The Ballotpedia News Update

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News about: elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government: elections, congress, state executive officials, state legislatures, recall elections, ballot measures and school boards. You can find a full list of projects here.

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Pension Hotspots: 2014 Year in Review

By Josh Altic

The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

Ten pension-related measures were proposed for 2014 elections. Five of these were approved and two were defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot. A measure in San Jose seeking to alter previously approved reform was also ultimately not put on the ballot.

This edition of the report serves as a year-end review and summary of all 2014 pension related measures covered by Ballotpedia.


First state initiative of 2015 certified in Mississippi

By Ryan Byrne

Mississippi
Critical of the Mississippi government's failure to fund public primary education at a level required by the state's education spending formula, a coalition formed to sponsor an initiative requiring the state to fund "an adequate and efficient system of free public schools."[1] Better Schools, Better Jobs, the coalition sponsoring Initiative 42, collected about 200,000 signatures, although the Mississippi Secretary of State only declared 116,570 valid on December 19.[2][3] Nonetheless, supporters needed no more than 107,216 valid signatures, a number they exceeded by 9,354. Initiative 42 was the first, and the last, citizen-referred measure to make the 2015 ballot in Mississippi. The deadline for initiative campaigns to submit signatures was October 8, 2014. Initiative 42 was also the first statewide initiative certified for a 2015 ballot in the whole country.

Although the Mississippi Legislature passed the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) in 1997, a statute-based formula for funding public education, the state has fallen short of the formula by about $1.53 billion over the past seven years. The demands of the MAEP formula have only been met twice, and both in election years.[4][5] Initiative 42 would engrain "an adequate and efficient system of free public schools" into the state's constitution, which the MAEP legislation did not do. Also, the initiative explicitly empowers the Mississippi Chancery Courts to enforce the amendment's mandate.[1]

Opponents in the legislature, arguing the amendment would wrongly transfer spending powers from the legislature to judges, might propose an alternative, competing measure to Initiative 42. According to House Education Committee Chairman John Moore (R-60), 2015 may be the first year legislators utilize this power. Patsy Brumfield, spokesperson for Better Schools, Better Jobs, replied to the idea, saying initiative proponents "are laser focused" on preventing a competing legislative referral.[6]


Ballot Law Update: 2014 Year in Review

By Josh Altic

This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a year-end summary of legislation proposed in 2014 concerning laws governing the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. Of the 113 bills Ballotpedia tracked, 13 were approved in 5 states, while three were carried over to next year, and 97 were defeated. Some bills were introduced to establish or strengthen the powers of initiative, referendum and recall, while many others sought to restrict, direct, limit or decrease direct democracy.

This report also highlights some 2014 lawsuits that could have an impact on ballot law and lists all court cases filed against 2014 statewide ballot measures and select local measures.


Expensive ballot measures were a boon for advertisers in 2014

By Ryan Byrne

2014 ballot measures
Contributions, along with organizational prowess, provide the fuel that ballot measure campaigns run on. Ballot measure campaigns received more than a total of $458,551,690 in 2014. Stockpiling unspent contributions doesn’t serve a purpose for these campaigns, who, unlike politicians, won’t likely be up for reelection in the near future. Contributions are expended, and a number of advertising and political consulting firms see a boom in revenue.

In 2014, 36 companies and one political organization made over $1 million in revenue from statewide ballot measure campaigns. The majority of these companies, about 68 percent of them, were employed to craft advertisements, purchase commercial and ad spots in the media or both. Greenstripe Media, an advertising firm based in California, made $38,950,000 from working for the Proposition 46 opposition campaign alone. That's 67 percent of all the money the anti-Proposition 46 campaign received. GCW Media Services, also headquartered in California, received $30,530,296 from Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, the campaign organization that successfully fought and defeated Proposition 45. Not surprisingly, Propositions 45 and 46 were the most expensive ballot measures of 2014. While Greenstripe Media and GCW Media Services were the top two earners of 2014, Target Enterprises, LLC, earning $27,444,723, had a much farther reach, organizing media placements for five campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. PCI Consultants, Inc., famous for organizing initiative petition drives, was the largest non-advertising recipient of expenditures. The company received $8,625,466 for helping eight measures in four states get on ballots. The California Republican Party was the one non-business to receive over $1 million from ballot measure campaigns, acquiring $2,897,000 in donations from the campaigns against Propositions 45 and 46 in California. Together the top 37 companies and organizations received $243,273,627, meaning a little over half, or approximately 53 percent, of all contributions to ballot measure campaigns ended up in their hands at the end of the 2014 campaign season.

You can access an overview of statewide ballot measure campaigns' expenditures here.

Big spending leads to big win for Pace in Austin ISD runoffs

School Board badge.png

By Lauren Dixon

The top vote-getters in Austin Independent School District's November election proved victorious once again in the runoff election for three seats. The Texas district was the only one to hold a runoff on December 16, 2014. In November, the candidates in Austin ISD were unable to garner the 50 percent plus one majority in their general election races necessary to win the trio of seats outright. All of the winners who will be welcomed to the board are newcomers, since the incumbents holding the Districts 1, 6 and At-large Position 9 seats did not seek re-election.

In the District 1 race, University of Texas professor Edmund T. Gordon triumphed over minister David Thompson. He garnered 10 percent more of the vote in the runoff election. In November, he led Thompson by about six percent.

Campaign consultant and activist Paul Saldaña narrowly edged out former Austin ISD educator Kate Mason-Murphy to take the District 6 seat. The race was also close in November, in which just one percent of the vote separated Saldaña and Mason-Murphy.

The At-large Position 9 seat went in favor of local business owner Kendall Pace, who came out ahead of educator Hillary Procknow. Pace was the biggest spender in the November elections, raising over $43,000 during her campaign. The unofficial vote totals show Pace defeating Procknow by over 30 percent.

All elected members will officially take office in early January 2015.


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