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Laws governing local ballot measures in Iowa

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Laws Governing Local Ballot Measures

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Iowa Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
IIIIIILegislativeIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXII
Only a few local governments in Iowa have an initiative and referendum process for local ballot measures.

This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Iowa. It explains:

  • Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
  • How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.

Types of local government

Local government in Iowa consists of 99 counties and 947 cities. In addition, there are 527 special districts and 166 independent school districts.[1]

Further classifications:

Cities in Iowa are classified in one of two ways:

Counties:

  • Counties are also authorized to adopt a home rule charter, but currently none have done so.

School districts

See also: School bond and tax elections in Iowa

Iowa requires a ballot measure if a school district exceeds the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) limit and to issue new bonding. Iowa has a school district budget growth limit which is set by the Iowa Legislature and approved by the Iowa Governor when the Iowa State Budget is deliberated. The current growth rate for public schools statewide is at four percent.

Campaign Finance Rules

See also: Campaign finance requirements for Iowa ballot measures

Initiative process availability

  • Charter cities

In Iowa, initiative is only available in charter cities. State statues mandate an initiative process for citizens to propose charter amendments through petition. Charter cities also have authority to permit an initiative process for ordinances.[2]

The Iowa Supreme Court, in City of Clinton v. Sheridan, 530 N.W.2d 690 (Iowa 1995), held that general law cities are prohibited from adopting local initiative and referendum measures. The rationale is that state statutes grant municipal legislation power to city councils (Iowa Code § 364), and a city provision allowing electorate-initiated ordinances would improperly contradict these statutes. Authority could be granted through future state legislation. The court confirmed that charter cities can grant initiative and referendum power within the charter for local ordinances/measures. A recent Iowa Supreme Court case discusses the legislative versus administrative limits of this process (Berent v. City of Iowa City, 738 N.W.2d 193 (Iowa, 2007)).[3]

Authority

Ballot Law Portal
Laws Governing Ballot Measures

Constitution

There are no explicit constitutional provisions for local initiative. However, charter cities have authority to adopt initiative for ordinances through the municipal home rule provision of Iowa Constitution, Legislative Department, Section 38A

Statutes

Iowa Code Section 372.11 grants initiative power for charter amendments and references the requirements of Section 362.4.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Iowa Code Section 372.11, 362.4

Initiative process features in charter cities

A guide to local ballot initiatives
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Local I&R Laws in the 50 States
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Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns

Initiative in the top 10 most populated cities

List of Most Populated Cities in Iowa
City[6] Population City Type Next election
Des Moines 206,599 General law No I&R
Cedar Rapids 127,905 Charter Special Election
Davenport 100,802 General law No I&R
Sioux City 82,967 General law No I&R
Iowa City 68,947 Charter Special Election
Waterloo 68,653 General law No I&R
Council Bluffs 62,466 General law No I&R
Ames 59,042 General law No I&R
Dubuque 58,234 General law No I&R
West Des Moines 57,909 General law No I&R

8 of the top 10 most populated cities in Iowa are general law cities and do not have initiative. Two, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, are governed under a home rule charter. Initiative is available for charter amendments under state law. The Iowa City charter authorizes initiative for ordinances, Cedar Rapids does not.



External links

References