The Tuesday Count: Fracking may be another repeat issue on 2014 ballot

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December 17, 2013

Edited by Brittany Clingen

Tuesday Count Lineup:

0 certifications
52 measures for 2014


Topics featured in this report:

Fracking (News)
Abortion (Quick hits)
Minimum wage (Spotlight)

Colorado 2014 ballot measures
Attention-grabbing issues that dominated ballot measure discourse in 2013 are continuing to pop up as potential topics for 2014 ballots. Joining GMOs and minimum wage increases, fracking may be another hot-button issue that voters will decide on in 2014.[1] The group Protect Our Colorado is attempting to place a measure on a 2014 ballot that would ask voters whether or not hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking, should be banned in the state. Fracking is the process of injecting fluid - mostly water and sand but with additional chemicals - into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks, releasing natural gas inside. This practice is controversial, as many of the chemicals used are alleged by opponents to be toxic or carcinogenic. Activists who are against the method argue that it releases methane and harmful chemicals into nearby ground water. However, supporters of the process argue that, in fact, none of the chemicals are dangerous.[2] They further contend that fracking significantly increases domestic oil output and could eventually lead the United States to energy independence.[3]

Though no statewide ballot measures addressed the issue in 2013, seven local measures dealt with fracking, with four in Colorado and three in Ohio. One of the three measures in Ohio was approved, while all four got the green light from voters in Colorado.[4] One of the local Colorado fracking measures was approved by such a thin margin that a recount was held. The recount upheld the original election results, showing the measure was approved 50.04 to 49.96 percent.

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The Colorado Oil and Gas Association believes that, in spite of the four local fracking bans currently implemented in the state, the practice won't be eliminated statewide. “It's not surprising that you would have passed that in the city of Boulder. They haven't seen a well since 1999. It's a symbolic vote saying we don't like oil and gas. It has nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing,” said Colorado Oil and Gas director of policy Doug Flanders. However, Sam Schabacker, an organizer with Protect Our Colorado, said he believes Colorado residents' only option is a statewide initiative, saying that Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration will likely sue to block individual jurisdictions from putting fracking bans in place. "It's clear citizens don't have any other recourse," said Schabacker.[5] In order for the statewide fracking ban measure to appear on the 2014 ballot, supporters must collect at least 86,105 valid signatures by August 4, 2014.

2014 Count
Number: 52 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming

Quick hits

Michigan Republicans vote to approve abortion insurance initiative: An indirect initiative to prohibit both public and private companies from covering abortions unless individuals purchase a supplemental policy was approved by the Michigan Legislature on December 12. Governor Rick Snyder (R) vetoed similar legislation last year, saying the bill was an interference with the private marketplace. Some Democrats have proposed fighting the new law via a direct ballot initiative.[6] “There will be another initiative to overturn this abhorrent act,” exclaimed State Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-18).[7]

Advocates for liquor sales privatization file initiative petitions in Oregon: The Northwest Grocery Association, which represents supermarket companies like Safeway and Fred Meyer, filed five initiative petitions to privatize liquor sales in Oregon on Monday, December 16. Only stores over 10,000 square feet would be allowed to stock liquor, however.[8] The sponsors need to gather 1,000 signatures before they can obtain a ballot title and 87,213 signatures by July 3, 2014 to get the initiative on the November ballot. Commentators have compared the initiative to Washington’s 2011 Initiative 1183, which was approved by voters and privatized liquor sales after a very costly campaign.[9]

Missouri Gov. Nixon supports initiative to limit campaign contributions: Governor Jay Nixon (D) called for an end to “the corrosive flood of unlimited campaign money to candidates.” Since January 2013, Nixon has stated he would support a citizen initiative to curb contribution amounts. The Missouri Contribution Cap Amendment would do just that and restrict how much contributions and gifts legislators could accept from lobbyists. Missouri is one of four states with no limits on campaign contributions.[10]

Spotlight

Rev. Cean James with minimum wage increase advocates; Photo by Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Minimum wage increase advocates are energized, encouraged by recent victories and already busy with 2014 local measures:

As expected, increasing the minimum wage is proving to be a hot-button issue for local measures in 2014. Two city measures on the issue have already been announced for early 2014 elections in Philadelphia and Chicago.

A group called Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER) lobbied the Philadelphia city council to put a referendum on the May 20, 2014, election ballot that, if approved, would enforce a minimum wage of $10.88 per hour and boost benefits for all employees of city subcontractors. This includes many of the approximately 141,000 employees at the Philadelphia International Airport. In early October, POWER was successful, and the city council voted unanimously to approve a public vote on the issue.

There is already an ordinance in place requiring a $10.88 per hour minimum wage for contractors of the city. The March referendum seeks to extend this law to close a loop hole for subcontractors hired out indirectly. The current situation allows many employees, especially airport employees, to remain unprotected by the city's minimum wage laws. The National Employment Law Project found the average wage of subcontractor airport employees in Philadelphia to be $7.85 per hour. Melanie DeBouise, an advocate working with POWER, said, "Right now there is a low-bid contracting system at the airport for airline-subcontracted workers. Companies compete based on price alone. They compete without having to adhere to wage, benefit, training or equipment standards. Low wages, high turnover and lack of training requirements are the norm.”[11][12]

Reverend Cean James, a leader in the POWER movement and an advocate for the minimum wage measure, explained that underpaid airport employees provided an important focus and motivation to the minimum wage increase effort. He said, "There were people that were making $5.75 or $6 an hour. That really, really became problematic for us." He also told a Ballotpedia staff writer that one very sad part of the situation at the airport was that certain companies actually encouraged some workers to seek public welfare while employing them full time, showing full awareness of the inadequacy of the wages given to many employees.[13][12]

In Chicago, the proposed measure concerns an even higher minimum wage of $15 per hour, the same minimum wage that was recently approved by the city of SeaTac in Washington. The Chicago referendum, however, is only an advisory measure with no binding power. The coalition of activist groups called the Raise Chicago Coalition recently announced that it has collected enough signatures to qualify the non-binding referendum for the city's March ballot. The measure is designed to show if the voters approve of an ordinance requiring companies with an annual gross revenue of over $50 million to pay employees a minimum of $15 per hour. Currently, the state minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. This measure will only appear in 102 precincts of the city as an adequate number signatures were collected from these precincts but not the city's other 1,967.[14]

Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now, said, “This is something that’s a long time overdue. Increasingly, the minimum wage is not enough for people to survive on. Coming off of victory in several different cities, we recognize the opportunity municipalities have to do right by their lowest wage workers and challenge companies that make billions and billions of dollars off the backs of poverty wages. We’re excited to give the voters in these precincts in March a chance to show that, yes, in fact Chicago does deserve a raise."[14]

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard

References


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