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The Ballotpedia News Update

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Ballotpedia News

The Ballotpedia News Update provides a list of the latest news articles on Ballotpedia about elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government, state policies, ballot measures and more. Use the tabs to navigate to specific weekly reports or news archives. Read more about Ballotpedia's areas of coverage here.


Clean sweep for school board incumbents in Los Angeles and Kansas primaries

By Abbey Smith

School Board badge.png

All the incumbents running in school board primary elections in California and Kansas on March 3, 2015, either advanced to the general election or won re-election to their seats outright. In the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education election, incumbents Tamar Galatzan, Bennett Kayser and Richard A. Vladovic from Districts 3, 5 and 7, respectively, won a spot in the general election on May 19, 2015. Challengers Scott Mark Schmerelson, Ref Rodriguez and Lydia Gutierrez also advanced to the general election. District 1 incumbent George J. McKenna III ran unopposed in the primary and won re-election to his seat.[1]

In Kansas, an incumbent and a former officeholder will be advancing to the Lawrence Public Schools general election on April 7, 2015. Incumbent Marcel Harmon and Mary Loveland, who has held a seat on the board twice before, defeated Kelly Spurgeon and Norine Spears in the race for the two-year term.[2]

No incumbents ran in the primary election for the at-large Position 7 seat on the Olathe Public Schools Board of Education. Candidates Joe Beveridge and Robyn Essex defeated Scott Enge and Elizabeth Howerton to move on to the general election on April 7, 2015.[3]

All three districts with seats up for primary election on March 3, 2015, could see changes to their future elections. A ballot measure to line up school board elections with state elections in even-numbered years was approved by Los Angeles voters in this primary election. Rather than being up for re-election in the spring of 2019, the winners of the general election for the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education will now be up for re-election in the fall of 2020.[1][4][5]

In Kansas, Senate Bill 171 was introduced to the Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee in February 2015. If passed, the bill would move school board elections in the state to be held in November of even-numbered years. The bill would also require school board candidates to declare party affiliations.[6]

Local Measure Results - March 3, 2015: LA elections, fracking, development and more

By: Josh Altic

Yesterday local California voters decided 14 questions with important impacts on the future of each community. The most contentious measures were featured in Los Angeles County, where voters decided issues from fracking and oil extraction to development and elections reform. District and city tax measures were voted on in Siskiyou County, Marin County and Yolo County as well. According to last night's latest unofficial election results tally, nine of the measures were approved, four were defeated and one was too close to call until election results are certified.

In Hermosa Beach, the much-debated Measure O — which sought to grant an exception to the city's ban on oil drilling and fracking, allowing E&B Natural Resources to move forward with a 34-well project within the city — drew out an unusually high number of voters. Three out of four rejected Measure O, ending a decades-long saga of proposals, expensive court cases and multi-million dollar settlements and forcing the city to pay a settlement of $17.5 million to E&B. Preliminary estimates showed nearly 7,000 voters cast a ballot in a city election where 4,500 of the 13,800 registered city voters was considered an average turnout.[7]

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SeePolitical, "Los Angeles Charter Amendments 1 & 2," February 4, 2015

La Habra Heights voters decided against enacting a blanket ban on all new oil and gas operations and the use of fracking or other high-intensity extraction methods in currently operating wells. Election night results showed 60 percent of voters rejecting Measure A.[8]

In Redondo Beach, where voters were faced with a key decision concerning waterfront zoning, development and the fate of an unpopular power plant, election night results showed nearly a dead heat. Measure B, which will determine the future of the city's Harbor Drive waterfront property, first appeared to be winning by a small margin, but by the end of the night, the results tally showed it falling behind, with 51.85 percent of voters rejecting it. Ballotpedia is waiting until results are certified to call this race.[9]

Los Angeles voters decided to back the city's effort to increase voter turnout by aligning the city and school district elections with federal and state elections in even-numbered years. Despite opponents that claimed the measures would bury local elections under the hype of federal and state races, the latest election results show more than seven out of 10 voters approving Amendments 1 and 2.[10]

The remaining measures concerned taxes and administration of government. Details about each measure can be viewed here.

The Tuesday Count: From fracking to bag bans, environmental issues are on California’s ballots

Edited by Ryan Byrne

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Ballot measures addressing the environment are making noise in California. On March 3, two municipalities in southern California are voting on fracking and oil production policies. In 2016, Californians will decide the fate of the state's landmark plastic bag ban, which has been placed on the ballot following a successful petition drive funded by plastic companies. Environmental concerns are front and center in each ballot measure battle.

California's statewide bag ban on hold:

California's landmark legislation banning plastic bags won't be implemented without voter approval in November 2016. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, with the financial backing of plastic producers, collected an estimated 555,000 signatures, or 50,000 more than were required, for a Plastic Bag Ban Referendum. About $6.15 was spent per required signature. The veto referendum was certified on February 24, 2015, thus stopping the plastic bag ban from going into effect this summer and requiring a vote on the matter by Californians.[11]

Lee Califf, head of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, explained, "California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to big grocers without any money going to a public purpose or environmental initiative." Opponents of the referendum, led by Californians vs. Big Plastic, don't think the problem is with "obscene profits to big grocers," but with obscene profits to big plastic. Mark Murray, a spokesperson for the opposition, stated, "It’s not surprising that after spending more than $3.2 million, 98 percent of which is from out of state, the plastic bag industry has bought its way onto the California ballot to protect its profits."[11]

Columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Matier and Andy Ross, said plastic bag companies, win or lose in 2016, are making a "pretty smart business move." While the bag ban is on hold for at least 18 months, the industry is expected to accumulate $15 million in profits.[12] However, a $15 million-plus ballot measure campaign is not unheard of in California. In 2014, five out of 13 campaigns spent over $15 million. With a little under 60 percent of Californians supporting the ban last October, the American Progressive Bag Alliance may need to shell out an amount higher than the industry's expected profits to win this battle.[13]

Another firing, more fallout in St. Joseph School District

On the same day, the board demoted Human Resources Director Doug Flowers. He has been offered a teaching contract for the upcoming school year.

Missouri-Stipend Scandal.jpg
Learn more about the scandal in
the St. Joseph School District...
The story so far
The stipend scandal
The FBI probe
The rescinded suspension
The $2 million shortfall
The secret tapes
The ousted administrators
The state audit
The fallout begins
The superintendent axed
The firings continue
Key figures
Superintendent Fred Czerwonka
CFO Beau Musser
COO Rick Hartigan
HR Director Doug Flowers
Trustee Chris Danford
Trustee Dan Colgan
State Auditor Thomas Schweich
State Sen. Robert Schaaf
St. Joseph School District
2014 school board election
2015 tax levy renewal
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Missouri State Auditor

These three top administrators were roundly criticized in a report from the Missouri State Auditor. All have been interviewed multiple times by the FBI, according to sources.

They all also played a role in the botched attempt to silence Chief Financial Officer Beau Musser by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. Musser helped blow the whistle on the secret stipends paid to administrators, 4,000 gallons of missing gasoline and other irregularities.

The state audit uncovered nearly $40 million in secret payments, mostly to administrators, going back to 2000.

State Legislative Tracker: Firing squads in Utah still up for debate

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a partisan count update and a look at Indiana's blue law, a continued debate over firing squads in Utah and right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin.

January 2015

February 2015