The Tuesday Count: Marriage, marijuana fight for the political center stage

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February 7, 2012

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Click here for the latest Tuesday Count

Edited by Al Ortiz

In true fashion for the cold month of February, the Tuesday Count remains frozen in place with 60 measures in 24 states.

However, social controversies are quickly taking over ballot measure news for what could be a gargantuan political battle.

Starting in the state of Washington, the issue of same-gender marriage is coming to a boil with a piece of legislation recently passed in the state senate. The legislation would legalize same-gender marriage in the state if passed by the Washington House of Representatives. Since the bill is not a ballot measure, the law would be enacted automatically.

If passed, according to reports, opponents of same-gender marriage will go forward with a proposed veto referendum to overturn the legislation. In order to qualify for the ballot, veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor. Supporters of the referendum have 90 days following the end of the legislative session (March 8, 2012) to collect sufficient signatures.

Once a Referendum Measure is certified, it is placed on the next state general election ballot for the voters to decide. A "Yes" vote approves the law as passed by the Legislature. A "No" vote rejects it.

The proposal has not been filed with the Washington Secretary of State since the proposal, Senate Bill 6239, has yet to be passed by both chambers.

Another significant development recently occurred concerning same-gender marriage in the state of California. Read more about this story in the Ballot Law Update section.

Medical marijuana seems to be taking shape as a 2012 hot button issue, made evident by three ballot initiatives that have made headlines in their respective states recently.

On February 3, 2012, the Colorado Secretary of State announced that a Colorado marijuana initiative effort had fallen short of the required signature total by about 2,500. According to reports, supporters of the proposal have until February 15, 2012 to submit the additional signatures required to make the ballot.

Sponsors need at least 85,853 signatures to make the ballot. The initiative, filed eight different times with the Colorado Attorney General around the date of May 20, 2011, would ask whether or not to legalize the use and possession of, at most, an ounce of marijuana for residents who are 21 and older. Another marijuana initiative, separate from the aforementioned marijuana proposal, would legalize marijuana in the state, with no regulations regarding age or amount in possesion.

Supporters of another marijuana initiative, this time in Montana, filed their proposal again after being rejected the first time for being "not legally sufficient," according to the Montana Secretary of State's office.

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]

Redistricting aggressively took over the country's state legislatures this past year. For Arizonans, the issue of congressional and legislative districts could invade their ballots in both May and November.

Three potential constitutional amendments were introduced by Speaker of the House Andy Tobin relating to redistricting maps. If approved by a majority of each chamber, two measures would be placed on a special election ballot in May, and one would be on the November 2012 general election ballot. Most notably, the measures propose alternatives to the maps implemented by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Two measures, dealing with alternative congressional and legislative maps, are proposed to appear on a May 15 special election ballot. The third measure, proposed for the general election ballot, would increase the Independent Redistricting Commission membership from 5 to 12 and give the Speaker of the House more appointments to the commission. The Independent Redistricting Commission was approved by voters via Proposition 106, which was on the 2000 general election ballot.

A majority vote is required in the Arizona State Legislature to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Arizona is one of ten states that allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature.

To the north of the Grand Canyon State, signatures are due for the North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" referendum, as petitions must be submitted by the end of business day today, February 7. According to reports, supporters believe they have enough signatures to make the ballot. Check for updates tomorrow as more developments occur.[2]

Proposals with recent activity

Quick hits

  • Proposed property tax cut in Florida dead: HJR 1289, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have cut state property taxes, died today in committee due to a tie vote.[3]
  • Eminent-domain amendment in Virginia closer to ballot: On Tuesday, February 7, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 13-2 on the Eminent Domain Amendment thereby passing to the state Senate. Trey Davis, assistant director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said of the amendment, "This legislation is not only for farmers; it also will help protect homeowners, business owners and any other landowner in Virginia."[4]
  • New "personhood" amendment proposed in Utah: Republican state Senator Aaron Osmond has recently proposed a "Personhood" Amendment which would define the moment at which a fetus is considered legally a human-being. Reportedly, Sen. Osmond is still working on the language of the amendment and has not decided whether or not to try to place it on this year's November ballot.[5]


SPOTLIGHT:Washington local election sees mostly school issues to be decided
On February 14, a local election will be held in Washington where 209 measures will be decided by residents. Of those measures, 187 of them concern school property taxes school property taxes and 9 concern school bonds leading to 94 percent of the total certified measures concerning school issues. Most of the school levy measures seek to replace expiring levies in the districts; many school levies are only in place for two years before they have to be renewed by residents. Fewer bond measures are asked as they need a super majority, 60 percent, to be approved. The other issues addressed include fire district levies and bonds as well as increasing the number of board members and dissolving a fire district area.

Also, the Missouri primary election is being held today. Notable local measures include the Springfield E-Verify measure and school proposals in Nixa and Grain Valley.

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How many initiative petitions filed signatures by Florida's February 1 deadline?
Click here to find out!
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Proposition 8 ruling: Earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Perry v. Brown which upheld the rulings by district court judges Vaughn Walker and James Ware overturneding California's Proposition 8. The court ruled that the same-sex marriage ban violated the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. The ruling states:

Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted... Under California statutory law, same-sex couples had all the rights of opposite-sex couples, regardless of their marital status...

In effect, the court concluded that, because domestic partnerships had already established equal rights for same-sex couples, the measure only served to deny these relationships the designation of "marriage." This, according to the court, was not a legitimate purpose for treating these couples differently under the law.

The panel, consisting of Judges Michael Hawkins, Stephen Reinhardt and Randy Smith, was split in its decision with Judge Randy Smith concurring in part and dissenting in part. The panel upheld both the decisions of Chief Judge Ware as well as Senior Judge Walker, whose original decision has been challenged on the grounds that Walker had an undisclosed long term relationship with another man at the time of the case. The ruling clears the way for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the subject next year.[6]

  • The full decision in the case can be found here.

Proposition 8 trial video ruling: In a separate ruling, issued last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit panel refused to release the videos from the original trial. The panel held that Judge Walker “promised the litigants that the conditions under which the recording was maintained would not change — that there was no possibility that the recording would be broadcast to the public in the future.” Because of this, the judges determined that, “The integrity of our judicial system depends in no small part on the ability of litigants and members of the public to rely on a judge’s word. The record compels the finding that the trial judge’s representations to the parties were solemn commitments,” and that the video's should not be released.[7]

A new update will be released on February 29, 2012. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard