By Josh Altic
This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a year-end summary of legislation proposed in 2014 concerning laws governing the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. Of the 113 bills Ballotpedia tracked, 13 were approved in 5 states, while three were carried over to next year, and 97 were defeated. Some bills were introduced to establish or strengthen the powers of initiative, referendum and recall, while many others sought to restrict, direct, limit or decrease direct democracy.
This report also highlights some 2014 lawsuits that could have an impact on ballot law and lists all court cases filed against 2014 statewide ballot measures and select local measures.
Ballot measure legislation breaking news
Edited by Ryan Byrne
Debates over who should govern public schools, from elementary to postsecondary institutions, are heating up in South Dakota and Georgia. In 2016, South Dakotans will decide whether the Board of Regents should be prohibited from governing technical institutes. In Georgia, a controversial plan to give the state authority over failing public schools is speeding toward the 2016 ballot, but still needs to make it through the Georgia House of Representatives. Out west, supervisors in Lassen and Lake County, California, are seeking voter opinion on forming a new state, Jefferson, and Santa Monica voters might get a question about funding affordable housing.
Education issues on the ballot in South Dakota and one step closer to the ballot in Georgia:
Governing South Dakota's public higher education institutions, according to Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave (R-25), should not be the sole job of the Board of Regents. Rather, Rave believes that technical institutes should have their own distinct governing bodies. This idea is behind the South Dakota Governing Technical Education Institutes Amendment, which will be on the November 8, 2016, ballot. Since the North Dakota Constitution is quiet on technical institutes, the issue of who governs them has been simmering for years. Currently, technical schools are governed by local school boards, although there is no constitutional basis preventing the regents from overtaking the schools. Rep. Mark Mickelson (R-13), who sponsored the amendment in the legislature, stated, "It kind of guarantees them, we’ll call it constitutional independence." While some officials expressed reservations about the amendment, it was approved with little debate. Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27) was the only legislator to vote against the amendment in either legislative chamber.
A more contentious measure, which is likely to stoke a fiery debate in Georgia, is moving through the legislature, with a final vote set for the full Georgia House of Representatives. Heralded by Gov. Deal (R) as "rescuing children" from a cycle of poverty, the ballot measure would establish an Opportunity School District (OSD) agency, whose head would report directly to the governor. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the OSD is modeled after the Recovery School District in Louisiana. The amendment would allow the OSD to take over "failing schools" and implement four possible intervention models, from directly governing the school to transforming the school into a charter school to shutting the school down completely. The Georgia Association of Educators and the Georgia Parent‑Teacher Association oppose the amendment. A two-thirds majority required is required in the state House to place the measure before voters in 2016.