years. 2013 is no exception, with nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot. In previous years, the practice of holding off-year elections has led to voter turnout in the single digits. This doesn’t mean that the off-year amendments are unimportant. Proposition 6 in 2013 proposes to take $2 billion out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund and spend it on water projects. This has led to fierce opposition from fiscally conservative groups in the state.
- Cincinnati Pension Reform Charter Initiative: This initiative aims to change Cincinnati’s underfunded pension system from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan. It is opposed by the city council and city unions. Two cities in California, San Diego and San Jose, voted on and overwhelmingly approved city-wide measures to reform their faltering pension plans in June 2012. Initiatives similar to the Cincinnati plan are under discussion in other cities. Election-watchers looking for insight into the mood of the electorate on pensions should keep an eye on how Cincinnati's citizens vote on this one.
The largest Colorado teacher union may wait to sue against tenure and teacher performance reforms, hoping to avoid turning voters against the $950 million Amendment 66 tax increase:
The Colorado Education Association (CEA) is Colorado's largest teacher union and one of the heaviest supporters of Colorado Commits to Kids, having donated $1,000,000 to the "yes" campaign on Amendment 66. But the CEA might also be planning to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of Senate Bill 191, which would be funded in part by Amendment 66 revenue. SB 191 reforms the evaluation process and tenure qualification for principals, teachers and any education service provider, making tenure revocable after two years of poor performance. SB 191 seeks to make the education system more centered around performance.
Some people see CEA waiting to file their lawsuit, while supporting Amendment 66, as potentially deceptive to voters because a little over a third of Amendment 66 funds - over $350 million - would go towards "highly effective teachers and principals" or, in other words, towards implementing the goals of SB 191. If their potential lawsuit is successful, it is unclear how the $350 million portion of Amendment 66 would be spent. It would likely go towards teacher and principal salaries, but unguided by the intended reformed criteria of SB 191.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper responded to allegations of deception, saying, "We understand that some may use this lawsuit as a reason to oppose Amendment 66. We respectfully disagree. The best way to protect Colorado's education reforms is to support Amendment 66 this November."
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