The Tuesday Count: Battle over GMO labeling could continue in 2014

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December 10, 2013

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

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52 measures for 2014

GMO labeling (News)
Marijuana (Quick hits)
Secession (Spotlight)

Potential 2014 ballot measures
Washington state's Initiative 522 was one of the most important and prominent measures of 2013. The measure, which sought to mandate the labeling of certain foods that were either made with or contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was defeated, but not before over $30 million was poured into the support and opposition campaigns, making it the most expensive measure in the state's history. However, I-522's defeat has not deterred proponents of mandatory GMO labeling, and petition drives are occurring in Colorado and Oregon in an attempt to place GMO measures on the states' 2014 ballots.[1][2]

Oregon's GMO initiative was given the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures after the Oregon Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the measure's ballot title. Scott Bates, director of GMO Free Oregon - the group sponsoring the initiative - said his group will begin gathering signatures shortly; supporters must collect at least 87,213 valid signatures by July 3, 2014 in order to land the measure on the 2014 ballot. However, Bates said, "We are still absorbing the lessons from [the Washington defeat]. We're having a gut check at the moment, but we're planning on moving forward." Oregon's GMO measure was largely modeled off of Washington's I-522, so in order to learn from their predecessors' mistakes, supporters of Oregon's measure are crafting an alternative GMO initiative that "makes some changes aimed at blunting some of the charges leveled at the Washington initiative by the food and biotechnology industries."[1]

Bates said the second initiative is part of an effort to reassure donors who are "spooked" after I-522's defeat. If GMO Free Oregon does decide to move on a second measure, they will have to go through the same process regarding the measure's wording and title as that of the first. This would result in less time for them to gather the required number of signatures. Bates has not committed to a particular plan of attack as of yet, though he is determined to get whichever measures move forward on the 2014 ballot, as voter turnout is higher during even-numbered election years.[1]

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Colorado's GMO measure, which is being sponsored by the group Colorado Right to Know, will have its language reviewed by the state on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, and then receive a title. Once this process is complete, supporters can begin collecting the 86,105 valid signatures required by August 4, 2014. The Colorado measure, as it is currently written, allows for some exceptions regarding what products must be labeled, with chewing gum, alcohol and pet food among them.[2] If history is any indication, both measures will face an uphill battle even if they do make it on to the ballot, as GMO measures have not fared well when put to a public vote. Back in 2002, Oregon attempted a GMO labeling initiative, but it was decidedly rejected by a margin of 70.5 to 29.5 percent. In November 2012, exactly one year before the defeat of I-522, California voters rejected Proposition 37, a GMO labeling measure which I-522 was subsequently modeled after. Like I-522, millions of dollars were funneled into the opposition campaign by large corporations like Monsanto and Pepsico. If one or both of the current GMO measures appear on 2014 ballots, a multimillion dollar food fight is all but guaranteed.

2014 Count
Number: 52 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming

Quick hits

Ten marijuana initiatives filed in Missouri: Ten initiative petitions to legalize marijuana production, sale and possession have been submitted to the Office of the Secretary of State in Missouri.[3] Attorney Dan Viets of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said the ten petitions are virtually the same, but differ by the number of marijuana plants one can grow and the quantity of marijuana one can have.[4]

Gas tax debate heats up in Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Legislature voted to raise the state’s gas tax by three cents per gallon and tie the gas tax to inflation, allowing the tax to rise automatically. State Representative Geoff Diehll (R-7) described the legislation as “taxation without representation.”[5] Opponents have filed and submitted signatures to put a referendum on the ballot repealing the law. In Massachusetts, the legislature may approve potential measures and thereby forgo placing them on the ballot. However, since the legislature created the law for which a repeal is being sought, the measure will likely be ignored and thus placed on the general election ballot after a second, shorter, signature gathering period.

Same-sex marriage proponents have enough signatures in Oregon: Supporters have enough signatures to place a measure legalizing same-sex marriage on the ballot. A minimum of 116,284 valid signatures is required by July 3, 2013. Currently, they reportedly have 118,176. The campaign will, nonetheless, continue to collect signatures until the deadline.[6] In 2004, Oregonians approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as “between one man and one woman.” A December 2012 PPP poll found that 54% of Oregonians would vote to legalize gay marriage.[7] This number may have increased since last year.

Wisconsin Democrats introduce nonpartisan redistricting question: Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly have introduced a resolution calling for a nonbinding statewide vote on implementing a nonpartisan redistricting system. Republicans, however, may block attempts to put the measure on the ballot since they would be potentially giving up, or at least delegitimizing, their authority to redistrict.[8] Democrats have accused the Republicans of redistricting in such a way as to protect their majority power.[9]


51st state movement to form "Jefferson State" takes another step in northern California county of Tehama:

The proposed seal of Jefferson State

The push towards forming a 51st state from counties in northern California and southern Oregon has been ongoing for more than half a century.[10] Another step in that attempt is being staged in the county of Tehama for the June 3, 2014, election. The board of supervisors in Tehama county voted on December 3, 2013, to put an advisory question concerning the formation of a Jefferson State on the ballot in order to gauge the voters' feelings toward the issue.[11]

According to Chief Administrator Williams Goodwin, putting the measure on the county ballot will cost about $12,360. Goodwin said that he thinks it is a cost-effective way of gathering the voters' opinions regarding the Jefferson State declaration. He did recommend the county supervisors refrain from trying to sway votes one way or another saying, "I would advise the board not to prepare an argument in favor for or against this measure if put on the ballot. The whole reason you're putting it out there is to gauge how the public feels to give you advisement as to how to move forward."[12]

Minimum wage increase activists, energized by recent success in SeaTac, choose Seattle as their next battleground:

Labor activists have not rested long after spending nearly a million dollars and achieving their very narrow victory in SeaTac, where voters approved Proposition 1, which raised the minimum wage for about 6,300 airline, transportation and hotel related jobs in the small city of 26,000. Their next target is the city of Seattle, where they have urged the city council to pass a similar law. The council has already approved a $100,000 dollar study to be done on the economic effects of the minimum-wage increase. The study will be led by Mayor-elect Ed Murray and will be completed sometime in June of 2014, making the passage of a minimum wage increase ordinance unlikely until the end of 2014 at the earliest.[11]

Council member elect Kshama Sawant at victory rally

Many proponents of a Seattle minimum wage hike dislike the uncertainty surrounding the measure's potential timeline and do not want to wait until so late in 2014 to move on the measure. Some supporters feel that momentum is on their side; not only did the SeaTac proposition recently pass, but also, Kshama Sawant, who made securing a $15 minimum wage in the city a key part of her campaign platform for the Seattle City Council, was elected in an upset battle on November 5, 2013, making her the first sel-proclaimed socialist to be elected in Seattle for more than a century.[13] Many supporters think the best way to maintain the current momentum is by pushing for another city initiative measure and letting voters decide the issue. Newly elected Sawant has called for such an initiative effort if needed, saying:[14]

…if corporate resistance results in the [proposed $15 per hour] ordinance getting watered down or not passing in 2014, then we will need to place an initiative on the 2014 ballot…workers simply can’t afford to wait any longer for $15 an hour.[15]

Follow Ballotpedia's page on King county ballot measures to see details of a Minimum wage initiative, if one is started.

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard