The Tuesday Count: Texas feels the heat, medical marijuana takes on Montana
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Edited by Bailey Ludlam
The final push is on the horizon for 2011 ballot measure campaigns. Texas, usually quiet on the ballot measure news front, is starting to chime in with developments surrounding two of the 11 ballot measures on the November ballot.
This year, the Lone Star State has endured record-breaking droughts and devastating wildfires. The Lower Colorado River Authority reports that "the 11 months from October 2010 through August 2011 have been the driest for that 11-month period in Texas since 1895.” Economists estimate agriculture losses of over $5.2 billion as a result of the prolonged drought.
Lawmakers seeking solutions to shortages placed two water-related amendments on the 2011 general election ballot. Proposition 2 proposes to increase the total amount of bonds that can be issued by the Texas Water Development Board to $6 billion.
Supporters say the additional funding authority is required if the state's water planning and financing agency is to meet the steadily rising demand due to population growth and climate. Those in opposition say the amendment would authorize state debt on a continuing basis.
Proposition 8 aims to encourage state residents to use their water more efficiently by providing tax incentives for certain landowners to conserve water. Opponents of the bill say the proposed changes are redundant because they duplicate already available tax incentives for erosion control and habitat stewardship. On the supporting side, in addition to bipartisan political approval, the proposal is backed by business and environmental groups alike.
Earlier this year, Montana state legislators passed a law to overturn parts of a voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana legalization initiative. Once again, due to a veto referendum effort against the recently passed law in legislature, voters in the state will have their say on the issue.
On October 3, 2011, the initiated referendum qualified for the ballot after the Montana Secretary of State concluded enough valid signatures were submitted by the September 30, 2011 petition drive deadline for proposed veto referendums. According to the secretary of state, approximately 26,000 signatures were collected to qualify the measure. The circulation effort needed to collect 24,337 signatures.
Another circulating veto referendum, relating to an eminent domain law, did not collect enough signatures for the ballot.
Initiative efforts are far from being completed in 2012. For the next election year, a total of 307 initiatives have been filed so far across the country. This is more than half of the total initiatives that were counted for 2010, which was 606. Notably, in Arizona, 17 initiatives have been filed, two less than the state's final count for 2010. Missouri also stood out with 39 filed initiatives, greatly surpassing 2010's total of 23.
To find out how filed initiatives are counted by Ballotpedia, click here.
Ballot measure litigation
Three pieces of litigation relating to ballot proposals found their way into headlines recently, one pertaining to an 2010 ballot measure.
In Alaska, Judge John Suddock, according to reports, denied the state's request for a summary judgment during the week of September 29, 2011, which would have tossed out portions of the case against 2010's Ballot Measure 2. The case is ongoing. More can be read here.
Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative, currently in circulation, cleared two lawsuits that both challenged the proposal's ballot language. The challenges were dismissed without a statement as of September 29, 2011.
A measure on the 2012 ballot in Rhode Island has also come under fire. The state's Narragansett Indian Tribe has asked a state court to declare the casino gambling amendment proposal unconstitutional. No comment has come from the supporting side of the measure. The lawsuit was filed on September 27, 2011.
|Proposals with recent activity|
SPOTLIGHT:Baytown Texas sees continued traffic camera fight
In Baytown, Texas, voters approved a measure in November 2010 banning the operation of red light speeding cameras within city limits unless a police officer is present to issue the ticket. But now the red light traffic company who operated the cameras, American Traffic Solution (ATS), and the Baytown government, are attempting to nullify the results.
ATS drafted a judgement and obtained the city attorney's signature, which stated that the contested referendum was a referendum and therefore was void. The group submitted this document to Harris County Judge Michael D. Miller, who has yet to issue a ruling on the settlement.
The man behind the effort to have the vote on red-light cameras stated that the vote was not a referendum as it did not repeal the city ordinance which allowed for red light cameras. The vote still allows red-light cameras to operate in the city if a police officer is there to witness a red light violation. It was instead the City of Baytown's choice to eliminate the program entirely rather than post police officers at every red light camera intersection.
According to reports, ATS has continually tried to stop this measure, spending $140,000 total throughout the life of the measure to get it stopped or repealed. Those opposed to the cameras note that if the city government is allowed to repeal this vote it would be a slap in the face to residents.
Earlier in the summer, the city of Houston also dealt with its own red light camera issue. A vote was also held in November 2010 to ban the cameras. It was approved by voters but the city mayor went against those results and turned the cameras back on just a month after the vote.
Issues then arose on the legality of the petition, forcing the cameras to be turned off, then on again. The mayor stated that the "back-and-forth" of the cameras was getting tiring. The city council made the decision to shut them off permanently and outlawing the use of cameras to catch red light runners, though ATS has again stated they will go to court in an effort to make the city reverse their decision.
Click to find out!
BALLOT LAW UPDATE
Ohio referendum restriction lawsuit: Before passing the state's congressional redistricting plan, the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly added a $2.75 million appropriation to help local Boards of Elections implement the new districts. Defenders of the move say that the legislation should count as an appropriations bill and should be exempted from a veto referendum per the Ohio Constitution. In response, Democrats filed suit on September 28 in the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm their right to challenge the map. An earlier ruling in 2009, upheld the right of citizens to challenge a racetrack slots provision in a state budget bill. The Ohio House GOP called the suit "baseless," arguing that the appropriation was pertinent to the bill.
Nebraska will not appeal residency ruling: Last month, two cases, Citizens in Charge v. Gale & Bernbeck v. Gale, found Nebraska's residency requirement unconstitutional. The cases also upheld several other petition restrictions. The deadline for the state to appeal has expired and no appeal was filed.
| 2011 ballot measures|
|Tuesday Count • 2011 Scorecard|
- 2011 ballot measures and 2012 ballot measures
- Local ballot measure elections in 2011
- Potential 2011 ballot measures and Potential 2012 ballot measures
- Scientific American, "The Coming Crisis Over Water," September 27, 2011
- Houston Chronicle, "Marijuana initiative qualifies for ballot," October 3, 2011
- The Republic, "Marijuana legalization measure in Colorado survives legal challenges," September 29, 2011
- Boston.com, "Narragansetts challenge 2012 gambling referendum," September 29, 2011
- The Newspaper, "Texas City Works with Traffic Camera Company to Nullify Anti-Camera Vote," October 3, 2011
- Houston Chronicle, "Houston red-light cameras: All over but the litigation," August 24, 2011
- The News-Herald, "Ohio Democrats sue over congressional map," September 28, 2011
- Ballot Access, "Nebraska Won’t Appeal Decision on Out-of-State Circulators," October 3, 2011