The Tuesday Count: Record number of measures headed to New York ballots

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June 25, 2013

Edited by Brittany Clingen

Tuesday Count Lineup:

8 certifications
20 measures for 2013

Topics featured in this report

Gambling(News)
Abortion(Quick Hits)
Affirmative Action(Law)

New York Casino Gambling Amendment (2013)
New York lawmakers had a busy week certifying a total of eight measures for the ballot, including six for 2013 and two for 2014. The six legislatively-referred constitutional amendments certified for the 2013 ballot vary greatly in subject matter. Perhaps the most controversial measure will ask voters whether or not to permit up to seven casinos to open shop in upstate New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has been a staunch supporter of the measure, even suggesting that lawmakers delay a public vote on the issue to prevent it from appearing on the ballot in 2013, an off year that will likely produce low voter turnout. However, the legislature proceeded with the vote, and the New York Casino Gambling Amendment will go to voters in 2013, though not before exorbitant amounts of money are likely spent on ads for and against the measure.[1][2]

Two other measures concern land assignments. The first addresses a long-standing disagreement between the state and landowners regarding more than 200 lots in Long Lake, New York. If passed, the amendment would allow private citizens to retain the land, and the government would buy other property for a net profit. The second land measure would allow NYCO Minerals to extend the reach of its Lewis mine by 200 acres into the neighboring preserve in order to mine wollastonite. In return, 1,500 acres would be added to the Jay Mountain Wilderness and Taylor Pond Wild Forest, both preserves in the Adirondack region.[3][4][5]

The two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments approved for the 2014 ballot include one that would create an independent panel to draw district lines every ten years and another that would introduce copies of bills electronically, as opposed to on paper. The state has not seen this many legislatively-referred constitutional amendments certified for the ballot during a legislative session since 1995. "The legislature has proven more willing to pass constitutional amendments under Governor Cuomo than they were under his predecessors," said Bill Mahoney, research coordinator for NYPIRG.[1]

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2014 Count
Number: 36 measures
States: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Michigan, Montana Nevada, New York, Tennessee, and Wyoming

North Dakota has received significant media attention as a result of its stringent new laws regarding abortion - laws that have made it the most restrictive state in the country on the issue. Pro-choice activists responded with three veto referendums, hoping to give voters the final say on the legislation. However, all three petitions failed to receive the 13,452 signatures required to move the measures forward. Supporters of the referendums claimed that Secretary of State Al Jaeger, by "nitpicking" over grammar and spacing, intentionally dragged out the process of certifying the petitions for circulation, thereby leaving supporters with less time to collect signatures. However, Jaeger has pointed out that all the rules regarding petitions and their proper format are laid out within the state laws.[6]

Quick hits

Measure banning automatic insurance coverage of abortions gets green-light to start collecting signatures: On May 22, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved the form of the petitions of a measure related to abortion coverage in the state. If enacted, this measure would prohibit health insurance plans from covering abortions unless individuals purchase a supplemental policy. Because the measure is an indirect initiated state statute, once enough signatures are gathered the state legislature has the option of passing the law without a public vote and without risking a veto from the governor. Despite the fact that the group sponsoring the measure is called No Taxes for Abortion Insurance, the measure would require the purchase of an optional rider for both private and public health insurance plans. Supporters say that the proposal is good public policy because customers should not have to pay for abortion coverage if they object to the procedure. Opponents argue that the law would reduce the options available to women because of the requirement that the rider be purchased before a pregnancy occurs. In order to place the measure on the November 2014 ballot, supporters are required to collect a minimum of 258,088 valid signatures by May 28, 2014.[7]

Group begins circulating signatures in an effort to repeal Ohio's ban on storefront sweepstakes parlors: On Friday, June 21, the Ohio Ballot Board approved petitions calling for a veto referendum on House Bill 7. The law was originally passed in order to curtail the activities of some 620 Internet cafes operating throughout the state. Supporters of the bill say that these cafes were harboring illegal gambling. The campaign to repeal the bill is being sponsored by Committee to Protect Ohio Jobs. The group wants the law overturned in order to force legislators to pass new regulations on the industry. The group has until September 3 of this year to gather the 231,000 signatures needed to call a public vote on the bill.[8]

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Spotlight

Cincinnati city manager signs $92 million parking privatization contract despite council discouragement and over 12,000 signatures in opposition

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Earlier this month city manager Milton Dohoney signed a contract privatizing much of the city's parking. Moreover, he did this in the face of disapproval from most city council members and an ongoing court case over an abundantly successful petition drive in opposition.[9]

Early in March, the Cincinnati City Council passed an emergency ordinance allowing a 30 year, $92 million contract with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, in which the Development Authority will take charge of managing much of the parking in the city. This move towards privatization of city parking met with much opposition, and a petition drive to put the ordinance to a vote in the November election was quickly organized. In April, just a little over a month after the ordinance was approved in the City Council, petitioners turned in 12,446 valid signatures, which is nearly 4,000 more than the 8,552 required to initiate a referendum.[10][11][12].

When this ordinance was brought to court, the alleged right of the citizens to vote on this issue, despite the "emergency status" approved by city council members, was upheld by Judge Robert C. Winkler of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, who wrote, “The city charter does not specifically exempt emergency legislation from the powers reserved to the people." But now the fate of the November referendum is being decided in Appellate Court, as the city tries once more to keep the measure off of the ballot. Meanwhile, as the city awaits the judicial decision on the appeal, City Manager Dohoney signed the contract authorized by the controversial ordinance, even though this contract may be overturned by voters in November, provided the appeals court decides to uphold the decision to place the measure on the ballot. Dohoney also faced opposition from many council members who now want to either repeal or alter the ordinance that they earlier approved.[9]

Although many city council members have changed their position on this ordinance since their approval of it in March, Dohoney, Mayor Mark Mallory and other ordinance supporters defend the contract, arguing that it is necessary to help balance the $35 million city budget deficit, prevent hundreds of police and fire lay-offs, and allow for major redevelopment projects. Mallory said of the petition effort when it began, "Anyone who signs the opponents’ petitions is essentially signing a pink slip for a police officer or firefighter."[13][11]

Opponents of the Ordinance, who are in favor of the referendum against the ordinance, argue that the city should be able to balance its budget without cutting services and without depending on this parking contract. They also argue that the proposed redevelopment projects that may be funded by money from the parking contract are unnecessary and should be done by the private sector, not by public funds.[11]

For more information about this measure and to see election results when they are reported follow Ballotpedia's coverage of this referendum petition.


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Ballot Law Update

Fight brewing over new signature requirements in Arizona: According to reports, opponents of Arizona's recently passed House Bill 2305 are meeting to discuss plans for preventing the law from taking effect. The law effectively makes it more difficult for Democratic and third-party candidates to achieve ballot access, while making it easier on Republican candidates. The bill does this by calculating signature requirements as a percentage of the total number of voters registered in a given district, as opposed to the current method, which is based on the number of registered voters of a given party. The bill also includes increased restrictions on the initiative process, ballot collection and the early-voting list. Supporters claim that the bill makes the election process fairer because it requires all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to meet the same signature threshold. Reports indicate that opponents are discussing a referendum on the law in 2014 as a potential strategy for stopping it.[14]

Recent court ruling sends signals about upcoming decision on Michigan's Proposal 2 from 2006: On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 7 to 1 in the case of Fisher Vs. University of Texas that universities have to show compelling evidence to justify the use of affirmative action in their enrollment decision processes. Though this case does not directly affect Proposal 2, some legal experts believe it could show a willingness of the court to allow such voter initiatives. Kevin Saunders, a law professor at Michigan State University, said, "This ruling may indicate a reluctance by the majority of the court to allow the overturning of Prop 2 to stand."[15]

A new update will be released at the end of the month. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References