The Tuesday Count: Two initiatives added, one state initiative process flustered

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April 24, 2012

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Edited by Al Ortiz

Two states in the western part of the country have given even more of a boost to Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count. Alaska and California each had a hand in the elevation of the measure certification total, strengthening the count to 89 measures in 30 states for the year.

Starting with Alaska, a third 2012 measure was added to the state's ballot, this time via citizen initiative. The measure, a coastal management question, was not enacted by the Alaska Legislature by the end of session, sending it to the August 28 state primary election.

Even though it was categorized as a citizen initiative, the state of Alaska implements an indirect initiated state statute process. This means that if supporters collect enough signatures by their assigned deadline, that state's legislature can review the proposal and choose to enact similar legislation. If the lawmaking body chooses not to do so, the measure is then placed in front of voters.

Supporters had previously turned in 33,500 signatures on January 17, 2012, the day of the deadline, to the Alaska Division of Elections office. Their total amount of signatures submitted was about 7,000 more than they were required to obtain.

According to reports, if enacted, the initiative would establish a new coastal management program in the state. It was submitted to the Lieutenant Governor's office during the week of October 5, 2011 by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho and other supporters of the initiative. Specifically, the management program that would be established would be formally called the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program.

Alaska is the only coastal state in the country without a federal coastal management plan, according to reports. Coastal programs are established to guarantee state and local participation in federal decisions on coastal issues that could potentially surface.

Meanwhile, big developments are happening in the state of California regarding the other certification this week. Voters will chime in this November on a highly-controversial death penalty proposal, which is also being proposed through the ballot initiative process.

If approved, the initiative will end the death penalty in the state. Currently, California has 725 people on death row. If the death penalty repeal initiative is approved, their sentences will be changed to "life in prison without the possibility of parole."

These prisoners will also be required to seek jobs within the prison system, and their earnings will go to crime victims.

Supporters of the initiative submitted approximately 800,000 signatures to county election officials on March 1, 2012. Then, on April 23, 2012, the California Secretary of State announced that the initiative had qualified for the November 6, 2012 ballot.

"Show Me" the money?

Initiative news was not limited to ballot certifications this week. In Missouri, legal challenges have lead to bigger implications surrounding the state initiative process. On February 28, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetum struck down a law that directs the state auditor to prepare fiscal analysis for proposed ballot initiatives.[1]

According to reports, Beetem stated that the law was in violation of the Missouri Constitution. Specifically, the ruling stated that the 1997 statute conflicts with a constitutional provision that prohibits laws mandating the state auditor to perform duties unrelated to overseeing the spending and receiving of public money.

What was originally a challenge to a tobacco tax initiative has now grown into a statewide confusion of the initiative process. Events in the Show Me State took another twist this past week when Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich told his staff via e-mail to cease preparation of financial estimates of initiatives, directly because of the recent court ruling.

Two initiatives currently circulating have until May 6 to turn in petition signatures to be considered for the November ballot, however an ongoing appeal of the Cole County Circuit Court ruling may not be cleared up by then. One initiative would replace the state income tax with an expanded sales tax and other would limit payday loans.

Ballot initiatives must have the official financial summary included with submitted petition signatures, making it unclear as to what will happen to those proposals for the time being.

Stay tuned for more developments on this story as developments progress. Also next week, May 1, marks the petition drive deadline for the state of Idaho.

Featured campaign quotes:
Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support
Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system.[2]

Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition
State Representative Jason Murphey
When you take the governor out of [the parole] process [for non-violent crimes] the people of Oklahoma have no one to hold accountable...[2]

Quick hits

  • Illinois amendment targeting public pensions advances: On April 18, the State House passed the Public Pension Amendment on a vote of 113-0, thus passing it on to the Senate. The measure requires a 60% vote from the Senate to qualify for this year's ballot.[4]
  • Montana Supreme Court rules on de-certified ballot question: On Thursday, April 12, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a March decision to strike a Supreme Court Elections Question from the ballot, therefore keeping the measure off this year's June ballot. Senator Joe Balyeat is reportedly considering appealing the case to federal court, although it is probably too late to put the measure back on the ballot.[5]


Proposals with recent activity


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SPOTLIGHT:Clarkston residents upset over city not funding aquatic center
In the city of Clarkston, Washington, residents are up in arms with the city council for the alleged misuse of collected funds and their unwillingness to agree to a proposed petition, reports say.

In 2007 the city council voted to opt into and receive their share of a county wide sales tax of .3 percent. The collected money was supposed to go towards operational costs of the Asotin County Family Aquatic Center, but since its collection in 2008, the money has gone instead towards the city's general needs. Residents who allege that the city did not follow through with their commitment to support the aquatic center filed a petition and collected signatures for the issue to be put to a vote.

However, the city said that for the petition to be valid it had to be filed seven days after the ordinance was passed, which was several years ago. City officials noted that unless a judge says otherwise, they will not validate the petition. The issue is expected to head to court in the near future.

The City Mayor did note that a specific taxing district would be beneficial for the center and hoped an agreement could be made between the city and upset residents.[7]


Check back here for results from April 17, 2012's elections.
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One state has two casino gambling measures on the ballot this year. Which state is that? Click here to find out!
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BALLOT LAW UPDATE
California Senate Leader pushes I&R changes: Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) is backing a series of changes to the California Constitution, modifying the ballot measure process in California. In total, Steinberg endorsed three changes to the current process. The first would allow the legislature to submit statutes to voters with a simple majority vote of each chamber--the current requirement is a two-thirds majority vote. The change would allow lawmakers to submit tax increases to voters rather than trying to secure the supermajority needed to approve budgets through the ordinary legislative process.

The second would establish an indirect initiative process, and the third would permit lawmakers to repeal initiatives after 10 years. Steinberg implied that the current initiative process constitutes a "shadow government" where outdated initiatives linger for years after their approval, restricting the state's ability to address changing priorities.[8]

For Steinberg's proposals to take effect, they must be referred to voters by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, and then approved by a majority at the polls.

A new update will be released tomorrow, April 25, 2012. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard

References