The Tuesday Count: Illinois 2014 ballot - Double the measures, double the fun
Edited by Brittany ClingenIllinoisans will have at least two measures to cast votes on come November, which is twice the average number over the past five years. The approval of two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments - one addressing the right to vote and the other the rights of crime victims - are the first measures on what could be a crowded ballot, by Illinois' standards. Since 2008, only one measure has appeared on the ballot per even-numbered election year; there have been no measures featured on odd-year ballots. If approved by voters, the Right to Vote Amendment would provide that no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, language, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or income. Proponents and opponents have suggested that the amendment is meant, in part, to discourage a voter identification card law. House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-22), who was the amendment's primary sponsor during its time in the legislature, said, "The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that all citizens have an opportunity to register and vote and to prevent the passage of inappropriate voter-suppression laws and discriminatory voting procedures." The measure has garnered some bipartisan support, with House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-82) calling on Republicans to support the amendment. He said, "[The state party] had an identity crisis for many years now. Republicans, we're going to win with addition. We need to dispel some of the notions that have been hanging over the GOP for years, that we're a party of white suburban men. For me this was an easy decision."
The second certified amendment, if approved by voters, would strengthen the part of the Illinois Constitution known as the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Specifically, the amendment would guarantee a victim’s right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the criminal trial process; a victim’s right to notice and to a hearing before a court ruling on access to any of the victim’s records, information or communications; a victim’s right to be heard at any post-arraignment court proceeding in which a victim’s right is at issue and at any court proceeding involving a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing; a consideration of the safety of the victim and their family in determining bail and conditions of release after arrest and conviction of the defendant; and that the accused does not have standing to assert the rights of a victim. This measure also boasts supporters from both sides of the political aisle.
Two other measures that have the potential to appear on the ballot in November will likely be significantly more divisive if supporters can gather enough signatures by the May 5, 2014, deadline to put them before voters. The Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, also known as the "Yes for Independent Maps" campaign, would create an independent, nonpartisan commission, consisting of eleven members, for the purpose of redrawing district lines for the Illinois General Assembly. The measure is sponsored by Yes for Independent Maps. The amendment would also create a process for selecting members of the commission that is open to application by any Illinois citizen. Redistricting has long been a contentious issue in Illinois. Following the 2010 U.S. Census, Illinois faced the responsibility of redrawing legislative district lines in accordance with the state constitution. At that time, several proposals were put forth by the legislature as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and one by the group Illinois Fair Map Amendment Coalition as an initiated constitutional amendment. Ultimately, none of the proposed constitutional amendments made it to the ballot that year. In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed the controversial Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011, which required that legislative districts be redrawn to ensure people of "racial and language minorities" were given the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates. Because both the state legislature and the governor's office were controlled by Democrats at that time, many argued that the new redistricting procedures served to protect the Democratic majority and keep incumbents in office.
The second initiated constitutional amendment that will almost certainly stir Illinois' already sticky political pot is the Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment, which is being sponsored by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. The measure would establish eight-year term limits for legislators, reduce the size of the Senate from 59 to 41, increase the size of the House from 118 to 123 and require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses for the legislature to override a governor’s veto. According to Rauner, "Out-of-control spending, record tax hikes, terrible unemployment and a state government controlled by special interests – the career politicians are failing Illinois." Supporters of both initiated amendments must collect at least 298,399 valid signatures to land their measures on the November ballot.
|States:||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, 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|
Charter Communications proposes tax cut initiative in Montana: Charter Communications, a telecommunications company, has proposed a Cable Company Property Tax Initiative, an initiated state statute that would reclassify cable television companies’ property for taxation purposes. Specifically, Charter desires to reclassify cable television property to avoid a tax increase of more than 300%. The Montana Revenue Department combined all of the company’s services into a single tax, namely, “telecommunication services,” with a six percent rate. Previously, such property was classified differently, with some as “telecommunications services” and some as “cable television,” with a three percent tax rate. The company, therefore, was paying the six percent tax rate on only ten percent of their property. The Montana Revenue Department’s property reclassification is what caused the property tax to increase 300-fold. The initiative would return the property classification for taxation purposes to the previous model.
Oklahoma may see medical marijuana on the ballot: Oklahomans for Health, an organization based in Tulsa, filed a petition for State Question 768, which would permit the use, sale and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes and classify marijuana as an herbal drug regulated by the Oklahoma Health Department. The initiative was filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State on April 11, 2014. In Oklahoma, 90 days are given for an initiative campaign to collect the required valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
Louisiana Legislature proposes amendment to elect superintendent of education: State Rep. Joe Harrison (R-51) and State Sen. Robert W. Kostelka (R-35) have proposed House Bill No. 125, or the Superintendent of Education Election Amendment, for the ballot. The measure would require that the Louisiana Superintendent of Education be elected by state voters, rather than appointed by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In Louisiana, a two-thirds majority vote is required in both the House and Senate in order to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Republicans and Democrats will see primary advisory questions in South Carolina: The South Carolina Republican Party and Democratic Party have issued party-specific advisory questions for their respective primary ballots. Since South Carolina has an open primary system, any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in any party's primary. However, a voter can only vote in one party's primary. Those who select the Democratic ballot will get to vote on three statewide political issues, including one about medical marijuana legalization and two related to gambling. Those who select the Republican ballot will get to vote on two statewide political issues, including one on abortion and one on eliminating the state income tax.
Next week, voters in King County, Washington, face important and contentious decision over Metro tax:
On April 22, 2014, voters will, according to Metro and county officials, decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of hours of public transit service through voting on Proposition 1, which seeks a 0.1 percent sales tax increase and a new annual vehicle tax of $60. Critics of Prop. 1 believe that the situation is less dire than officials are letting on, alleging that proponents of the proposition are using scare tactics to get yet another regressive tax increase approved, despite windfall Metro revenue and out-of-control spending by the Metro system. The tax and car tab would bring in an estimated $130 million per year in revenue, 60 percent of which would go into the Metro system coffers. Road repair and maintenance would account for the remaining 40 percent.
Minimum wage activists file initiative for $15 per hour minimum wage in Seattle:
On April 14, 2014, activist group 15 Now and the Socialist Alternative Party filed their initiative seeking a minimum wage increase with the city clerk. If approved, this measure would raise the minimum wage in the city of Seattle to $15 per hour. The measure would require large businesses with more than the equivalent of 250 full-time employees to begin paying all workers at least $15 per hour starting on January 1, 2015. Businesses employing less than the equivalent of 250 workers would be able to phase in the minimum wage increase over three years, starting with $11 per hour by the beginning of 2015. The initiative would also prohibit employers from counting tips and benefits towards the minimum wage requirements and would enact provisions intended to protect workers from wage and tip theft.
Jess Spear, an organizer of 15 Now and a former campaign worker for Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Party city council member elected in 2013, said, “We will continue to work with the mayor’s [income inequality] committee and City Council to get all workers to $15 [an hour] quickly." Spear warned that the group is remaining realistic, however, and is preparing to collect the 20,638 valid signatures necessary to push their initiative onto the November ballot in case the council has not approved $15 an hour by July 2014.
Four days before 15 Now filed its initiative, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce released the results of a poll conducted in February 2014. The survey asked employers about their likely reactions to a $15 per hour minimum wage. The 283 employers who volunteered to answer the survey questions revealed that 60 percent would make changes such as a reduction in new hires or even a total hiring freeze, increased standards for entry level positions and the reduction or elimination of benefits. Fifty percent of employers surveyed said that they would increase prices.
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- Illinois General Assembly, "Constitutional Amendment 52," accessed April 11, 2014
- Crain's Chicago Business, "Right-to-vote amendment to go on Illinois ballot," April 10, 2014
- The State Journal-Register, "Voter rights amendment passes Illinois House," April 8, 2014
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Durkin: Voter rights effort helps rebuild GOP," April 8, 2014
- Illinois Legislature, "Bill Status of HJRCA0001," accessed April 11, 2014
- PRNewswire, "CHANGE Illinois! Launches Statewide Redistricting Ballot Initiative," May 15, 2013
- Yes for independent maps website, accessed March 5, 2014
- Huffington Post Chicago (blog), "Illinois Redistricting: Democrat-Backed Maps Head to Quinn's Desk, Threaten Republican Gains," May 31, 2011
- The State Journal-Register, "Illinois term limit supporters halfway to 2014 ballot," November 21, 2013
- BruceRauner.com, "8 Years and Out," accessed April 15, 2014
- Montana Secretary of State, "2014 Proposed Ballot Issues," accessed April 9, 2014
- Helena Independent Record, "Charter has ballot measure to reclassify its property for taxes," April 9, 2014
- Idaho Statesman, "Okla. medical marijuana backers seek public vote," April 11, 2014
- Louisiana Legislature, "House Bill No. 125," accessed April 10, 2014
- Idaho Statesman, "SC Democratic June ballot to ask about marijuana," April 9, 2014
- Kirkland Reporter, "King County proposes April ballot measure for Metro funding," January 23, 2014
- Move King County Now website," accessed April 10, 2014
- The Washington Policy Center, "Citizens’ Guide to Proposition 1," archived April 14, 2014
- Puget Sound Business Journal, "15 Now taking steps toward Seattle minimum wage ballot measure," April 14, 2014
- 15 now website, accessed March 13, 2014
- Seattle Chamber of Commerce website, "RESULTS FROM CHAMBER MEMBER SURVEY ON MINIMUM WAGE FURTHER REVEAL COMPLEXITY OF ISSUE," April 11, 2014 (dead link)