Author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

Arkansas veto referendum petition filed seeking to block new optometry practice law letting optometrists perform some surgical procedures

On Tuesday, June 11, Arkansas lawyer and lobbyist Alex Gray filed a referendum petition on behalf of sponsors Safe Surgery Arkansas. The referendum petition effort seeks to overturn Act 579 (House Bill 1251), which was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on March 27, 2019.
 
Act 579 amended the definition of practice of optometry to allow optometrists to perform the following procedures:
  • Injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
  • Incision and curettage of a chalazion (bump on the eyelid caused by a clogged oil gland);
  • Removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
  • Laser capsulotomy (a laser treatment following cataract surgery); and
  • Laser trabeculoplasty (a laser treatment for glaucoma).
 
Before Act 579, licensed optometrists were prohibited from using ophthalmic lasers for surgical procedures.
 
Safe Surgery Arkansas, the sponsor of the veto referendum effort, argues that Act 579 would jeopardize patient safety and lower the quality of surgical eye care in Arkansas. The group argued, “This new law would allows [sic] optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles. When it comes to performing surgery, especially eye surgery, there is no substitute for medical school and residency to obtain the necessary level of education and training— which was required to perform eye surgery in Arkansas— but not anymore. HB 1251 removes this critical patient safeguard by granting optometrists broad surgical privileges to operate on the eyes while bypassing these critical training requirements.”
 
The Arkansas Optometric Association, however, supports Act 579 and opposes the referendum effort to overturn it. The executive director of the Arkansas Optometric Association, Vicki Farmer, argued, “Arkansas legislators overwhelmingly approved this measure during the recent session, after listening to hours of testimony and debate, and learning optometrists in other states, like Oklahoma, have been safely performing these procedures for more than 20 years. Lawmakers also heard from constituents who have had to endure added costs and lengthy waits when required to see a specialist for care their optometrist is trained to safely provide.”
 
Proponents have six weeks to collect 53,491 valid signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Signatures must be submitted by July 23, 2019.
 
For veto referendums in Arkansas, a “yes” vote is a vote to uphold the targeted legislation and a “no” vote is a vote to repeal the legislation. Sponsors of the veto referendum are advocating for a “no” vote. The last time a veto referendum appeared on the ballot in Arkansas was 2004. Since the first referendum in 1934, 10 such measures have appeared on the Arkansas ballot. The referendums resulted in the targeted legislation being repealed or overturned in all but one case.
 
Already set to appear on Arkansas’ 2020 ballot are three constitutional amendments that have been referred to the ballot by the state legislature. The amendments concern a sales tax for transportation, term limits for state legislators, and changes to the initiative process and legislative referral requirements.
 


Alabama sends five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot before adjourning

The Alabama Legislature adjourned its 2019 legislative session on May 31, 2019. In total, the legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot where voters will approve or reject them. The measures will appear either on the March 3, 2020, primary ballot or the November 3, 2020, general election ballot. The measures are as follows:
  • The Alabama Judicial System Amendment (SB 216), sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-3), would revise multiple sections of the state constitution concerning the state judiciary, including removing the authority of the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to hire the administrative director of courts and giving that authority to the Alabama Supreme Court as a whole. The amendment would also change the composition of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary so that three (instead of two) persons on the court are members of the State Bar. The amendment also removes the authority of the Lieutenant Governor to appoint one member to the court.
  • The Alabama Judicial Vacancies Amendment (HB 505), sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner (R-46), would change provisions related to the timeline, term length, and rules for judges appointed to fill vacancies.
  • The Alabama Changes to State Board of Education Amendment (SB 397), sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-12), would change the state’s education board members from elected to appointed. It would also rename the State Board of Education to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. Under the amendment, board members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate rather than being elected by voters in one of the state’s eight education districts.
  • The Alabama Citizen Requirement for Voting Amendment (SB 313), sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-12), would amend the Alabama Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in Alabama.
  • The Alabama Authorize Legislature to Recompile the State Constitution Amendment (HB 328), sponsored by Rep. Merika Coleman (D-57), would authorize the state legislature to revise and recompile the Alabama Constitution during the 2022 regular state legislative session and provide for voter ratification of the recompiled constitution. Authorized revisions to the constitution would, according to the text of the amendment, include removing all language in the state constitution considered to be racist; arranging the constitution into proper articles, parts, and sections; deleting repealed or duplicate provisions; arranging all local amendments by county; and consolidating provisions regarding economic development.
In Alabama, a 60 percent vote is needed in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
 
On average since 1997, the legislature referred eight measures to even-year ballots, 81% of which were approved. The legislature may also refer additional amendments to the 2020 ballot during its 2020 legislative session, expected to take place during the early months of 2020.
 
As of June 3, 2019, 35 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 16 states.
 
Additional reading:


Alabama voters to decide in 2020 on citizen requirement for voting

On May 30, 2019, the Alabama Legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 313, which would amend the Alabama Constitution to state that “only a citizen of the United States,” rather than “every citizen of the United States,” has the right to vote in Alabama (emphasis added).
 
Sen. Del Marsh (R-12) introduced the constitutional amendment as Senate Bill 313 (SB 313) during the 2019 legislative session. On May 8, 2019, the Alabama State Senate approved SB 313 in a vote of 27-0 with eight members (three Democrats and five Republicans) absent or not voting. On May 30, 2019, the state House passed the measure in a vote of 87-0 with 14 Democratic members abstaining and 3 members (two Democrats and one Republican) absent or not voting.
 
Joshua Jones of Citizen Voters, a group pushing for similar amendments across the nation, said, “Most people don’t realize cities around the country are already opening municipal elections to non-citizen voters. This constitutional amendment will ensure that trend never comes to Alabama. [The amendment’s sponsors] are warriors for ballot security, the rule of law and ensuring voting remains a sacred and solemn duty of citizens only.”
 
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
 
Similar initiatives have been proposed in Colorado and Florida targeting the 2019 and 2020 ballots, respectively.
 
As of 2019, neither Alabama nor any of the state’s local jurisdictions allowed non-citizens to vote in elections. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting non-citizens from voting in federal elections, such as U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. Federal law did not address state or local elections. San Francisco and several local governments in Maryland had passed laws to expand voting to non-citizens for certain local elections.
 
The Alabama State Legislature referred a total of five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. In Alabama, a 60 percent vote is needed in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
 
On average since 1997, the legislature referred eight measures to even-year ballots, 81% of which were approved. The legislature may also refer additional amendments to the 2020 ballot during its 2020 legislative session.
 
As of June 3, 2019, 35 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 16 states.
 
Additional reading:


Alabama voters will decide in 2020 whether or not the state legislature may recompile the state constitution

In Alabama, a 2020 ballot measure would, if approved, authorize the state legislature to recompile the state constitution during its 2022 regular session and also provide for its ratification.
 
According to the text of the proposed amendment, authorized changes to the constitution would include:
 
  • arranging it in proper articles, parts, and section;
  • removing all racist language;
  • delete duplicative and repealed provisions;
  • consolidate provisions regarding economic development; and
  • arrange all local amendments by county of application.
 
The amendment was introduced as House Bill 328 by Rep. Merika Coleman (D-57) on April 3, 2019. On April 25, the state House passed the amendment unanimously (101-0) with three representatives (two Republicans and one Democrat) absent or not voting. The measure was then amended and passed in the state Senate unanimously (30-0) with five senators (three Republicans and two Democrats) absent or not voting. On May 23, the state House concurred with the state Senate’s amendments and approved the bill unanimously (97-0) with seven representatives (four Republicans and three Democrats) absent or not voting.
 
As of May 28, one other constitutional amendment is on the ballot to be decided by Alabama voters in 2020. That measure would revise multiple sections of the state constitution concerning the state judiciary, including removing the authority of the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to hire the administrative director of courts and instead giving that authority to the Alabama Supreme Court as a whole.
 
A total of 95 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Alabama from 1997 to 2018. During that time, the number of measures on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15. Between 1997 and 2018, about 81% (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 19% (17 of 89) were defeated.
 


Countdown: with 161 days until election, 15 ballot measures are certified to appear on 2019 state ballots in four states

As of May 28, 2019, 15 statewide ballot measures were certified for 2019 ballots in four states. Fourteen were referred to voters by their state legislature and one was qualified for the ballot by a citizen initiative petition. Measures can still be added or removed from 2019 ballots.
 
Four of the 26 states with a process for citizen-initiated measures allow for ballot initiatives or veto referendums in any odd-numbered year: Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington.
 
These four states also allow legislatively referred measures in odd years. Other states that tend to feature legislatively referred statewide measures in odd-numbered years include Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.
 
About 50 potential ballot measures in seven states could appear on state ballots in 2019 if (for citizen initiatives) signature requirements and deadlines are met; or if (for legislatively referred measures) state legislatures give final approval before they adjourn.
 
Upcoming signature deadlines for citizen initiatives include:
  • Ohio: July 3, 2019
  • Washington: July 5, 2019
  • Colorado: August 5, 2019
 
In odd-numbered years from 2007 to 2017, about 33 statewide measures were on the ballot in 8 states, on average.
 
A seven-decade record for the lowest number of statewide ballot measure certifications was set in 2017, continuing a general trend toward fewer statewide measures. The last year in which there were fewer than 27 statewide measures was 1947.
 
Additional reading:


Colorado legislature sends sports betting measure to 2019 ballot

The Colorado Legislature gave final approval to House Bill 1327 on May 3, sending it to the 2019 ballot for voters to decide.
 
House Bill 1327 would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to create a 10 percent tax on sports betting proceeds to be levied on those who conduct sports betting operations. This measure requires voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). According to the fiscal impact statement for the measure, revenue from the 10 percent tax on sports betting proceeds is expected to generate revenue for the state of around $10 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 and is expected to grow to between $13.5 to 15.2 million for FY 2021-22.
 
HB 1327 was introduced in the House on April 18, 2019. It passed in the House in a vote of 58-6 on April 24, 2019. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-8 on May 3, 2019.
 
Revenue generated from the tax on sports betting would be used to fund expenses related to the administration and regulation of sports betting in Colorado and to fund the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund. Additionally, under the measure, $130,000 would be transferred per year to the Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health to be used for operating a gambler’s crisis hotline (to be operated by Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners) and to fund prevention, education, and treatment of gambling disorders.
 
Seven states have active sports betting industries: Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Voters in Arkansas approved legalizing sports betting through Issue 4 in 2018. In many other states, bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced.
 
Also on Colorado’s 2019 ballot is a legislatively referred measure that would allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to be used for education. A third measure authorizing transportation bonds was certified for the 2019 ballot but was moved by the legislature to the 2020 ballot.
 
So far, six statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2019 ballot in four states.
 
To see what else is on Colorado’s 2019 ballot, click here: https://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_2019_ballot_measures


Montana Legislature sends concealed-carry bill to voters following veto by Governor Steve Bullock (D)

An amendment to remove the authority of local governments to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons will appear on the 2020 ballot in Montana. The measure was designed to be sent to voters if an identical bill, House Bill 325, was vetoed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock vetoed HB 325 on May 3, 2019.
 
To override the governor’s veto in Montana, a two-thirds vote in each chamber (67 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate) would be required. The concealed carry bill was approved by 56 percent majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Proposed changes to statute that are referred by the legislature to the voters do not require the governor’s signature and cannot be vetoed.
 
The measure’s text states that its purpose is “to secure the right to keep and bear arms and to prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments across the state.” The measure would state that it is the policy of Montana “that the citizens of the state should be aware of, understand, and comply with any restrictions on the right to keep or bear arms… and to minimize confusion the legislature withholds from local governments the power to restrict or regulate the possession of firearms.”
 
The governor explained his veto, writing, “Montana law already contains strong protections that totally prohibit localities from restricting our basic right to keep and bear arms. House Bill 325 does something else, eliminating local control over whether the mentally ill may bring guns into schools, or whether a local government can permit concealed weapons. These are decisions that Montanans have long entrusted to their local governments. I see no reason to reassign that power to decision-makers in Helena.”
 
Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which supports the measure, said, “Bullock is effectively arguing that a felon who would disregard committing another federal felony and disregard a state law prohibiting guns in schools would be deterred from bringing guns into schools if only local governments are allowed to enact an ordinance for a local misdemeanor prohibiting that conduct. Right, as if felons spend their time first reading and then complying with local ordinances.”
 
Also on Montana’s 2020 ballot are two measures that would amend constitutional language regarding initiative signature requirements to match what is currently enforced due to case law and an attorney general opinion.
 
Citizens in Montana may initiate constitutional amendments, state statutes, and veto referendums through citizen signature petitions. So far, there are no citizen initiatives circulating.
 
From 1996 through 2018, an average of between four and five measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Montana. Between 1996 and 2018, about 61.67 percent (37 of 60) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 38.33 percent (23 of 60) were defeated.


Colorado legislature moves transportation bond issue to 2020, leaving TABOR refund issue alone on the 2019 ballot

On May 2, 2019, the Colorado state legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 263, which moved a legislatively referred bond issue from the 2019 ballot to the 2020 ballot. The bond issue was designed to authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes. Proceeds from the debt would be credited 85 percent to the State Highway Fund and 15 percent to the Multimodal Transportation Options Fund. The maximum repayment cost of the TRANs debt would be $3.25 billion, and it would have to be repaid fully within 20 years. Senate Bill 263 also amended the bond issue to reduce the amount of TRANs that would be authorized from 2.337 billion to 1.837 billion and make other changes.
 
In the Senate, all three no votes came from Republican Senators. In the House, Republicans were split with 11 voting in favor and 13 voting against. Thirty-nine of 41 House Democrats voted in favor except for two Democratic Representatives who were excused from voting.
 
Still on the 2019 ballot is a measure to allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to provide funding for transportation and education. The revenue would be used for transportation.
 
Democratic Senator Rachel Zenzinger of Colorado’s 19th Senate District said, “If we were to move forward this year (with the bonding measure), the same thing we saw last fall — with two competing ballot measures on transportation — would sink them both.”
 


Colorado voters will decide TABOR measure in 2019 to allow the state to keep revenue for transportation and education

On April 29, 2019, the state legislature gave final approval to House Bill 1257, sending it to voters at the election on November 5, 2019. HB 1257 would allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Retained funds would be used for education and transportation purposes. The measure would require the state auditor to hire a private entity to conduct an annual financial audit regarding use of funds as intended under the measure.
 
Representatives KC Becker (D-13) and Julie McCluskie (D-61) and Senators Lois Court (D-31) and Kevin Priola (R-25) sponsored this measure in the legislature. All Democratic members of the legislature approved the measure, while 35 of 37 Republicans voted against it.
 
Amendment sponsor KC Becker said, “Colorado’s had one of the strongest economies in the country and people think that the state itself can make more investments, more improvements, but we can’t because the state constitution prohibits the budget from growing with the economy. Is this the long-term fix to any of the state’s long-term issues? No, it’s not. I think it’s a necessary, important part of it.”
 
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-45) said, “It’s outlandish because we haven’t even hit the TABOR caps, we haven’t even had TABOR refunds but they try to blame [spending limits] on TABOR.” Neville also said, “Democrats can’t pay for all of their empty promises made in the last election, so now they want to permanently eliminate your tax refunds to pay for their expensive programs. It is egregious that the Democrats want to forever take away your consent on what is done with your tax dollars.”
 
The Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights was adopted in 1992 under a citizen initiative sponsored by Douglas Bruce. TABOR limits the amount of revenue Colorado may retain and spend and requires statewide voter approval of tax revenue increases that exceed an index created by combining inflation and population increases.
 
So far, one other measure is certified for the 2019 ballot in Colorado—a legislatively referred bond issue that would authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs) in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes.
 
As of April 29, 2019, five statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2019 ballot in three states.
 


Washington Legislature approves affirmative action initiative and sends car tab initiative to the 2019 ballot before adjourning

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2019 session on Sunday, deciding the fate of two proposed Initiatives to the legislature: (a) I-1000, an initiative allowing affirmative action, and I-976, an initiative limiting vehicle license fees.
 
Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature. The legislature must take one of three actions:
  • The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  • The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  • The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
The state legislature approved I-1000 largely along party lines with all votes in favor coming from Democratic legislators. I-1000 was approved by a vote of 56-42 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate. In the House, one Democrat, Brian Blake of District 19b, joined all House Republicans in voting no. Two Senate Democrats, Mark Mullet of District 5 and Tim Sheldon of District 35, joined the 20 Senate Republicans in voting no. Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1) was excused from voting.
 
Initiative 1000 explicitly allows the state of Washington to implement affirmative action laws and policies while continuing to ban discrimination and preferential treatment. Washington Initiative 200, approved by voters in 1998, banned discrimination and preferential treatment based on certain characteristics, such as race, sex, and age. I-1000 would also allow the state to “remedy discrimination against, or under-representation of, disadvantaged groups as documented in a valid disparity study or proven in a court of law.”
 
The legislature adjourned without acting on Initiative 976, meaning that initiative will appear on the 2019 ballot for voter approval or rejection. Initiative 976 is the first citizen initiative to be certified for the ballot in 2019 in any of four states that allow citizen initiatives in odd-numbered years.
 
Initiative 976—sponsored by Tim Eyman and frequently referred to as the $30 Car Tabs Initiative—was designed to do the following:
  • Limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds to $30 except for voter-approved charges;
  • Base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price;
  • Limit certain taxes and fees related to transportation; and
  • Repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Eyman’s groups, Permanent Offense and Voters Want More Choices, are leading the campaign in support of I-976. Leading the opposition campaign is No on I-976, operated by the Permanent Defense PAC sponsored by the Northwest Progressive Institute.
 
Also on the 2019 ballot in Washington is a constitutional amendment that would authorize the Washington State Legislature to pass bills addressing the succession of powers and duties of public offices during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies.
 
Nine states out of the 21 with a process for initiated state statutes have an indirect process for them. In Utah and Washington, there are both direct and indirect initiatives. Initiative 1000 was the first indirect initiative to be approved by the legislature in 2019. In 2018, four indirect initiatives were approved by state legislatures in Alaska and Michigan.
 
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