Vote button trans.png
April's Project of the Month
It's spring time. It's primary election season!
Click here to find all the information you'll need to cast your ballot.




Difference between revisions of "Laws governing local ballot measures"

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Line 5: Line 5:
 
A [[Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns|Ballotpedia publication]] released in December 2012 identifies 48 states that allow some form of binding initiative and referendum at the local level.
 
A [[Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns|Ballotpedia publication]] released in December 2012 identifies 48 states that allow some form of binding initiative and referendum at the local level.
 
==Types of local government==
 
==Types of local government==
{{local I&R book nav}}
+
 
 
Local governments are political subdivisions of their state. Each local government is responsible for a limited set of governmental functions in a defined geographic area. The extent of their responsibilities and territory vary based on their classification. Local governments are typically classified according to several basic criteria:
 
Local governments are political subdivisions of their state. Each local government is responsible for a limited set of governmental functions in a defined geographic area. The extent of their responsibilities and territory vary based on their classification. Local governments are typically classified according to several basic criteria:
  
Line 11: Line 11:
  
 
*'''Population:''' Municipalities are often classified according to their population. For example, a state may call incorporated places with more than 5,000 residents "cities" and incorporated places with fewer that 5,000 residents "villages". This is typically more than mere semantics. Cities may have a different form of government or greater autonomy when compared to smaller municipalities. One exception to this rule is Georgia. Georgia's cities and towns are equal under the law and are not classified according to population.<ref>[http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-586 ''The New Georgia Encyclopedia,'' "Georgia's City Governments," accessed August 18, 2012]</ref> Some states, like Pennsylvania, also classify counties according to population.<ref>[http://www.pacounties.org/PAsCounties/Pages/CountiesByClass.aspx CCAP, "Counties by Class," accessed August 21, 2012]</ref>
 
*'''Population:''' Municipalities are often classified according to their population. For example, a state may call incorporated places with more than 5,000 residents "cities" and incorporated places with fewer that 5,000 residents "villages". This is typically more than mere semantics. Cities may have a different form of government or greater autonomy when compared to smaller municipalities. One exception to this rule is Georgia. Georgia's cities and towns are equal under the law and are not classified according to population.<ref>[http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-586 ''The New Georgia Encyclopedia,'' "Georgia's City Governments," accessed August 18, 2012]</ref> Some states, like Pennsylvania, also classify counties according to population.<ref>[http://www.pacounties.org/PAsCounties/Pages/CountiesByClass.aspx CCAP, "Counties by Class," accessed August 21, 2012]</ref>
 
+
{{local I&R book nav}}
 
*'''Function:''' Special districts are a common, if rarely recognized, form of local government. School districts, public transportation districts and water conservation districts are a few examples of such government entities. These districts can have elected officials (school board members), taxes (school levies) and ballot measures (bond issues).
 
*'''Function:''' Special districts are a common, if rarely recognized, form of local government. School districts, public transportation districts and water conservation districts are a few examples of such government entities. These districts can have elected officials (school board members), taxes (school levies) and ballot measures (bond issues).
  
Line 33: Line 33:
 
{{Local I&R pension reform Map}}
 
{{Local I&R pension reform Map}}
 
:: ''See also: [[Veto referendum]]''
 
:: ''See also: [[Veto referendum]]''
The citizen referendum or veto referendum is a petitioning process, much like that of the initiative process, by which citizens can block laws that have been proposed by the local governing body and put their approval up to a popular vote.  The power of referendum is analogous to the executive veto power and is reserved to the citizens of the local government so that they may prevent their elected officials from instituting certain legislation of which they disapprove.  In order to place a referendum on the ballot, citizens must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of registered voters just as for initiatives. If the petition garners enough signatures and otherwise conforms to the relevant laws, the referendum will be put to a popular vote. A [[Legislative referral]], which is a ballot question sent to an election by a governing body, such as a city council or county commission, is also sometimes referred to as a [[Referendum|referendum]].
+
The citizen referendum or veto referendum is a petitioning process, much like that of the initiative process, by which citizens can block laws that have been proposed by the local governing body and put their approval up to a popular vote.  The power of referendum is analogous to the executive veto power and is reserved to the citizens of the local government so that they may prevent their elected officials from instituting certain legislation of which they disapprove.  In order to place a referendum on the ballot, citizens must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of registered voters just as for initiatives. If the petition garners enough signatures and otherwise conforms to the relevant laws, the referendum will be put to a popular vote. A [[Legislative referral|legislative referral]], which is a ballot question sent to an election by a governing body, such as a city council or county commission, is also sometimes referred to as a [[Referendum|referendum]].
  
 
==The petitioning process==
 
==The petitioning process==
Line 40: Line 40:
  
 
'''Subject matter restrictions:'''  
 
'''Subject matter restrictions:'''  
Subject matter restrictions can refer both to specific policies as well as more formal restrictions regarding the number of subjects you can address in petitions.  One of the most commonly restricted subjects for initiative is legislation to alter or abolish municipal pension plans.  This can take the form of explicit provisions in the statute or constitution as well as appearing in individual case law under "no contract impairment" clauses.
+
Subject matter restrictions can refer both to specific policies as well as more formal restrictions regarding the number of subjects you can address in petitions.  One of the most commonly restricted subjects for initiatives is legislation to alter or abolish municipal pension plans.  This can take the form of explicit provisions in the statute or constitution as well as appearing in individual case law under "no contract impairment" clauses.
  
 
'''Petition text approval:'''
 
'''Petition text approval:'''
Line 46: Line 46:
  
 
'''Signatures required:'''
 
'''Signatures required:'''
The signature requirement is usually, though not always, a specified percentage of the city’s elector’s.  The requirements vary drastically across the country.
+
The signature requirement is usually, though not always, a specified percentage of the city’s electors.  The requirements vary drastically across the country.
  
 
'''Circulation time limits and circulator requirements:'''
 
'''Circulation time limits and circulator requirements:'''
Line 52: Line 52:
  
 
'''Petition appearance and content:'''
 
'''Petition appearance and content:'''
There are usually some requirements for the petition's formal appearance though they are not always specific.
+
There are usually some requirements for the petition's formal appearance, though they are not always specific.
  
 
'''Notary and signature turn-in:'''
 
'''Notary and signature turn-in:'''
Line 61: Line 61:
  
 
'''Scheduling an election and adoption of measure:'''
 
'''Scheduling an election and adoption of measure:'''
The scheduling of an election for a proposed initiative, whether general or special, is determined by law and its result is usually determined by a simple majority of the electors.  There are exceptions, but they are rare.
+
The scheduling of an election for a proposed initiative, whether general or special, is determined by law, and its result is usually determined by a simple majority of the electors.  There are exceptions, but they are rare.
  
 
==Statewide provisions==
 
==Statewide provisions==

Revision as of 18:15, 25 February 2014


BallotLaw final.png

Laws Governing Local Ballot Measures

State-by-State Laws
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Massachusetts • Michigan • Minnesota • Mississippi • Missouri • Montana • Nebraska • Nevada • New Hampshire • New Jersey • New Mexico • New York • North Carolina • North Dakota • Ohio • Oklahoma • Oregon • Pennsylvania • Rhode Island • South Carolina • South Dakota • Tennessee • Texas • Utah • Vermont • Virginia • Washington • West Virginia • Wisconsin • Wyoming

Terms
InitiativeHome ruleGeneral law cityCharter cityPetitionCirculation periodCirculatorPaid circulatorVolunteer circulatorCirculator affidavitSignerValid signatureForged signatureFraudulent signatureInvalid signatureElectronic petition signatureLegislative tamperingRegistered voter
This page discusses the laws governing local ballot measures across the United States.

While only 24 states allow statewide initiatives, virtually all states allow initiative at the local level.[1] Besides initiatives, veto referendums, bonds, recalls and legislative referrals also appear on local ballots around the country.

A Ballotpedia publication released in December 2012 identifies 48 states that allow some form of binding initiative and referendum at the local level.

Types of local government

Local governments are political subdivisions of their state. Each local government is responsible for a limited set of governmental functions in a defined geographic area. The extent of their responsibilities and territory vary based on their classification. Local governments are typically classified according to several basic criteria:

  • Geography: Virtually every state is divided into counties. In general, the entire area of the state is divided among its counties. Counties typically include both incorporated places, such as cities and towns, and unincorporated areas. There are exceptions. For example, Connecticut does not have county governments, while in New York, the unincorporated areas of a county are further divided into towns.[2][3]
  • Population: Municipalities are often classified according to their population. For example, a state may call incorporated places with more than 5,000 residents "cities" and incorporated places with fewer that 5,000 residents "villages". This is typically more than mere semantics. Cities may have a different form of government or greater autonomy when compared to smaller municipalities. One exception to this rule is Georgia. Georgia's cities and towns are equal under the law and are not classified according to population.[4] Some states, like Pennsylvania, also classify counties according to population.[5]
A guide to local ballot initiatives
Local Ballot Initiatives cover.jpg
  • Function: Special districts are a common, if rarely recognized, form of local government. School districts, public transportation districts and water conservation districts are a few examples of such government entities. These districts can have elected officials (school board members), taxes (school levies) and ballot measures (bond issues).

Organization and authority

Local governments come in a number of forms and variations. The organization of local government is typically dictated by the general laws of the state. However, in states that permit local charters, local governments may adopt alternative forms of government. These alternative forms are set forth in a charter and usually require voter approval. Some states give their cities marginal self-determination on the writing of their charters, while other states require city charters to be explicitly approved by the state legislature as special acts thereof.

"Home rule" vs. charters

There is no standard or agreed upon criteria for determining whether a local government has home rule. In general, the term "home rule" is used to identify cities with a considerable degree of autonomy over local policy. Home rule is related to, but distinct from, charter government. All charter municipalities generally enjoy home rule, but not all home rule municipalities have charters. In fact, several states grant a wide degree of home rule to local governments organized under the general law.

When looking at local government across state lines, the comparison between charter and general law jurisdictions is even less straightforward. In one state, general law cities with home rule may have significantly more control over local policy than charter cities in another. Charter cities, by their nature, have more control over their form of government. Nevertheless, that does not guarantee autonomy in substantive questions of policy. In fact, several states impose significant limits on the authority of charter governments.

Initiative and Referendum

Initiative

See also: Initiative

The initiative is a petitioning process by which citizens can propose laws and put them to a popular vote. In order to place a proposal on the ballot, citizens must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of registered voters. If the petition garners enough signatures and otherwise conforms to the relevant laws, the proposal will be put to a popular vote.

Referendum

Which states allow some form of municipal pension reform?
Laws governing local ballot measures in WashingtonLaws governing local ballot measures in OregonLaws governing local ballot measures in CaliforniaLaws governing local ballot measures in NevadaLaws governing local ballot measures in ArizonaLaws governing local ballot measures in AlaskaLaws governing local ballot measures in HawaiiLaws governing local ballot measures in UtahLaws governing local ballot measures in IdahoLaws governing local ballot measures in MontanaLaws governing local ballot measures in WyomingLaws governing local ballot measures in ColoradoLaws governing local ballot measures in New MexicoLaws governing local ballot measures in TexasLaws governing local ballot measures in OklahomaLaws governing local ballot measures in KansasLaws governing local ballot measures in NebraskaLaws governing local ballot measures in South DakotaLaws governing local ballot measures in North DakotaLaws governing local ballot measures in MinnesotaLaws governing local ballot measures in IowaLaws governing local ballot measures in MissouriLaws governing local ballot measures in ArkansasLaws governing local ballot measures in LouisianaLaws governing local ballot measures in MississippiLaws governing local ballot measures in TennesseeLaws governing local ballot measures in AlabamaLaws governing local ballot measures in FloridaLaws governing local ballot measures in GeorgiaLaws governing local ballot measures in South CarolinaLaws governing local ballot measures in North CarolinaLaws governing local ballot measures in KentuckyLaws governing local ballot measures in VirginiaLaws governing local ballot measures in West VirginiaLaws governing local ballot measures in WisconsinLaws governing local ballot measures in IllinoisLaws governing local ballot measures in IndianaLaws governing local ballot measures in MichiganLaws governing local ballot measures in MichiganLaws governing local ballot measures in OhioLaws governing local ballot measures in PennsylvaniaLaws governing local ballot measures in MarylandLaws governing local ballot measures in MarylandLaws governing local ballot measures in DelawareLaws governing local ballot measures in DelawareLaws governing local ballot measures in ConnecticutLaws governing local ballot measures in New JerseyLaws governing local ballot measures in New JerseyLaws governing local ballot measures in New YorkLaws governing local ballot measures in ConnecticutLaws governing local ballot measures in MassachusettsLaws governing local ballot measures in Rhode IslandLaws governing local ballot measures in MassachusettsLaws governing local ballot measures in VermontLaws governing local ballot measures in New HampshireLaws governing local ballot measures in MaineLaws governing local ballot measures in New HampshireLaws governing local ballot measures in VermontLocal I&R pension reform Map.png
Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns
See also: Veto referendum

The citizen referendum or veto referendum is a petitioning process, much like that of the initiative process, by which citizens can block laws that have been proposed by the local governing body and put their approval up to a popular vote. The power of referendum is analogous to the executive veto power and is reserved to the citizens of the local government so that they may prevent their elected officials from instituting certain legislation of which they disapprove. In order to place a referendum on the ballot, citizens must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of registered voters just as for initiatives. If the petition garners enough signatures and otherwise conforms to the relevant laws, the referendum will be put to a popular vote. A legislative referral, which is a ballot question sent to an election by a governing body, such as a city council or county commission, is also sometimes referred to as a referendum.

The petitioning process

There are certain stages of the petitioning process and terms related to those stages that are commonly found in the legislation throughout the country regarding local ballot measures. This information is discussed in more detail in a Ballotpedia publication on the local initiative petitioning process.

Subject matter restrictions: Subject matter restrictions can refer both to specific policies as well as more formal restrictions regarding the number of subjects you can address in petitions. One of the most commonly restricted subjects for initiatives is legislation to alter or abolish municipal pension plans. This can take the form of explicit provisions in the statute or constitution as well as appearing in individual case law under "no contract impairment" clauses.

Petition text approval: Some states require you to go through a process, prior to circulation, to gain approval of your petition as regards to its form. This is not universal as there are states, like South Dakota, which have no such process.

Signatures required: The signature requirement is usually, though not always, a specified percentage of the city’s electors. The requirements vary drastically across the country.

Circulation time limits and circulator requirements: The circulation process itself usually has a time restriction of some kind. This is often expressed as an explicit number of days given for circulation, but sometimes it is expressed by an “expiration date” for the signatures, thus specifying a limit as to how long a signature is considered valid. Note that there are states with no time limits on circulation whatsoever, though this is rare. In addition to time restrictions, states often have laws regarding who can circulate petitions. These are generally limited to residency and being over eighteen years of age.

Petition appearance and content: There are usually some requirements for the petition's formal appearance, though they are not always specific.

Notary and signature turn-in: Some states require petitions to be notarized by the circulator prior to being turned in. Usually, completed petitions are filed with the city clerk.

Indirect versus direct approval process: Indirect and direct approval processes are distinguished based on whether or not the petition needs to go through the local governing body prior to being placed on the ballot for a vote of the electors. An indirect process is when the proposed ordinance must go through the governing body first, while a direct process is when the proposed ordinance goes directly to the electors. It is important to note that although in an indirect process the governing body has a chance to approve the ordinance prior to an election, it does not have a strict veto power. If the governing body should decide not to pass the ordinance it proceeds directly to a vote of the electors.

Scheduling an election and adoption of measure: The scheduling of an election for a proposed initiative, whether general or special, is determined by law, and its result is usually determined by a simple majority of the electors. There are exceptions, but they are rare.

Statewide provisions

As of 2014, 39 states have some state-level provision for municipal I&R. In 9 of the remaining 11 states, at least one city has adopted I&R. Thus, 48 states have at least some form of municipal I&R.

In five states, the statewide mandate applies only to general law cities. In 14 states, the statewide mandate applies only to charter cities. In 20 states, there are mandates for charter and general law cities. Two states have no statewide provisions and no cities with I&R. The map below and subsequent notes provide the details in visual form.

Local I&R Laws in the 50 States
Laws governing local ballot measures in WashingtonLaws governing local ballot measures in OregonLaws governing local ballot measures in CaliforniaLaws governing local ballot measures in NevadaLaws governing local ballot measures in ArizonaLaws governing local ballot measures in AlaskaLaws governing local ballot measures in HawaiiLaws governing local ballot measures in UtahLaws governing local ballot measures in IdahoLaws governing local ballot measures in MontanaLaws governing local ballot measures in WyomingLaws governing local ballot measures in ColoradoLaws governing local ballot measures in New MexicoLaws governing local ballot measures in TexasLaws governing local ballot measures in OklahomaLaws governing local ballot measures in KansasLaws governing local ballot measures in NebraskaLaws governing local ballot measures in South DakotaLaws governing local ballot measures in North DakotaLaws governing local ballot measures in MinnesotaLaws governing local ballot measures in IowaLaws governing local ballot measures in MissouriLaws governing local ballot measures in ArkansasLaws governing local ballot measures in LouisianaLaws governing local ballot measures in MississippiLaws governing local ballot measures in TennesseeLaws governing local ballot measures in AlabamaLaws governing local ballot measures in FloridaLaws governing local ballot measures in GeorgiaLaws governing local ballot measures in South CarolinaLaws governing local ballot measures in North CarolinaLaws governing local ballot measures in KentuckyLaws governing local ballot measures in VirginiaLaws governing local ballot measures in West VirginiaLaws governing local ballot measures in WisconsinLaws governing local ballot measures in IllinoisLaws governing local ballot measures in IndianaLaws governing local ballot measures in MichiganLaws governing local ballot measures in MichiganLaws governing local ballot measures in OhioLaws governing local ballot measures in PennsylvaniaLaws governing local ballot measures in MarylandLaws governing local ballot measures in MarylandLaws governing local ballot measures in DelawareLaws governing local ballot measures in DelawareLaws governing local ballot measures in ConnecticutLaws governing local ballot measures in New JerseyLaws governing local ballot measures in New JerseyLaws governing local ballot measures in New YorkLaws governing local ballot measures in ConnecticutLaws governing local ballot measures in MassachusettsLaws governing local ballot measures in Rhode IslandLaws governing local ballot measures in MassachusettsLaws governing local ballot measures in VermontLaws governing local ballot measures in New HampshireLaws governing local ballot measures in MaineLaws governing local ballot measures in New HampshireLaws governing local ballot measures in VermontLocal I&R 50 states Map.png
Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns

1. Wyoming (counted as red above) provides for I&R in a certain class of cities, but at present, no municipalities are in this class. (Several of the state mandates discussed above apply only to cities of a certain size or classification.)

2. Arkansas (counted as purple above) mandates I&R for general law and charter cities, but at present, no charter cities have been established.

3. In Illinois (counted as gray above), residents of home-rule counties and cities may change their form of government or revert to general law governance by initiative. While mostly formal, this process can have some effects on policy. For example, under the general law, city governments face greater restrictions on raising taxes. Thus, switching from home-rule to general law can help limit tax increases.[6][7]

4. In several states, local initiative is permitted only for certain subjects (e.g., becoming a dry county or merging with nearby city). In others, local initiative is permitted except for certain subjects (e.g., making appropriations). For the sake of clarity, we only count "except for" states as having a genuine local initiative mandate. However, not every "except for" state is counted. Pennsylvania has an initiative process for third-class cities under the general law. However, this process is so restrictive and is used so infrequently that it is not counted as having a general law mandate on the above map.

See also

References