The Tuesday Count: Voters in Arkansas have chance to forbid dry alcohol jurisdictions
Edited by Ryan Byrne
The 2014 ballot is shaping up to have a number of issues related to state power versus local power. Arkansas is no exception. The state is one of ten that currently allow local governments to determine the legality of alcohol sales, manufacturing and transportation within their jurisdictions. The recently certified Alcoholic Beverage Initiative would disempower local governments from determining the legality of alcohol sales, thus permitting alcohol throughout the state.
Meanwhile, California may roll back a 1998 initiative known as Proposition 227. State law, however, doesn't allow legislative tampering of citizen-initiated statutes without the approval of voters. If Gov. Brown (D) signs the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act, it will appear on the 2016 ballot. In Michigan, the legislature approved an indirect initiative that dealt a blow to an already certified measure. Now, Michiganders will vote on two veto referendums, but neither one will affect policy. In Illinois, Bruce Rauner's (R) attempt to get a Term Limits for Legislators Amendment on the ballot has come to a close, with the State Board of Elections issuing the official November ballot without the ballot question.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the mayor vetoed a ballot measure that would have allowed voters to decide whether marijuana should be decriminalized within the city. To do so, Mayor Berry (R) had to veto multiple ballot measures, some of which he supported.
Arkansans will have the chance to legalize the sale, manufacture, distribution and transportation of alcohol statewide in November. Currently, counties and municipalities have the ability to ban the sale of alcohol within their jurisdictions. As of 2014, 37 counties are dry and 38 are wet or mixed. A mixed county is one where the county is wet, but at least one municipality within the county is dry. Arkansas is one of ten states that currently allow dry counties.
The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, now officially known as Issue 4, was certified for the ballot on August 29, 2014. The measure joins three legislatively-referred constitutional amendments on the ballot. Of the 127,265 signatures submitted to the secretary of state's office, 87,102 of them were deemed valid. Responding to the news, David Couch, chairperson of Let Arkansas Decide, said, "We expect to run a full campaign on the issue." Let Arkansas Decide, the campaign organization sponsoring the amendment, hired about 100 paid petitioners and National Ballot Access to collect signatures. Earlier in 2014, Let Local Communities Decide For Themselves, the campaign group opposing the amendment, asked the secretary of state's office to stop accepting further petition forms from supporters. They argued that the first batch of signatures should have been filed on July 4, not July 7. Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) defended the signature filing deadline. July 7, after all, was the first business day after July 4, a federal holiday.
The Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association is against Issue 4. The group is partially responsible for the development of the opposition campaign organization Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves. The association is concerned that competition from businesses, especially larger firms like Walmart, will impact current businesses "significantly." David Couch said the association doesn't really care about letting local communities decide, but only about protecting their members from competition. He said, "The group should disclose who they really are and that their real purpose is that they want to protect their profits."
Public Policy Polling found a slim majority of citizens support the initiated constitutional amendment. The poll showed that most of those in favor of the measure are under the age of 45. A Chism Strategies poll found support to be three points less. While 49 percent support Issue 4, 32 percent oppose the issue. About 20 percent felt neutral or unsure about the measure.
Let Arkansas Decide has already raised $110,000, while Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves has received $1,000. Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves, however, has only been around for one month, and Let Arkansas Decide has spent the majority of their contributions on signature gathering. As of August 2014, it's difficult to predict who will have a financial advantage in the next few weeks.
|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|
- Multilingual education act may appear on the 2016 ballot in California: Both chambers of the California Legislature approved Senate Bill 1174, also known as the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act, during the last week of August. The act needs the governor's signature in order to make the 2016 ballot. Typically, a state statute doesn't need to go on the ballot in California. However, SB 1174 repeals part of the 1998 Proposition 227. State law requires that any legislative tampering to an approved initiative must be placed before voters. SB 1174 would essentially allow non-English languages to be used in public educational instruction. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-33), the measure's legislative sponsor, said the measure is intended to make multilingual education more accessible and create a workforce with the language skills required for the 21st century. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the current law has increased the state's academic performance, especially amongst immigrants.
- Citizens will vote on moot hunting referendums in Michigan: Michigan's two anti-wolf hunting veto referendums won't change policy, even if they are approved in November. After the Michigan Legislature passed a statute to allow wolf hunting, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected collected signatures and got the Wolf Hunting Referendum placed on the ballot. The legislature then passed Senate Bill 288, rending the referendum moot. Keep Michigan Wolves Protected didn't give up, however. The group collected more signatures and got a second referendum - the Natural Resources Commission Referendum - placed on the ballot. Supporters of the wolf hunt then sent an indirect initiated state statute to the legislature, which approved it on August 27, 2014. Thus, the pro-wolf hunt Natural Resources Commission Initiative rendered the anti-wolf hunt Natural Resources Commission Referendum moot and merely symbolic. Thus, the current status of wolf hunting law in Michigan is that wolf hunting is legal, and will remain legal through the 2014 election.
- Illinois legislators don't have to fret about term limits this year: The Cook County Circuit Court and Illinois First District Appellate Court have both ruled the Term Limits for Legislators Amendment unconstitutional. Bruce Rauner (R), who sponsored the amendment and is running for governor, asked the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the issue quickly. The court rejected his request. The State Board of Elections went ahead and issued the official November ballot without the amendment. The measure would have established eight-year term limits for legislators, reduced the size of the Senate from 59 to 41, increased the size of the House from 118 to 123 and required a two-thirds majority vote in both houses for the legislature to override a governor’s veto.
In a controversial and historic move, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry vetoes marijuana decriminalization measure:
In a roller coaster of signature petitions, city council votes and executive overrides, an Albuquerque marijuana decriminalization measure ends up on the scrap-pile through a mayoral veto, the first veto used to prevent a ballot measure in the history of Albuquerque.
Supporters of a marijuana decriminalization measure tried and failed to collect enough signatures to qualify their initiative for the ballot. The Albuquerque City Council, however, voted on the issue anyway and approved the measure for the November 4, 2014, election ballot with a vote of five against four. The measure was designed to make it merely a civil infraction to possess an ounce or less of marijuana. The maximum penalty that could be imposed for such a violation would be $25. Without this measure, the penalty remains a $50 fine and up to two weeks in jail for a first offense, with the penalty increasing upon multiple offenses.
This issue stirred political debate in the statewide arena and, with candidates speaking out on opposite sides concerning this measure and the similar local initiative in Santa Fe, marijuana will likely be a hot-button issue in the New Mexico gubernatorial race. Current Gov. Susana Martinez (R) - the incumbent in the state's upcoming gubernatorial race - has come out against decriminalization efforts, especially local efforts that put city laws at odds with federal law. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King, however, approves of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
King said, "Its inappropriate for small amounts of marijuana to be putting people in prison."
Martinez said, "It is against the law, federally, and, therefore, it is also against the law in New Mexico and I think it is the way it should be and the penalties are appropriate."
Mayor Richard J. Berry, City of Albuquerque, Veto Message for R-14-91
With public support for lightening penalties for marijuana use - or eliminating them all together - on the rise, this measure seemed like an easy victory for marijuana activists. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry (R), however, had other ideas. On August 29, he signed an order, which was the first of its kind in Albuquerque history, to veto this measure, along with the other four measures that were connected in the city council's legislative package. Although the marijuana measure and a measure seeking a tax increase for social services were the main sources of Berry's displeasure with the council's decision, he was unable to veto parts of the council's bundled resolution and was forced to put a stop to the whole thing. The city council could overrule Berry's veto with a six-three vote at its next meeting, but this seems unlikely since the original resolution only passed with a five-to-four majority. Mayor Berry's action was the first veto of an election resolution in the history of New Mexico.
Berry said, "It is disappointing that I have been put into a position to have to veto an entire bill that includes a number of provisions that I support simply because certain members of the City Council voted to include last minute provisions that lack detail and/or circumvent state and federal law." He continued "While I am supportive of the bill as originally drafted, and fully support sending many of the measures to voters for their consideration, I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that would impose a tax increase on the people of Albuquerque without any specific plan as to how the taxpayer resources would be spent or a bill that flies in the face of state and federal law as it pertains to illegal drugs."
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- Attorney General of Arkansas, "Opinion No. 2014-049," May 19, 2014
- Arkansas Business, "Alcohol Amendment Will Be on November Ballot," August 29, 2014
- Los Angeles Times, "Lawmakers move to scrap English-only instruction," August 26, 2014
- MLive, "Wolf hunt law approved by Michigan House after heated debate, Capitol protest," August 28, 2014
- Merced Sun-Star, "Rauner dealt double blows over Illinois ballot," August 22, 2014 (dead link)
- San Francisco Chronicle, "Albuquerque mayor vetoes marijuana ballot measure," August 29, 2014
- KTBS CW 21, "Mixed opinions on Arkansas statewide alcohol sales," June 17, 2014
- Washington Post, "Where in the United States you can’t purchase alcohol," September 2, 2014
- The Baxter Bulletin, "Bid to end dry counties in Ark. on ballot," August 31, 2014
- Hope Star, "Who is 'Let Arkansas Decide'?" June 9, 2014
- Arkansas News, "Group pushing for statewide alcohol sales submits more signatures," August 15, 2014
- Times Record, "Election 2014: Secretary Of State Defends Filing Deadline For Petitions," July 22, 2014
- KATV, "Beverage retailers group trying to keep state alcohol sales off the ballot," July 22, 2014
- 5 News, "Poll Suggests Majority Of Arkansans Support Legalizing Alcohol Sales," August 11, 2014
- Arkansas Times, "Polling the alcohol question — and the U.S. Senate race," July 31, 2014
- Arkansas Ethics Commission, "Let Arkansas Decide! Financial Report," August 15, 2014
- Arkansas Ethics Commission, "Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves Financial Report," August 15, 2014 (dead link)
- Southern California Public Radio, "New bill seeks to ask voters to legalize bilingual education in California," February 21, 2014
- Education Week, "Calif. Bill Would Repeal Bilingual-Education Restrictions," March 4, 2014
- Los Angeles Times, "Should California reinstate bilingual education?," February 28, 2014
- MLive, "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected launching second petition drive after new law blocked original effort," July 2, 2013
- The Chicago Tribune, "Remap group pulls plug after judge's ruling," June 27, 2014
- Chicago Tribune, "Rauner loses another round in term limit referendum bid," August 20, 2014
- The State Journal-Register, "Illinois term limit supporters halfway to 2014 ballot," November 21, 2013
- KOB4, "Albuquerque mayor vetoes pot decriminalization ballot proposal," August 29, 2014
- News Channel Ten, "Albuquerque ballot measure on marijuana advances," August 19, 2014
- ProgressNow NM website, "Gary King and Susana Martinez Square Off on Marijuana Policy. Who’s on your side?," August 22, 2014
- Drug Policy, "New Poll Shows New Mexico's Growing Momentum for Marijuana Policy Reform," accessed September 2, 2014
- New Mexico In Focus, "Episode 807: Marijuana Penalties Latest," August 22, 2014