The Tuesday Count: Number of 2014 ballot measures continues to rise

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June 18, 2013

Click here for the latest Tuesday Count

Edited by Brittany Clingen

10 certifications
14 measures for 2013

Abortion(News)
Healthcare(Quick Hits)
Citizenship(Ballot law)

Louisiana Artificial Reef Development Fund Protection Amendment (2014)
There are now eight measures confirmed for the 2014 ballot in Louisiana. As previously reported, the Louisiana Hospital Stabilzation Fund Amendment, the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund Amendment and the Louisiana Redemption of Blighted Property Amendment are all set to appear on the ballot as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments in 2014. Joining them are five more legislatively-referred constitutional amendments that cover topics ranging from taxes to administration of government.[1]

The Louisiana Artificial Reef Development Fund Protection Amendment, as its title suggests, would protect the Artificial Reef Development Fund from being used for other purposes. The fund, which is used to maintain artificial reefs in the area, is supported by oil companies that save money by transforming their deactivated platforms into the faux reefs. Lawmakers have raided the fund in the past to supplement their budgets, hence the concerns regarding the misuse of funds. Those supporting the measure want to make it crystal clear that the fund is not to be raided anymore, unless the money is put toward the reefs.[2]

Several of the proposed amendments address tax-related issues, including one that would exempt permanently disabled homeowners from certifying their income each year in order to retain a tax break. Currently, certain classifications of homeowners, including the elderly and disabled, are eligible for an assessment level that guarantees their property taxes will not surpass the value that was determined during the homestead's initial assessment. Elderly homeowners whose adjusted gross income is less than $69,463 are already exempted from certifying their income annually; this amendment would extend the same exception to permanently disabled homeowners. Both the Louisiana House and Senate passed this measure without opposition.[1]

For the full list of Louisiana measures set to appear on the 2014 ballot, see here.

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2014 Count
Number: 34 measures
States: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming

In North Dakota, five measures were approved for the 2014 ballot, one for the June primary election and four for the general election in November. All of the measures will appear on the ballot as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. Measure 1 will appear on the ballot in June and will ask voters whether or not the state constitution should be amended to increase the number of days before an election that initiative petition signatures are due from 90 to 120. If approved, this measure would also require any legal challenges leveled against the secretary of state's decision regarding petitions be filed with the North Dakota Supreme Court no later than 75 days before the election.[3]

The four measures that will appear on the November 2014 - Measures 1, 2, 3 and 4 - address more controversial topics, including taxes and abortion. Measure 1, which states "the inalienable right to life of evry human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected," will ask voters to decide whether or not the state constitution should be amended to determine that life begins at conception. If it is approved, the measure could render abortions illegal in the state, thereby banishing North Dakota's sole abortion clinic. Predictably, this measure has received significant attention from media outlets and activists across the nation and will likely spur a contentious campaign in the months leading up to the 2014 election.[3][4]

For the full list of North Dakota measures set to appear on the 2014 ballot, see here.

Quick hits

Arkansas attorney general approves referendum title: On Tuesday, June 11, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved "A Referendum on the Healthcare Independence Act of 2013" as the official ballot title of an initiative seeking a public vote on Arkansas's so-called "private option." The Healthcare Independence Act is essentially the utilization of federal funds made available through the Affordable Care Act to purchase private health insurance for low-income citizens. The measure is sponsored by the group Arkansans Against Big Government, which is led by former congressional candidate Glenn Gallas. Supporters of the measure must collect 46,880 valid signatures by July 4, 2014, if the measure is to appear on the November 2014 ballot.[5]

Additional ballot measures receive approval for circulation in Missouri: On Wednesday, June 12, the Missouri secretary of state's office certified two ballot measures for circulation, both of which are being sponsored by the group Missouri Roundtable for Life. The first meaasure is the Religious Funding Amendment, which would amend the Missouri constitution and repeal the current ban on employing state or local funds for religious purposes, including the support of schools and colleges with religious affiliations. The other is the Campaign Contributions Cap Amendment, which caps campaign contributions to candidates running for statewide office or a legislative seat at $2,600. Supporters of each have until May 4, 2014, to gather 146,907 signatures.[6]

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Spotlight

Questionable school bond campaign methods lead some to believe school bond campaign practices are cheating competition and, ultimately, the taxpayers :

Over the last ten years, the world of school bonds has seen a dramatic shift from competitive bargaining to negotiated deals, often with a firm that donated to the bond campaign. Moreover, most negotiated deals result in contracts being awarded at a rate of approximately 0.77% higher than in competitive bargaining deals, leading to critics questioning the fairness and legality of certain bond selling practices.[7]

Because schools are not allowed to spend public money to fund campaigns, they often rely on outside donors that stand to benefit from bond approval such as contractors and, of course, bond underwriters. "It's expected that you kick in money to bond campaigns," said Kern Jordan Kaufman, assistant treasurer of the county. "Underwriters have a financial stake in the outcome. If the measure doesn't pass and the bonds aren't issued, they don't get paid." But underwriters are not allowed to offer campaign donations in exchange for promises of contracts, since that would essentially be a bribe. However, some say that when school districts grant bond selling contracts to firms that gave major donations, it verges on public reimbursement of campaign spending. Professors Todd Ely of Colorado and Chad Calabresse of NYU wrote, "The behavior reflects lingering concerns over pay-to-play practices ... while raising serious questions about the circumvention of state and local regulations restricting the use of public resources in election campaigns."[7]

A bond measure that brought such concerns into sharp relief was Measure A of Garden Grove Unified School District of Orange County. In this case, the largest campaign donor, George K. Baum & Co., allegedly submitted documents to the district spelling out a deal in which the firm would provide all campaign services for free, but, if the measure were approved, Baum would be awarded a contract to sell the bonds for 1.1% of the bond value, which is significantly higher than the average 0.6% rate commonly charged by underwriters. School board members said that they were unaware of any such deal and did not know about Baum's campaign contributions until after they had granted the contract. Baum has denied any impropriety in how the Measure A bond campaign was funded.[7]

David Walrath, a spokesman for the Small School Districts Assn. in California, said any hint of pay-to-play impropriety could be avoided if school districts simply utilized competitive bidding to select underwriters. California Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner has introduced a bill that would establish a ban on situations like Measure A, in which government entities hire financial companies that have provided bond measure campaign donations. Wagner said, "It's not in the public interest that this be allowed to continue." Such reform measures, however, face strong opposition from the financial industry and from groups representing school districts and boards. Four bills attempting to reform and restrict bond contract practices have been proposed in the last eight years. All of them were shut down while still in committee.[7]

Meanwhile, voters in Manatee County, Florida are deciding on two ballot measures today. The most controversial measure seeks to increase sales taxes in the county by 1/2 of a percent for ten years to fund health care services, especially to the indigent. It is estimated that, if approved, this tax increase will bring in a revenue of about $23 million per year. The other measure being decided seeks to authorize the County Board of Commissioners to grant tax exemptions to developing businesses that are expected to create new full time jobs.

For more information on these measures and to see election results as they are reported click here.


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Ballot Law Update

Missouri bill makes initiative campaigns more transparent: The Missouri General Assembly has sent a bill to the governor that would make more information about ballot measures public knowledge. The bill, House Bill 117, requires the ballot title to appear on petitions, increases penalties for persons who commit petition signature fraud, requires the secretary of state to post the ballot language online, and limits the amount of time parties have to file legal complaints with proposed initiatives. Sen. Scott Sifton (D-1) commented on the increasing penalties for fraud, saying, "We’re trying to make sure that the signature gatherer isn’t a forger. We would hope that nobody that would sign would be forging, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to make the signature gatherer the indemnitor against forgery by somebody signing, and I don’t think that’s what we’re doing by this language."</ref>News-Leader.com, "Changing the requirements for petitions," May 28, 2013</ref>

Arizona ballot measure requiring proof of citizenship to vote struck down: On Monday, June 17, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Proposition 200, a law approved by voters in 2004 that required proof of citizenship from individuals who use a federal voter registration form to vote. Essentially, the court rejected the state's attempt to require more from voters than what is prescribed by the National Voter Registration Act. In addition, the court did not specifically say that the state couldn't request proof of citizenship when registering with state forms instead of federal ones. The court did, however, allow the state to retain it's requirement that voters show identification at polling places before casting their ballots.[8]

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