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The Tuesday Count: One more week before 2013 initiative drive deadline swoops in on one state

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January 15, 2013

The Tuesday Count reports on ballot measure news and tracks all measures that make statewide ballots across the country (ballot certifications).
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Edited by Al Ortiz

Although certifications have come slow on the ballot measure front, petition drive deadlines have been anything but few and far between. The state of Maine is setting up for its schedule petition drive deadline, which is fast approaching for supporters of ballot initiatives that are currently circulating.

Just like in the last report, all is quiet with no 2013 certifications in any states so far.

What is happening beneath the surface is a different story.

0 certifications
0 measures for 2013

GMO labeling(2014 watch)
Voter referendums(Ballot law)

Tuesday Count weekly news...

In a little more than one week, on January 24, three groups of advocates standing behind three different Maine ballot proposals will have to meet their deadline of submitting petitions to the Maine Secretary of State. Since all initiatives currently in circulation are indirect initiated state statutes, signature validation is only the first step. If an initiative is found to have enough signatures obtained, the proposal is then sent to the Maine State Legislature, where they can choose to enact the law. If the legislature does not choose to do so, the proposal is then sent to the ballot.

Whether or not these petition drive efforts meet the required amount of 57,277 valid signatures remains to be seen. However, until then, here is a breakdown of proposals that voters could face this November.

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Initiatives in the state of Maine can appear on odd-numbered and even-numbered year ballots alike. In the last election, in 2012, Maine voters chose to approved Question 1, which overturned a voter-approved 2009 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Question 1 was an indirect initiated state statute that was rejected by the Maine Legislature, who wanted voters to decide on the issue.

Ballotpedia will keep track of updates on January 24 and will report on which initiative effort filed signatures. Follow us on Twitter for real time updates.

2014 watch

Unlike odd-numbered years, even-numbered years see a vast amount of measures on the ballot. More measures on the ballot naturally means more proposals in legislative session and among citizens. Here, every Tuesday, you'll find all the latest updates on statewide proposals filed by legislators and regular voters alike for 2014.

The issue of genetically-modified food labeling is quickly forming into a full-fledged tsunami of efforts to pass laws similar to the recently rejected California Proposition 37.

2014 Count
Number: Four measures
States: California and Tennessee

Proposition 37, which was on the statewide ballot on November 6, 2012 ballot, required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. In addition the measure prohibited labeling or advertising such food as "natural." However, the proposition was rejected with a vote of 51.5% to 48.5%. Exempted from this proposed requirement were foods that were deemed "certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages."

With a 2013 ballot initiative on the table in Washington, efforts in other states are taking a shot for the 2014 ballot. According to reports, states that have similar proposals on the table for a public vote are Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan and Oregon. Initiatives in these states have been announced, but not filed with election officials. More information will be reported as initiative or legislative efforts develop.

Quick hits

Proposal in Minnesota targets legislative referral process: Representative Kim Norton is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would make it more difficult for the state legislature to place referrals before voters. The proposal essentially changes the voting requirements necessary to pass a referral on to the ballot from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority. If the proposal clears the legislature it will go before voters in 2014.[1]

Referendum campaign launched against wolf hunting in Michigan: On Thursday, January 17, the campaign group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected will go before the state elections board seeking to certify a petition calling for a referendum on a new law allowing the state to establish wolf hunting seasons in the Upper Peninsula. Jill Fritz, Michigan director for the Humane Society, is spearheading the campaign and argues, "There are only 687 wolves in the U.P. They’re not causing anybody any harm. A rancher, or a farmer, or a hunter with dogs are able to shoot wolves that are attacking their animals, so there’s no reason to add a wolf-hunting season to that." Officials contend that a wolf season could be a useful tool to manage and circumvent problems.[2]

SPOTLIGHT: California Treasurer condemns irresponsible borrowing practices used by over 200 California school districts

The numbers are in for 2012’s school bond measures, in which over $22 billion dollars of new debt was approved. More than half of that debt was authorized in California school districts and the $15,109,750,000 of new 2012 school debt may be cause for concern for California politicians and citizens alike, according to reports.[3]

For some, it is not merely the amount of school debt that is causing worry, but the type of school bonds being used. Over 200 school districts throughout California are making use of capital appreciation bonds, or CAB’s, which do not require the immediate implementation of a payment plan, but instead, allow the school districts to postpone paying off their debt for decades. According to the California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, this kind of debt is the school district equivalent to a balloon payment or payday loan.[4]

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The president of West Contra Costa School District, Charles Ramsey, defended the use of capital appreciation bonds in the amount of $2.5 million by arguing that it was the only way to make the district qualify for a $25,000,000 federally subsidized loan and that the West Contra Costa schools needed this funding. Ramsey said, concerning the federal loan, “The only way we could get it was with a [capital appreciation bond].” Unfortunately, the $2.5 million dollar bond will cost the district taxpayers $34 million in the future.[4]

Many CAB’s have similar repayment ratios of between 10 and even 20 times the original amount borrowed, making these bonds very controversial. For this reason, Lockyer condemns the use of this kind of loan, saying, “They are terrible deals. The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired.”[5]

To read more about bond measures in 2012, see the more detailed reports for the first half of the year and the second half of the year.

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

Florida lawmaker looks to limit future legislative referrals: Senator Jeff Clemens has introduced a constitutional amendment to the legislature which would limit the number of legislative referrals to three per ballot. The proposal is part of a response to long voting times in 2012 which many feel was due to both the high number (eleven in total) of referrals on last year's ballot and the long and complicated language used to describe them. Some, however, believe the proposed amendment doesn't go far enough and should be expanded by limiting the number of words in a ballot question to seventy-five - the same number that citizen initiatives are limited to, and should require that legislators follow the single-subject rule so as not to turn one amendment into a multiple part question.[6]

Maryland joins others in considering ways to shorten the ballot: The 2012 general election marked the first time in twenty years that a Maryland law has been subject to voter referendum. The three that did make it to the ballot in 2012 got there largely as the result of online petitioning, a fact which has some elected officials concerned about the process. Senate President Thomas Mike Miller, Jr. (Maryland) has pointed out possibilities to reforming the process, including raising the number of signatures required to send measures to the ballot. The threshold, he says, was determined at a time when petitioners had to go door-to-door. Many Republican legislators, however, oppose attempts to make it harder to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot, believing that the process is an important way for the minority to challenge the majority that Democrats currently hold.[7]

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

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard