Author

Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at josh.altic@ballotpedia.org

Voters in Lincoln Public Schools approve $290 million bond

On Tuesday, Lincoln Public Schools, Nebraska voters approved a bond proposition 62% to 38%, authorizing $290 million for projects including the construction of two high schools and an elementary school, improvements and repairs of Park Middle School and Everett Elementary School, and capital improvements to other district facilities. Turnout was 34% for the all-mail election.

District officials estimated that a tax increase would not be needed to repay the bonds proposed by this measure. Going into the election, the district’s bond debt and building fund were paid through a property tax levy of $0.161 per $100 of assessed property value. District officials estimated this rate would not increase because of existing bond debt set to be repaid. As of 2020, the district’s total property tax levy was $1.238 per $100 in assessed property value.

LPS voters approved a $153 million bond issue in 2014 by about 67% to 33%.

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Judge strikes down South Dakota initiative petition circulator disclosure requirement

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann ruled that South Dakota House Bill 1094 violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The bill was designed to do the following:
• require a paid petition circulator to register with the secretary of state and provide certain information;
• establish a paid petition circulator registration fee of $20;
• require petitioners to wear a badge identifying the committee and ballot measure for which they are collecting signatures and their paid or volunteer status; and
• make other changes to the state’s rules on petition circulators.

SD Voice and Cory Heidelberger filed the lawsuit challenging House Bill 1094. In the ruling, Kornmann wrote that the bill’s definition of a petition circulator was broad enough to apply to anyone who publicly advocated for the signing of an initiative petition and that the disclosure requirements were discriminatory against initiative petition supporters and restricted free speech. Kornmann wrote, “These disclosure provisions place serious and draconian burdens on protected speech. While the state’s interests in effective administration of the law and ensuring that its laws are followed are important, the state has ample means of doing so that would not chill speech.” Kornmann also ruled that all of the provisions of 1094 were intimately connected and that, therefore, none of the other provisions could be severed from the disclosure requirements he ruled unconstitutional.

House Bill 1094 was approved by the state legislature in a vote of 19-13 in the state Senate and 51-14 in the state House. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed it into law on March 21, 2019. South Dakota is one of 21 Republican state government trifectas, which means Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s office.

Ballotpedia tracked 229 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 states in 2019. Thirty-eight (38) proposals had been approved in 16 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah.

So far, two citizen initiatives have qualified for the 2020 South Dakota ballot. One is an initiated state statute to establish a medical marijuana program in the state. The other is an initiated constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana and require the legislature to pass laws legalizing medical marijuana. The signature deadline for 2020 ballot initiatives in South Dakota passed on November 3, 2019.

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Changes to laws governing ballot measures in 2020



Ballotpedia’s annual minimum wage increase report: 24 states and D.C. will increase their minimum wages in 2020

Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C. will increase their minimum wages in 2020. The increases range from between $0.10 per hour in Florida to $1.50 per hour in New Mexico, Washington, and New York City for certain employees. In New York and Oregon, state laws provide for regional minimum wages.
Eight minimum wages will increase due to wages being indexed to changes in cost-of-living or inflation. Minimum wages in 10 states and D.C. will increase due to legislative bills scheduling specific increases, and they will increase in six states due to citizen-initiated measures scheduling specific increases.
In 2020, the largest minimum wage increases based on state laws are $1.50 in New Mexico ($7.50 to $9.00), Washington ($12.00 to $13.50), and New York City ($13.50 to $15.00 for certain employees).
The highest minimum wage based on state law is $15.00 in New York City in 2020. The highest statewide minimum wages based on state laws are $13.50 per hour in Washington and $13.00 in California.
In 2019, there were no statewide ballot measures related to minimum wages. Legislation to increase state minimum wages were approved by state legislatures and signed into law in five states in 2019.
One measure, a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative in Florida, has been certified for the 2020 ballot so far. Potential measures designed to increase minimum wages in Arizona and Idaho and one measure to prohibit local minimum wage increases in Missouri were filed targeting 2020 ballots.
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Ballotpedia releases its year-end state ballot measure analysis with statistical summaries, campaign finance analysis, readability analysis, historical context, and more

Thirty-six statewide ballot measures were on ballots in eight states in 2019. Four were decided at pre-November elections, and 32 were on ballots for November elections.

 

Of the 36, 22 measures were approved by voters, and 14 were defeated. As of December 2019, the outcome of one of those measures—the Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Amendment—was pending a final court ruling.

 

The average number of statewide measures on the ballot in odd-numbered years from 2009 through 2017 was between 30 and 31.

 

Other highlights of this annual report are below:
  • Two citizen-initiated were measures on the ballot, one initiative and one veto referendum, both in Washington. The initiative was approved and the veto referendum was rejected, which was the result sought by the measure’s sponsors in each case.
  • State legislatures referred 22 measures to the ballot. Voters approved 18 and rejected four.
  • There were more statewide measures in 2019 than any odd year since 2007, largely due to the record number of advisory questions in Washington. The 24 binding statewide measures was about average since 2013 and well below the average over the last few decades.
  • Citizen-initiated measure activity was below the odd-year average since 2013 both in terms of the numbers of measures filed and success rates.
  • The costs per required signature (CPRS) for the two citizen-initiated measured in Washington was $2.15 and $3.22 (sponsors spent $560,000 and $837,178, respectively). The average CPRS for citizen-initiated measures in odd-numbered years since 2013 is $6.48. The average CPRS for all citizen-initiated measures in Washington since 2013 is $2.98.
  • Support and opposition campaigns raised $28.04 million. Ninety-four percent of the contributions were for measures in three states—Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
  • The campaign for Colorado Proposition CC had the highest cost per vote. The campaign lost after spending $6.41 for every vote in favor of the measure.

 

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Ballotpedia releases its year-end state ballot measure analysis with statistical summaries, campaign finance analysis, readability analysis, historical context, and more

A total of 36 statewide ballot measures were on 2019 ballots in eight states. Of those, four were decided at pre-November elections, and 32 statewide measures were on ballots for the November election in seven states.

 

Of the total, 22 statewide measures were approved by voters, and 14 were defeated. As of December 2019, the outcome of one of those measures—the Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Amendment—was pending a final court ruling.

 

The average number of statewide measures on the ballot in odd-numbered years from 2009 through 2017 was between 30 and 31.

 

The highlights of this annual report are below:
  • There were two citizen-initiated measures on the ballot, one initiative and one veto referendum, both in Washington. The initiative was approved and the veto referendum was rejected, which was the result sought by the measure’s sponsors in each case.
  • State legislatures referred 22 measures to the ballot. Voters approved 18 and rejected four.
  • There were more statewide measures in 2019 than since 2007, largely due to the record number of advisory questions in Washington; the 24 binding statewide measures was about average since 2013 and well below the average over the last few decades.
  • Ballot initiative and veto referendum activity was below the odd-year average since 2013 both in terms of the numbers of measures filed and success rates.
  • Sponsors of the two citizen-initiated measures in Washington spent $560,000 and $837,178, respectively, on signature-gathering costs. This amounted to costs per required signature (CPRS) of $2.15 and $3.22, respectively. The average CPRS for citizen-initiated measures in odd-numbered years since 2013 was $6.48. The average CPRS for all citizen-initiated measures in Washington since 2013 was $2.98.
  • In 2019, ballot measure support and opposition campaigns raised about $28.04 million. Most of the contributions (94.1 percent) were for measures in three states—Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
  • The campaign with the highest cost per vote (CPV) in 2019 was the support campaign for Colorado Proposition CC, which lost after spending $6.41 for every vote in favor of the measure.

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Oklahoma City voters approve sales tax measure Tuesday

Oklahoma City voters approved a 1% sales tax measure by 71.7% to 28.3 percent in a special election Tuesday. The tax revenue was earmarked to fund the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) 4 program of proposed city infrastructure and facility projects.
The MAPS 4 tax will expire in eight years and is expected to raise an estimated $978 million over that time. The three largest recipients of the tax proceeds will be city parks ($140 million), youth centers ($110 million), and the Chesapeake Energy Arena and related facilities ($115 million).
The tax will go into effect in April 2020, when the current 1% transportation sales tax expires. The city’s overall sales tax rate will remain unchanged at 8.625%. The state sales tax rate in Oklahoma is 4.5%. The total Oklahoma City sales tax rate is 4.125%. There are no county-wide or other local sales taxes in Oklahoma City. If voters had not approved the measure, Oklahoma City’s overall sales tax would have decreased to 7.625%.
The average total sales tax rate (state and local) in Oklahoma is 8.77%. State law allows additional local sales taxes of up to 6.5%, making the maximum total sales tax rate in the state 11%.
The first version of the city’s MAPS program—which was also funded by a 1% sales tax—was approved by voters on December 14, 1993, with the tax expiring on July 1, 1999, after generating about $309 million in revenue. MAPS 2 and MAPS 3 followed. The MAPS 3 tax expired in December 2017 and final projects are planned for completion in 2022.
The city council voted Sept. 24 to put the measure on the ballot. The council will have final authority over the administration of the program. A volunteer advisory board will have detailed oversight. Oklahoma City’s next regular municipal election—when four of the council’s eight seats are up for election—is in 2021.
Next year, voters could decide on another 0.125% sales tax measure to fund city park maintenance and operations. Former City Council Member Ed Shadid filed petitions for a citizen initiative proposing the measure on Dec. 2. If city officials verify the petitions have the 6,499 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, voters could decide the initiative during the state’s presidential primary on March 3 or state legislative primaries June 30. The tax is expected to generate about $15 million per year.
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Oklahoma City voters to decide sales tax proposition Dec. 10

On Dec. 10, OKC voters will decide whether to approve a 1% sales tax proposition to fund the city’s MAPS 4 program of city infrastructure and facility projects. The tax was designed to go into effect in April 2020 when the city’s existing 1% transportation sales tax expires, thereby leaving the total sales tax rate in the city unchanged at 8.625% (state and local). It would expire in eight years and raise an estimated $978 million over that time. The three largest funded projects would be Parks ($140 million), Youth Centers ($110 million), and the Chesapeake Energy Arena and related facilities ($115 million).
The measure was put on the ballot by the city council, which approved the proposed tax ordinance on September 24, 2019.
Another sales tax measure, a 0.125% tax to provide about $15 million per year for parks, could be on the ballot for city voters next year. Former City Council Member Ed Shadid filed signatures for a city citizen initiative proposing the tax on December 2. If more than the required 6,499 signatures are found valid by city officials, voters would see the measure in March 2020.
The state sales tax rate in Oklahoma is 4.5%. The total Oklahoma City sales tax rate is 4.125%. There are no county-wide or other local sales taxes in Oklahoma City.
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Washington Referendum 88 on affirmative action too close to call as of Wednesday morning

Washington Referendum 88 was too close to call as of Wednesday morning, with ballots counted so far split 48.2% in favor of Initiative 1000 and 51.8% opposed. The measure was behind by about 20,000 votes and an estimated 332,000 ballots were left to be counted. The results must be certified by December 5.
 
The measure would expressly allow the state to implement affirmative action policies without the use of preferential treatment or quotas (as defined in I-1000) in public employment, education, and contracting. Initiative 1000 was qualified through a signature petition drive and then passed by the state legislature before being forced to the ballot by opponents through Referendum 88.
 
Washington Initiative 200, which voters approved in 1998, prohibited public institutions in the state from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the areas of public education, public employment, and public contracting. Initiative 200 did not define preferential treatment.
 
The measure took a complex and unusual route to get before voters. Referendum 88 was one of two statewide citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in the country this year and was the only veto referendum—a petition effort targeting the repeal of a recently passed law. What’s more, it was a veto referendum seeking the repeal of an indirect initiative that was approved by the legislature instead of going to the ballot. This situation has happened two times out of 38 indirect initiatives in Washington’s history.
 
Proponents of I-1000 first collected signatures to qualify the measure to go before the legislature and potentially on to the ballot. Then the legislature approved the initiative, precluding an election on it. Finally, opponents of I-1000 collected signatures to force the issue before voters in the hopes they would reject it.
 
Since 1914, Washington voters have decided 37 statewide veto referendum measures. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in 2012. Voters repealed targeted bills in 81% of Washington veto referendums (30 of 37).


New York City voters approved ranked-choice voting for city primaries, will be largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to use RCV

According to unofficial election night results, about 73% of New York City voters approved Question 1 on Tuesday. The measure makes New York City the most populous jurisdiction in the U.S. to approve the use of the ranked-choice voting election method. Question 1 provides for ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council members. It allows voters to rank in order of preference up to five candidates, including a write-in candidate. Before the measure, the city’s charter provided for plurality voting, also known as first-past-the-post, and run-off elections, depending on the office and type of election. Question 1 also made changes to the timing of elections to fill vacancies and city council redistricting.
 
Maine, the only state to use ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, was the most populous jurisdiction to use ranked-choice voting. There, it was established through a citizen initiative approved by voters in 2016 and upheld by voters through a veto referendum in 2018. As of 2019, ranked-choice voting is used or has been approved for use in elections in 24 cities and counties in 12 states.
 
City voters also approved the other four charter amendment questions on the ballot, with support ranging from 70% and 77% according to unofficial reports. All five questions were put on the ballot by the New York City 2019 Charter Revision Commission.
 
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Tucson voters reject sanctuary city initiative 71% to 29%

Tucson voters rejected a measure that would have made Tucson the first in the state with sanctuary city policies. Over 70% of voters rejected Proposition 205. The citizen initiative would have declared in city code that Tucson was a sanctuary city, restricted law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions, prohibited officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status, and prohibited city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
 
The initiative was sponsored by Tucson Families Free & Together and supported by, among others, the state and county Democratic parties and the Arizona ACLU. Opponents of the measure included Gov. Doug Ducey (R), U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R), U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D), and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D).
 
In 2012, the Tucson City Council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution identifying Tucson as immigrant-welcoming and declaring the city’s opposition to provisions of Senate Bill 1070, a bill passed in 2010 that required law enforcement officers to determine the legal status of individuals who are arrested or detained.
 
Voters also rejected Proposition 409, a measure that would have increased the salaries of the mayor and city council members.
 
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