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Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Mark Zuckerberg donated $500,000 to campaign supporting Oregon Measure 110, the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative 

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), Mark Zuckerberg’s public advocacy fund, donated $500,000 to More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110, the campaign sponsoring Measure 110.

Oregon Measure 110 would make personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine) and establish a drug addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.

The initiative is the first ballot measure Zuckerberg has contributed to in Oregon. In 2020, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative contributed $6.3 million to support California Proposition 15, which would require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on market value. CZI also contributed $1 million to the No on Proposition 20 campaign. California Proposition 20 would make changes to policies related to criminal sentencing charges, prison release, and DNA collection.

More Treatment for a Better Oregon reported $2 million in contributions according to the latest campaign finance reports filed on October 5.

There were three other committees registered in support of the measure—IP 44, A More Humane Approach – Yes on 110 Committee, and Washington County Justice Initiative PAC. Together, they reported $2.5 million in contributions. Drug Policy Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded marijuana legalization and drug decriminalization efforts in other states, contributed $3.4 million to the campaigns supporting the initiative.

Theshia Naidoo, the managing director of criminal justice law and policy at Drug Policy Action, said, “Oregonians have always been early adopters of drug policies that shift the emphasis towards health and away from punishment. The idea behind this groundbreaking effort is simple: people suffering from addiction need help, not criminal punishments. Instead of arresting and jailing people for using drugs, the measure would fund a range of services to help people get their lives back on track.”

The opposition campaign, No on Measure 110, reported over $55,000 in contributions. Oregon Council for Behavioral Health recently came out in opposition to the measure. They argued, “The measure provides no new funding, destroys pathways to treatment and recovery, and fails to address racial injustice in our systems by decriminalizing a narrow set of charges without resource for larger system innovation. … OCBH supports the supporters’ goal of correcting inherent injustice and decriminalizing drug charges, but this measure falls short of addressing the wide-ranging impacts on access to treatment and recovery.”

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission estimated that Oregon spent $472 million on substance abuse treatment services and $1.95 billion on corrections from 2017 to 2019.

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Nebraska Governor Ricketts donated $100,000 to campaign opposing state’s three gambling initiatives

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) donated $100,000 to Gambling with the Good Life, the campaign opposing Initiatives 429, 430, and 431. Together, the initiatives would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at licensed horse racetracks. Gambling with the Good Life reported receiving over $139,000 in cash contributions. The other top two donors to the campaign were the Archdiocese of Omaha and Cornhusker Bank.

Explaining his opposition, Governor Pete Ricketts said, “There are all sorts of social problems that come along with expanding gambling, which is why Nebraskans have historically rejected expanding gambling here in the state. I certainly support rejecting expanded gambling and would encourage other Nebraskans to support rejecting it as well.”

Initiatives 429, 430, and 431 are sponsored by Keep the Money in Nebraska, which reported receiving a total of $3.4 million in contributions from Ho-Chunk, Inc., a developer owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Initiative 429 would amend the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of Initiative 430, which would authorize and regulate gambling at licensed horse racetracks, and Initiative 431, which would impose an annual tax of 20% on gross gambling revenue. Without the approval of Initiative 429, Initiatives 430 and 431 would not take effect.

Mike Newlin, general manager of Horsemen’s Park and Lincoln Race Course, said, “[If this measure passes], we’d finally be able to reap the rewards that we’ve been giving our neighbor states in entertainment and gambling dollars. The overall impact is not only the tax revenue but the jobs that would be created. The ancillary work that would come with casino gambling, increased horse racing, and things like that will have a huge economic effect.” 

Initiative 431 would impose an annual tax of 20% on gross gambling revenue of licensed gaming operators. The tax revenue would be distributed as follows:

  • 70% to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund
  • 25% to the counties where gambling is authorized at licensed racetracks,
  • 2.5% of tax revenue to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund, and
  • 2.5% to the General Fund.

In 2019, Missouri had the highest gross gaming revenue ($1.73 billion) and taxes generated ($997.8 million) among the states bordering Nebraska. The average amount of taxes generated among the five states bordering Nebraska with commercial gaming was $469.3 million. South Dakota had the lowest flat tax rate with 9% on gross gaming revenue, and Kansas had the highest with 27%.

In 2020, three states will be voting on four measures related to gambling.

  • Colorado Amendment 77 would allow voters in Central, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek Cities — the only towns where gaming is legal in Colorado — to (1) approve a maximum single bet limit of any amount and (2) expand allowable game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps.
  • Colorado Amendment C would amend the state constitution to lower the number of years an organization must have existed before obtaining a charitable gaming license from five years to three years and to allow charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid more than the minimum wage.
  • Maryland Question 2 would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities with state revenue intended to fund public education.
  • South Dakota Constitutional Amendment B would amend the state constitution to authorize the South Dakota State Legislature to legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota, with all net municipal proceeds (defined) dedicated to the Deadwood Historic Restoration and Preservation Fund.

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Montana voters to decide five ballot measures related to firearms, marijuana, and the initiative process in November

Montana voters will decide five statewide ballot measures on November 3 concerning firearms, marijuana, and the ballot initiative process.

The two citizen initiatives on the ballot—CI-118 and I-190—were sponsored by New Approach Montana and are designed to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. CI-118 would amend the Montana Constitution to authorize the legislature or a citizen initiative to set a legal age for marijuana purchase, use, and possession. I-190 would enact a law that would legalize the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, impose a 20% tax on marijuana sales, require the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allow for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.

The tax revenue generated would be allocated as follows:

  1. 49.5% to accounts for wildlife, parks, and recreation
  2. 10.5% to the state’s general fund
  3. 10% to an account for drug treatment
  4. 10% to local authorities to enforce the provisions of the law
  5. 10% to an account for Montana veterans
  6. 10% to an account to fund wage increases for healthcare workers

Pepper Peterson, a spokesperson for New Approach Montana, said, “Our research has always shown that a majority of Montanans support legalization, and now voters will have the opportunity to enact that policy, which will create jobs and generate new revenue for our state. It also means that law enforcement will stop wasting time and resources arresting adults for personal marijuana possession, and instead focus on real crime.”

According to the latest campaign finance data filed on September 30, New Approach Montana reported receiving $6.95 million in contributions, including $4.7 million from the North Fund (a D.C. based nonprofit) and $1.9 million from the national New Approach PAC.

There is one committee registered in opposition to the initiatives—Wrong for Montana. The campaign reported receiving over $78,000 in contributions. Steve Zabawa, the treasurer of the Wrong for Montana campaign, said, “All you have to do is go to Colorado for a test site. They’ve been up and running now for eight years, and if you look at the traffic accidents, you look at the emergency room, you look at the vagrants, you look at the activity in the black market as well as the regular market down there, it has just exploded.”

Montana voters will also vote on a legislative referral that would remove local governments’ authority to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons. The ballot measure would continue to allow local governments to regulate unpermitted concealed weapons and unconcealed weapons in public occupied buildings.

LR-130 would also remove local governments’ power to regulate the possession of firearms by “convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors.”

According to the text of the measure, it was designed “to secure the right to keep and bear arms and to prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments across the state.”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) came out in opposition to the measure saying, “[LR-130] would end local decision-making about whether felons and the mentally ill can carry weapons in public. It would also end local decision-making about concealed weapons. Both changes are dramatic departures from Montana history. Neither is good policy. Montana law already contains strong protections that totally prohibit localities from restricting our basic right to keep and bear arms. […] I see no reason to reassign that power to decision-makers in Helena.”

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, 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.”

Ballotpedia identified one committee—NRA Big Sky Self-Defense Committee—in support of LR-130 that raised $16,000 from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. There is one committee—No on LR-130—that reported nearly $1 million in contributions with its largest contribution from the Montana Federation for Public Employees ($803,369.27).

The legislature also referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot—C-46 and C-47. The measures would not alter currently enforced initiative signature distribution requirements but would amend constitutional language to match the signature distribution requirements currently enforced.

A distribution requirement is a statutory or constitutional mandate requiring that petitions for a ballot measure or candidate nomination must be signed by voters from different political subdivisions in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.

For an initiated constitutional amendment in Montana, proponents must collect signatures equal to 10 percent of the qualified electors in each of two-fifths (40) of the state’s 100 legislative districts. C-47 would amend the constitutional language to match these signature distribution requirements for initiative petitions.

For an initiated state statute or a veto referendum in Montana, sponsors must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the qualified electors in each of one-third (34) of the state’s legislative districts. C-46 would amend the constitutional language to match these requirements.

The signature distribution requirements for initiated state statutes, veto referendums, and initiated constitutional amendments were changed in the state constitution to a county-based requirement with the passage of two voter-approved constitutional amendments, C-37 and C-38, in 2002. The 2002 county-based requirements were later ruled unconstitutional. Based on a ruling from Attorney General Mike McGrath, the distribution requirements in the constitution prior to 2002 were re-enforced. The invalidated language, however, remained in the state constitution.

The deadline to register to vote is October 26. Late registration, which is conducted at county election offices, begins on October 27 and continues through election day. Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm on election day. Mail-in ballots must be received by 8:00 pm on election day.

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President Trump announces nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

President Trump (R) announced his nomination of appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday to fill the vacancy opened by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Barrett is currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, where she has served since 2017. Her earlier legal experience includes 15 years on the faculty of Notre Dame Law School and a clerkship with then-Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. President Trump considered Barrett to fill the vacancy opened by Anthony Kennedy’s 2018 retirement before nominating Brett Kavanaugh for the spot.

In announcing Barrett’s nomination, President Trump said, “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”

Barrett said in reaction to her nomination, “This evening, I also want to acknowledge you, my fellow Americans. The president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us. If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not of my own sake. I would assume this role to serve you, I would discharge the judicial oath, which requires me to administer justice without respect to persons, do equal right to the poor and rich, and faithfully and impartially discharge my duties under the United States constitution.”

The vacancy was opened by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Ginsburg, 87, died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1993 to fill the vacancy opened by Byron White’s retirement. At the time of her death, Ginsburg was among four members of the nine-member court appointed by a Democratic president.

Barrett is President Trump’s third appointment to the court. He earlier appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy caused by Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 and Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy caused by Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in 2018.

Barrett’s nomination will advance to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will conduct an investigation involving background checks, one-on-one interviews with committee members, and a final confirmation hearing. Should the committee approve of Barrett’s nomination, she will advance to a vote before the full Senate. Recent nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court have been confirmed by narrow margins. Neil Gorsuch won confirmation by a 54-45 vote, while Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 vote.

Additional reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Supreme_Court_vacancy,_2020
https://ballotpedia.org/Process_to_fill_the_vacated_seat_of_Justice_Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg
https://ballotpedia.org/Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States
https://ballotpedia.org/Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg



Support and opposition committees for Massachusetts Question 1 (“Right to Repair Law” initiative) reported $34.8 million in combined contributions

Updated on Sept. 19, 2020

Massachusetts voters will decide Question 1 on Nov. 3. The initiative would require manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with model year 2022. The platform would need to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsors of Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving over $9.2 million in its August report. The committee reported spending $6.7 million. The largest contributors to the support committee were the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million) and the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million).

The top-five largest contributors to the support committee were 

  • the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million)
  • the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million), 
  • Advance Auto Parts ($1 million),
  • Auto Zone ($1 million), and
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($1 million).

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, the committee registered in opposition to Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving $25.6 million in contributions in its latest campaign finance report filed September 4. The committee had spent over $6.8 million. Fifteen automobile manufacturers and two automotive trade organizations contributed to the committee. The following were the top five contributors to the committee:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America, Inc. ($2.4 million)

The next campaign finance reports are due Sept. 21.

The first “right to repair law” was approved by the Massachusetts General Assembly and signed into law on Nov. 26, 2013. The 2013 law reconciled the differences between Question 1 (2012), which was approved by 87.7% of voters, and the alternative version resulting from a legislative compromise approved on July 31, 2012. Since the legislative compromise was passed after the July 3 signature deadline, the 2012 initiative could not be removed from the ballot after qualifying.

The 2013 “right to repair law” exempts telematics systems from wireless accessibility by vehicle owners and independent repair facilities. Under Question 1 (2020), Telematics systems would be accessible through a mobile device application and could be used by independent repair facilities to access data and send commands to the system for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.

According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the group proposed the 2020 initiative to update the previous law. Barry Steinberg, the owner of Direct Tire in Watertown and a member of the Right to Repair Coalition, said, “Massachusetts voters voted 86% in 2012 to require car companies to give access to repair information and diagnostics. But now big auto is using the next generation of wireless technology to get around our law, shut out independent repair shops, and cost car owners more money. That’s not what we voted for.”

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data argued the measure would dangerously expand access to car data. Conor Yunits, the spokesman for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, said, “This ballot question will create easy opportunities for strangers, hackers and criminals to access consumer vehicles and personal driving data–including real-time location. It will put people at risk, without doing anything to improve the consumer experience.”

Massachusetts is the only state that has adopted a “right to repair law.” During the 2019-2020 legislative session, none of the 17 states that introduced a “right to repair law” had approved it.

Massachusetts voters will also be deciding on an initiative that would enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022.

So far, Ballotpedia has tracked a total of $572.4 million in contributions to and $228.1 million in expenditures by campaigns supporting or opposing the 123 2020 statewide measures. The following five states have the most ballot measure campaign finance activity reported so far:
California – $316.8 million in contributions
Illinois – $80.4 million in contributions
Massachusetts – $38.8 million in contributions
Florida – $28.4 million in contributions
Colorado – $23.4 million in contributions

A previous version of this article stated that the support committee, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, had received $5.7 million in contributions and did not list Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts as top donors. That version was based on original campaign finance report filings. Those reports were subsequently amended by the committee to include, among other contributions and expenditures, contributions of $1 million each from Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts. This article was adjusted on Sept. 19 to account for the campaign finance report amendments.

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Glynn County, Georgia, ballot measure to abolish local police ruled unconstitutional

On September 11, a Georgia Superior Court judge ruled that the authority to abolish a local police department is held by local officials and cannot be voted on via a public referendum. The court’s decision removed the Glynn County Abolish County Police Department Measure from the November ballot. The measure would have abolished the Glynn County Police Department and transferred all existing equipment, resources, and funds to the Sheriff of Glynn County.

Senator Ligon, the bill’s sponsor, said he believed the people should decide on the state of the police department. Georgia State Representative Jeff Jones (R) opposed the measure saying, “Voters elect county commissioners to oversee many things in the county, in particular the police department. For very good reason, the constitution does not give authority over a county police department to state representatives and or state senators.”

This measure was initially put on the ballot through a vote of the Georgia State Legislature. Senate Bill 509 (SB 509) was introduced on June 15, 2020, by Senator William Ligon (R). It was approved by the Georgia State Senate on June 18, 2020, in a vote of 46-1 with six not voting and two absent. On June 23, it was approved by the Georgia House of Representatives in a vote of 152-2 with seven not voting and 19 absent.

As of September 11, Ballotpedia is tracking 19 local police-related ballot measures in 14 jurisdictions in seven states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Of the 19 ballot measures, seven of them are on the ballot in California and four of them are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Ten of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  • Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  • San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  • San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  • San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  • Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  • DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  • Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recording that document police use of force resulting in death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigation, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  • Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  • Kyle, Texas: Voters in Kyle will decide on a charter amendment that authorizes the city council to adopt procedures and establishes a committee to review the city’s police department.
  • King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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Nebraska Supreme Court removes Medical Marijuana Initiative from November ballot

On September 10, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the Medical Marijuana Initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule and ordered the secretary of state to remove it from the November ballot.

The court’s ruling came after the secretary of state received written objections to the ballot language of the initiative from several Nebraskan residents. The objectors argued that the initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule because the initiative would allow individuals with serious medical conditions to use marijuana, allow private entities to provide marijuana for medical use, and treat those 18 years or older differently than those 18 years and younger. The objectors argued that there was “no natural and necessary connection” between the provisions. The letter also argued that the initiative “creates confusion and serious doubt regarding the exact nature of the actions that a vote cast in favor of the amendment would authorize.”

On August 28, the Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) determined the initiative was legally sufficient. He said, “The production and sale of medical cannabis has a natural and necessary connection to legalization of medical cannabis for individual use, which is the primary purpose of the Amendment.” Evnen also argued that the initiative did not need to define “serious medical condition” because the initiative required medical professionals to make that determination.

After Sec. Evnen certified the initiative for the ballot, Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner filed a lawsuit against the secretary’s determination on the same grounds as the written objections. The state Supreme Court disagreed with the secretary’s determination and ruled that the initiative violated the single-subject rule. The Court said:

“As proposed, the [initiative] contains more than one subject–by our count, it contains at least eight subjects. In addition to enshrining in our constitution a right of certain persons to produce and medicinally use cannabis under subsections (1) and (2), in subsections (3) and (4), the [initiative] would enshrine a right and immunity for entities to grow and sell cannabis; and in subsections (6), (7), and (8), it would regulate the role of cannabis in at least six areas of public life. These secondary purposes are not naturally and necessarily connected to the [initiative’s] primary purpose.”

Justices Jonathan Papik and Lindsey Miller-Lerman dissented arguing the initiative did not violate the single-subject rule. In his dissenting opinion, Papik said, “All the details of the [initiative] relate to the same general subject—providing a right to individuals with serious medical conditions to use cannabis to alleviate those conditions. …  I am concerned that today’s decision has squeezed the concept of single-subject in art. III, § 2, such that the people’s right to initiative has been diminished.”

The amendment, sponsored by Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, would have allowed adults, with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner, to use, possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. The initiative would have also allowed children (under 18 years of age), with the recommendation of a licensed physician or nurse practitioner and permission of a parent or legal guardian who is responsible for their healthcare decisions, to use marijuana to alleviate a serious medical condition. Parents of children who use medical marijuana would have been allowed to possess, purchase, and produce marijuana to alleviate their child’s medical condition.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana, the sponsors of the initiative, submitted over 182,000 unverified signatures. The secretary of state verified that 135,055 signatures were valid or approximately 74.2%. About 122,000 valid signatures were required.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana responded to the ruling saying, “We agree with the Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion, Secretary of State, and Revisor of Statutes that our initiative that nearly 200,000 Nebraskans signed is legally sufficient and should be on the ballot in November.”

The state Supreme Court also ruled on Thursday that a trio of gambling initiatives did not violate the state’s single-subject rule and ordered the secretary of state to place them on the November ballot. The initiatives had been withheld from the ballot by the secretary of state. The initiatives would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at horse racetracks.

On November 3, Nebraska voters will also decide on an initiative to cap interest rates that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year, a constitutional amendment removing language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishments, and a constitutional amendment that increases the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight.

Additional reading


Nebraska Supreme Court places gambling initiatives on November ballot

On September 10, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a trio of initiatives that would authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at horse racetracks did not violate the state’s single-subject rule and ordered they be placed on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen (R) announced on August 25 that the Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative, and the Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative would not be on the November ballot because they were legally insufficient, although proponents collected the required number of verified signatures. The determination came after the secretary received objections to the initiative from three Nebraskan residents regarding the constitutionality and clarity of the ballot language. The secretary agreed with the objectors’ argument that the initiated constitutional amendment violated the single-subject rule. Sec. Evnen said, “The Constitutional Initiative effectively puts forth dual proposals: (1) authorizing expanded gambling at tribal casinos and (2) authorizing expanded gambling at racetracks by authorized operators. But the first proposal is hidden from the voters and impossible to ascertain from the text of the proposal. Putting forth dual propositions in a single proposal violates the single-subject rule as it does not permit voters to express a clear preference on dual propositions.” The secretary also said that the provision in the tax initiative that provides for property tax relief constituted logrolling because it required voters to expand gambling to obtain tax relief. Keep the Money in Nebraska, the sponsors of the initiatives, appealed the secretary’s decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The Court reversed the secretary’s determination and ruled that each initiative is legally sufficient. The Court argued that the “purpose of the single-subject rule is to avoid forcing voters to vote for or against the whole package even though they would have voted differently had the propositions been submitted separately.” The Court determined since the three initiatives will be voted on separately they do not violate the single-subject rule.

  1. Initiative 429, Constitutional Amendment to Allow Laws Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would amend the Nebraska Constitution to allow the enactment of laws that authorize and tax gambling conducted by licensed gaming operators and held at licensed racetrack enclosures.
  2. Initiative 430, Authorizing Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: The initiative would allow games of chance by authorized operators in licensed racetrack enclosures; establish a Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate games of chance; and exempt gaming at racetracks from rules and penalties that govern other forms of gambling.
  3. Initiative 431, Tax on Gaming at Racetracks Initiative: This initiative would enact a 20% tax on gambling revenue from games of chance operated at licensed racetracks and allocated 75% of the revenue from the tax to state funds for property tax relief and the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund and 25% to the county or local jurisdictions in which the racetracks are located.

Keep the Money in Nebraska submitted over 465,000 signatures for the three petitions to the secretary of state on July 2. The campaign attempted to place the three initiatives on the ballot in 2016 but failed to collect the required number by the deadline. As of August 31, the campaign had received $3.1 million in cash and in-contributions from Ho-Chunk, Inc., an economic development corporation owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

The state Supreme Court also ruled on Thursday that the Medical Marijuana Initiative violated the state’s single-subject rule and removed it from the November ballot. The court argued that the initiative contained two constitutional rights that were not necessarily connected to the initiative’s general purpose—the right to use medical marijuana and the right to grow and sell marijuana. Of the 26 states that allow for the initiative process, 15 states have a single-subject rule.

On November 3, Nebraska voters will decide six statewide ballot measures including the gambling initiatives. The Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime Amendment would repeal language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishment. The Tax Increment Financing Repayment Amendment would increase the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for extreme blight. The Payday Lender Interest Rate Cap Initiative would limit the interest rate that payday lenders charge to 36 percent per year.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six ballot measures appeared on the ballot.  Voters approved 53% of the 73 ballot measures that appeared on ballots between those years.

The deadline to register to vote online or by mail is October 16, and the deadline to register in person is October 23. Early voting begins October 5 and ends November 2. Polls will be open from 8 am to 8 pm CST on election day.

Additional reading


Missouri Amendment 3 receives third ballot title from state Court of Appeals

On August 31, a panel for the Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with a Cole County Circuit Court judge that “certain aspects of the official summary statement are unfair or insufficient and require revision,” but the panel said its draft of the ballot title had “more limited revisions than those ordered by the circuit court.”

The lower court had ruled on August 17 in favor of a group of petition circulators for Clean Missouri, the campaign that sponsored Missouri Amendment 1 (2018), and rewrote the ballot title originally drafted by the state legislature. The lawsuit argued that the ballot title of Amendment 3 was misleading because it did not mention the elimination of the nonpartisan demographer, which was the office established by Amendment 1 (2018) to conduct legislative redistricting in the state. Judge Alok Ahuja, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the appellate court panel, said, “We believe that voters need to be informed that they are being asked to reconsider, and substantially modify, a measure which they only recently approved.” The attorney general’s office said the state would appeal the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The original ballot title written by the state legislature read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Ban all lobbyist gifts to legislators and their employees;
  • Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; and
  • Create citizen-led independent bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative districts based on one person, one vote, minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness and other criteria?”
The second title written by a Cole County Circuit Court judge read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Repeal rules for drawing state legislative districts approved by voters in November 2018 and replace them with rules proposed by the legislature;
  • Lower the campaign contribution limit for senate candidates by $100; and
  • Lower legislative gift limits from $5 to $0, with exemptions for some lobbyists?”
The third title written by the Missouri Court of Appeals reads:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
  • Ban gifts from paid lobbyists to legislators and their employees;
  • Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits;
  • Change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by: (i) transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions; (ii) modifying and reordering the redistricting criteria.”

Amendment 3 would return to the use of bipartisan commissions appointed by the governor for legislative redistricting and eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer, which was created by the approval of Amendment 1 (2018). The bipartisan commissions would be renamed the House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission and consist of 20 members each. The amendment would also change the criteria used to draw district maps, the threshold of lobbyists’ gifts, and the campaign contribution limit for state senate campaigns.

Missouri Amendment 3 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) on January 8, 2020. On February 10, the state Senate passed SJR 38 in a vote of 22-9. Of the 23 Republicans in the Senate, 22 voted in favor of SJR 38, one voted against it. All eight Democrats voted against it. On May 13, the state House passed SJR 38 in a vote of 98-56 with eight absent.

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Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in nine states

As of August 28, Ballotpedia is tracking 21 local police-related ballot measures in 16 jurisdictions in nine states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Of the 21 ballot measures, seven of them are on the ballot in California and four of them are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Ten of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  • Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  • San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  • San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  • San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  • Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  • Monument, Colorado: Voters will decide whether to increase the local sales tax from 3% to 3.5% to fund the Monument Police Department.
  • Glynn County, Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature referred a ballot measure to the county ballot to abolish the county police and transfer the remaining resources and funds to the sheriff’s department.
  • DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  • Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recording that document police use of force resulting in a death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  • Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigations, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  • Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  • Kyle, Texas: Voters in Kyle will decide on a charter amendment that authorizes the city council to adopt procedures and establishes a committee to review the city’s police department.
  • King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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