The Tuesday Count: Issues of “consumer choice” make the ballot in Colorado and North Dakota
Edited by Ryan Byrne
Consumer battles are heating up in Colorado and North Dakota, as questions of regulation versus deregulation will go before voters in both states come November. While Coloradans will be joining Oregonians in the battle over regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), North Dakota residents will be asked to repeal a unique law that effectively bans chain retailers from operating pharmacies. Both issues revolve, in part, around consumer choice and commodity prices.
Meanwhile, 15 Now and the SEIU have hinted at a possible $15 minimum wage initiative in Oregon, an Illinois term limits initiative is being appealed to the supreme court and a medical marijuana initiative failed to make the ballot in Oklahoma.
Local marijuana ballot initiatives are beginning to be certified for the ballot in New Mexico. Santa Fe's ballot will feature an initiative to decriminalize marijuana, and Albuquerque's ballot may feature a similar question.
GMOs in Colorado
Oregon Measure 92 won't be the only initiative attempting to label GMOs in 2014. In Colorado, Proposition 105 was certified by the Colorado Secretary of State on August 20, 2014. GMO is an acronym for "genetically modified organism." The measure would require any "prepackaged, processed food or raw agricultural commodity that has been produced using genetic modification" to include the label: "Produced with genetic engineering." The initiative exempts unpackaged foods for immediate consumption, alcoholic beverages, food for animals and medically prescribed foods. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would be responsible for regulating the labeling of GMOs.
Oregon's Measure 92 and Colorado's Proposition 105 both may face fierce opposition campaigns funded by firms like Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsico, Nestle, Coca-Cola and General Mills. In 2013, Washingtonians narrowly voted down Initiative 522, which would have required the labeling of some genetically modified foods and seeds. Opponents of Initiative 522 spent $33 million to defeat the measure, making it the most expensive measure in the state's history, to date. That equates to roughly $37 spent for each "no" vote cast on election day. Similarly, in 2012, a GMO labeling initiative in California was defeated, but only after opponents spent over $45 million.
While the majority of scientists believe GMOs are safe for human consumption, some proponents of labeling say more independent studies are needed. Larry Cooper, spokesperson for Right to Know Colorado, stated, “We don’t know if they’re safe or not safe. There’s been no independent research studies validating one way or the other and a lot of studies are coming out saying you should be concerned.” Others say that while GMOs may not hurt human health, people have a right to know where their food comes from.
Some opponents of the initiative offered strong criticisms, including Mark Sponsler, chief executive of Colorado Corn. He said, "I would call it closer to a religion, an anti-GMO religious zealot movement. We have to rely on a credible scientific method, not just someone claiming that GMOs made their babies born naked." Sarah Froelich, spokeswoman for the Coalition Against the Misleading Labeling Initiative, argued, "This is a costly and badly written measure that would hurt thousands of Colorado family farmers, food producers and small store owners, cost Colorado taxpayers millions and increase grocery bills for Colorado families by hundreds of dollars each year."
Initiative supporters were required to obtain at least 86,105 valid signatures by August 4, 2014, in order to place the measure on the ballot. Supporters submitted 171,287 signatures on August 4. The secretary of state's office found 124,905 of those to be valid, thus certifying the measure for the ballot.
Pharmacy ownership in North Dakota
You won't find a pharmacy in Walmart, Target or Walgreens in North Dakota. A unique state law, known as North Dakota Century Code 43-15-35(e), requires majority stock ownership in a pharmacy to be held by licensed pharmacists. The law effectively bans chain retailers from operating pharmacies in North Dakota. There are a number of exceptions, however, including a grandfather clause for CVS Caremark Corporation. Hospitals and accredited postgraduate medical residency training programs are also exempt from the majority ownership requirement. Opponents of the "antiquated, protectionist piece of law," according to Larry Gauper, want more consumer choice. They filed a Pharmacy Ownership Initiative on May 22, 2014, and it was approved for circulation on June 3, 2014.
Proponents of the law say the regulations help independently-owned small business pharmacies and increase competition and consumer choice. Steve Boehning, president of the North Dakota Pharmacists Association, argued that repealing the existing law would not increase consumer choice. He continued, "The exact opposite happens. The market becomes dominated by the three large chains [Walmart, Walgreens and CVS]."
The ballot initiative was first proposed in 2009, but a judge rejected the sponsoring group’s signatures due to the absence of the names and addresses of sponsoring committee members alongside the signature petitions. In 2011, the initiative was proposed for a second time, with the petition filed by Duane Sand (R), who sought election to the U.S. Senate from North Dakota; it once again failed to make the ballot. Earlier in 2011, state legislators proposed to amend the state's pharmacy ownership laws. However, the North Dakota House defeated the measure by over 70 percent.
The tides turned in 2014, as petitioners successfully proposed, circulated and submitted signatures to the North Dakota Secretary of State. On July 18, 2014, petitioners submitted 24,219 signatures. A total of 22,758 were accepted as valid, resulting in an impressive validity rate of nearly 94 percent. Since proponents were required to collect 13,452 valid signatures, they exceeded the required amount by 10,767 signatures.
|States:||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming|
- Oregon minimum wage movement may seek ballot measure in 2016: SEIU Local 503, a labor union, voted to back a possible attempt to increase the state's hourly minimum wage to $15. In its endorsement, the union said, "SEIU 503 will support an initiative with unions and community partners to use the Oregon ballot measure system to achieve a $15 minimum wage." A $15 minimum wage in Oregon is backed by 15 Now PDX, a group which the union also endorsed in its statement.
- Proposed term limits amendment in Illinois appealed to supreme court: The Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld a lower court's ruling that the Term Limits for Legislators Amendment is unconstitutional. Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R), who is sponsoring the initiative, filed an immediate appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. He said, "The Illinois Supreme Court should not ignore the people of Illinois. We are hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will find in favor of the citizens of Illinois." Two decades ago, the supreme court ruled against legislative term limits. The appeals court cited this in its decision, with Judge Maureen Connors saying, "The (Supreme) Court characterized term limits as a matter of eligibility or qualifications of an individual legislator, which ‘do not involve the structure or the legislature as an institution.’" If the supreme court chooses not to hear the case, then the amendment will not make the November 4, 2014, ballot.
- Medical marijuana will not be on the ballot in Oklahoma: Oklahomans for Health failed to collect enough valid signatures to place State Question 768 on the general election ballot in November. The measure, had it been approved by voters, would have permitted the use, sale and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. The group needed to collect 155,216 valid signatures but only collected 75,384. Chip Paul, an organizer who filed the initiative petition, said the supporters are looking to restart their campaign in August 2015.
The debate over local marijuana measures moves into New Mexico:
New Mexico In Focus, "Episode 807: Marijuana Penalties Latest," August 22, 2014
Local measures concerning the hot-button issue of marijuana have surfaced in Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin and California, as well as the nation's capital. Now the debate over local marijuana measures, many of which put local laws at odds with those at the federal and state levels, has moved into the political spotlight in New Mexico as well, where the key cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe will likely see measures on the ballot seeking to decriminalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana. Both measures would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a criminal one and would establish a fine of $25 as the maximum penalty for such a violation. Without these measures, perpetrators of small marijuana violations could be subject to between $50 and $100 in fines and up to two weeks in prison.
In Santa Fe, the measure qualified for the ballot through the citizen initiative process. This campaign, spearheaded by ProgressNow NM and Drug Policy Action, is the first successful effort to place a measure on the ballot via an initiative petition since the power of initiative was added to the Santa Fe charter in 2008. Initiative petitioners needed 5,673 valid signatures to qualify their initiative for the ballot. The two support groups turned in almost 11,000 signatures.
In Albuquerque, an initiative petition drive attempt was unsuccessful, coming up short of the required signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. The city council, however, voted on the issue anyway and, in a split decision, approved the inclusion of the ballot question in a five measure package that is currently on the mayor's desk. According to Gilberto Montano, the chief of staff for Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, the mayor is seriously considering vetoing this measure, as well as the entire legislative package approved by the council. Although this measure and a measure seeking a tax increase for social services are the main sources of Berry's displeasure with the city council's decision, some contend that the mayor is not legally able to veto parts of the package, but must veto all five measures if he is to put a stop to the ballot measure seeking marijuana decriminalization. The mayor has until August 29 to decide whether he will allow this measure to go to voters.Gov. Susana Martinez (R) - the incumbent in the state's upcoming gubernatorial race - has come out against decriminalization efforts, especially local efforts that put city laws at odds with federal law. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King, however, largely approves of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Supporters of marijuana legalization or decriminalization argue that the drug does not deserve attention from law enforcement and that police officers should focus on important, harmful crimes. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King said, "It's inappropriate for small amounts of marijuana to be putting people in prison."
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is opposed to both local decriminalization measures. She argues that the cities must maintain consistency with federal and state laws, which both consider marijuana an illegal drug. She also stated that the current penalties surrounding pot use and possession are warranted and should be left in place. Martinez said, "It is against the law, federally, and, therefore, it is also against the law in New Mexico and I think it is the way it should be and the penalties are appropriate."
To add another wrinkle to the situation in New Mexico, it is unclear whether these measures will even be allowed on the November 4, 2014, election ballot due to certain restrictions and rules. The discussion over this possibility is ongoing between city and county officials.
| 2014 ballot measures|
|Tuesday Count • 2014 Scorecard|
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2014
- 2014 ballot measures
- Local ballot measure elections in 2014
- Potential 2014 ballot measures
- High Plains Public Radio, "Push for GMO labeling comes to Colorado," December 8, 2013
- The Denver Post, "GMO food labeling initiative approved for Colorado ballot proposition," August 20, 2014
- Washington Post, "GMO labeling measure makes Colorado’s November ballot," August 20, 2014
- CNN, "California fails to pass genetically modified foods labeling initiative," November 8, 2012
- CBS Denver, "Debate Over How GMO Labeling Will Impact Shoppers," August 21, 2014
- Community Radio of Northern Colorado, "National Push To Label GMOs Comes To Colorado Ballot," August 21, 2014
- The Colorado Statesman, "Potential for real food fight if GMO labeling makes ballot," July 11, 2014
- Colorado Springs Independent, "GMO labeling makes the ballot," August 20, 2014
- Bakken Today, "Pharmacy law again target of proposed ballot measure," June 1, 2014
- Haarsager, S. 2010. “North Dakota’s Pharmacy Ownership Law: An Analysis of the Strictest Pharmacy Ownership Law in the United States.” North Dakota Law Review 86: 335-382
- The Bismarck Tribune, "Pharmacy petition under review," May 22, 2014
- The Bismarck Tribune, "Foes of ND pharmacy owner rule seek repeal again," July 6, 2011
- North Dakota Legislature, "House Bill 1434 Text," accessed May 23, 2014
- North Dakota Legislature, "House Bill 1434 Status," accessed May 23, 2014
- Jamestown Sun, "Pharmacy ownership measure approved for Nov. 4 ballot," August 22, 2014
- SEIU Local 503, "Endorsing 15 Now PDX," accessed August 26, 2014
- 15 Now PDX, "SEIU 503 Endorses 15 Now PDX, Statewide Ballot Measure for $15 in Oregon!," August 19, 2014
- Chicago Tribune, "Rauner loses another round in term limit referendum bid," August 20, 2014
- KOCO, "Oklahoma medical marijuana petition falls short," August 22, 2014
- Santa Fe Reporter, "Clerk Finds Enough Signatures on Marijuana Petition," August 25, 2014
- News Channel Ten, "Albuquerque ballot measure on marijuana advances," August 19, 2014
- KUNM, "Headlines: ABQ Mayor May Veto Marijuana Vote, Governor Opposes Pot Advocacy And More," August 19, 2014
- ProgressNow NM website, "Gary King and Susana Martinez Square Off on Marijuana Policy. Who’s on your side?," August 22, 2014
- New Mexico In Focus, "Episode 807: Marijuana Penalties Latest," August 22, 2014