Edited by Eric Veram
We now have our first official ballot measure certification for 2013 – the New Jersey Minimum Wage Increase Amendment!
Keep reading for the details on recent-ballot related events!
Tuesday Count weekly news…
Last week, we mentioned that a certain measure was moving on to consideration by the full chamber in New Jersey. Then, on Valentine’s Day, the New Jersey General Assembly voted 46-31 in favor of approving another amendment, which will now go on to seek the final approval of voters in this November’s election. The amendment sets the state minimum wage at $8.25 with annual adjustments for inflation. Currently, minimum wage in New Jersey is $7.25, an amount which also happens to be the federal minimum wage.
The decision to attempt to put the increase on the ballot comes after a series legislative battles, and a veto as recent as January 28, with Governor Chris Christie over the issue. Typically, the governor sought a more conservative approach to the increase and vetoed a proposal in January that would have set minimum wage at $8.50. If voters approve the amendment, employers will be required to comply beginning January 1, 2014. This date is one difference between the legislature’s plan and governor’s recent counter proposal to phase the increase in over a number of years. The other major contrast is that the governor’s plan does not include automatic adjustments.
The measure is now set to appear on the ballot on November 5 of this year. It remains to be seen whether this will result in a notable campaign battle throughout the year.
Across the country, in Washington, another interesting ballot measure has been filed with the Washington Secretary of State. The measure was filed by Democracy Workshop and would prevent the state from tolling federal interstates that cross Washington. The measure comes as a response to a study being conducted by the Washington Department of Transportation on the possibility of charging to use I-90 in order to generate revenue for the State Route 520 bridge.
Opponents of the state’s plan plan to gather 350,000 signatures by July. Director of Democracy Workshop, Elizabeth Campbell, believes that keeping the interstate free from tolling is vital to the economic health of the state. In a statement to the press, she said, “The interstate’s a little different from state roads. They’re the spine of the economic and commerce that goes through our area and it’s important to keep those free.”
The debate over the use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” to harvest natural resources from deep underground, is returning this year to Michigan. On Friday, February 15, the Board of State Canvassers approved a petition filed by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan thatwould ask voters to abolish the mining practice.
The group made a similar attempt at placing a ban on the 2012 ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment but fell short of gathering the required number of signatures. This time around, the group is making it considerately easier on themselves by writing their proposal as an initiated state statute, a form of initiative which will require over 80,000 fewer signatures than an initiated constitutional amendment to secure a place on the ballot.
It should be noted, however, that the Board of State Canvassers’s approval of the petition is just that and not an approval of the measure’s language. This means that the initiative could still be the subject of various legal challenges if opposition heats up.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers did approve another petition for circulation on Friday related to the current rule that prevents bills containing appropriations from being the subject of popular referendums. Read more about this potential ballot measure in the Ballot Law Update section.
Several more initiatives have been discovered in Oregon, including one measure seeking a ban on trapping in the state and another attempting to place language prohibiting using public funds to pay for abortion in the state constitution.
The Oregon Trapping Ban Initiative would not only ban trapping, but also poisoning animals and trading in fur/body parts of trapped animals. The measure is an initiated state statute sponsored by Trap Free Oregon and requires 87,213 signatures to go up for a vote.
The Oregon Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions Amendment essentially places a ban on the use of public funds to pay for abortion procedures. The measure is being proposed as a constitutional amendment and, therefore, requires 116,284 names before it can be certified for the ballot. The amendment is sponsored by the group Stop Taxpayer Funding for Abortion.
- Same-sex marriage appears again in Minnesota in a different form: In November 2012, Minnesota voters decided to reject a measure that would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the state. Now, a state lawmaker is trying to legalize same-sex marriage via a bill that was introduced to the lawmaking body recently. State Senator Scott Dibble, who plans to introduce the measure, stated, “It’s just simply an amendment that removes the restriction that disallows some couples from getting married. My strong sense, even from folks in greater Minnesota, is that they’re comfortable with this, they know that Minnesota has changed a lot and is continuing to change at a very rapid pace.”
- Signature gatherers for two Washington 2013 initiatives under investigation: Following a probe by the Washington Elections Division, it was confirmed that three signature gatherers for two2013 Initiatives to the Legislature collected over 8,000 signatures in which multiple names and addresses did not match those on file. The information will be turned over to the State Patrol for potential prosecution, which could result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Secretary of State Kim Wyman stated that the petition fraud developments could lead to tougher restrictions. The two initiatives are still considered valid because supporters gathered more than enough signatures to meet the requirement threshold.
Golf Elementary School District 67 takes another stab at tax increase: On February 26, voters in District 67 of Cook County will once again decide whether to grant the district’s long sought after tax levy increase.
This proposed referendum would allow the district to raise the tax levy rate beyond the current limits of 5 percent or the rate dictated by the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. Approval of this question on the twenty-sixth would allow the district to raise the tax levy up to 16.3 percent which would increase tax revenue for the district by about $1.14 million a year.
This same request was made of voters in November of 2012 but was decisively defeated by about a 20 percent margin and in March of 2012 a question asking for a similar tax increase was defeated by 112 votes.
The district, however, says they plan to use the money to restore programs cut in an effort to reduce expenses such as all-day kindergarten and Superintendent Reilly responded to Tobin’s accusation of “greedy District 67 government teachers and bureaucrats” by saying that her superintendent’s salary is the lowest among her peers in Niles Township and the second-lowest in Cook County. Reilly also said that she was not concerned by the Taxpayers United of America press release since the district had already disseminated information regarding the referendum.Chicago-based Taxpayers United of America sent out a release contending that the money from a tax hike will go toward teacher and administrator salaries and encouraging the rejection of this tax increase. The release includes a quote from Taxpayers United president, Jim Tobin, saying, “This is the only property tax increase referendum on the February ballot in the entire state of Illinois. Homeowners in District 67 twice before defeated such a referendum at the ballot box, but these greedy District 67 government teachers and bureaucrats are back for a third try.”
To find out whether this third attempt will be successful or not follow Ballotpedia’s coverage of this referendum here.
Ballot Law Update
Proposal in Michigan seeks to open up more bills to referendum: On Friday, February 15, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition of an initiated constitutional amendment that would remove the protection currently afforded bills containing appropriations that protects them from being subject to referendum. The measure was filed by the group Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum. The measure is a response to a series of controversial bills passed late 2012 which had appropriations added to them in order to circumvent popular repeals similar to the referendum campaign that did away with Public Act 4. The “right-to-work” law and the revised emergency manager law were among legislation passed after the general election in 2012 that included appropriations making them referendum-proof. According to reports, the effort has little financial backing and will depend primarily on grassroots efforts to collect the required 322,609 by July 2014.
North Dakota legislature debates amendment regulating initiatives: A proposal is currently in committee in the North Dakota House of Representatives that would greatly affect the initiative process in the state. Coming on the heels of a scandal last year involving signature fraud committed by paid petition circulators, the proposal, HCR 3011, would prohibit paid petitioners, raise the number of signatures required for referrals and initiatives, and require a minimum number of signatures from 50% of the counties in the state. Another notable aspect of the amendment is that it requires that any measure determined to have a fiscal impact of $20 million or more be submitted during a general election. If the proposal clears the legislature, it will go to voters in 2014.