The Tuesday Count: End of Louisiana's 2013 legislative session brings most recent referrals

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June 11, 2013

Click here for the latest Tuesday Count

Edited by Eric Veram

4 certifications
16 measures for 2013

Healthcare(News)
Same-sex marriage(Quick Hits)
Petition firms(Ballot law)

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As their 2013 session came to a close, the Louisiana State Legislature successfully passed a number of referrals out of the capitol and on to voters. Three measures, all of which are legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, have been identified so far, and although they all mention appearing in the 2014 general election, at least two have the potential to be decided by voters even earlier.

Those two measures are the Hospital Stabilization Fund Amendment and the Medical Assistance Trust Fund Amendment, known in the legislature as HB 532 and HB 533, respectively, and differ from other proposals in that they both have a clause built into their language stating they will be submitted to voters at the first statewide election following their approval by the legislature. Their similarities do not end there, however, as they both share a common primary sponsor, Rep. Charles Kleckley (R-36), and a common purpose of securing federal Medicaid funds.[1] Combined, the measures allow hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and intermediate care facilities to assess a tax on themselves which would then go into the newly created "stabilization funds." This fund would then be used to garner more federal money from the Medicaid expansion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Opponents argue that making these funds constitutional provisions will tie the hands of future legislatures who may need to tap them to make up for budget shortfalls.[2]

The other measure heading to voters in Louisiana is the Louisiana Redemption of Blighted Property Amendment, also known as HB 265, which aims to reduce the number of blighted properties lying around the state. The amendment seeks to do this by reducing to eighteen months the current three-year tax delinquency period allotted to property owners for the redemption of blighted or abandoned property sold at a tax sale. Supporters argue that if owners can't pay to redeem their property with eighteen months, it is unlikely they will be able to with another eighteen months, especially when considering the additional penalties that are tacked on over time.[3]

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We also have a retroactive change to report this week: the passage of a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment in North Dakota. The North Dakota Commission of Higher Education Amendment was actually passed by the state's legislature on April 23 as House Concurrent Resolution 3047. If approved by voters in 2014, the amendment would abolish the current elected State Board of Higher Education and replace it with the Commission of Higher Education, which would consist of members appointed by the governor.[4] Interestingly, the measure bears a striking similarity to the bill that the failed Wyoming Education Department Director Referendum sought to overturn.

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

Despite the fact that Michigan's legislature approved Senate Bill 288 in May, the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign is pushing ahead with efforts to oppose wolf hunting in the state. The Natural Resources Commission has already established an Upper Peninsula hunt for November 15 to December 31. According to reports, the group, which successfully placed the Wolf Hunting Referendum on the 2014 ballot, is going to focus on discussing the environmental and cultural value of wolves and educating the public about the upcoming hunt.[5]

In an interesting development out west, some counties in Colorado are discussing a possible statewide ballot measure asking voters to approve their secession and the formulation of a new state called "North Colorado." According to reports, the northern counties' reasons for wanting to separate themselves comes from a growing feeling of isolation from the rest of the state over recently passed legislation. Supporters of the movement cited regulation of the petroleum industry, increases in renewable energy standards, lessening of school funding and background checks on gun sales as reasons for dissatisfaction in the state's more rural regions.

The passing of the proposed ballot measure isn't enough to secure statehood, however. That requires the Colorado State Legislature to seek authorization from Congress for the creation of a new state, followed by an actual congressional act doing so. According to reports, county boards and commissioners will continue to discuss the idea and will decide on a plan by August 1.[6][7]

Quick hits

North Dakota women begin a petition for a law guaranteeing "equal parenting time" to both parents in the case of divorce and separation: According to Jill Bjerke, the chairwoman of the group behind this petition, current state law often makes it difficult for one parent to have access to a child. This petition seeks to make it a right, defended by state law, for each parent to have an equal influence and an equal opportunity to spend time with shared children. The proposed measure would give a definition of "equal parenting time" that would require a child of separated parents to spend equal time with each parent or to follow a mutually agreed upon parenting schedule.[8]

A gay rights group hopes that one decade is enough to change the minds of Ohio voters: In 2004, an initiated constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was approved by nearly 62% of voters. FreedomOhio wants to put a new amendment on the ballot that would overturn the 2004 amendment and allow two consenting adults to marry regardless of gender, while still allowing religious institutions to refuse to perform any marriage it does not support.[9] The measure, if it appears on the ballot and is approved, would replace Article XV, Section 11, of the Ohio Constitution with the following: "In the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions, marriage shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living, and no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage." Since the 2004 amendment, Article XV, Section 11, has read: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage." FreedomOhio needs approximately 386,000 signatures to qualify this petition for the ballot and has decided to postpone its efforts, aiming to have their amendment on the ballot next year instead of in 2013.[9][10]


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Spotlight

County Administrator proposes a 1/2 cent sales tax to fill a projected $9 million hole in medical services funding for Manatee County, Florida: Next week, Manatee County residents will be deciding whether to approve the controversial 1/2 percent sales tax measure proposed by County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.[11] Hunzeker proposed this sales tax increase when he was faced with the depletion of a trust fund providing about $9 million a year to partially fund the medical services for the indigent of Manatee county. If approved, this measure would increase the sales tax rate of the county from 6.5% to 7%.[12]. The estimated revenue from this tax increase is $23 million, which, according to Hunzeker's plan, would be used to replace the $9 million of lost funding, as well as about $14 million of county property taxes that also go toward funding medical services, thus allowing for the eventual decrease of property tax rates across the county.[11]

Critics of Hunzeker's plan are concerned that there has been no agreement among county commissioners concerning the potential property tax relief and see this measure as a large tax increase hidden behind an untrustworthy statement of possible tax relief to come. Some have gone so far as to accuse Hunzeker of misleading people into voting in favor of this sales tax through vague promises of future property tax relief with no guarantee that they will be kept. The campaign against this measure is headed by the group Common Cents for Manatee and was joined in its opposition by the Manatee County Tea Party.[13]

As of May 24th, a group called Healthy Manatee has raised about $169,550 for its campaign in favor of the sales tax measure. Their chief donors have been USH of Delaware, which is the Pennsylvania-based parent company of Manatee Memorial Hospital, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, and a political action committee affiliated with HCA, which is the parent of Blake Medical Center, as well as the medical staff of Manatee Memorial and Blake Medical hospitals. Supporters argue that this measure is needed to provide the poor, uninsured and needy with medical services. The NAACP also supports Hunzeker's sales tax increase measure, publishing a press release in which Susie Copeland, President of the Manatee NAACP, wrote, "Citizens cannot allow the politics of the situation to determine the need or responsibility to provide health care coverage to indigent, underinsured or uninsured residents in Manatee County. The NAACP has been assured that the funds collected from the one-half cent sales tax will go into a special fund to cover health care costs ONLY."[14]

For more information on this measure and to see the other ballot measure being decided by Manatee County voters on the 18th click here.

Meanwhile, a ballot measure seeking to eliminate the two at-large city council members is on the ballot today for voters in the City of Pensacola in Escambia County, Florida.


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Ballot Law Update

New Jersey court rules against municipal clerk who rejected referendum petitions: On Wednesday, May 29, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that a Hobokon municipal clerk who refused to file a referendum petition was in violation of the Faulkner Act. The law allows voters in municipalities to file a referendum petition against ordinances passed by the city council, provided the petition is filed within twenty days of the passage of the ordinance and contains the correct number of signatures. According to the plaintiffs, they attempted to file a referendum on the last day of the allotted period but were rejected outright by the municipal clerk because it did not contain the correct number of signatures. The clerk returned the referendum request as "unfiled." The court ruled that clerk could not reject the petition without further review. According to the court's opinion, "Nothing in the statute authorizes a municipal clerk to not file a petition." The opinion goes on to clarify that the petition may be rejected after filing if the clerk does not certify the required number of signatures, but it cannot be returned "unfiled."[15]

Oregon lawmakers back tougher laws on petition gathering firms: On Tuesday, May 28, the Oregon Senate voted 16 to 14 in favor of Senate Bill 154. The legislation would require petitioning firms to register with the Oregon Secretary of State and sign a statement swearing to comply with election laws. The bill also subjects the firms to criminal penalties if they break election laws. Supporters argue that the measure merely requires that petitioner firms meet the same regulations that individual canvassers and the chief petitioners of ballot measures have to. Opponents argue that the bill is an attack on initiative and referendum rights and that it could have a chilling effect on ballot proposals.[16]

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

References