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The Tuesday Count: Primary elections foreshadow those in November

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August 5, 2014

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

4 certifications
129 measures for 2014



Certifications (News)
Healthcare (Quick hits)
Elections (Spotlight)

From divisive subjects to challenged ballot language, today's primary election ballot measures provide a preview of the contentious races to be seen this November, particularly in wake of this week's certifications. While tonight's results in Missouri and Michigan may not set the course nationwide, there are certainly several measures worth watching as potential barometers of what is to come in November.

Missouri's Amendment 1 is set to begin a what will likely be a long-term direct democracy conversation about agricultural policies in the age of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and other contemporary agricultural practices that have come under public scrutiny. Mandaotry GMO-labeling is already on the ballot in Oregon, as reported last week, and may be joined by a similar measure in Colorado, which submitted its petition signatures on Monday.

The contested wording on Missouri's Amendment 5 and Amendment 7 will certainly not be the last disputes about the language voters see at the polls. Measures in New York and Arkansas are also facing challenges regarding misleading language.

Meanwhile, civil rights are cropping up on more ballots. While Missourians will vote today on electronic privacy, New Jersey voters will be casting votes about the right to bail this November, following a vote by the New Jersey Assembly on Monday. Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, residents will be voting on a veto referendum regarding health benefits being given to any domestic partner of a city employee on Thursday.

Missouri
Michigan
New Jersey
Illinois

Certifications

Four additional measures have been certified for November statewide ballots, with one in Illinois, one in Missouri and two in New Jersey. The Illinois Millionaire Tax Increase for Education Question joins two other advisory questions on the fall ballot, bringing Illinois' total number of measures up to at least five, significantly more than the average one measure that has been standard for the past two decades. The advisory questions, which are nonbinding, are flanked by two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments that address suffrage and trials. It is still uncertain whether an initiated constitutional amendment, the Illinois Term Limits for Legislators Amendment, will become the sixth measure on Illinois' fall ballot. If the term limits measure does go before voters, it will be the first time Illinois residents have voted on a binding initiative since 1980.

In Missouri, the newly-certified Amendment 3 is the only initiated constitutional amendment to make the statewide ballot this year, out of 65 potential measures. If approved by voters, this measure would implement teacher performance evaluations that would be used to determine whether a teacher should be dismissed, retained, demoted or promoted. It would also prevent teachers from collectively bargaining over the terms of these evaluations.[1]

At least 156 potential legislatively-referred constitutional amendments were submitted during New Jersey's 2014 regular legislative session, however, only two measures were placed on the ballot by the state's deadline. One of the measures addresses criminal trials and, upon voter approval, would provide for pretrial detention of certain criminal defendants.[2] The second, which addresses the environment, would dedicate 6 percent of corporate business tax revenues to open space, farmland and historic preservation, if approved by voters in the fall. The tax allocation would last from 2016 to 2045. The amendment would also require that all natural resource damages and environmental fine revenues be allocated to underground storage tank programs and state-funded hazardous discharge cleanups.[3] The measure would end the current dedication of 4 percent of corporate business tax revenues to environmental programs.[3]

Elections

Voters in Missouri and Michigan will cast votes today on a total of six ballot measures. Michigan's single measure is a convoluted one that addresses taxes. If approved by voters, it would activate a package of legislatively approved bills that would do the following:[4][5]

  • Phase out the Personal Property Tax or PPT on industrial and commercial personal property.
  • Levy an Essential Services Assessment millage tax on industrial property that is exempted from the PPT.
  • Split the State Use Tax into two taxes, a State Share Tax and a Local Community Stabilization Share Tax.
  • Create a Local Community Stabilization Authority to administer the Local Community Stabilization Share Tax.
  • Replace the revenue local governments would lose without the PPT with revenue from the Local Community Stabilization Share Tax.
  • Replace some of the revenue the state government would lose with revenue from the Essential Services Assessment.

Missouri's five measures address a wide range of topics, including agriculture, firearms, taxes, the lottery and civil rights. The most contentious measure is Amendment 1, also known as the "Right-to-Farm" amendment. If approved by voters, the measure would explicitly guarantee farmers and ranchers the right to engage in their livelihoods and produce food for others. What exactly that means, however, has been a point of debate in the Missouri agricultural community.[6][7]

Supporters argue that all farmers and ranchers need protections due to out-of-state interests in restricting certain practices. Opponents have countered that the amendment will actually provide protections to large corporate and multinational agribusiness, and it will, in fact, make it harder for family farmers and ranchers to protect themselves from business interests. Amendment 1's broadly written language makes postulating possible outcomes difficult. If passed, it is likely what the "right-to-farm" means in Missouri will be decided in the courts.[8]The right-to-farm is currently protected from nuisance suits by Section 537.295 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. The other statewide measures up for a vote include:

Governor Jay Nixon (D), who has explicitly expressed his opposition toward at least two of the five amendments - Amendments 1 and 7 - placed the five legislatively-referred constitutional amendments on the August 5 primary ballot, leaving three others to be decided in November.[9][10][11]

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2014 Count
Number: 129 measures
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

Quick hits

  • State Medicaid program funding goes to 2016 California ballot: Medi-Cal, which ensures the appropriate use of California hospital fees that enable the state to receive federal funds for its Medicaid program, is now officially a matter for the voters to decide. On August 1, 2014, the initiative qualified for the 2016 ballot with 807,984 valid signatures, which was only 369 more than were required to get the issue on the ballot.[12] The federal government's Medicaid program helps pay for health care services provided to low-income patients. For a state to receive federal Medicaid funds, the state has to contribute a matching amount of its own money. In 2009, a new program was created such that California hospitals were required to pay a fee to help California obtain the available federal Medicaid funds. This program has resulted in the receipt of roughly $2 billion a year in additional federal money to Medi-Cal. If the initiative is approved by the state's voters, it will add language to the California Constitution to require voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program to ensure that California uses these funds for the intended purpose of supporting hospital care to Medi-Cal patients and helping to pay for healthcare for low-income children.
  • New York redistricting initiative stumbling over its ballot wording: The wording of New York's Proposal 1, which aims to create an "independent" redistricting commission is coming under fire as some critics say the commission should be more accurately called "bipartisan." While the intent of the measure appears to be a reduction in the partisanship of legislative redistricting, Common Cause and New York Public Interest Research Group said the ballot question should refer to the proposed redistricting commission as "bipartisan," not "independent," as the commission would be "chosen by self-interested legislative leaders."[13] Jesse Laymon, executive director of EffectiveNY, said he worried that the board would approve language that mirrors the rosy language of 2013's Proposal 1, which stirred a prominent controversy. He continued, "This year’s amendment on redistricting must not be a repeat."[14]
  • Ethics, transparency and term limits measure in Arkansas faces a lawsuit: While it may have the words ethics and transparency in its title, Arkansas Issue 3 is facing a lawsuit that claims its ballot language is neither. On August 1, 2014, Yvonne Rich, Frederick Scott and Kathleen Wikstrom filed a lawsuit against Issue 3 arguing the measure is misleading by telling voters it would set term limits when it will be extending already existing limits. Secretary of State Mark Martin's office stated its attorneys are reviewing the case.[15] The lawsuit asks the court to bar the secretary of state's office from counting or certifying any votes on the issue. It also alleges that mixing the term limits issue with the ethics measures of Issue 3 is "manifest fraud."[16]

Spotlight

First of many local marijuana decriminalization measures on the August 5 ballot in Michigan:

The first two of 18 local measures in Michigan to decriminalize marijuana will be decided on August 5, 2014. The attempts are being organized by the Safer Michigan Coalition, which has succeeded in passing 14 local marijuana measures since 2004. One is on the ballot in Hazel Park and the other in Oak Park.

Tim Beck, co-founder of the Safer Michigan Coalition, said, “Our goal is to create confusion and chaos between state and local laws so our legislators in Lansing with step up to the plate [sic] and do the will of the people. Ultimately there needs to be marijuana legalization like they have in Colorado, where it is legal and regulated.”[17]


Up North Live, "Marijuana activists working towards legalization in Michigan," January 30, 2014

Supporters of decriminalization argue that possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by consenting adults should not be illegal because it is not harmful and laws against it are not enforceable. They also argue that law enforcement should focus on more dangerous crimes and that any attempt to enforce marijuana prohibition is a waste of time. Beck said, "Its [sic] time for law enforcement and the court system to start dealing with real crime, with real victims; not harassing consenting adults for something that should not be a crime in the first place."[18]

Opponents argue that the wave of local decriminalization measures showing up across Michigan is futile, impotent and symbolic at best since the measures contradict state and federal laws outlawing marijuana. Many opponents argue that the energy and money put into these petitions could be put to better use for the communities in which the initiatives were proposed.[19]

Dave Coulter (D), mayor of Ferndale, a city that featured a similar decriminalization initiative in 2013, said, “My understanding is that state and federal drug laws can’t be changed at the local level. Ferndale has a history of local activism through symbolic statements like this and they certainly have their place, but in terms of effecting actual change at the city level, a focus on economic development and jobs, our neighborhoods and our schools will have a greater impact.”[19]

Many opponents of the initiative expect law enforcement officials to continue making arrests under state law despite approved local decriminalization initiatives. In Flint, one of the five cities in which decriminalization and marijuana-related measures were approved in 2012, law enforcement officials said that the vote was merely symbolic as police officers would continue to arrest marijuana users under state law.[20]

Chattanooga, Tennessee to vote on domestic partner benefits turned gay rights fight

Logo of Yes Chattanooga, the pro-ordinance campaign.

While Ordinance No. 12781 was designed to apply equally to the domestic partners of heterosexual workers and homosexual workers alike, the debate over the ordinance approved by the city council has been charged with all of the contention and activism surrounding LGBT rights issues. The ordinance will be appearing on the August 7, 2014 primary ballot due to a successful campaign to place it on the ballot as a veto referendum. The measure, if approved, would allow health benefits to be given to any domestic partner of a city employee. The ordinance also adds sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city's nondiscrimination policy.[21]

Yes Chattanooga, the campaign organization supporting the ordinance, says that the measure is simply an anti-discrimination measure that allows equality for all, including same-sex couples to whom marriage licences are not issued in the state of Tennessee. Some supporters of the ordinance see it as a way to create fairness for homosexual partners in the city workplace, making the referendum attempt targeting the ordinance an attack on LGBT people.[22]

Opponents, on the other hand, claim that their opposition is not about gay rights. Rather, they contest that unmarried couples, no matter their sexuality, should not be given health benefits. Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency, the organization who successfully referred the referendum to the ballot, stated:

Logo of It's Your Vote, Chattanooga, the anti-oridnance campaign.
A girlfriend is not the same as a wife. A boyfriend is not the same as a husband. If you don't believe it, just ask the girlfriend of the husband who has a wife. Marriage confers legal responsibilities. Girlfriends and boyfriends have no legal responsibilities. The ordinance, approved by City Council, dismisses marital status as a requirement for healthcare benefits and rewards those who have made no legal commitment with healthcare benefits. If city employees are married, their spouses should all receive healthcare benefits. This is equality. Granting the "live-in" girlfriend or boyfriend of a city employee the same benefits as a married spouse is reverse discrimination against the person who accepted responsibility and married. Equal Benefits should be reserved for people bearing equal, legally binding responsibilities. It is an American value that should be preserved.

[23]

—Citizens for Government Accountability [24]

Similar ordinances were passed in Knoxville and Collegedale, Tennessee. Unlike the Chattanooga ordinance, these city laws were not targeted by referendum efforts.[25]

See also

2014 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2014 Scorecard

References

  1. Missouri Secretary of State, "2014-024," accessed February 24, 2014
  2. New Jersey State Legislature, "Bills 2014-2015, Search by Subject," accessed June 17, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 New Jersey Legislature, "Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 84," accessed June 24, 2014
  4. Senate Fiscal Agency, "Ballot Proposal 14-1," accessed July 28, 2014
  5. Citizens Research Council of Michigan, "Statewide Ballot Issues: Proposal 2014-1," accessed July 15, 2014
  6. MyNWMO.com, "Lawmakers send 'right-to-farm' measure to 2014 ballot," May 15, 2013
  7. Open States, "Missouri 2013 Regular Session HJR 11," accessed May 26, 2014
  8. St. Louis Beacon, "Proposed 'right to farm' constitutional amendment likely to end up in court," June 17, 2013
  9. The Washington Times, "Nixon sets election dates for ballot measures," May 23, 2014
  10. The New York Times, "Missouri Weighs Unusual Addition to Its Constitution: Right to Farm," August 2, 2014
  11. PoliticMO, "Nixon opposes transportation tax ballot measure," June 2, 2014
  12. California Secretary of State, "Final Full Check Update - 08/01/14," accessed August 3, 2014
  13. WXXI News, "Redistricting Amendment Language Set, Critics Object," August 1, 2014
  14. Rochester Business Journal, "Coalition seeks neutral language for election redistricting language," July 29, 2014
  15. Associated Press, "Lawsuit asks to toss proposed amendment off ballot," August 2, 2014
  16. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "3 sue over term-limit amendment," August 2, 2014
  17. The Morning Sun, "Oak Park, Hazel Park among cities statewide targeted for pot decriminalization," March 18, 2014
  18. The Weed Blog, "12 Michigan Cities Targeted For Marijuana Ballot Proposals In 2014," April 3, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 C and G News, "Petition seeks to decriminalize marijuana use and possession," August 7, 2013 (timed out)
  20. Michigan Live, "Flint decriminalization of marijuana vote only 'symbolic;' arrests will continue, city says," November 8, 2012
  21. The Chattanoogan.com, "City Council Declines To Repeal Domestic Partners Ordinance; Voters To Have Say In August; Petition Group Hits Decision," January 7, 2014
  22. Times Free Press, "Chattanooga appeals judge's ruling that ballot wording stands on same-sex benefits referendum," July 8, 2014, archived July 10, 2014
  23. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  24. CGAT website, "FAQ on Ordinance 12718 and the referendum petition," archived July 11, 2014
  25. Yes Chattanooga website, accessed July 10, 2014