The Daily Brew: Want your city to host the Olympics? Denver voters may decide to put it to a vote


Welcome to the Friday, May 31, Brew. We are halfway through our Ballotpedia Society membership drive! If you haven’t already, please consider supporting the work we do through a monthly donation. You can find more information about the program here. Now, here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Denver ballot measure requires voters to approve spending public funds to host Olympics
  2. Illinois voters to choose whether to change state’s income tax from flat to graduated rate
  3. State regulation of plumbers in Texas to expire in September

Denver ballot measure requires voters to approve spending public funds to host Olympics

Denver voters will decide Tuesday whether a future attempt to bring the Olympics to the city will require citywide voter approval.

Initiated Ordinance 302 (I-302) would prohibit the city and county from using public funds in connection with future Olympic Games unless a majority of voters approve at a municipal election.

In 2018, the city of Denver proposed spending $1.9 billion to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games in a bid to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The USOC identified Denver and Salt Lake City as its top two finalists and ultimately selected Salt Lake City as its choice to bid for the games before the International Olympic Committee.

After Denver’s USOC proposal, the group Let Denver Vote led the petition effort to place I-302 on the ballot. Proponents were required to collect 4,726 valid signatures or 5 percent of the votes cast for mayoral candidates in the preceding mayoral election.

Proponents of the measure submitted their arguments supporting it in the city’s official local ballot question guide, which included, “Hosting the Olympics brings significant financial risk and long-lasting impacts. Host cities are expected to cover the consistent (every year since 1968) cost overruns of the Olympic games, and Denver voters deserve a right to decide if they are comfortable writing a blank check to cover such overruns.”

Opponents submitted arguments against I-302 to the official ballot question guide, which included, “This seemingly innocuous initiative to ‘protect the taxpayer’ is dangerously broad, has extensive unintended consequences, and is brought by a group that is woefully misinformed about the risks, namely potential costs to the taxpayer of bidding and hosting an Olympic & Paralympic Games, that the ballot initiative seeks to mitigate.”

I-302 is the only local ballot measure being voted on in Denver on Tuesday. The city is also holding runoff elections for mayor, city clerk and recorder, and five seats on the city council, since no candidate in any of those races received a majority of the vote in the city’s municipal election on May 7.

Last month, Denver voters approved a measure that decriminalized the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms and rejected a measure which would have allowed people to engage in activities such as resting and sheltering oneself in a non-obstructive mannerin outdoor public places without limits.

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Illinois voters to choose whether to change state’s income tax from flat to graduated rate  

Illinois—one of eight states that has a flat tax rate—may join the 33 states with a graduated income tax.

Voters in Illinois will decide on a constitutional amendment in 2020 that would repeal the current requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and instead allow the state to enact legislation implementing a graduated income tax.

In 1970, Illinois held a constitutional convention and drafted a new state constitution, which voters approved on December 15, 1970. That document enabled the state to assess a flat-rate income tax but prohibits a graduated one. The constitution also set limits on the relationship between the tax rates imposed on corporations relative to individuals.

To approve the 2020 ballot measure, both chambers of the state legislature needed to approve it by a 60% supermajority. All 40 state Senate and 73 state House Democrats voted in favor, and all 19 Senate and 44 House Republicans voted against. In 2018, Democrats gained seven seats in the state House to achieve a supermajority in that chamber.

The ballot measure itself would not enact a graduated income tax, just allow for one. In 2018, the personal income tax in Illinois was a flat rate of 4.95 percent. On May 1, 2019, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 687 (SB 687), which would go into effect only if voters approve the constitutional amendment in 2020. SB 687 would change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates—ranging from 4.75 to 7.99 percent—beginning on January 1, 2021. It is estimated that the new tax rates would bring in $3.3 billion of additional state revenue. The state House has not yet passed SB 687.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D)—a supporter of the measure—issued a statement which said, “Middle-class families bear too much of the burden under the current tax system, and a Fair Tax will enable us to make the wealthy pay their fair share to balance the budget and invest in critical resources like education and health care—all while providing relief for 97% of taxpayers.”

Republican representative Paul Schimpf (R), who opposed the initiative, told the Belleville News-Democrat, “Changing our taxing structure, without providing a means to limit spending or make it more difficult to raise taxes in the future, solves nothing. In fact, this plan will most likely only lead to more tax increases and higher spending in the future.”

In Illinois, a ballot measure amending the state constitution must be approved by either a 60 percent vote of those voting on the ballot measure or a simple majority vote of those voting in the election. The initiative allowing for a graduated income tax will be the 23rd constitutional amendment to be decided by state voters since 1970. Fourteen of the previous 22 amendments have been approved, while eight were rejected.

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State regulation of plumbers in Texas to expire in September

The Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners will disband and the state’s plumbing regulations will cease to exist after the state legislature declined to approve sunset review legislation before it adjourned last Sunday. The state plumbing code will expire on September 1, 2019, and the state agency that enforced it will wind down operations by September 2020.

Sunset review legislation—a type of legislation that establishes a date on which an agency or law will expire without specific legislative action—was proposed to move the responsibilities of the plumbing board under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Lawmakers who supported the bill stated that the move would improve efficiency, such as reducing the state’s eight-month processing period for issuing a plumbing license. Opponents stated that the lengthy licensing period and other alleged inefficiencies served to protect public health and safety in a specialized industry. A proposal to maintain existing plumbing regulations and delay the sunset review process to the next legislative session—which in Texas is not until 2021—was not voted upon.

The Texas Tribune reported that some plumbers have asked Governor Greg Abbott (R) to call a special legislative session to address plumbing oversight. While Abbott has not specifically commented about plumbing regulations, on Monday he tweeted his thanks to state legislators for their efforts during the session which included the phrase, “NO SPECIAL SESSION.”

In the 2017 session, the legislature did not pass reauthorizations for five government agencies, including the Texas Medical Board. Abbott called a special session where the legislature passed the reauthorizations and also considered additional legislation proposed by the governor. The additional bills were related to bathroom usage, property taxes, school finance, and mail-in ballot fraud.

In the absence of a state plumbing code, oversight of plumbers will occur at the local level through municipal plumbing regulations and ordinances.

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