Edited by Brittany Clingen
3 measures for 2013
Connecticut has a new, certified legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, the Connecticut Early Voting Amendment, which will appear on the November 2014 ballot. It will ask voters whether the constitution should be amended to allow for more early voting options. Such options would include issuing absentee ballots to whoever requests one, not just those who are ill, disabled or away on business, as is currently the case. The measure would also allow people to cast their votes even if they do not go to polling locations on election day. The text of the measure will read: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?”
In Oregon, Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-6) and Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-25), along with Richard LaMountain, have filed a veto referendum in hopes of repealing Senate Bill 833, which will allow people who do not qualify for eight-year driver’s licenses and can’t prove legal presence in the United States to obtain four-year driver’s cards.
The group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform, is leading the charge on the Oregon Alternative Driver Licenses Referendum. This group and other supporters must collect at least 58,142 valid signatures by September 26 in order to land the question on the ballot on November 4, 2014. If the referendum effort fails, the new law laid out in SB 833 will go into effect on January 1, 2014.
Though it’s probable Michigan’s referendum on wolf hunting will be rendered useless, voters in Maine may get to decide on a hunting measure of their own. Despite the fact a nearly identical measure was voted down in 2004, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has taken the first steps to initiate a ballot measure that, if passed, would make certain aspects of bear hunting illegal.
This so called referendum is actually a initiated state statute and would ask voters to pass the new law via a yes or no answer to the question posed. This question will begin the process of going to the ballot if LD 1474, a bear hunting bill that is sponsored by Rep. Denise Harlow (D-116) and supported by the HSUS, does not pass the legislature. The referendum would ban the same aspects of bear hunting as the bill, plus bear baiting, a technique frequently used by hunters. The measure would appear on the ballot on November 4, 2014.
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Two gambling initiatives are currently circulating in Washington. One, known as Initiative 582, seeks to authorize online poker and permit the Washington State Gambling Commission to issue renewable, one-year licenses to online poker rooms. The text of the measure can be read here.
The other, Initiative 583, would repeal criminal penalties for online poker players, as long as they were not involved in the operation of a gaming platform. The text of the measure can be read here.
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The Missouri House approved a measure, known as HJR 26, in which voters would determine whether or not the rights of parents to raise children should be detailed in the state constitution. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Todd Richardson (R-154), who maintains that his proposal is founded on principles already considered law. The measure would not interfere with procedures already in place to protect children from abusive or harmful situations, nor would it change education requirements. If the measure is to appear on the November 2014 ballot as planned, the Senate must pass it before the session ends on Friday, May 17.
The summary of the bill can be read here.
Legislative efforts to repeal Colorado’s new marijuana laws fail: Two possible legislative referrals failed to make Colorado’s 2013 ballot as the state’s legislative session came to a close on Monday, May 6. The referrals were sponsored by 24 state senators who sought to repeal Amendment 64, which was approved by 55.32% of voters in 2012. Both referrals were actually contained within one legislative proposal, SCR 3. Had the resolution been approved, it would have submitted two questions to voters this fall: The first asking voters to decide on the 15 percent excise tax and the 10 percent special sales tax, and the second asking if recreational marijuana sales should be stopped. According to reports, a threatened filibuster and lack of support in the House are what prevented the passage of the resolution.
South Carolina legislature looks to allow for the waiving of jury trials: On Monday, May 13, the South Carolina State Senate voted to approve a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment that would provide defendants the right to waive their jury trial with the judge’s approval. A jury trial is currently a constitutional right in the state, even though federal courts already allow for them to be waived. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-31), says that the intention of the legislation is to reduce superior court case loads within the state. If the amendment is approved by the House, it will go before voters in the 2014 general election.
Florida House ignores bill, cancelling Dolphins Stadium renovation ballot measure after thousands already vote
Any hope that Miami-Dade would host Superbowl 50 was crushed when the ballot measure seeking to approve partial public funding for a $400 million dollar Dolphins Stadium renovation was cancelled. This measure was to be voted on by Miami-Dade County residents today, but was called off mid-way through early voting because the Florida House did not consider a necessary supporting bill.
In an effort to make the Sun Life Stadium of Miami-Dade County more likely to be chosen to host the 2016 Superbowl, Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross was eager to begin improvement and modernization and was willing to provide $4,784,337 to pay for a special election seeking to approve public funding and support. If this measure had been voted on and approved, it would have authorized the Miami-Dade County to increase the local hotel tax from 6% to 7%, allowing for $7.5 million a year to be put into stadium renovations under the following conditions:
• Dolphins remaining long-term in County;
• Private funding for majority of costs;
• Stadium owners paying County at least $112 million in 30 years;
• Stadium owners paying penalties up to $120 million for not bringing premier football and soccer events to stadium; and
• Award, in May 2013, of Super Bowl.
However, part of the agreement allowing for public funding required that the Florida State Legislature approve a supporting bill. This bill was passed in the Senate, but on May 3rd the Florida legislative session ended without the bill appearing for a vote on the House floor. This made the county ballot measure irrelevant and it was cancelled. According to the Dolphins’ CEO, Mike Dee, the Dolphins have cancelled all stadium renovations since they are unwilling to go forward without public funding.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed bitter disappointment about the cancellation of the election. He blamed House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-38), saying, “The speaker single-handedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami-Dade and for all of Florida. He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong.” Ross went on to say, “He gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote, where I know, and he knows, we had the votes to win by a margin as large as we did in the Senate. It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so. Time will tell if that is the case, but I am certain this decision will follow Speaker Weatherford for many years to come.” Weatherford, however, denied that he had promised anyone that this bill would receive a vote on the House floor.
Ballot Law Update
North Dakota Supreme Court hears case regarding Measure 2: Last year the group Empower the Taxpayer sued public officials over a claim that those officials were using public funds to campaign against Measure 2, a ballot initiative they sponsored that would have eliminated property taxes throughout the state. District Judge Bruce Romanick then threw out the lawsuit and ordered the group to issue a public apology and pay around $26,000 in public officials’ legal fees. The order was quickly appealed, and, despite being long after the measure’s defeat at the polls, is just being heard before the state supreme court.
Lawsuit filed challenging Missouri teacher evaluation initiative’s wording: A lawsuit was filed on Friday, May 3, that challenges the wording of an initiative designed to implement a process for evaluating teachers based on students’ academic growth. The lawsuit contends that the measure’s ballot summary is misleading because it fails to mention that it would eliminate tenure protections for educators. The lawsuit was filed by four teachers who said the ballot measure would permit school districts to fire or cut the pay of public school teachers and administrators without cause or due process. The lawsuit also argues that the fiscal note is in error because it does not take into account the cost it would impose upon school districts.