The Tuesday Count: Gambling measure makes 2014 ballot in Nebraska

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April 8, 2014

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

1 certification
72 measures for 2014



Gambling (News)
Wages (Quick hits)
Marijuana (Spotlight)

Nebraska 2014 ballot measures
Another legislatively-referred constitutional amendment has been certified for a November 4, 2014 statewide ballot, this one asking voters to weigh in on gambling. If approved in the general election, the Nebraska Horse Race Wagering Amendment would allow for wagering or gambling on live, delayed or replayed horse races at licensed racetracks. The amendment would also require local voter approval for any new racetrack facilities in a given municipality. A tax, to be determined by the legislature, would be placed on wagering at racetrack facilities, and revenues from this tax would be allocated as follows: 49% to elementary and secondary education statewide, 49% to property tax reductions statewide and 2% to a Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.[1] The Nebraska Legislature approved the measure, known as LR 41CA, by a vote of 30 to 17 on April 7, 2014, though it fell short of the required supermajority approval just three days prior.[2][3]Some senators, such as Rick Kolowski (NP-31), changed their votes from "reject" to "approve" during the second round of voting, not because they agreed with the measure, but because they wanted constituents to have an opportunity to vote on the issue. Kolowski said he will vote against the amendment on election day.[4]

Unlike Kolowski, those at Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of Nebraska's Winnebago Tribe, will be checking the "approve" box at the polls. The measure furthers the group's plans to build a gambling venue at the former site of Atokad racetrack. "I think the average Nebraskan realizes that every state around us has some form of gaming. I think it's a positive first step. There's still a lot of hard work to be done," said Ho-Chunk President and CEO Lance Morgan. In September 2012, the financially-strapped Atokad racetrack was acquired by Ho-Chunk, which has its sights set on ultimately implementing Vegas-style gambling in the state, if permitted by lawmakers. Those opposed to the horse racing measure, including Sen. Beau McCoy (NP-39), argue the gambling devices in question are nothing more than slot machines.[5]

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2014 Count
Number: 72 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, 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

Georgia Democrats have opportunity to advise party with primary ballot questions: On May 20, 2014, Democratic Party primary voters will have the opportunity to answer four advisory questions in Georgia. The questions deal with the minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, an ethics commission and an education budget. The measures are meant to gauge how party constituents feel about those issues.[6] Georgia has an open primary system for party candidate nominations for elections. This means that any registered voter, no matter what their party affiliation, can vote in any party's primary. On primary election day, Georgians may select either a Republican or a Democratic ballot at their polling places. Those who select a Democratic ballot will vote on the advisory questions, while those who select a Republican ballot will not. The Republican Party did not submit any non-binding advisory questions for their party's primary ballot.

Nebraska Sen. advocates initiative after minimum wage bill fails: Sen. Jeremy Nordquist (NP-7) sponsored a bill to increase the hourly minimum wage in the Nebraska Senate. His bill was ultimately defeated. Now, Sen. Nordquist is discussing a minimum wage increase initiative with activist allies. The measure would increase the state's hourly minimum wage to $9 over three years. He stated, "It’s just a matter of pulling the resources together. It certainly is something we can accomplish."[7] Proponents would need to collect 80,000 valid signatures by July 4, 2014 to get the initiative on the general election ballot in November.[8]

Marijuana will not be on the ballot in California in 2014: The last marijuana legalization initiative campaign for 2014, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Initiative, ended their effort on April 7, 2014. They cited a lack of funds to conduct signature gathering as the primary cause of the campaign's dissolution.[9] In January 2014, Allen St. Pierre of NORML viewed California as the next potential battleground for marijuana legalization.[10] While California may not be voting on marijuana legalization in 2014, marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in Alaska in August.

Spotlight

Updated April 9, 2014
Five local measures across four California counties in today's election: Proposition A in Long Beach creates civil war among pro-marijuana activists:

The Long Beach Collective Association logo

Proposition A was put on the ballot by the city council in conjunction with a plan to re-legalize the retail sale of medical marijuana in the city of Long Beach after essentially banning it through repealing an ordinance in 2010. This measure, which is driving a wedge of contention between medical marijuana supporters, would authorize the city to impose a sales tax starting at 6%, with a maximum rate of 10%, on all medical marijuana sales. It would also authorize an annual tax of at least $15 - with a potential maximum of $50 - per square foot for pot plant cultivation spaces in marijuana dispensaries.[11]

The tax measure is receiving a mix of support and opposition from activists in favor of legal medical cannabis. Some say the tax will provide motivation for the city council to go through with its announced plan to bring the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives back to the city and would provide important revenue for Long Beach. Others say the measure is a money-grabbing scheme that overtaxes medical marijuana users and takes advantage of patients.[11]

The most outspoken support group is found in the Long Beach Collective Association (LBCA), whose attorney wrote the official arguments in favor of Prop. A. LBCA Boardmember Adam Hijazi said, “The majority of the people we’ve talked to do not seem to have a problem with the [proposed] tax. And if it’s going to help public funding—whether it’s police, fire, parks, potholes, whatever it is—I think everybody is kind of okay with it.”[12]

Some, however, have even stronger feelings of opposition towards the tax. Seventh District council candidate and dispensary manager Larry King wrote, “This new measure was hastily pushed through Council to create an issue for this election and is ill conceived. No other prescribed medicine is taxed in California. And no other business in Long Beach has even been taxed on both gross sales and square footage combined. […] A tax on marijuana would be acceptable for recreational purposes, just like alcohol. But this is MEDICINE, which is not taxed in California.”[12]

California April 8, 2014 election ballot summary: The following local measures are being decided in California today:

To see the results of these measures later this evening go to: April 8, 2014 ballot measures in California

Voters in Springfield, MO, decide the fate of a sales tax dedicated to the city's pension fund, officials warn that city services would be cut if the tax is repealed:

IAFFpensiontaxlogo.jpg

In Springfield, Missouri, an old public safety pension fund no longer in use by new hires faces a critical decision by city electors today, who are casting votes on a ballot measure asking if a 0.75 percent sales tax supporting the fund should be repealed. Going forward, officials have estimated that the tax would provide about $9.7 million per year to the pension fund, money that would have to come out of the city's general fund if the tax were repealed. The ballot question is required by law every five years and is phrased in such a way that a "no" vote renews the tax and a "yes" vote ends it.[13]

Before this tax was implemented, the pension fund was 36 percent funded, with $200 million in unfunded liabilities. This means the fund had only 36 cents in assets for every dollar of obligations. As of 2014, the sales tax has helped to bring the fund up to 67 percent funding. The city website reports that, if the tax is renewed, the pension fund could be 100 percent funded by 2019.[13][11]

As of March 2014, there were 900 city employees participating in the pension fund system in question. Five hundred had retired and four hundred remained active. No new employees are being added to this pension fund system because, in 2006, the city moved all future new hires to a new pension system called L.A.G.E.R.S, leaving the old pension system to expire.[14]

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is one of the chief supporters of the tax and is strongly urging voters to say "no" - thereby voting "yes" - to this measure. It has been instrumental in forming the campaign committee "Keep Springfield Safe," which has run ad campaigns attempting to keep voters from repealing the three quarter cent tax. The IAFF has pointed out that the pension system must be 100 percent funded to be sustainable and self-reliant because it is a closed system, meaning no new employees are entering and paying into the fund.[15]

Those who support the renewal of the tax and advocate a "no" vote on this measure assert that without the tax the city will still remain obligated to fulfill its promises to retired public safety officers and would need to pull $9.7 million from the city's general fund to provide for pension needs. They argue that this would require a reduction in essential city services. Springfield Fire Chief David Hall said, "So we are getting there, the tax has been an integral part of that but there's still a ways to go. Still we have 25 percent of the liabilities are still unfunded. About $9.7 million this next year we would have to pay into the plan from general fund so we'd have to cut the general fund expenses by that amount so we can make it into the pension."[14]

To see the results of the measure later this evening go to: City of Springfield Police/Fire Pension Fund Sales Tax Measure, Question 1 (April 2014)

See also

2014 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2014 Scorecard

References