The Tuesday Count: Four ballot additions slowly inch total up to 154

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July 31, 2012

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Edited by Al Ortiz

While weekly 2012 ballot measure additions to the Tuesday Count may not equal 2010's final total in the end, four more additions this week have kicked up the count to 154 ballot measures in 36 states.

West coast initiative activity hasn't been limited to the state of California, which has 13 ballot propositions that have appeared or will appear on the ballot. Joining in on the fray is the state of Oregon, where voters will see an additional three ballot initiatives in the November general election.

One measure is a proposal to phase out estate and inheritance taxes. Current state law imposes a one-time tax on the estate of a person that died on or after January 1, 2006 if the estate's gross value is at least $1,000,000. Current law also taxes income-producing property sales, regardless of parties' relationship.

The second of the three initiatives proposes to allocate a corporate income and excise tax "kicker" refund to the General Fund to provide additional funding for public education.

According to the text of the measure, before each biennium, the Oregon Governor must prepare an estimate of revenues expected to be received by the General Fund for the next biennium. Current law requires an automatic "kicker" refund of corporate income and excise tax revenue when that revenue exceeds estimated collections by two percent or more.

Rounding out the certified initiatives is a county casino initiative that would authorize a single privately-owned casino in Multnomah County and would require that the casino give a percentage of monthly revenue to the state lottery for specified purposes. This is the second measure regarding gambling to make the ballot this year.

The last time a gambling measure was on the Oregon ballot was in 2010, when a measure was proposed to create an exception to the state's casino ban and allow for one private casino in Wood Village.

The three newly-certified measures leaves nine ballot questions on the ballot for 2012 in Oregon, with seven being citizen initiatives. According to Ballotpedia's database of Oregon ballot measures, the last time at least seven citizen initiatives appeared on the statewide ballot was in 2008.

After not having any measures on the ballot for 2012, New Jersey barged in as the new state with at least one statewide question in the general election.

The addition, a legislative referral, asks voters to amend the New Jersey Constitution to define justices' and judges’ salary and pension benefits. Specifically, the measure would clarify that lawmakers have the authority to deduct benefit contributions from judges’ salaries.

The measure was proposed following a court ruling which declared that Governor Chris Christie's pensions and benefit reforms for judges were "unconstitutional." The reforms developed in June 2011 as Christie and state lawmakers worked to tackle the state's $112 billion unfunded liability for pension and health coverage.[1]

The lawsuit was filed by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale who argued that new requirements for increased contributions to pensions violated the state's constitutional provision that judges' compensation cannot be changed during a judge's tenure.

Historic Georgia primary referendum

See also: Georgia elections, 2012

Voters who show up at the polls for today's primary election in Georgia will see more than just the names of those running for public office. Although various local ballot measures will be on the ballot, there is one statewide question that is being put before voters - Referendum 1.[2]

This statewide referendum, reportedly the first ever of its kind in state history, is the Transportation Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax, commonly known as T-SPLOST. The ballot question asks voters in each of the 12 regional districts to approve funding for transportation projects within the region. This referendum was triggered by Georgia House Bill 277, which was signed into law by former Governor Sonny Perdue on June 2, 2010. The law divided the state in 12 special tax districts, each of which was then required to create a list of potential transportation projects. The referendum asks the citizens of each district to approve a 1 percent increase of sales tax in order to fund those projects. Though the entire state votes on July 31, each district is only voting for itself and tax sales tax will not be raised in those districts that vote the measure down.[3]

Featured campaign quotes:
Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support
Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system.[4]

Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition
State Representative Jason Murphey
When you take the governor out of [the parole] process [for non-violent crimes] the people of Oklahoma have no one to hold accountable...[4]

Quick hits

Supporters of Oklahoma "Personhood" Amendment take their case to U.S. Supreme Court: On Monday, July 30, Personhood USA, a group supporting "personhood" amendments throughout the country, appealed April's Oklahoma Supreme Court decision blocking petition circulation for the amendment. The group submitted its appeal to the U.S Supreme Court arguing that the previous court's ruling denies the right of citizens to petition their government. According to Steve Campton, a lawyer for the group, "This is about the fundamental rights of people in a state to decide for themselves what the law in their state should be."[5]

First major campaign finance reports released for Michigan ballot campaigns: On July 25 the first major campaign finance reports were released in Michigan for money raised and spent by committees for ballot measures. According to those reports, the group campaigning for the "Protect Our Jobs" Amendment has so far raised the highest amount, a little over $8 million. Coming in second is a campaign for an amendment requiring voter approval for new international bridges called the Michigan International Bridge Initiative. The ballot committee itself is called "The People Should Decide" and has raised $4.5 million for its efforts.

Proposals with recent activity


Trenton civic group seeks changes to local government

In Trenton, New Jersey, a civic group has started to collect signatures for three measures to change the city government.

The group, which is called the "Majority for a Better Trenton," is seeking to move the mayor and city council elections to November; eliminate runoff elections; and introduce staggered city council terms. For each petition, the group needs to collect around 1,200 valid signatures for the measures to be placed on the November ballot.[6]

The group said that their goals are to help move the city forward and ensure good governing. According to reports, the group is advocating to move elections to November because that would encourage higher voter turnout as more issues and candidates are on that ballot. In addition, with the introduction of staggered terms, supporters say, it would allow for new members to be on the council with experienced members. This, they said, would allow for greater potential in communication from one council to the next.[6]

The Tuesday Count Spotlight highlights notable developments from local ballot measures across the country as well as international ballot measures.

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Court hears arguments over ballot titles in Minnesota: On Tuesday, July 31, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard arguments in two separate lawsuits regarding changes made to the titles of two ballot measures by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Both lawsuits accuse Ritchie of using his office to oppose amendments passed on to the ballot by the state legislature. Both measures, the Same-Sex Marriage Amendment and the Voter Identification Amendment, are primarily supported by Republican lawmakers.[7]

Michigan Emergency Manager Referendum goes before state supreme court: On Wednesday, July 25, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments in a contentious case involving a ballot measure being held off the ballot for the size of the font on its petitions. The measure in question is the Emergency Manager Referendum which was passed to the ballot with large public support. Despite having more than enough signatures, the measure was held from the ballot by the State Board of Canvassers when they deemed the print on the petitions to be too small. Following the appeal by referendum opponents of a lower court decision putting the measure back on the ballot, the case is now before the state supreme court.[8]

A new update will be released later this month. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard