The Tuesday Count: Renaming positions, prohibiting taxes and dissolving the office of the lieutenant governor

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April 16, 2013

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

1 certification
1 measure for 2013

Taxes(News)
Education(2014 watch)
Bond Issues(Ballot law)

Since last week, one additional measure has been certified in Montana.[1] On April 15, House Bill 79, which is sponsored by Rep. Tom Berry (R-45), was filed with the secretary of state's office. This legislatively-referred constitutional amendment will be on the ballot in the general election on November 4, 2014. If passed, the title of "State Auditor" would be renamed "commissioner of securities and insurance."[2] The auditor's main responsibility is regulating the state's insurance industry.

A similar measure previously appeared on the Montana general election ballot on November 7, 2006. However, it was defeated.

The current measure's full text can be found here.

Also appearing on the November 4, 2014 ballot[3] is the Tennessee Income Tax Amendment, a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that will determine whether or not the Tennessee General Assembly will ever again be permitted to implement taxes on income and payroll at state and local levels.[4]

Supporters of the measure, including its sponsor Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-31), contend that, if passed, this measure would attract businesses to the state.[5] Opponents fear that the measure could prove detrimental to Tennessee in the long run if future lawmakers want to implement taxes to handle the state's budget.[5]

The measure's full text can be found here.

Last week, the Illinois House voted 81-30 to approve a measure that, if it appears on the ballot and is eventually passed by voters, would dissolve the office of lieutenant governor by the year 2019.[6][7] Eliminating the office of lieutenant governor would require amending the Illinois Constitution, therefore the measure must first pass the senate, and then it will face a statewide vote. If the measure is still alive, it will appear on the Illinois ballot as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on November 4, 2014.

The measure's sponsor, Rep. David McSweeney (R-52), says that eliminating the position would save the state approximately $1.8 million.[7] Opponents insist that the position is necessary for instances in which the governor vacates the office.

A statement from the office of current lieutenant governor Sheila Simon states she is "neutral to the proposal" but "opposed to the idea of abolishing the Lt. Governor’s Office."[6]

The measure's full text can be found here.

2014 watch

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According to President Bruce Benson, the University of Colorado is contemplating a 2014 ballot measure that would produce another source of government funding for higher education. Though he won't yet reveal them, Benson cites three ideas for generating this additional revenue. He plans to narrow his options down and then poll voters over the summer. Benson noted the importance of polling voters and gauging their support of any future ballot measures.[8] Colorado currently ranks last in higher education dollars per student.[9]

2014 Count
Number: Eleven measures
States: California, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming

On April 15, an Oregon senate committee toyed with the idea of once again introducing a sales tax measure, despite the fact that voters have rejected nine such proposals in the past. This measure would implement a 5 percent tax on goods and services, however this would be offset by decreased income taxes. Such a measure would likely be included on the ballot in either 2014 or 2016.[10]

Proponents of the measure say that a sales tax would help to stabilize Oregon's tax revenue. Currently, the state obtains most of its revenue from income taxes, which have fluctuated considerably due to the volatile economy. However, opponents contend a tax on goods and services would be detrimental to low-income earners who tend to spend a larger percentage of their income on such items.[10]

Quick hits

Amendment concerning administrative rules closer to ballot in Arkansas: The Arkansas State Senate voted 31-1 in approval of a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would require legislative approval of any new administrative rules promulgated by state agencies. The measure, currently moving through the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 7, would add a new section to article 5 of the state constitution providing for a legislative committee to review any proposed administrative rules. The amendment will now go on to the house for final approval. The full text may be found here.

Michigan senator seeks to render wolf hunting referendum pointless: Following the submission 263,705 signatures in favor of putting a state law allowing wolf hunting up to a referendum, lawmakers are acting quickly in an attempt to prevent that effort from having any effect. Senator Tom Casperson (R) is leading the legislature's effort in the form of his newly proposed Senate Bill 288. This bill would give the Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate a species as a game species without needing the legislature to do so through a bill first. Since game species would be simply declared by the commission, there would be no legislation subject to referendum or veto. The Humane Society of the United States, one of the referendum's key proponents, says that the new proposal is a deliberate attempt to prevent the public form having its say on the issue. Sen. Casperson argues that the bill is broader than that, and that it is specifically about protecting the state's heritage form interest groups. Unsurprisingly, the bill contains a slight appropriation, rendering it invulnerable to referendum.[11]

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Spotlight

Oregon school district asks voters to approve funding to replace a school building so old that power failures are not uncommon.

Ironically, while Howard Elementary School can boast a computer for every student, the electrical power of the building cannot support the use of all the computers at once. In this school, which has been a "technology immersion school" for years, the classrooms reportedly sometimes lose power when too many electronic devices are used at once.

Howard Elementary, built in 1949, is one of the four schools that the Eugene School District is trying to replace with its general obligation bond request measure. This measure seeks voter approval to borrow $170 million in order to replace or renovate four school buildings: Howard Elementary School, River Road Elementary School, Roosevelt Middle school and Technology Academy at Jefferson. The $170 million would also fund the improvement of instructional facilities, the updating of technology, text books and other instructional materials and the increase of student safety and district security.[12]

If approved in the May 21st election, this measure would increase property tax rates in the district by an estimated 24 cents per $1,000 dollars, costing about $42 per year for homeowners with homes assessed at median value of $174,000. Under this approximate tax rate, the debt would be paid in 20 years.[13]

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

  • Legal battle heats up over same-sex marriage amendment in Oregon: On Friday, April 5, the Oregon attorney general's office published the official ballot title for the Oregon Same-Sex Marriage Amendment. In doing so, the attorney general rejected an argument from the Oregon Family Council that the official title should include the idea that the initiative would require all governmental agencies in the state to issue marriage licenses. Basic Rights Oregon, the initiative's sponsor, contended that the argument is false. According to them, county clerks would remain the only government agents capable of issuing marriage licenses if the measure is successful. Both sides now have until April 19 to appeal the attorney general's ruling to the Oregon Supreme Court.[14]
  • Ohio legislature pushes for more transparency on bond issues: Ohio state representative Kristina Roegner (R) recently announced a new bill she is sponsoring that would require public institutions to disclose information about their outstanding debt on ballots containing bond issues. The bill would also require that figures on each taxpayer's debt obligations be presented. At a news conference held last week, Rep. Roegner said, "Information that we believe the voters need will be: How much current debt exists? How much outstanding debt is there? And what does that mean on a per-capita basis? That's what we do as individuals, as families. When we need to borrow some money, we consider how much debt... we already have." Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association, said he is concerned that the legislation could further complicate already confusing ballots. He added that he did not believe the new requirements would have much effect on the success of bond issues on the ballot.[15]
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See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References