The Tuesday Count: Tax and hunting measures to appear on 2014 ballot

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March 11, 2014

Edited by Brittany Clingen

Tuesday Count Lineup:

2 certifications
61 measures for 2014


Topics featured in this report:

Certifications (News)
Gambling (Quick hits)
Pensions (Spotlight)

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Two additional measures have been certified for statewide ballots in 2014, bringing the total count to 61. In West Virginia, the legislature referred a tax-related amendment to the ballot. If this measure is approved by voters in November, it would exempt properties owned by nonprofit youth organizations that are used for "adventure, educational or recreational activities for young people and others" and that were constructed for no more than $100 million from property taxation. The measure would also permit a nonprofit property to be leased or used to generate revenue and still be exempted from property taxation.[1]

The proposed amendment was, in part, encouraged by the Boy Scouts' Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. Dan McCarthy, the reserve’s director, called the amendment a “win-win.” He said, “When the Boy Scouts started talking to the state of West Virginia seriously, part of the commitment was using the site as a venue for the state where large events could be held. We realized this was a facility unlike any other in the state.” He noted that, in West Virginia, the organization could lose their tax-exempt status if they leased their property. He continued, “If someone came to us and asked us, 'We would like to host a concert in your stadium,' we would have to say 'No, we can't do that,' because then the property tax would come to us.”[2] However, not everyone sees the measure as a "win-win." Rep. David Perry (D-32) expressed concerns about the amendment, saying, “We are very excited about the continued development of the Boy Scout adventure camp, which holds great economic and tourism potential for Southern West Virginia. But we were concerned that a tax-exempt entity like the Boy Scouts could profit at the expense of our local businesses.”[2]

A contentious battle is brewing in Maine, following the certification of an initiative seeking to ban certain techniques used in bear hunting, including using bait, dogs and traps. As addressed in a previous report, this measure has the potential to initiate an expensive campaign effort, in part because of the Humane Society of the United States's support of the initiative.[3] The measure's outcome is likely to be watched closely by other states hoping to enact similar laws. David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, one of the measure's opponents, said, "I think it would start a ripple effect and create momentum in other states because the Humane Society of the United States would be emboldened by winning here ... where hunting and wildlife management are so ingrained in our culture."[4]

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2014 Count
Number: 61 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming

Quick hits

Opponents hint at veto referendum on gender identity bill in Maryland: Opponents of the Maryland Gender Identity Discrimination Bill, which passed the Senate and is currently awaiting a vote in the House of Delegates, have hinted that they will attempt to put the measure on the ballot as a veto referendum if the bill is signed into law. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) stated that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Senate Bill 212, which adds "gender identity" to various state non-discrimination policies, would allow transgender people to use restrooms, dressing rooms and showers based on their preferred gender identities, according to opponents.[5] Bill proponents, like Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20), say that the bill does not apply to facilities where people disrobe, such as dressing rooms and showers, and that transgender people have been using bathrooms based on their identities for some time with no reported problems.[6] Veto referendum supporters would need to collect 18,579 valid signatures by May 31, 2014 and 37,157 valid signatures by June 30, 2014. Therefore, supporters would need to collect 55,736 valid signatures in total.[7]

Nebraska casino amendment not on the ballot, but horse race wagering may be: While the Nebraska Casino Gambling Amendment is not appearing on the general election ballot in November, another gambling amendment has been introduced in the Nebraska Senate, namely, the Horse Race Wagering Amendment.[8] Sponsored by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh (NP-18), the proposed amendment would allow for wagering or gambling on live, delayed or replayed horse races at licensed racetracks.[9] The Nebraska State Senate must pass the amendment by a 60% vote in order to place the proposed amendment on the ballot.

Montana Gov.'s U.S. Senate appointment inspires opponents to change method via initiative: James Brown, a legal counsel for the Montana Republican Party, is concerned about how Gov. Steve Bullock (D) appointed Lt. Gov. John Walsh (D) as U.S. Senator to fill the seat being vacated by Max Baucus (D) on February 7, 2014.[10] Brown said, “The recent appointment of Walsh as a senator with no input from the public or a vote prompted me to do this.”[11] Brown’s Special Elections for U.S. Senator Vacancies Initiative would require a special election for any vacancy in the office of U.S. Senator.[12] Proponents will need to collect 48,349 valid signatures by the June 20, 2014 deadline to get their initiative on the November ballot.

California senator wants the 1998 Proposition 227 repealed in 2016: California Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-33) is sponsoring the Bilingual Education Amendment, which would repeal the 1998 Proposition 227. By repealing Proposition 227, the proposed amendment would effectively allow non-English languages to be used in public educational instruction.[13] The proposed amendment is already seeing notable press coverage, even on national news networks like CNN, despite the fact that the amendment has yet to be placed on the ballot and will not appear on the upcoming 2014 general election ballot.[14] The potential measure would appear on the 2016 ballot in California, if approved by the state legislature.

Spotlight

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Phoenix Pension Reform Initiative proponents face a Friday, March 14, deadline to turn in signatures:

The Phoenix group Citizens for Pension Reform will turn in its petition forms this week, hoping they contain the 25,480 valid signatures required at the very least to put an initiative drastically reforming the Phoenix public pension system on the ballot. The Pew Charitable Trust did a study in 2009 that estimated the Phoenix public employee retirement system had $5.115 billion in debt and that $1.399 billion of this fund was not backed by city assets, leaving the retirement fund only 73% solvent.[15] The city of Phoenix 2013 Actuarial Value Report showed that the unfunded liabilities of the city's pension system had grown to $1.5 billion, with the system having plummeted to 56% funding.[16] Moreover, the pension costs of the city have risen by 40% since 2011, resulting in a 2013 payment of $253 million.[17][18] The proposed initiative seeks to change the city's retirement system from a defined benefit system, in which retirees are guaranteed payments despite investment performance, to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan, in which the city contributes a set amount, and the retiree's benefits depend on his or her own contributions and investment performance. It would also take steps to put a stop to pension spiking by implementing limits on the pension benefits available to current employees.[16][19]

Follow Ballotpedia's article on the Phoenix Pension Reform Act to see whether it qualifies for the ballot.

Pending two Circuit Court decisions, Oregon could feature four county initiatives seeking to ban GMOs in 2014:

Despite Senate Bill 863, seeking to put a stop to local ordinances regulating seed production and agriculture, activists in Benton and Lane counties are continuing their court battles, attempting to win the right to move forward with the Lane County and Benton County Local Food System Ordinance initiatives. Both initiatives seek to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms, and both initiatives were rejected by the respective county clerks on the grounds of being too broad and violating the single subject rule, triggering the current court cases.

Final arguments were submitted on February 27, 2014 in Lane County Circuit Court after Judge Charles Carlson gave a preliminary ruling that was favorable for the Lane County initiative. A final court ruling is expected within the next week or two.[20][21]Ann Kneeland, spokesperson for Support Local Food Rights, the group behind the Lane County initiative, defended the initiative, identifying the unifying principle of the ordinance as “obtaining and protecting a natural community.” She went on to say, “All the provisions in the ordinance advance that goal."[21]

The Benton County Community Rights Coalition, which is behind the Benton County GMO ban effort, won a preliminary victory on January 31, 2014, and is also awaiting a final ruling from Benton County Circuit Court Judge Locke Williams.[22]

If both groups of petitioners win their court cases, they will begin collecting signatures and could join Jackson County and Josephine County activists in putting ballot measures before voters, albeit later in the year than the two measures in Rogue Valley, which are slated for the May 20, 2014 election ballot.

Jackson County GMO ban features hefty war chests on both sides, with the opposition outspending the proponents by more than two to one:

Total Jackson County Initiative campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of March 11, 2013
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $104,529
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $244,945

In Jackson County, where Measure 15-119, the Genetically Engineered Plant Ordinance, is already on the May 20, 2014 election ballot, the battle over GMOs is heating up exponentially. Campaigns on both sides of the issue have collected triple figures, with contributions from opponents of the measure outweighing supporting donations by more than two to one. Moreover, two months still remain until the election. In the last even-year May election, Jackson County ballot measures garnered votes from a total of just over 35,000 residents. Even if this number expands in 2014 because of the contention surrounding GMOs, the sum of campaign contributions on both sides of Measure 15-119 - amounting to $349,474 so far and likely to grow as the election approaches - could easily equal over $10 per vote by Election Day on May 20, 2014.

The two action committees in support of Measure 15-119 are GMO Free Jackson County and Our Family Farms Coalition. As of March 11, 2014, the total contributions made to these two PACs amounted to $104,529, with expenditures totaling $35,524.[23][24] While the PAC formed in opposition to Measure 15-119, called the Good Neighbor Farmers committee, had received a total of $244,945 in contributions and had made expenditures of $90,611 by the same date. Contributions to the Good Neighbor Farmers committee have mainly come from various farm bureaus and out-of-state sugar beet companies.[25]

See also

2014 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2014 Scorecard

References

  1. West Virginia Legislature, "House Joint Resolution No. 108 Text," accessed February 26, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Charleston Daily Mail, "Resolution for Boy Scouts moves forward," March 2, 2014
  3. Portland Press Herald, "Bear baiting question may be back on Maine ballot," February 4, 2014
  4. Portland Press Herald, "Maine bid to outlaw bear baiting will be in national spotlight," March 7, 2014
  5. The Bay Net, "Maryland Senate passes transgender 'bathroom bill'," March 6, 2014
  6. Washington Post, "Maryland Senate passes bill banning discrimination against transgender people," March 4, 2014
  7. Maryland State Board of Elections, "2014 Statewide Referendum Petition Filing," accessed March 6, 2014
  8. Beaumont Enterprise, "Nebraska proposal to expand horse racing advances," March 5, 2014
  9. Nebraska Legislature, "Legislative Resolution 41CA," accessed March 6, 2014
  10. Washington Post, "Montana governor appoints Lt. Gov. John Walsh to Senate," February 7, 2014
  11. Great Falls Tribune, "Montana attorney submits initiative to fill Senate vacancies by special election," March 5, 2014
  12. Montana Secretary of State, "2014 Proposed Ballot Issues," accessed March 6, 2014
  13. Southern California Public Radio, "New bill seeks to ask voters to legalize bilingual education in California," February 21, 2014
  14. CNN, "Why this bilingual education ban should have repealed long ago," March 4, 2014
  15. Pew Charitable Trusts, "Cities Squeezed by Pension and Retiree Healthcare Shortfalls," March, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 Phoenix Pension Pension Reform Act website
  17. Azcentral.com, "Phoenix pension ‘spiking’ rules vary for city employees," September 14, 2013
  18. Pew Charitable Trust, "A Widening gap in Cities," January, 2013
  19. Arizona Free Enterprise, "Stop Pension Abuse," accessed January 30, 2014
  20. Eugene Weekly, "Lane County Fight Continues Over GMOs," March 6, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 Growers for Biotechnology, "Lane County clerk rejects GMO initiative," July 24, 2014
  22. Corvallis Advocate, "Will Benton County Say No to GMOs?" February 13, 2014
  23. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, GMO Free Jackson County, accessed February 24, 2014
  24. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, Our Family Farms Coalition, accessed February 24, 2014
  25. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, Good Neighbor Farmers, accessed February 24, 2014