Education tax credit veto referendum on 2024 ballot in Nebraska

Welcome to the Wednesday, October 18, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Nebraska voters to decide veto referendum on new education tax credit program next year
  2. House retirements at lowest point compared to past three election cycles, Senate retirements more on par
  3. Five officials facing Nov. 7 recall election in Green Charter Township, Mich.

Nebraska voters to decide veto referendum on new education tax credit program next year

On Oct. 10, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced that a veto referendum to repeal an education tax credit had qualified to appear on the state’s November 2024 ballot.

It’s the first ballot measure certified for a statewide vote in Nebraska next year.

This referendum targets Legislative Bill 753 (LB 753), which created an education tax credit for taxpayers who contribute to education scholarships for students to attend private schools.

Under this law, certain nonprofits are allowed to create scholarships for students to attend private schools. Individuals and corporations that contribute to these nonprofits will get an income tax credit.

Support Our Schools, the committee behind the Nebraska referendum, submitted more than 117,000 signatures on Aug. 30, of which at least 61,308 needed to be valid. County officials verified that proponents submitted 91,861 valid signatures.

This was the lower of Nebraska’s two veto thresholds to get on the ballot, meaning LB 753 will go into effect in 2024 and remain in effect unless voters repeal it next November. Proponents would have needed 122,616 valid signatures to put LB 753 on hold until the vote.

Two other states—Massachusetts and New Mexico—also use multiple veto referendum signature thresholds to determine whether a targeted law will be put on pause ahead of the vote.

On its website, Support Our Schools says, “Voucher tax schemes like LB753 funnel money away from our already-underfunded public schools … and give tax dollars to private schools, including those that discriminate against children and their families.”

The Nebraska State Education Association, a statewide teacher’s union, and the Parent-Teacher Association of Nebraska have both endorsed LB 753’s repeal.

Gov. Jim Pillen (R), who signed LB 753 into law on May 30, said, “[W]e all believe that every Nebraska kid should have the opportunity to have their educational needs met … This law ensures that we are funding students, not systems.”

The Nebraska Catholic Conference and Voice Advocacy Center have both endorsed retaining LB 753.

Twenty-five states, including Nebraska, have approved some version of an education tax credit program, either as an individual deduction, a scholarship contribution, or both.

This includes 15 states with Republican trifectas, seven with divided governments, and three with Democratic trifectas.

Ten of those 25 states, including all three states that currently have Democratic trifectas, established their first education tax credit programs before 2010.

Since then, 15 states have created new tax credit programs, 11 of which currently have Republican trifectas. Nebraska is the fifth state to approve a new tax credit program since 2020.

This is the Nebraska’s first veto referendum since 2016, when voters repealed a death penalty ban, 69% to 31%. Throughout their state’s history, Nebraskans have decided 17 veto referendums, upholding six laws and repealing 11.

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House retirements at lowest point compared to past three election cycles, Senate retirements more on par

As of Oct. 17, 16 U.S. House members have announced they will not seek re-election in 2024. This is the lowest number of House retirements at this point compared to the past three election cycles.

There were 21 House retirements announced at this point in the 2022 election cycle, 22 in the 2020 cycle, and 23 ahead of the 2018 elections.

The 16 retiring House members include 11 Democrats and five Republicans.

Eleven of the 15 House members not running for re-election—nine Democrats and two Republicans—are running for the Senate. Seven of them are running for open Senate seats:

  • Reps. Barbara Lee (D), Katie Porter (D), and Adam Schiff (D) are running in California, where Sen. Laphonza Butler (D)—recently appointed to fill the vacancy following Dianne Feinstein’s death—has not yet indicated whether she will run for a full term;
  • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) is running to replace Tom Carper (D) in Delaware;
  • Rep. David Trone (D) is running to replace Ben Cardin (D) in Maryland;
  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) is running to replace Debbie Stabenow (D) in Michigan; and,
  • Rep. Jim Banks (R) is running to replace Mike Braun (R) in Indiana.

Four other House members are challenging incumbent Senators:

  • Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) is running against Sen. Bob Menendez (D) in New Jersey;
  • Rep. Alex Mooney (R) is running against Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in West Virginia;
  • Rep. Rubén Gallego (D) is running against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) in Arizona; and,
  • Rep. Colin Allred (D) is running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in Texas.

Additionally, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) is running for state attorney general in North Carolina.

Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) are the only House incumbents who have announced their retirement from public office.

On the Senate side, there have been five retirements announced to date: three Democrats and two Republicans.

This is the same number of retirements as we had at this point in the 2022 election cycle. Four had announced at this point in the 2020 cycle, and there were no Senate retirement announcements at this point ahead of the 2018 elections.

Of the five Senators not running for re-election, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joins Stabenow, Cardin, and Carper in retiring from public office. Braun is running for governor of Indiana.

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Five officials facing a Nov. 7 recall election in Green Charter Township, Mich.

Five officials in Green Charter Township, Mich., will be on the ballot in a recall election on Nov. 7. Those officials include Supervisor James Chapman (R), Clerk Janet Clark (R), Treasurer Denise MacFarlane (R), and Trustees Roger Carroll (R) and Dale Jernstadt (R).

Recall supporters targeted two other officials, Trustees James Peek (R) and Gary Todd (R), both of whom later resigned – Peek on June 13, 2023, and Todd on Sept. 13.

This recall effort stems from a development agreement between Green Charter and Gotion, an electric vehicle battery manufacturer planning to build a $2.4 billion factory near the township, located about 60 miles north of Grand Rapids.

All seven officials—the five in the upcoming election and two who resigned—voted in favor of a resolution supporting Gotion’s efforts on Dec. 13, 2022. Organizers cited those votes as the reason for the recall.

Lori Brock, who organized a rally opposing the project, said, “It’s the Communist influences that I’m bothered by, because they have shown repeatedly they don’t care about our rules,” referring to Gotion’s status as a subsidiary of a Chinese company.

Kelly Cushway, who is running against Carroll for one of the trusteeship positions, said, “I’m worried about environmental catastrophes—there’s going to be 200 to 300 truckloads of chemicals coming in every day.”

In response to the recall effort, Chapman said, “Those who are promoting this [recall] continue to say that it will cancel the Gotion project coming in, and that is false … It will not in any way affect the private sale of land between one person and another.”

A recall is a process that allows voters to remove elected officials from office before their terms end. Michigan is one of 39 states where voters can recall local officials.

Some recalls are formatted as a yes or no question. Voters head to the polls to vote on whether an official should be removed.

But in Michigan, the recall turns into a mini-election with multiple candidates on the ballot. If a recall makes it to the ballot, the official facing the recall will be on the ballot along with another candidate or candidates who want to replace that official. Instead of voting yes or no to remove someone from office, voters decide between the incumbent and those challengers.

In Green Charter Township, all five officials will face one challenger each in the Nov. 7 election.

In our most recent recall report, covering recalls from January to June 2023, we identified 149 recall efforts against 227 officials. This was less than in 2022, which had 152 recall efforts against 240 by June. 

The most recall efforts we followed by mid-year was in 2016, with 189 efforts. The fewest was in 2019, with 72 efforts.

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