The Tuesday Count: One more week before 2013 initiative drive deadline swoops in on one state
- The Tuesday Count reports on ballot measure news and tracks all measures that make statewide ballots across the country (ballot certifications).
Edited by Al Ortiz
Although certifications have come slow on the ballot measure front, petition drive deadlines have been anything but few and far between. The state of Maine is setting up for its schedule petition drive deadline, which is fast approaching for supporters of ballot initiatives that are currently circulating.
Just like in the last report, all is quiet with no 2013 certifications in any states so far.
What is happening beneath the surface is a different story.
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In a little more than one week, on January 24, three groups of advocates standing behind three different Maine ballot proposals will have to meet their deadline of submitting petitions to the Maine Secretary of State. Since all initiatives currently in circulation are indirect initiated state statutes, signature validation is only the first step. If an initiative is found to have enough signatures obtained, the proposal is then sent to the Maine State Legislature, where they can choose to enact the law. If the legislature does not choose to do so, the proposal is then sent to the ballot.
Whether or not these petition drive efforts meet the required amount of 57,277 valid signatures remains to be seen. However, until then, here is a breakdown of proposals that voters could face this November.
- Electronic Beano Question - The measure would allow for the operation of high-stakes beano in the state. The high-stakes beano would be conducted by two Indian tribes. According to the state secretary of state's website, the measure is being proposed for the second time in as many years by the same proponent. In 2012, Wayne T. Mitchell tried to place the measure on the November 6 ballot, but failed to collect enough signatures. Mitchell is trying his hand once more at getting the measure cemented into the ballot. The issue of gambling on the ballot hasn't had much success the past two years, with two gambling measures being defeated at the ballot in 2011. However, in 2010, Question 1 squeaked by with 50.4% of the vote, allowing the operation of a casino in Oxford, Maine.
- Maine Renewable Energy Question - The measure would allow increased investment in renewable energy and other energy-related endeavors. The main proponent of the citizen initiative is Clifford Ginn, as listed by the secretary of state's website. No immediate history of renewable energy ballot measures in Maine has been identified, but state officials are also trying to chime in on the issue as the state's 2013 legislative session hits full stride.
- Minimum Sentence for Sex Offender Question - Sponsored by Stavros J. Mendros, the measure would create mandatory minimum sentences for persons convicted of sex offenses against victims that are under 12-years-old. This is not Mendros first go-around with trying to place this type of measure on the ballot. Mendros' most recent attempt at the ballot, according to Ballotpedia's database of Maine ballot measures, came in 2009 when the initiative failed to be passed by the Maine Legislature. The initiative would have changed the sentence for sexual assault against a victim who was under 12 years of age to a period of imprisonment of 25 years.
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Initiatives in the state of Maine can appear on odd-numbered and even-numbered year ballots alike. In the last election, in 2012, Maine voters chose to approved Question 1, which overturned a voter-approved 2009 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Question 1 was an indirect initiated state statute that was rejected by the Maine Legislature, who wanted voters to decide on the issue.
- Unlike odd-numbered years, even-numbered years see a vast amount of measures on the ballot. More measures on the ballot naturally means more proposals in legislative session and among citizens. Here, every Tuesday, you'll find all the latest updates on statewide proposals filed by legislators and regular voters alike for 2014.
The issue of genetically-modified food labeling is quickly forming into a full-fledged tsunami of efforts to pass laws similar to the recently rejected California Proposition 37.
|States:||California and Tennessee|
Proposition 37, which was on the statewide ballot on November 6, 2012 ballot, required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. In addition the measure prohibited labeling or advertising such food as "natural." However, the proposition was rejected with a vote of 51.5% to 48.5%. Exempted from this proposed requirement were foods that were deemed "certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages."
With a 2013 ballot initiative on the table in Washington, efforts in other states are taking a shot for the 2014 ballot. According to reports, states that have similar proposals on the table for a public vote are Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan and Oregon. Initiatives in these states have been announced, but not filed with election officials. More information will be reported as initiative or legislative efforts develop.
Proposal in Minnesota targets legislative referral process: Representative Kim Norton is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would make it more difficult for the state legislature to place referrals before voters. The proposal essentially changes the voting requirements necessary to pass a referral on to the ballot from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority. If the proposal clears the legislature it will go before voters in 2014.
Referendum campaign launched against wolf hunting in Michigan: On Thursday, January 17, the campaign group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will go before the state elections board seeking to certify a petition calling for a referendum on a new law allowing the state to establish wolf hunting seasons in the Upper Peninsula. Jill Fritz, Michigan director for the Humane Society, is spearheading the campaign and argues, "There are only 687 wolves in the U.P. They’re not causing anybody any harm. A rancher, or a farmer, or a hunter with dogs are able to shoot wolves that are attacking their animals, so there’s no reason to add a wolf-hunting season to that." Officials contend that a wolf season could be a useful tool to manage and circumvent problems.
SPOTLIGHT: California Treasurer condemns irresponsible borrowing practices used by over 200 California school districts
The numbers are in for 2012’s school bond measures, in which over $22 billion dollars of new debt was approved. More than half of that debt was authorized in California school districts and the $15,109,750,000 of new 2012 school debt may be cause for concern for California politicians and citizens alike, according to reports.
For some, it is not merely the amount of school debt that is causing worry, but the type of school bonds being used. Over 200 school districts throughout California are making use of capital appreciation bonds, or CAB’s, which do not require the immediate implementation of a payment plan, but instead, allow the school districts to postpone paying off their debt for decades. According to the California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, this kind of debt is the school district equivalent to a balloon payment or payday loan.
The president of West Contra Costa School District, Charles Ramsey, defended the use of capital appreciation bonds in the amount of $2.5 million by arguing that it was the only way to make the district qualify for a $25,000,000 federally subsidized loan and that the West Contra Costa schools needed this funding. Ramsey said, concerning the federal loan, “The only way we could get it was with a [capital appreciation bond].” Unfortunately, the $2.5 million dollar bond will cost the district taxpayers $34 million in the future.
Many CAB’s have similar repayment ratios of between 10 and even 20 times the original amount borrowed, making these bonds very controversial. For this reason, Lockyer condemns the use of this kind of loan, saying, “They are terrible deals. The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired.”
Ballot Law Update
Florida lawmaker looks to limit future legislative referrals: Senator Jeff Clemens has introduced a constitutional amendment to the legislature which would limit the number of legislative referrals to three per ballot. The proposal is part of a response to long voting times in 2012 which many feel was due to both the high number (eleven in total) of referrals on last year's ballot and the long and complicated language used to describe them. Some, however, believe the proposed amendment doesn't go far enough and should be expanded by limiting the number of words in a ballot question to seventy-five - the same number that citizen initiatives are limited to, and should require that legislators follow the single-subject rule so as not to turn one amendment into a multiple part question.
Maryland joins others in considering ways to shorten the ballot: The 2012 general election marked the first time in twenty years that a Maryland law has been subject to voter referendum. The three that did make it to the ballot in 2012 got there largely as the result of online petitioning, a fact which has some elected officials concerned about the process. Senate President Thomas Mike Miller, Jr. has pointed out possibilities to reforming the process, including raising the number of signatures required to send measures to the ballot. The threshold, he says, was determined at a time when petitioners had to go door-to-door. Many Republican legislators, however, oppose attempts to make it harder to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot, believing that the process is an important way for the minority to challenge the majority that Democrats currently hold.
| 2013 ballot measures|
|Tuesday Count • 2013 Scorecard|
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
- 2013 ballot measures
- Local ballot measure elections in 2013
- Potential 2013 ballot measures
- Associated Press,"State Senate leader wants amendments to be more difficult," January 10, 2013
- MichiganRadio.org,"Referendum campaign will try to block wolf hunts," January 14, 2013
- 2012 destroys 2011’s school bond money records, concerns mount, Jan 14, 2013
- School District Owes $1 Billion on $100 Million Loan, Dec 7, 2012
- California school districts face huge debt on risky bonds, Nov 28, 2012
- Daytona Beach News-Journal,"A constitutional measure all Floridians should back," January 15, 2013
- Baltimore Sun,"State leaders contemplate changes to referendum process," January 8, 2013