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Ballot Law Update: Semi-annual summary

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By Josh Altic

The first half of 2014 has seen a wide range of changes and attempted changes to ballot law across the nation, with some proposed laws seeking to expand the initiative and referendum process and others attempting to restrict it. For example, legislators in Georgia and eight other states proposed laws that sought to establish the power and process of initiative and referendum in state constitutions. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a controversial law proposed mandating that voters periodically reapprove any initiative or referendum that directs public expenditures or appropriations.

So far this year, state lawmakers have seen at least 113 laws concerning ballot measures during 2014's legislative sessions, of which 67 were carried over from 2013.

As of June 27, 2014, seven laws were approved and 33 were defeated.

This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a half-year roundup of laws, resolutions and bills concerning ballot measure and recall law. It highlights the laws that have been approved and defeated, as well as laws that could entirely change the dynamic of direct democracy on a statewide level.

The Ballot Law Update is released at the end of each month.


Ballot measure legislation breaking news

The Tuesday Count: Hot-button issues resurfacing on future ballots

Edited by Brittany Clingen

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Only two weeks have passed since the November 4 general election, and already, activists across the country are resurrecting issues from 2014 ballots and gearing up for new campaigns in 2015 and 2016. Marijuana, firearms and fracking all featured prominently on statewide and local ballots in 2014. If supporters can successfully land more of these measures on the ballot, future election cycles are bound to be just as, if not more, contentious, especially given that 2016 is a presidential election year.

Marijuana and firearms measures poised to appear on Nevada 2016 ballot:
After voters passed recreational marijuana measures in Oregon and Alaska, activists wasted no time mobilizing another campaign for 2016, this time in Nevada. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, which is officially supporting the measure, turned in over 200,000 signatures - approximately 98,000 more than the 101,667 required - by the November 11 deadline. If the measure appears on the 2016 ballot and is approved by voters, it would legalize one ounce or less of marijuana for recreational use for people who are at least 21 years old. The initiative would tax marijuana sales and allocate revenue from the tax to education.[1][2] Democrats in the Silver State are trying to persuade Republicans, who now maintain a trifecta in the state government, to pass recreational marijuana use via legislation in order to avoid a ballot measure on the topic. Democrats contend that a marijuana question on the 2016 ballot will draw herds of Democratic voters to the polls, bolstering blue candidates' chances of success. If the legislature does not act on the issue, it will automatically be referred to voters as an initiated state statute in 2016.[2]

Those in favor of stricter background checks on gun purchasers are riding the coattails of Washington's successful I-594. The proposed Nevada measure shares some similarities with I-594, which was passed at the polls in November. Upon voter approval, Nevada's measure would require that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check. A licensed dealer may charge a "reasonable fee" for his or her service.[3] The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.[3] The group, Nevadans for Background Checks, turned in approximately 250,000 signatures by the deadline, according to Kayla Keller, a spokeswoman for the group. Only 101,667 valid signatures were required to put the measure before the legislature in 2015. If no legislative action is taken, the measure will ultimately go before voters in 2016.[4]

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