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The Tuesday Count: Land preservation comes to the forefront of state's 2013 legislative session

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February 5, 2013

The Tuesday Count reports on ballot measure news and tracks all measures that make statewide ballots across the country (ballot certifications).
Click here for the latest Tuesday Count

Edited by Al Ortiz

A different month has arrived, but the outcome remains the same.

0 certifications
0 measures for 2013

Marriage(2014 watch)
Petition fraud(Ballot law)

No changes have been applied to Ballotpedia's Tuesday Count. No measures have made the ballot so far this year, as proposals are still being reviewed by legislatures and ballot initiatives are still in their infant stages.

Below are the latest updates of those legislative referrals and initiative proposals currently on the long journey to the ballot.

Tuesday Count weekly news

It has been three and a half years since New Jersey voters had a say on the issue of preserving open space in the state, but now they may get another chance this coming fall.

The New Jersey open space preservation funding amendment may appear on the November 5, 2013 ballot in the state of New Jersey as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure would provide long-term funding for open-space preservation. The measure is moving forward in the state legislature because the $400 million in bonds that voters approved in 2009 has already been spent. However, State Senator Bob Smith stated that he would hear input from the public before deciding how to move forward on this proposal and other alternative proposals.[1]

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In 2009, residents approved a measure that appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in New Jersey as a legislatively-referred state statute. At that time, voters decided to let the state borrow $400 million to preserve open space, farmland, and historic areas. Originally the bill requested $600 million but was reduced by a third in light of the state's economic downturn.

New Jersey voters have approved 12 consecutive bond issues in order to preserve open space, with that streak dating back to 1961. The measure passed with 52 percent of the vote.

In New Jersey, the state legislature must approve a proposed amendment by a supermajority vote of 60% but the same amendment can also qualify for the ballot if successive sessions of the New Jersey State Legislature approve it by a simple majority.

In other news, the Washington Legislature will officially have its hands full with two proposed laws that were sent their way via the state's citizen-initiative process. Last month, Ballotpedia reported that Initiative 517 had enough signatures to be sent to the lawmaking body for consideration.

This past week, Initiative 522 followed suit, as signatures were verified by the secretary's office on February 1, 2013. Read more about these measures here.

Since both measures are Initiatives to the Legislature, they must go through an initial review by the Washington Legislature. If the legislature does not choose to enact the law automatically, the measure could be sent to the ballot by itself, or it could be sent to the ballot with an alternate proposal crafted by the legislature.

Ballotpedia will monitor these developments as they progress.

2014 watch

The state of New Mexico has enduring some stirring controversy in recent weeks.

Two proposals have been introduced in the 2013 state legislative session for the 2014 ballot that deal with hot-button issues.

2014 Count
Number: Four measures
States: California and Tennessee

The first proposal follows what seems to be a nation-wide trend of allowing voters decide on the issue of same-sex marriage. The measure would allow same-sex couples to legally marry in the state. On January 31, the New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to advance the proposed constitutional amendment to the full State Senate.

A similar measure was proposed for the 2012 ballot during the state 2012 legislative session. However, that measure never made the ballot.

The second measure would raise the state minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour. Although the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, employers must pay the higher rate if there is a difference between the federal and state or local rate.

Minimum wage is also being debated in other parts of the country, as in last week's report, Ballotpedia reported on a possible New Jersey minimum wage increase amendment. Like its New Mexico counterpart, the potential 2013 ballot measure would increase state minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour.

According to Article XIX of the New Mexico Constitution, it takes a majority vote of all members of both houses of the New Mexico State Legislature to refer a proposed amendment to the ballot.

Quick hits

Virginia Senate approves amendment to extend gubernatorial term limits: On January 28, the Virginia State Senate approved SJ 276 with a vote of twenty-five to fifteen. The bill is a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senator Thomas Garrett that would allow the state's governor to serve two four-year terms. Currently, the governor is limited to a single term in Virginia. The bill would not only allow the governor to serve two terms, but would allow for them to be non-consecutive, as well as consecutive. In order to make it to the ballot, the amendment must also be approved by the legislature in the 2014 session.[2]

Bill proposed in Georgia that would protect secret ballots: House Resolution 108, a bill sponsored by Representative Geoff Duncan, would guarantee the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot. According to the official bill summary, this includes: local, state, or federal elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referendums, or requires designations or authorizations of employee representation. The proposed measure is backed by Save Our Secret Ballot, a group seeking to prevent voter intimidation including situations involving labor unions. In speaking of the bill, Duncan said, "HR 108 gives voters not only an opportunity to protect one of their most fundamental rights, it safeguards them against future action."[3]


SPOTLIGHT: State Legislation may make big changes in local taxes

In Kentucky and Indiana, the state legislatures are considering action that would open up the possibility of drastic tax changes on the local level.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has endorsed an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would give local government entities the power to request approval of sales taxes from the local voters. Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, is grateful for the Governor's support on this issue and reported great demand in his city for the additional revenue made possible by this amendment. Fischer said, "With all the needs we have with our roads and sidewalks and infrastructure, that could take care of it pretty quickly, because our general fund cannot. So the governor's voice in this effort is really big."[4]

If this amendment gets 3/5ths majority approval in the House and Senate it will go to the voters in the 2014 general election.[5]

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In Indiana, Senator Jim Buck authored a bill that would allow counties the option to eliminate personal property taxes. Arguing for his Bill, Buck said, "We cannot honestly say we are for job growth but yet we continue to tolerate a tax that stymies job growth. To leave this alone will in fact make us less competitive despite all the good we've done the last couple of years." Critics of this tax strategy expressed anxiety about where communities would get funding for necessary services if the property taxes were eliminated.

Duke Bennett, Mayor of Terre Haute, is one of these critics and was unsure of the beneficial effect of this Bill on business growth, saying, "Having low crime, a good fire department, clean parks, paved streets and things like that have just as much of an impact on a decision these corporations are making, and I would be fully supportive of these changes if we had a replacement revenue." Bennett proposed a food and beverage tax and increased sales taxes as possible revenue replacement solutions.[6]

Meanwhile, there is a special election in Ohio today. Only a handful of local districts and cities took advantage of this special election date. There are six school property tax increase and income tax measures and one zoning amendment being decided. One of the property tax measures also requests $28.3 million in bonds.

Continue to follow Ballotpedia's February 5, 2013 ballot measures in Ohio page to view the results of each question.

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

North Dakota considers harsher penalties for petition fraud: North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger has proposed a bill that would enact harsher punishments for those caught committing signature fraud in the state. The bill, which is sponsored by Representative Patrick Hatlestad, would increase the maximum allowable punishment from one year in jail and a $2,000 fine to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. The proposal is in response to a scandal in 2012 where both the Medical Marijuana Initiative and the Oil Taxes for Wildlife Projects Amendment were declared invalid after Jaeger discovered that several members of the North Dakota State University football team had forged signatures on submitted petitions. Jaeger compared committing petition fraud to voter disenfranchisement, saying, "A group worked their tail off to put something before the voters and had a small group take that away from them."[7]

Federal judge upholds Minnesota law outlawing lying in political campaigns: On January 25, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled in favor of upholding the Minnesota Fair Campaign Act. The law makes it a gross misdemeanor for anyone to intentionally disseminate campaign information, including that related to ballot measures, that they know is false. The law was challenged in 2008 by 281 CARE Committee and the Citizens for Quality Education who claimed that free-speech rights were violated, as well as their ability to participate in political debate. Initially the lawsuit was dismissed, but a reversal by the 8th Circuit Court brought it back before a federal district judge. Judge Montgomery ruled against the group saying, "Over a century ago, the Minnesota legislature implemented minimal, narrow restrictions against knowingly false speech about political candidates in an effort to protect the debates between honestly held beliefs that are at the core of the First Amendment. For nearly a quarter of a century, these restrictions have also applied to statements regarding ballot initiatives. The ballot provisions in Minn. Stat. § 211B.06 reflect a legislative judgment on behalf of Minnesotan citizens to guard against the malicious manipulation of the political process. The court finds that the provisions at issue are narrowly tailored to serve this compelling interest."[8]

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

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard