The Tuesday Count: A pair of citizen initiatives elevate 2012 count in two states
Edited by Al Ortiz
Two freshly certified measures for the 2012 ballot have sprung up in California and Ohio. With the pair of proposals making their way to a public vote, the 2012 count bumps up to 59 ballot questions in 24 states.
Californians will now have their hands full of initiatives next year with a third citizen-initiated measure approved for ballot access on December 6 by the California Secretary of State. The measure would prohibit the government from deducting union dues from government employee paychecks that will be used for political purposes. In addition, the proposal would ban contributions to candidate-controlled committees by corporations and labor unions as well as ban contractors who receive government contracts from donating to the officeholder who awarded the contract.
The measure will appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot, joining the water bond measure that would allow the state government to borrow $11.1 billion to overhaul the state's water system. Unlike the paycheck initiative, the water bond measure is a legislative referral. On June 5, 2012, state voters will decide on two other citizen initiatives on the ballot.
The other certification to appear this week came in the state of Ohio, where a referendum will present itself to voters come November 2012. An election law veto referendum will ask voters whether or not to repeal a law that was recently passed in the state of Ohio that would move future primary election dates from March to May, among other provisions.
Additionally, the measure would shorten the period of mail-in absentee voting from 35 days before the election to 21. The number of days residents can vote early would be limited to 14 days before the election. Currently, the number of days residents can vote early is also 35 days.
Ohio has been laden with veto referendums recently, as more than one month ago, voters decided on Ohio Issue 2, the successful repeal of Senate Bill 5. In addition, a current referendum is circulating that would overturn the congressional redistricting plan that made its way through the Ohio General Assembly.
Initiative news is also beginning to gain momentum in Alaska and North Dakota. In Alaska, a coastal management program proposal got the go-ahead to collect signatures for ballot certification. The initiated state statute would establish a new coastal management program in the state. It was submitted to the Lieutenant Governor's office during the week of October 5, 2011 by Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho and other supporters of the initiative. Specifically, the management program that would be established would be formally called the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program.
Alaska is the only coastal state in the country without a federal coastal management plan, according to reports. Coastal programs are established to guarantee state and local participation in federal decisions on coastal issues that could potentially surface.
North Dakotans could get a chance to display their school spirit by deciding whether or not to allow for the University of North Dakota to use the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo by repealing Senate Bill 2370, a law that repealed an earlier mandate requiring the use of the nickname. Two versions of the referendum were filed by supporters, and approval to circulate the proposal could come sooner rather than later, although reports have not stated if the petitions have been approved as of today.
SB 2370 went into effect on December 1, 2011, and the university has begun the process, expected to be mostly done by January, of retiring the nickname and logo.
The measure is proposed by members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe.
|Proposals with recent activity|
- Eminent domain limit in Virginia: A measure has been introduced that could limit instances when private property could be taken for public use. The proposal is scheduled to appear before the Virginia General Assembly for referral to the ballot in January 2012, and it is sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell.
- Michigan for-profit school ban: A 2012 measure has been proposed that would ban the operation of for-profit charter schools in Michigan. The proposal is sponsored by Sens. Rebekah Warren and Hoon-Yung Hopgood. State aid for schools "should go to kids not corporate bottom lines," Warren said.
- In-state tuition challenge dropped: The proposed Maryland In-State Tuition Referendum, also known as the "Dream Act" referendum, faces one less legal challenge. Filed in August 2011 by Casa de Maryland the lawsuit originally challenged submitted petition signatures that were collected via MDPetitions.com and whether the state tuition law could be subject to referendum. On December 8 it was announced that the challenge against the petition signatures collected by MDPetitions.com was dropped.
- Massachusetts initiatives move forward: According to reports out of the state, all four measures that turned in signatures by the initial November 23 deadline filed signatures by the 5 p.m. deadline on December 7. The Massachusetts Secretary of State's office confirmed those reports. The secretary's office stated that the signatures will be double-checked for verification and will then be filed in January 2012 with the state legislature.
SPOTLIGHT:Electrical aggregation tops 2012 Illinois March ballot
On March 20, 2012 Illinois will have an election that so far has 16 of the proposed 20 questions deal with allowing local governments to aggregate electricity in their municipality. The goal of aggregation is to allow officials to pool together those residents that want to participate and use the collective bargaining power to be more competitive and obtain lower rates. Local officials note that while not everyone has to participate in the aggregation program, results from other areas show that residents have been seen to have lower rates over the course of a year with the aggregation program in place. Multiple municipalities across the state have already approved this proposal and natural gas aggregation has also been voted on. Electrical aggregation is also allowed in the state of Ohio.
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BALLOT LAW UPDATE
Wisconsin Campaign Finance Ruling: On December 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a state statute limiting campaign contributions by individuals. Under the rule, individuals could not contribute more that $10,000 total to political campaigns and committees in a calendar year.
The original lawsuit, filed in a federal district court by Wisconsin Right to Life, dealt with a range of campaign finance rules. However, the appeal to the Seventh Circuit only addressed the individual contribution limit, asking for an injunction against the statute. The group sought the injunction in order to raise additional funds for independent expenditures during the Wisconsin Senate recalls.
A temporary injunction was granted, but the court has only now completed a full appellate review of the statute. The court found that statute was unconstitutional in light of Citizens United because it "limits contributions to committees engaged solely in independent spending for political speech." According to Citizens United, restrictions on independent expenditures do not significantly reduce corruption or the appearance of corruption and, thus, are not justified by a compelling state interest. In response to Citizens United (decided in 2010), three members of Congress proposed a constitutional amendment this month giving state and federal regulators greater authority over expenditures by corporations and committees for political speech.
- The decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Barland can be found here.
- The decision in Citizens United v. FEC can be found here.
- The proposed constitutional amendment can be found here.
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