Edited by Ryan Byrne
Governor Jerry Brown (D) begrudgingly approved his party's desire to place an advisory question on the ballot related to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Gov. Brown did not sign the Amendment to Overturn Citizens United Ruling Question saying the legislature should not "clutter our ballots," but permitted the measure nonetheless due to the legislature's "commitment on this issue." Republicans, who universally voted against the measure in the legislature, argued that the measure "will waste taxpayer dollars but won’t change anything."
121 measures for 2014
Following California, as well as neighboring Washington, Oregonians may establish a top-two primary system in November. The Open Primary Initiative, coming six years after the failed Measure 65, would institute a primary system where all candidates are listed together, regardless of party affiliation, and the top two finishers advance to the general election.
Like top-two primary supporters in Oregon, North Dakota advocates of child custody reform are following the proverb "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Certified on July 21, the Parental Rights Initiative is expected to face a heated battle with proponents saying the issue is about equality between mothers and fathers and opponents arguing that the initiative is emphasizing parental rights over children's rights.
The nation's highest minimum wage is safe, at least until 2015. Seattle's $15 an hour minimum wage was being challenged by a veto referendum. However, the measure's supporters failed to submit enough valid signatures. In Oakland, the city council placed an initiative on the ballot designed to raise the hourly minimum wage to $12.25.
San Jose City lawmakers are concerned about the unintended consequences of 2012’s Measure B. Police officers are leaving the city’s police department because they have, according to San Jose Police Officers Association President Jim Unland, “the worst pension plan in the state.” City officials are looking to craft a ballot measure to soften some aspects of the pension reform ushered in under Measure B in an attempt to keep police officers from leaving.
Excepting California's advisory question, this week's measures all strike a sense of direct democracy nostalgia, and for good reason. Oregon and North Dakota's measures are both retries of previously defeated measures from 2008 and 2006, respectively. While not yet on the ballot, San Jose City may likewise be seeing some not-too-distant past on the ballot as its lawmakers deal with the aftermath of Measure B.
California, a state that has seen 1,216 ballot propositions since 1910, almost had a record low number of six propositions on the November ballot. On July 16, 2014, however, the number was boosted to seven, tying the ballot for the record low with 1916 and 2002. The ballot measure shattering the chances of a new record low is an equally rare advisory question with this being only the third one in the state's history. Known as Proposition 49 or the Overturn Citizens United Act, the legislatively-referred advisory referendum was pushed heavily by Democrats in the California Legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) approved the question for the ballot, but withheld his signature as a symbolic gesture. He said, "[W]e should not make it a habit to clutter our ballots with nonbinding measures as citizens rightfully assume that their votes are meant to have legal effect... Nevertheless, given the Legislature’s commitment on this issue, even to the point of calling for an unprecedented Article V constitutional convention, I am willing to allow this question to be placed before the voters."
The Sacramento Bee editorial board criticized the governor for not vetoing the bill, saying, "Gov. Jerry Brown had it exactly right – an advisory measure on overturning the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates of corporate cash into politics, will have no legal effect whatsoever and will only clutter the November ballot. But he should have taken the next logical step and vetoed Senate Bill 1272. Instead, he let it become law without his signature. That’s called trying to have it both ways – and that’s very disappointing." Loren Kaye of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education offered a more expansive critique on the legality of the referendum, noting, "Nowhere by the Constitution or laws of the state is the Legislature granted the authority to place an advisory measure on the statewide ballot." Citing American Federation of Labor v. Eu, a case invalidating citizen-initiated advisory referenda, Dan Walters likewise said that legislatively-referred advisory questions may be unconstitutional. However, there is no sign of an impeding lawsuit, at least not yet. Proposition 49, which is designed to garner congressional support for overturning Citizens United v. FEC, may be the largest vote on the controversial ruling since Colorado's Amendment 65 in 2012.
Across the 42nd parallel north, Oregonians will have the opportunity to follow in California's footsteps and adopt a top two-primary system or reject such system as they did in 2008. Backed by both Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and his opponent in the gubernatorial race, Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-4), the Open Primary Initiative would replace Republican and Democratic primaries with a single primary in which the first and second place winners, regardless of their political party affiliation, advance to the general election. The measure's certification was announced on July 15, 2014, after the secretary of state's office verified about 4,500 more signatures than required for a total of 91,716.
One additional initiative was certified for the ballot over the previous week. In North Dakota, the Parental Rights Initiative was approved for the November 4, 2014 ballot on July 21, 2014. The measure acquired 14,452 valid signatures. Returning for another fight after a defeated measure in 2006, proponents think they can win after a local victory in Walsh County. The 2014 initiative would create a legal presumption that each parent in a child custody case is fit to parent, unless “clear and convincing evidence” demonstrates otherwise. Jill Bjerke, the initiative's sponsoring committee chairperson, said that contemporary social norms disproportionately favor the mother over the father in child custody battles. She stated, "It's just the norm, right now, for Mom to get custody. And when that happens, Dad is cut out of the children's lives. Fathers are both extremely important to both girls and boys. And we want to have our children grow up with parts of both parents." Attorney Erica Shively said the law shouldn't be changed. She noted that the current statute places a stronger emphasis on children's rights relative to parental rights. She claimed, "[The initiative] puts the focus in the wrong place. Currently, the focus is on children in North Dakota. And, it basically says we need to look at what's best for them, not for the parents. And it changes that focus to whether or not a parent is fit or unfit. There's many wonderful parents out there where there's not equal residential responsibility because it's not something that works for the child in that scenario."
| 2014 Count
|| 121 measures
|| Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, 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