The Tuesday Count: Four state legislatures send cascade of measures to ballot

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June 5, 2012

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Edited by Al Ortiz

The Tuesday Count erupted this week into a full-flowing barrage of legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. These ballot measure certifications were found in four states this past week, all from state legislatures. Florida chipped in four, Maryland and Louisiana added two each, and South Carolina kicked in one measure.

Now that the dust has settled, the total stands at 111 measures on the ballot in 33 states.

Florida added the bulk of the measures with four proposals being sent to the November 2012 general election ballot. The four measures were passed by the state legislature, giving Florida residents a final grand total of 11 statewide measures to decide. This makes the state's ballot measure total the biggest of any state this year, so far.

The freshly-added measures to the ballot were: Amendment 9, which would authorize the legislature to exempt surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders who died in the line of duty from paying property taxes; Amendment 10, a proposal to provide an exemption from ad valorem taxes levied by local governments on tangible personal property with a value greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000; Amendment 11, which would authorize counties and municipalities to offer additional tax exemptions on homes of low-income seniors; and Amendment 12, an amendment to revise the selection process for the student member of the Board of Governors of State University System.

The 11 legislative referrals in Florida in 2012 is the largest number of such measures on the state ballot in the past twenty years, according to Ballotpedia's database of Florida ballot measures.

Maryland ushered in a pair of its own ballot measures for November 2012, with both measures also coming from the states' legislature. One measure would provide conditions under which an elected official convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors would be removed from office, while the other would require judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore County to have been admitted to practice law in Maryland and be in good standing with the Maryland Bar.

Louisiana mirrored Maryland by legislatively referring two of its own statewide questions this past week. Legislative session is now over in the state, but before state legislators went their separate ways, they rounded out the November ballot by adding a property tax exemption amendment and a right to bear arms question for voters to chime in on.

Finally, South Carolina cemented a single measure to the ballot last week, proposing a state constitutional amendment that would require that candidates for governor to select their running mates for lieutenant governor.

How did these measures make the ballot?

Below is a quick rundown of how the four state legislatures qualified this week's legislatively-referred constitutional amendments for the ballot:

Featured campaign quotes:
Oklahoma SQ 762 - Support
Speaker of the State House Kris Steele
Letting the governor focus on parole recommendations for violent crimes is a critical component of Oklahoma’s recent progress to build a stronger, more effective criminal justice system.[1]

Oklahoma SQ 762 - Opposition
State Representative Jason Murphey
When you take the governor out of [the parole] process [for non-violent crimes] the people of Oklahoma have no one to hold accountable...[1]
  • Louisiana: A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote from members of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature to be placed on the statewide ballot.

Quick hits

  • Reports reveal huge spending disparity in fight over same-sex marriage in Maine: According to financial reports filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, supporters of the Maine Same-Sex Marriage Question have raised nearly 36 times the amount of money raised by opponents. Mainers United for Marriage have reportedly about $359,000 while amendment opponents Protect Marriage Maine have raised nearly $10,000.[2]
  • Massachusetts moves to oppose a challenge to the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Initiative: On Friday, June 1, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a motion to dismiss a petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Court asking that the measure be removed from the ballot. The petition was filed by the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance and claims that the current wording of the measure hides major parts of the proposed law. The attorney's general office has challenged the petition saying it failed to provide some way for the court to grant its request, such as by proposing another way to write the ballot question.[3]
  • Same-sex marriage opponents in Washington prepare to file referendum signatures: According to the Preserve Marriage Washington website, supporters have collected over 200,00 signatures, well over the number required to place Referendum 74 on the ballot. Supporters have until Wednesday, June 6, to submit at least 120,577 valid signatures.[4]

Proposals with recent activity


SPOTLIGHT:Detroit residents will get asked about marijuana, two years later
In Detroit, Michigan, the State Supreme Court ruled recently that a proposed marijuana legalization petition which had first gained enough signatures two years ago, must be placed on the ballot for voter consideration.

Proponents of the measure had circulated a petition and gained the required amount of signatures to place the issue on the ballot, but the city refused and the proposal ended up in court. The measure had been halted from going to a vote because election officials said that it went against state laws in regards to marijuana possession. The measure was first taken to the circuit court where they ruled with the city. An appeal was then made to the Court of Appeals which sided with the petitioners. The city then in turn appealed to the Supreme Court which denied that appeal, meaning the circuit ruling stood. Though the election date is not set, it likely will end up on the November ballot, according to reports.

The measure seeks to soften marijuana possession laws, meaning that if a person over 21 is caught with 1 ounce or less of marijuana, then they would not be in violation of the law and therefore could not be given a citation. Law enforcement officials could still arrest people in possession of marijuana, but they could not be given a citation, taking away any financial incentive for arresting those citizens.[5]

Also today, June 5, there are local elections in California, Wisconsin and Missouri. In California, 27 counties will decide local issues but in the other two states, just one county each has local issues on their ballots.

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How many statewide questions are on the California primary election on June 5? Click here to find out!
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Washington 2/3 requirement ruling: On May 30, Judge Bruce Heller ruled Washington Initiative 1053 unconstitutional. The initiative was approved in 2010, by a 64% to 36% margin. It required the legislature to approve tax increases by a two-thirds supermajority vote. Under the initiative, tax increases could also be approved by a simple majority of voters, and spending in excess of the expenditure limit was automatically referred to the ballot.

Heller found Initiative 1053, a statutory initiative, to be in conflict with Article II, Section 22 of the state constitution which requires only a simple majority for the passage of bills. In addition, Heller found the automatic referral process to be in conflict with Article II, Section 1(b) which requires a petition drive for referendums.

The state plans to appeal the decision. The lawsuit against Initiative 1053 was filed by the state teacher's union (WEA) and the League of Education Voters along with several taxpayers and Democratic legislators.[6]

  • The full decision can be found here.

En banc re-hearing denied for Prop 8: Today, the 9th Circuit refused to re-hear the case against California Proposition 8 (2008). In May, a panel of the 9th Circuit ruled the law unconstitutional. Given the court's refusal, the case will now be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. For the time being, the law will remain in effect as the case continues.[7]

  • The court's order can be found here.
A new update will be released by the end of this month. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!