The Tuesday Count: Two states add on to the count; health care issue reaches national stage
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Edited by Al Ortiz
Although there was a decertification this week, that didn't hold back the Tuesday Count from growing to 77 ballot measures in 28 states. Montana subtracted a measure from the ballot via legal challenge, while Georgia and Minnesota each chipped in by adding their own statewide proposals.
On November 23, 2011, a lawsuit to strike the Montana Supreme Court Elections Question from the June 5 primary election ballot was filed by a group state voters which reports say included a handful of 1972 Constitutional Convention delegates. According to the lawsuit, the measure would illegally amend the Montana Constitution. The lawsuit specifically stated: "The referendum is illegal, unconstitutional and void, in that it deprives (voters) of their right to vote for certain Supreme Court candidates."
On March 20, those who filed the lawsuit got their wish. Judge James Reynolds struck the measure from the ballot saying that adding the new candidate requirements for Supreme Court justices, those which required that candidates live inside proposed regional districts, conflict with what is already in the state constitution.
Requests by supporters to simply remove the offending language were denied, with Judge Reynolds saying, "Without clear judicial legislation, this court cannot rewrite the remaining parts of this referendum. To do so would entail completely rewriting the title, the ballot statement, the statements of implication, and the text of the referendum itself. There is no constitutional or statutory authority for such a revision." Reportedly, both sides expect an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, an amendment will appear on the ballot in November that would allow the state to set up charter schools. Sent to the ballot by the Georgia Legislature, the measure developed following a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court. The court ruled that the state's involvement in the establishment of public charter schools - the Georgia Charter School Commission - was unconstitutional. Specifically, the court ruled that the commission was illegal because it approved and funded charter schools despite objection by local school boards. For another major development regarding this measure, read the section of this report.
Minnesota legislators have been fast at work sending a second constitutional amendment to the statewide ballot after their May 2011 decision to refer a same-sex marriage measure to state voters. On Friday, March 23, the Minnesota Senate passed a voter identification amendment with a 36-30 vote. This action passed the amendment to the November ballot since the bill was previously approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives.
The proposal would require that all voters in the state show photo identification before voting. Legislation to enact similar laws without a constitutional amendment passed both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, but were vetoed by Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton.
|Featured campaign quotes:|
|Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support|
| Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
|Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition|
| State Representative Jason Murphey
However, since 2010, states across the union have seen opponents of the legislation fight back via statewide ballot measures, through both the legislature and by citizen initiative. These measures, proposed for statewide public votes and known as "health care freedom" measures, bar any rules or regulations that would mandate state residents to participate in a health-care system.
Given the historic implications of this week's events, here's a review of statewide ballot measures that were proposed or voted on since 2010:
- In 2010, four "health care freedom" measures were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma, with three being approved and the lone citizen initiative being defeated in Colorado.
- In 2011, one "health care freedom" measure made the ballot, this time in Ohio. The measure was approved with a vote of 65.63% to 34.37%. That measure was proposed via citizen initiative.
- The 2012 elections have yet to occur, but four measures are on the ballot regarding the national health care legislation. All four are legislative referrals.
- In all, since 2010, at least 17 states saw proposed measures that later failed to make the ballot. Note: not all measures categorized under "health care" pertain to the national legislation.
- UND hockey team takes the ice with no nickname for first time: Saturday, March 24, marked the first time the University of North Dakota men's hockey team played a game wearing jersey's bearing neither the 'Fighting Sioux' nickname nor the accompanying logo. Though this is the first sign of the NCAA's actions against the school have taken effect, the fight for the nickname is far form over. North Dakota Measure 4, a referendum on laws repealing the mandated use of the nickname, is set to appear on the state's June 12 ballot.
- Judge rules on part of challenge to Montana Taxpayer Dividend Measure: On Wednesday, March 14, Jeffrey Sherlock threw out one of the measure's opposing arguments, ruling that the ballot measure does not represent an illegal appropriation of money by ballot issue. However, the challenge to the measure is not over yet, Judge Sherlock still has to rule on whether or not the measure constitutes an illegal delegation of power.
- Georgia Senate approves bill for funding charter schools: On March 26, the Georgia Senate approved HB 797, sending it back to the House for final approval. The bill essentially creates a system for funding charter schools in the state, and also recreates the Georgia Charter Schools Commission. The bill is intended build on state laws regarding charter schools and will be mostly relevant if the Charter Schools Amendment passes the public vote in November.
|Proposals with recent activity|
SPOTLIGHT:School and city taxes dominate Missouri April election
Next week on April 3 in the state of Missouri an estimated twenty-three counties will hold elections. Those twenty-three counties are the sole counties, at this time, to have posted election information that will be voted on by residents. (See how Missouri counties fared in the most recent "County website election information" study)
According to those counties, there are twenty-two measures that relate to school bond and tax issues.
- Most notably, in the Joplin school district area, approval is being sought for a $62 million bond in order to help pay for tornado damaged facilities and to build a storm shelter for potential future disasters.
- In the St Joseph school district, they are asking for a bond in the amount of $42 million in order to allow for renovation projects in the district including building a new elementary school.
- In Christian County, a levy renewal and addition are being asked to further support the law enforcement services in the county. Opponents have noted the jail is only 10 years old and there should not be a need for additional money.
- Greene County is also seeking an additional tax for law enforcement services in the county, though this tax would increase the county sales tax rate by 1/8th of a percent.
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BALLOT LAW UPDATE
CA Court upholds recall signatures: On March 12, a California Superior Court allowed a recall election to move forward against a Shasta Lake city council member. The target of the recall had sued to block the election, alleging that a resident of another district assisted in the signature collection. California has an in-district residency requirement on the books for local signature campaigns. However, the judge held that, independent of the circulator's residency, the election should go forward. The judge noted that the circulator, not the signer, is accountable under California law. The in-district requirement is currently being challenged, and the state maintains that the law is not enforced.
- The full decision can be found here.
Ruling in Mukilteo Traffic Cam Case: On March 8, 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against a Mukilteo initiative aimed at blocking traffic enforcement cameras. The Mukilteo initiative qualified for the ballot and was approved by a large margin. However, a citizen's group (Mukilteo Citizens for Simple Government) challenged the initiative, arguing that the traffic camera program was not subject to the local initiative process. A lower court held that the case must wait until after the 2010 election--that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. The High Court ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs, arguing that the state statute authorizing the cameras gave local officials sole discretion over their use. The Court cited City of Sequim v. Malkasian which held that:
- A grant of power to a city's governing body... means exclusively the mayor and city council and not the electorate.
Prior to the ruling, the Mukilteo City Council chose to treat the question as advisory and remove the cameras voluntarily. The ruling is expected to apply to similar cases around the state.
| 2012 ballot measures|
|Tuesday Count • 2012 Scorecard|
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2010
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2011
- Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count for 2012
- 2012 ballot measures
- Local ballot measure elections in 2012
- Potential 2012 ballot measures
- Associated Press "No-name North Dakota? Banned from using Fighting Sioux, hockey team loses logo, nickname," March 22, 2012
- Billings Gazette "Judge throws out key argument in unions' effort to get issue off ballot," March 14, 2012
- Newnan Times-Herald "Charter school bill set for Senate debate today," March 26, 2012
- Associated Press "Senate OKs funding system for new charter schools," March 26, 2012
- Ballot Access News, "California Superior Court Says Signatures are Valid Even if Circulator Isn’t a Resident of that Jurisdiction," March 14, 2012
- The Seattle Times, "State Supreme Court: Local voters can’t ban red-light cameras," March 8, 2012