Changes in 2007 to laws governing ballot measures

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In 2007 in Montana, Nevada, Oregon and South Dakota, state lawmakers passed laws that significantly erode initiative rights. In Arizona and California, legislative efforts to inhibit initiatives were proposed but failed.

Montana imposes residency requirement, bans pay-per-signature

Montana Senate Bill 96 (2007), sponsored by Democratic state rep Carol Williams, makes it illegal for people who do not live in Montana to ask Montana residents to sign an initiative petition. The bill also makes it illegal for the sponsor of a ballot initiative to pay a person who has collected signatures based on how many signatures were collected as well as shortening the amount of time that an initiative can be circulated.

Nevada says that circulators must register with government

In June 2007, Nevada Assembly Bill 604 (2007)‎ became law. Lobbied for by a local representative of the AFL-CIO, AB 604 requires that people who ask Nevada residents to sign initiative petitions must first register with the government. A reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that when the participants on a national conference call heard from union lobbyist Gail Tuzzolo about the new law, they "buzzed with excitement".[1] The provisions of AB 604 are very similar to the provisions of a law in the state of Washington that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down as unconstitutional in the 2000 case of WIN v. Warheit.

In June 2007, Nevada Senate Bill 549 (2007) also became law. This bill imposes a stringent distribution requirement. It is very similar to a previous Nevada law that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit nullified in December 2006 as unconstitutional in the case of ACLU v. Lomax. The ACLU has already filed a new lawsuit against SB 549.

In Oregon, new regulations abound

Oregon legislators granted their state government significant new authority over citizen initiatives in 2007 with the passage of Oregon House Bill 2082 (2007). HB 2082 allows the Oregon Secretary of State to demand payroll records from initiative sponsors, and also allows the Secretary of State to shut down petition drives in the absence of payroll records that are deemed satisfactory by the Secretary of State. Additionally, HB 2082 requires people who intend to ask Oregon voters to sign a petition to take a certification course from the Secretary of State before they can legally ask someone to sign a petition. The new law also makes it illegal for a person who is collecting signatures to assist a voter in filling out the voter's home address on the petition sheet.

Impact of HB 2082

In February 2008, a month after the new law had taken effect, the sponsors of 14 citizen initiatives were ordered by the Oregon Secretary of State to stop collecting signatures. Oregon initiative activist Bill Sizemore said, "The secretary of state's position illustrates just how unbelievably arrogant he and his office are. It's clearly unconstitutional, and they probably know it. Bill Bradbury works for the public employees' unions. They want all my initiatives shut down, and that's all they are doing.".[2]

South Dakota legislators shut down competition from initiatives

South Dakota state legislators moved to make it significantly harder for citizens to compete with the state legislature as lawmakers by enacting South Dakota House Bill 1156 (2007). HB 1156 makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor for an initiative sponsor to compensate a person who has collected initiative signatures based on how many initiative signatures that person collected. However, it is still legal for candidates for political office to pay people who collect signatures to place their name on the ballot to pay those circulators by the signature.

Additionally, HB 1156 makes it illegal for a person who is not a resident of South Dakota to ask a South Dakota resident to sign an initiative petition.

Proposed laws that failed

California Senate Bill 408 (2007)‎ would have added a "durational residency" requirement to the set of laws governing the initiative process in California. The California State Legislature passed the bill, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, saying it violated the rights of citizens to petition their government.

In Washington, Washington House Bill 1087 (2007) and Washington Senate Bill 5356 (2007) were proposed. Both bills would have made it illegal for workers on campaigns for initiatives or referenda to get paid for each signature they collect. Neither bill passed out of committee. The state of Washington previously, in 1993, enacted a bill prohibiting payment per signature to signature gatherers. That law was struck down as unconstitutional in the case of LIMIT v. Maleng.[3]

See also