The Tuesday Count: citizen initiatives shake up 2011 and 2012 election news

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August 23, 2011

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Edited by Bailey Ludlam

The trend continues - citizen initiatives continue to make waves. Despite no certifications to either the 2011 or 2012 ballots, initiatives kick start campaign efforts, file lawsuits and reject state offers to negotiate disputed laws.

2011 - The 2011 ballot remains rock solid at 30 ballot questions in 7 states for the third consecutive week. But, stay tuned because that may be changing soon.

All 2011 petition drive deadlines may have concluded but one citizen initiative remains pending petition signature verification. The Colorado Tax Increase Initiative, also known as Initiative 25, calls for increasing the state income and sales tax. Specifically, it would increase the state income tax to 5 percent and the sales tax to 3 percent. Currently, the income tax is 4.63 percent and the sales tax is 2.9 percent. The initiative was introduced by State Senator Rollie Heath.

Earlier this month initiative supporters filed approximately 142,160 signatures. A minimum of 85,853 valid signatures were required. The initiative remains pending verification by the Colorado Secretary of State, however reports indicate that it is likely that the measure will appear on the Colorado 2011 ballot.

One measure for 2011, however, is expected to remain on the ballot despite recent negotiation efforts. Following the certification of Ohio's Senate Bill 5 Veto Referendum state officials reportedly reached out to repeal supporters in an effort to quell disputes. However, Melissa Fazekas of the "We Are Ohio" coalition stated, "While we thank the governor, Senate president and Speaker of the House for reaching out and recognizing that the bill is flawed, we are asking for a fresh start. That fresh start must begin with a full repeal of Senate Bill 5."[1][2] The measure would repeal legislation that limits collective bargaining for public employees in the state.

2012 - Looking ahead, initiative efforts for the 2012 ballot are already in full swing. More than a dozen initiatives launched petition efforts this week in Maine, Missouri, Ohio and Oregon.

In Maine, initiative supporters started collecting signatures for a proposed same-sex marriage question. The measure would overturn a voter-approved 2009 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in the state. That 2009 measure banned a legislatively approved law that allowed same sex marriage. Supporters are required to submit a minimum of 57,277 valid signatures. According to reports, in the first day of circulation an estimated 5,200 signatures were gathered.[3]

In Missouri, supporters received a green light to circulate a payday loan initiative. However, only days later two lawsuits were filed by both opponents and supporters. The initiative would limit the annual rate of interest, fees, and finance charges for payday, title, installment, and consumer credit loans.

Proposals with recent activity

The first lawsuit, filed on August 18 by opponents, argues that the ballot summary is "inadequate and unfair." Additionally, the suit notes that the cost estimate does not address all possible costs.[4] Specifically the lawsuit highlights that the lengthier fiscal note attached to the measure outlines a gloomier economic impact than what is outlined in the ballot language.

The second lawsuit, filed only one day later on August 19 by supporters, argues that the fiscal note ignores testimony by state and local agencies that found that the proposed measure would have no cost on their budgets. Additionally, the suit notes that the fiscal note relies on the expertise of a someone who has testified against the regulations in the past.[5]

Elsewhere, Ohio adds one initiative to the list of circulating petitions. A proposed Ohio Election Law Veto Referendum would repeal an elections law that was passed in the state. The law would move future primary election dates from March to May, among other provisions.However, if enough signatures are gathered by those who want to repeal the law, the new law would be put on hold until the November election, keeping the 2012 primary in March. The law that the repeal targets is House Bill 194.

The state of Oregon, however, takes the cake with more than a dozen initiatives being circulated for the 2012 ballot. Initiatives range from hunting to tax issues. Click here for a list of filed initiatives.


SPOTLIGHT:Elections today in Liberia and tomorrow in Seoul, South Korea

Today in the country of Liberia a referendum is being held on four constitutional amendments. The first amendment seeks to shorten the length of time a presidential candidate would need to reside in the country, the current length is ten years but the amendment would make it just five years. The second amendment seeks to make it that the president would only need a simple majority to be elected rather than an absolute majority as is needed now. The third amendment would raise the age at which a Supreme Court Judge would be forced to retire, to 75 years old. The last amendment would move national elections from the current date in October to November. Some have voiced their opposition to the measures, that they were confusing for residents and would be against the rest of the constitution. The Election commission though stated that they felt the amendments were not confusing. A problem has also been noted on the ballots that the amendment to change the retirement age states 75 for both answers. While the election commission noted the error, they could not change the ballots as they had been printed in Denmark.[6]

In Seoul, South Korea a referendum is being held on August 24 to determine if students in school would receive free lunches. The city had enacted the free lunch program for all students last year and a petition drive by residents sought to overturn this decision. The motivation was that the free lunches were too much like social welfare. The Mayor had noted his opposition to the free lunch program, but the rest of the city council was in favor of the program. Opposition to the program noted that the money should be used elsewhere instead of on food that parents can provide. Though this is the first referendum in Seoul, two other referendums have been held in South Korea. None were approved as they did not reach the 33 percent participation majority needed to pass.

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The Colorado tax increase measure for 2011 received an endorsement this past week from what previously silent organization?
Click to find out!
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Highlight from the last update...

Ohio Healthcare Amendment: On August 12, proponents of Ohio Issue 3 won a significant legal battle in the Ohio Supreme Court. The lawsuit, Rothenberg v Husted, challenged the validity of signatures for the measure based on disclosure requirements for paid petition circulators. The complaint argued that certain signatures gathered in favor of Issue 3 should not be counted since some paid circulators misidentified their employer (listing the initiative campaign rather than contracting company for which they work). In addition, opponents argued other signatures were invalid since some of the circulators failed to file a compensation statement. Ultimately, the court rejected these arguments, contending that circulator oversight did not invalidate the signatures and that only supervisors were required to file compensation statements. In addition, the court argued that the plaintiffs had failed to produce sufficient evidence that an insufficient number of signatures had been collected. In its ruling on the case, the court noted, "this result is consistent with our duty to liberally construe the citizens’ right of initiative in favor of their exercise of this important right."[7]

Preview of the next update...

Senate Bill 448 Update: On August 18, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 448. The bill would create a badge requirements for initiative petition circulators. Known as "scarlet letter laws" to opponents, these requirements mandate that paid petition circulators wear badges identifying themselves as paid workers. On August 15, the Assembly approved the bill, 50-27, with amendments. Three days later, the California State Senate gave its concurrence, 24-15. The bill now moves to Governor Jerry Brown (D). Recently, Brown vetoed a ban on paying petitioners by the signature. It remains to be seen whether he will veto SB 448 as well.[8]

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See also

2011 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2011 Scorecard