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The Tuesday Count: Texas sees approval of first 2014 ballot measure

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August 6, 2013

Edited by Eric Veram

Tuesday Count Lineup:

1 certifications
20 measures for 2013


Topics featured in this report:

Transportation(News)
GMO labeling(Quick Hits)
Pensions(Spotlight)

Texas 2013 ballot measures
Originally scheduled to conclude on August 29, the Texas legislature's third special session came to end on Monday, August 5, after lawmakers passed House Joint Resolution 2. That resolution, also known as the Transportation Funding Amendment, was the only item on the agenda for the third special legislation session. Due to its late adoption, the measure will now appear on the November 2014 ballot rather than the 2013 ballot as originally intended. Texas Secretary of State John Steen also drew the ballot order for this year's measures on Monday. That final list, which includes a total of nine ballot questions, can be found here.[1]

The amendment increases funding for transportation infrastructure maintenance and new projects by diverting money from the state's so-called "Rainy Day Fund," a pool of money generated by oil and gas taxes paid by drilling companies for the purpose of shoring up budget shortfalls. It is important to note however, that the amendment does not move money from the Rainy Day Fund to transportation budgets directly. Instead, it removes the requirement that a certain amount of revenue from the motor fuel tax be allocated to the Available School Fund and allows that money to be used for transportation funding. It then fills the gap created in the education budget by dedicating a portion of the Rainy Day Fund to the Available School Fund. The amendment also frees up revenues from motor vehicle registration fees to be used for highway improvements.[2]

The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Joe Pickett (D-79) and has received the support of several Texas business advocacy groups. Supporters argue that the increased funding is required because Texas will otherwise suffer without the infrastructure necessary to accommodate its growing economy. Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, said that passing the amendment through the legislature was only the first step. He said, "It will require a concerted effort on the part of the business and chamber community in Texas and other forward-looking organizations to make the case to the voters that this is something that absolutely needs to be done."[3]

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2014 Count
Number: 37 measures
States: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming

Colorado filing deadline

Monday, August 5, marked Colorado's deadline to turn in petition signatures for any ballot measure intended for this year's ballot. The Funding for Public Schools Initiative is the only ballot proposal this year that filed with the Colorado Secretary of State for the November 2013 ballot, and, according to supporters, the campaign delivered over 160,000 signatures on the deadline. Only 86,105 are needed to qualify the measure for the ballot, but supporters frequently collect numbers in excess of that because many are often invalidated by state election officials.[4]

If approved by voters, the measure would raise roughly $1 billion in income taxes for education and allow the School Finance Act (SB 213), sponsored by Sen. Mike Johnston (D-33), to take effect. The act is essentially an overhaul of the way public schools are funded in Colorado. Supporters, including Colorado's largest teachers' union, say that improved funding is sorely needed to fund expanded educational programs, such as early-childhood education, special education classes and smaller class sizes. Opponents argue that the measure is basically a blank check to schools. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton expressed concerns that the money could be used pay for rising pension and health care costs for teachers. The Colorado secretary of state's office has 30 days to confirm the signatures.[5]

Quick hits

"YES" campaign on Washington GMO labeling initiative outspending opponents for now:

The last campaign finance filing with the Public Disclosure Commission showed supporters of Washington Initiative I-522, which seeks to require labeling of all foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, had raised almost $2.3 million, estimated to rise to about $3 million by August 10. The "no" campaign donations remain at just under $1 million to date. The initiative, which is reminiscent of the narrowly defeated California Prop. 37, qualified for the November 5, 2013 ballot in Washington when the proponents turned in about 350,000 signatures for the initiative petition. Although supporters are currently outspending opponents, spokesperson Elizabeth Larter believes that donors in opposition to GMO labeling are waiting until closer to the election to make big donations. Larter said, “We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop...We’re going to be outspent.”[6][7][8]

Gay-marriage supporters hope Oregon voters have changed their mind since 2004:

Same-sex marriage proponents led by a group called Basic Rights Oregon began collecting signatures on July 26 for an initiated constitutional amendment to alter Oregon's current constitutional ban on gay marriage. The 2004 amendment that established that "Only Marriage Between One Man And One Woman Is Valid Or Legally Recognized As Marriage" was also put on the ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment and became law when it was approved by 56.63% of voters. In order to qualify the new amendment legalizing gay marriage for the November 2014 ballot, supporters are required to collect a minimum of 116,284 valid signatures by the July 4, 2014 deadline. The measure is supported by Freedom to Marry and it is reportedly being opposed by the Oregon Family Council.[9][10]

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Spotlight

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Over 50 local ballot measures across Washington, Missouri and Michigan to be decided today, voters in Washington asked to approve a $35 million water park:

Voters in the cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, spanning Benton and Franklin counties, WA, must decide to approve or reject a ballot measure authorizing the construction of a new water-park proposed by the Tri-City Public Facilities District (TCPFD) and paid for by a 0.1% sales tax increase. The park would be located on 13 acres off of Sandifur Parkway in wast Pasco. There would be a indoor area of 46,000 square feet open year around and an outdoor area of 42,000 square feet open seasonally. If voters approve this measure, the Tri-City Public Facilities District will issue sales tax revenue bonds in the amount of approximately $35 million to construct the new water-park and swimming pool. The sales tax increase potentially authorized by this measure is expected to bring in $3.35 million per year in revenue, which would be used to pay down the construction debt and supplement operation costs of the new facility.[11][12]

Supporters of the water park construction argue that Pasco, Kennewick and Richland need more numerous and up to date swimming facilities. They also argue that building one central facility to serve all three cities would be cheaper than repairing, upgrading and operating many separate facilities in each city. Some also propose that building with public money allows certain needs to be met that are not met in the private sector such as swim lessons, lap swimming, competition and therapy. Proponents point out that admission prices will be more affordable with the help of public funds as well.[13]

Opponents to the construction of the water facility argue that one big water park is not the best way to serve three different cities and that the TCPFD should instead work to improve the pools that already exist in Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. Their arguments also include saying that a water-park such as the one proposed by Proposition 1 should be built by the private sector not taxpayers. Critics are also concerned that the official resolution does not require that all the funds from the tax increase be spent on the water park. They believe that this should have been made clear in the ballot text.[14]

Many other measures will also be decided today by voters throughout Michigan, Missouri and Washington. Stay tuned to Ballotpedia's coverage of these elections to find out more about each measure and see elections results when they are reported.


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Ballot Law Update

Santa Clara Measure M thrown out: On July 16, Judge Socrates "Pete" Manoukian, of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, declared Measure M unconstitutional and ruled that El Camino Hospital had the right to pay its executives without regard to the ballot measure. Measure M was approved by Santa Clara County voters in November 2012 and sought to place limits on the amount of compensation provided to El Camino Hospital District and El Camino Hospital executives, administrators and managers. Specifically, the measure capped their salaries at $350,000. Neal Cohen, M.D., chairman of the El Camino Hospital Board of Directors, responded to the ruling saying, "We are pleased with the court’s decision, which will enable El Camino Hospital to continue to deliver high-quality and compassionate care by recruiting and retaining a strong leadership team."[15]

Anti-light rail initiative in Vancouver declared invalid: Judge John F. Nichols, of the Clark Superior Court, ruled against supporters of an initiative that would prohibit the city of Vancouver from using any resources to promote light rail. Judge Nichols ruled that the proposed measure exceeded the scope of local initiative power. In his opinion, he quoted a 1997 ruling that said, "Stated another way, the people cannot deprive the city legislative authority of the power to do what the constitution and/or a state statute specifically permit it to do." Judge Nichols also said that the initiative was unlawful because it interferes with the city's ability to comply with the mandates of a state project.[16]

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

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References