The Tuesday Count: 2014 certifications, marijuana and pension reform

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May 28, 2013

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

3 certifications
5 measures for 2013

Certifications(News)
Marijuana(Quick Hits)
Ballot summaries(Ballot law)

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Three newly-certified measures are set to appear on the November 2014 ballot. In Alabama, Sen. Gerald Allen (R-21) has finally succeeded in landing a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the ballot regarding foreign law in the state's court system. If passed by voters, the Alabama American and Alabama Laws for Alabama Courts Amendment will prevent the state's courts from recognizing foreign and any other laws that violate either Alabama's public policy or the rights of the state's citizens.[1][2]

Sen. Allen has proposed similar legislation in the past. During the 2011 state legislative session, Allen proposed the Alabama "Sharia Law Amendment", which would have prohibited state courts from using the Islamic Sharia Law when making judicial decisions. However, this measure failed to make the November 2012 ballot.[1] When he proposed the measure back in 2011, a Muslim leader in the Birmingham area charged Allen with attempting to "demonize Islam and Muslims," as Allen could not specify an instance in which Muslims have ever attempted to have Sharia law recognized in the state courts. However, Allen explained the rationale behind his measure, saying, "It's not about what's happening right now. I'm thinking about 10 years down the road, 20, 30, 40. Time has an effect on these things, and I'm thinking about the future."[3]

The 2014 ballot measure, which came about as the result of SB 4, does not explicitly mention Sharia law or any other specific external laws.[1]

Currently, the Nevada Constitution contains a provision that caps all mining-related taxes at five percent. However, Nevada voters will decide whether or not the constitution should be amended to remove this language - thereby enabling legislators to potentially raise taxes on minerals in the future - in the general election on November 4, 2014. The Nevada Mining Tax Cap Amendment was officially sent to the ballot on Thursday, May 23, when the House passed SJR 15 along strict party lines; not one Republican voted in favor of the measure.[4]

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SJR 15 passed the Senate 17-4 on Monday, April 1, with four Republican senators voting against it.[5] People supportive of removing the five percent cap from the constitution, including Rep. Irene Bustamante Adams (D-42), believe voters should have the opportunity to decide whether or not this provision stays in the constitution. However, those opposed to removing the cap, including Rep. Jim Wheeler (R-39), fear that taking this action will create instability in the Nevada economy. The Nevada Mining Association opposed SJR 15 while it was circulating in the legislature, with Tim Crowley, one of the Association's lobbyists, saying, "Passage of SJR 15 will lead to significantly less state revenue to fund essential services and potentially disrupt revenue streams in rural mining counties, as well. There's no certainty if, how or when these revenues will be restored."[4]

2014 Count
Number: 22 measures
States: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Michigan, Montana Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming

Michigan has been caught in a tug-of-war of sorts regarding a Wolf Hunting Referendum. The measure will appear on the November 2014 ballot, however the electorate's vote may be rendered irrelevant due to a competing bill. The referendum will ask voters whether or not to repeal 2012's Public Act 520, which categorized wolves as game animals and allowed the Natural Resource Commission to implement a wolf hunting season.[6]

The group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected gathered and subsequently submitted 253,705 signatures to the Secretary of State's office, well above the 161,304 signatures required to land the referendum on the ballot.[7] Jill Fritz, director of the group contends that the high number of signatures collected signifies that Michigan residents are opposed to hunting wolves. However, Erin McDonough, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MCUU) - a group that is decidedly against banning wolf hunting - believes that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which supports the measure, has inflated the number of signatures collected, saying, "The fact that HSUS was able to collect the required number of signatures tells us nothing about the issue other than if you are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and target areas of the state without a wolf population and refuse to educate the public about the issue, you can collect a lot of signatures. MUCC believes that HSUS has vastly underestimated the intelligence level of Michigan's residents and has grossly overestimated this state's tolerance for out-of-state extremists attempting to buy election results."[8]

Sen. Tom Casperson (R-38) introduced SB 288, which grants the Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate a species as a game species without the legislature first doing so via a bill. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed the bill in May. As a result, there is no valid legislation subject for voters to veto in 2014.[9][10]

Quick hits

Ohio sees third medical marijuana initiative certified by ballot board: On May 25, the Ohio Ballot Board issued a letter authorizing supporters of the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment to begin collecting signatures. According to reports, this proposed amendment is a slightly modified refiling of the Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment. The measure is sponsored by the Ohio Rights Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for the medicinal use of marijuana within the state. Supporters must now collect 385,247 valid signatures and submit them at least 125 days before the general election at which they wish place the measure on the ballot.[11]

Long-term funding for land preservation one step closer to New Jersey's ballot: On Monday, May 20, a a Senate committee voted four to one in favor of advancing the New Jersey Open Space Preservation Funding Amendment on to voters this November. If approved, the measure would provide funding for land preservation projects for another 30 years. According to reports, that funding would equal approximately $200 million each year. Supporters say that the proposal would ensure the continuation of preservation efforts started in New Jersey in 1961. Opponents fear that funding such projects will lead to less funding for other state programs since less money would be available for the state's general fund.[12]

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Spotlight

New assembly bill puts up barriers for local California pension reform initiatives: [[File:Isadore Hall.jpg|thumb|right|100px | Assemblyman Isadore Hall Thursday, May 23, saw the California Assembly vote 50-18 in favor of a new bill making the process of enacting pension reform via local ballot initiatives much more difficult.[13]

This new bill, AB 822, is a response to the successful June 2012 pension reform ballot initiatives in San Jose and San Diego. AB 822 establishes several daunting requirements for such efforts in the future. It requires that any ballot initiative seeking to reform public pensions be put on the ballot only in statewide general elections. It also requires that proponents of such ballot initiatives pay for an independent actuary analysis of the prospective measure and that the future costs of the measure found in the actuary analysis be published at least two weeks prior to the election.[13]

Assemblyman Isadore Hall (D-64) authored AB 822, which is sponsored by the California Professional Firefighters and supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the California Labor Federation, the California Nurses Association and a dozen other union and public employee organizations. In the AB 822 fact sheet, Hall describes the issue necessitating this measure: "In recent years, there has been an emergence of local ordinances and ballot measures seeking to alter retirement benefit plans for local government employees. State law requires an independent analysis and public hearing requirement prior to a state or local government altering a retirement benefit, but there is no requirement if the benefit change is adopted by a local initiative. The fiscal changes resulting from proposed retirement related initiatives can have far-reaching impact on the retirement security of workers and their families as well as dramatic and often unexpected impact on local budgets. Without an independent fiscal analysis, voters could be asked to make dramatic changes to a vital program without full knowledge of the costs to taxpayers."[14][15]

Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-68) and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-33) spoke out against this measure. Wagner said, “This measure takes us in the wrong direction. It undermines the much needed pension reform measures." Donnelly pointed to the state's inability to deal with the issue of harmful, costly pensions and the importance of cities having the ability to provide local remedies saying, “We ourselves in this body have not been able to face this issue. Cities should be able to have their voices heard.”[13]


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Ballot Law Update

Legal challenge heats up over Montana's "Proof of Citizenship" Initiative: On Thursday, May 23, Judge Jeffrey M. Sherlock, of the Montana 1st Judicial District Court, heard arguments from the state on why he should dismiss a lawsuit filed against LR-121. The measure, which voters passed last by a wide margin, requires proof of citizenship in order for a person to receive certain services provided by the state. The Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance is the leading plaintiff in the case and claims that the law unconstitutionally targets immigrants, legal or otherwise. Montana Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the plaintiffs have no standing due to the fact that there are no known instances of the law being actually enforced since it took effect.[16]

Missouri may soon see public hearings held on ballot proposals: On Wednesday, May 22, the Missouri State Legislature passed House Bill 117, which now awaits Gov. Jay Nixon's signature. If he does sign it, the bill would enact several reforms to the state's initiative process, including the creation of public hearings on proposed measures. Reports indicate that the reforms are due to a large uptick in submitted ballot proposals in recent years. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 16 were submitted in 2004, a number significantly lower than the 143 submitted last year. The bill would also allow the public to access information about petitions online and would require petition circulators to disclose whether they are volunteering or are being compensated.[17]

A new update will be released next week. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 APR.org, "Ballot Question Could Add Foreign Law Protections," May 21, 2013
  2. Freedom Legislation Forum, "Ballot Measure: Alabama to ban use of foreign law in state courts," May 23, 2013
  3. The Anniston Star, "Legislation would ban Islamic law in Alabama courts," March 4, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 Las Vegas Review-Journal, "Mining tax measure placed on 2014 statewide ballot," May 23, 2013
  5. RGJ.com, "SJR15, which takes mining's tax cap out of Constitution, easily passes state senate," April 1, 2013
  6. The Oakland Press, "Michigan wolf hunting put on hold; issue will be put before voters," May 23, 2013
  7. [KeepMichiganWolvesProtected.com, "Homepage: About the Issue," accessed May 28, 2013
  8. MLive.com, "Debate over possible Michigan wolf hunt enters new phase with signature submission," March 27, 2013
  9. Mlive.com, "Bill in Michigan Senate would keep wolf hunt option open for Upper Peninsula," April 11, 2013
  10. Detroit Free Press, "Wolf hunt referendum to go on 2014 Michigan ballot," May 22, 2013
  11. Portsmouth Daily Times, "Ohio Cannabis Rights amendment clears hurdle," May 24, 2013
  12. Sparta Independent, "NJ Senate panel okays open space ballot question," May 22, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Assembly bill would stall local pension reform efforts
  14. AB 822 (Hall) - Local Government Pension Plans -Actuarial Impact Report FACT SHEET
  15. Local Governments section of AB 822 Analysis
  16. Associated Press, "State asks judge to dismiss referendum challenge," May 23, 2013
  17. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Legislature passes initiative petition reforms," May 21, 2013