The Tuesday Count: Certified Texas 2013 measures and failed 2014 referendums

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June 4, 2013

Edited by Brittany Clingen

Tuesday Count Lineup:

9 certifications
14 measures for 2013

Topics featured in this report

Certifications(News)
Marijuana(Quick Hits)
2012 backlash(Ballot law)

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During the regular session of the 83rd Texas legislature, lawmakers passed nine joint resolutions for the general election ballot on November 5, 2013. Each measure will appear on the ballot as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.[1]

One measure, the Texas Rainy Day Fund Amendment, has been making headlines in the state due to the partisan nature of the potential amendment. If approved by voters, this measure would engender the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas, which would aid in the financing of key water infrastructure projects. Per a separate appropriations bill, the approximately $2 billion utilized to finance the new funds would be drawn from Texas' Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) - better known as the Rainy Day Fund.[2][3]

Supporters of implementing the amendment, who have already begun mobilizing an aggressive campaign, assert that the creation of the fund is necessary if Texas is to avoid aggravated water shortages in the future. Sen. Wendy Davis (D-10) said, "I think voters in Texas understand the challenges that we face with our water needs here. I definitely will speak in my district about it and certainly encourage the consideration of its passage in my district."[3]

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However, those opposed to passing the amendment - largely conservative groups - say they are concerned about Texas' fiscal stability if $2 billion is withdrawn from the Rainy Day Fund, which has historically been set aside to maintain the state's positive credit rating during cash flow-negative years and respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters. Another opponent, Director of the Center for Fiscal Policy, Talmadge Heflin, said, "The structure in which the Legislature is proposing to fund these water projects is cause for concern. To get around the state’s spending cap, lawmakers are constitutionally dedicating the ESF monies to avoid a politically toxic vote. This is not the ideal way to run government.”[4][2]

Other issues that will be decided by Texas voters in November include taxes; health care; state and local government budgets, spending and finance; administration of government; county and municipal governance; housing; and state judiciary. For a full list of Texas 2013 ballot measures, see here.

2014 Count
Number: 22 measures
States: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Michigan, Montana Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming

Though the Maryland general assembly passed several controversial laws during its most recent session, none of the campaigns hoping to challenge them were successful in gathering enough signatures to land veto referendums on the ballot in November 2014. After the general assembly approved bills repealing the death penalty and enacting stringent gun control practices, grassroots referendum campaigns sprang up in an attempt to reverse these laws.[5]

Given the divisive nature of the laws and the fact that three veto referendums were successfully placed - though they were subsequently defeated - on the November 2012 ballot, it came as a surprise to some that those supporting the 2013 referendums were unable to collect the 18,579 signatures required by the May 31st deadline.[6] Others, however, were less shocked by the lack of referendums. American University Professor of Political Science, David Lublin, said, "I think the level of organization has not been what it was. Gathering signatures is more difficult than people realize."[5]

Another referendum failed to make the 2014 ballot in Wyoming. Supporters of the Wyoming Education Department Director Referendum were only able to collect 21,991 of the 37,606 signatures required to send the issue to the ballot. The referendum would have asked voters whether or not to repeal a law passed earlier in the year that removes practically all responsibilities from the Superintendent of Public Instruction.[7]

Quick hits

Montana sees effort to shed light on "dark money" campaign contributions: After a similar bill died during this year's legislative session, supporters of more campaign finance transparency are gearing up for a petition drive. The group is called Montana Base, and its members include legislators who were unsuccessful at passing campaign finance reforms through the normal channels. The lawmakers' complaint is with the fact that 501(c)4 organizations, known as "dark money" groups, are able to make large political contributions anonymously. It is important to note that the ballot measure, being called the Dark Money Ballot Initiative, would not limit campaign contributions themselves; it would simply make it more difficult for individuals and organizations to do so without signing their name. Sen. Ed Buttrey (R-13), a member of Montana Base, said, "Ads are expensive, so more likely than not, if they are disclosing their top donor, you are going to get a flavor of who is effect and whoever is funding the ads." In order to qualify for next year's ballot, supporters will need to collect signatures equal to five percent of the total number of qualified voters in Montana.[8]

Oregon legislature considers referring marijuana measure to voters: Oregon law requires that a three-fifths majority approve any tax increases the state legislature considers. According to supporters, this means that House Bill 3371, which would legalize marijuana, has little chance of being approved by the legislature because of the $35-per-ounce tax it raises on the substance. This has caused some activist groups, like New Approach Oregon, to begin asking the legislature to pass the measure as a legislatively-referred state statute. Anthony Johnson, director of the group, said, "Having it referred to voters was a tactic that we had to change to based upon the political realities of the situation." He also added, "If the Legislature doesn't act, we can expect that activists will work to put a measure on the ballot in 2014," in reference to the fact that supporters of last year's Measure 80 are already gearing up for summer petition drives. According to reports, Help End Marijuana Prohibition, headed by Paul Stanford, is currently working on two possible ballot proposals.[9]

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Spotlight

A pension reform initiative filed in Tucson on Thursday seeks contribution caps for the city and sustainable retirement benefits for city employees:

Petitioners filed a ballot initiative with the Tucson city clerk on Thursday. This measure seeks to adopt the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act, which amends chapter XXIII of the Tucson City Charter to protect the retirement benefits of current retirees, while establishing city contribution caps for new city hires to protect tax payers against ballooning pension and health benefit costs. Section 4 of the Sustainable Retirement Benefits Act reads, "Without reasonable cost containment provided in this Act, the City's ability to provide Essential Services and fully fund employee salaries and benefits are threatened, and, as a result, so is the economic viability of the City."[10]

According to Peter Zimmerman, one of the initiative's procurers, petitioners hope to see this initiative on the ballot later in 2013. However, this would require the collection of at least 12,730 valid signatures before a July 5 deadline. According to a secretary at the Tucson clerk's office, this will be difficult to achieve. She suspects that this initiative will not go before voters until next year.

Meanwhile, today is the 7th date in 2013 on which local ballot questions will be decided in California. One measure in the City of Fresno seeks to avoid a financial crisis by privatizing the garbage disposal service, which would eliminate about 120 city employee positions. In the City of Hercules, the council has already declared a state of fiscal emergency and is asking voters for a 2% utility tax increase to help balance the city budget.[11][12] Read about these measures and others in Ballotpedia's coverage of the election.


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Ballot Law Update

Federal court relaxes Virginia's petition circulator restrictions: On Wednesday, May 29, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a previous court ruling that declared the state's current laws prohibiting out-of-state residents from circulating petitions unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by Darryl Bonner, a professional petitioner for the Libertarian Party of Virginia and Pennsylvania. The state Board of Elections argued that the ban was necessary to preserve the election process's integrity and that abolishing it would make it too difficult to prevent voter fraud. Though Bonner's lawyers did not dispute the state's interest in fighting voter fraud, they did argue that better solutions were available, including requiring that out-of-state circulators sign an agreement to comply with subpoenas. In the court's decision, Judge Robert King said, "Simply stated, the Board has produced no concrete evidence of persuasive force explaining why the plaintiffs’ proposed solution, manifestly less restrictive of their First Amendment rights, would be unworkable or impracticable."[13]

Another one of Montana's 2012 ballot measures comes under legal fire: On Thursday, May 30, Planned Parenthood of Montana filed a lawsuit with the state district court asking that LR-120 be overturned. The measure, also called the Montana Parental Notification Measure, requires parental notification before any abortion procedure may be performed on someone under 16 years old. Though the measure was passed by voters last year, the lawsuit was triggered by the passage of a newer, stricter law that requires parental consent before minors can have an abortion. Planned Parenthood argues that these new laws put the health of minors at risk because not everyone can safely go to parents with these types of issues. Supporters of the new laws say that parental consent is already required for a host of other medical procedures, and abortion should be no different.[14]

A new update will be released next week. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References