The Tuesday Count: Colorado could see vote on massive health care reforms

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April 2, 2013

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Edited by Eric Veram

0 certification
1 measure for 2013

Fracking(2014 watch)
Pay-per-signature(Ballot law)

While there are no new certifications to report this week, the action is heating up as deadlines loom and campaigns for 2014. Two states loom large today, Colorado, in both ballot law and general ballot news, and Michigan, which is seeing activity on the environmental front. Several ballot measure will also be decided today in local elections in Colorado.

Last week we mentioned that a number of groups filed paper work for upcoming ballot campaigns, specifically one related to public school funding, in Colorado. Another high profile proposal submitted to the legislative council concerns health care in the state, or access to it, to be more specific.

Donna Smith is sponsoring not one, but two ballot proposals that would affect health access in Colorado. The first is the Public Health Insurance Amendment, which would establish a universal statewide public health insurance program. The second is the Right to Healthcare Amendment, which would enshrine the right to health care in the state constitution.

Smith, who is also executive director of Healthcare for All Colorado, said that, "Access to health care is a human right, it's not something that should be bought and sold as a commodity." Supporters also say that employment based health care leaves a lot of people uninsured either because their employers do not offer it or they are between jobs.

The proposals are certainly not without their critics, however. Linda Gorman, health care analyst for the libertarian Independence Institute, said that single-payer systems, "eliminate treatment and physician choice, make everyone wait for care, degrade the infrastructure needed to diagnose and cure disease, and result in widespread denial of care to those who are seriously ill."

Both measures are initiated constitutional amendments and will require 86,105 valid signatures before they are certified for the ballot. Smith says her group is planning to gather around 100,00 names to provide for a comfortable cushion.[1]

Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) has recently introduced a bill repealing a section of the Nevada constitution declaring that only marriages between one man and one woman will be recognized by the state. However, even if the proposal gain majority approval in the state legislature this year, it would be only the beginning. The bill would also need majority approval in the next legislative session, which is in 2015. Then voters would finally get a chance to weigh in on the issue in 2016.

Even if the proposal survives all these hurdles it still would not actually legalize same-sex marriage. The legislature would get the first chance to do that in 2017, the session following the statewide vote.

Supporters are optimistic, however, Vanessa Spinaloza, a lobbyist for the ACLU who helped work on the proposal, said that she was confident that a majority of the state legislature would support repealing the constitutional language. According to Spinaloza, a proposal was considered that would repeal the ban and legalize same-sex marriage simultaneously, but it was rejected for lack of support.[2]

In other interesting news from out West, the Idaho State Legislature is currently fast-tracking a new bill to fix some issues in its recently passed Senate Bill 1108. That bill, SB 1108, created tighter restrictions on signature gathering for ballot measure campaigns in the state. It increased the number of signatures required, as well as, created new georgraphic distribution requirements for those names.

The new bill, SB 1191, relaxes some of these new provisions, possibly because lawmakers feared they were vague and unconstitutional. It removes the requirement that petitions contain only signatures from a single legislative district. The new bill also removes the requirement that petition signers state their legislative district when they sign their name. Lawmakers claims these corrections will make the petition gathering process easier and clearer.[3]

2014 watch

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After seeing quite a bit of initiative activity in 2012, Michigan is shaping up to be another state to watch in 2014.

On Wednesday, March 27, the environmental coalition called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected submitted 253,705 signatures to the Michigan secretary of state's office for a referendum on a bill allowing for the hunting of wolves in the Upper Peninsula.

Because it is a veto referendum, enough preliminary signatures could mean a temporary suspension of the law until a statewide vote on the issue in November 2014. The number required for the suspension is 161,305 valid names, but reports indicate that it could take several months for state election officials to verify the signatures.

Despite the opposition efforts to wolf hunting in the state, the practice is not currently legal because wildlife officials never announced the creation of a season for the practice. A successful referendum would prevent that discussion from ever happening.

2014 Count
Number: Eight measures
States: California, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming

There are, however, organizations within the state that do support the possibility of a wolf hunting season and may lead campaigns to oppose the referendum.

One such group is the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), which has called the humane society an "anti-hunting organization." Erin McDonough, executive director of the group, said that, "The fact that HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) 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."

The Board of State Canvassers has 60 days from the filing of the signatures to determine their validity.[4]

Michigan voters may also see another environmental initiative on the 2014 ballot, one that failed to secure enough signatures for last year's election.

That measure is the Fracking Ban Initiative, an initiated state statute being sponsored by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan. Specifically, the measure would amend the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, to include a prohibition on the practice of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.[5]

In order to successfully qualify for the ballot, the group will need to gather 258,088 signatures by the petition deadline on May 28, 2014.

Quick hits

  • Important donors commit to funding an effort to get medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot in Florida, campaign may cost $10 million: Attorney John Morgan had this to say about the petition for a medical marijuana measure in Florida: "I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot." Ben Pollara, currently the treasurer of the medical marijuana campaign and the man responsible for originally recruiting John Morgan, is hopeful that, with the new backer, the campaign now has the funding and knowledge to put the measure before voters on the 2014 ballot, despite the estimated $10,000,000 it will cost to collect the nearly 700,000 necessary signatures. Pollara also expressed confidence that the measure was likely to pass if it did come to a vote, saying, "Looking at the poll, the support is really broad and I think there is room to grow our support. I don't think there is going to be well-funded organized opposition to this. I think we've got a pretty decent chance if we get on the ballot."[6] A recent poll by People United for Medical Marijuana found that there was 70% support for medical marijuana legalization, while only 24% opposed it.[7]
  • North Dakota Senator looks to restrict costly initiatives, pointing to California as an example of what not to do: In a 28-19 vote, the full North Dakota Senate rubber-stamped an amendment that would require 40% state legislature approval of any citizen-initiated measure costing more than $50 million. If this amendment is adopted, any measure initiated by citizens and approved in an election would then go to a three-member commission to determine the cost of the measure. If the cost is found to be greater than $50 million, the measure would go to the legislature, where anything less than 40% approval would overturn it. Senator David Hogue is the main supporter and sponsor of this bill and argued that, if strategies like this are not employed to protect the State from financial disaster caused by costly initiatives, North Dakota could see the same fate as California, which is currently more than $335 billion in the red. Hogue was motivated to push this bill by recent efforts to pass expensive initiatives, one of which would have reportedly cost the state $1.8 billion. Hogue blames expensive citizen-initiated measures for much of California's current debt problems and, concerning voters deciding important financial questions, Hogue said, "You cannot make good spending decisions at the ballot box... California was once the most prosperous state in the nation and they had the budget surpluses we enjoy today.”[8]



Over 200 local measures being decided today, including a Nuclear Weapon funding prohibition and nearly a billion dollars in requested bond money.

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Approveda Colorado
Approveda Florida
Approveda Missouri
Approveda Wisconsin

With 217 measures on the ballots throughout cites, counties and school district across Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin, local voters are all set to make big changes in their communities on issues ranging from term limits and salaries of local officials and school bonds and taxes to corporate free speech and prohibiting nuclear weapon production financing.

Throughout Missouri and Wisconsin there are 78 bond measures requesting a total of $941,768,000 in bond money, $852,970,000 of which is being requested by local school districts. Also in Missouri, Kansas City voters have the chance to prohibit the city government from financing or offering any incentives to the Honeywell nuclear weapon plant, which provides 80% of the components for U.S. nuclear weapon production.

In Colorado, there is an effort to increase the salaries of city commissioners in the City of Colorado Springs. This is, according to supporters of the measure, the only way to get young and low-income people to become active in government and thus provide proper representation of the residents.

And in Wisconsin, two cities join the growing movement of local voters requesting country-wide limitations of corporate free speech and campaign donation rights through a constitutional amendment.

To see all of the 2013 local ballot measure elections covered by Ballotpedia follow this page throughout the year.

The Tuesday Count Spotlight highlights notable developments from local ballot measures across the country as well as international ballot measures.

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Ballot Law Update

  • Ban on pay-per-signature practice in Colorado overturned: On Monday, April 1, 2013, federal district judge Philip Brimmer overturned the portion of HB 1326 (2009) banning paying petitioners on a by-signature basis. Judge Brimmer ruled that those sections of the law violated First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was first filed in 2010 by the Independence Institute, headed by activist Jon Caldara. Caldera claimed that House Bill 1326 would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the basis of restricting freedom of speech. Caldara also argued that restricting pay-per-signature would make it more expensive to conduct initiative campaigns. Arguments were heard in the District of Colorado federal court on May 13, 2010 on the matter.[9]

At the time of writing, the Colorado Attorney General had not decided whether or not to file an appeal of the decision.[10]

  • Kansas voters could see clearer ballot language in near future: The Kansas State Senate voted on Monday, March 25, in approval of a new law that would allow election officials to request a state official write an "explainer" when a ballot measure's language is deemed too confusing for voters to easily understand. The law, House Bill 2162, does not require that the explainer be placed directly on the ballot, but rather requires that it be posted at polling places. The drive for clearer ballot language was ignited following a vote in Wichita on whether the developer of a downtown hotel should be entitled to a tax break. Because of the measure's confusing wording, polling places were bombarded with phone calls, but officials were not allowed to say anything other than "Yes means yes. No means no."[11]
A new update will be released at the end of the month. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard