CategoryBallot measures

Proponents of Arkansas optometry referendum petition supreme court to count signatures and certify measure for the 2020 ballot

Safe Surgery Arkansas, sponsors of the Arkansas Practice of Optometry Referendum, reported submitting more than 84,000 signatures by the July 23 deadline to qualify a veto referendum on House Bill 1251 for a statewide vote in 2020. A total of 53,491 signatures need to be valid to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to block optometrists from performing certain surgical procedures including the following:
  • injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
  • incision and curettage of a chalazion;
  • removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
  • laser capsulotomy; and
  • laser trabeculoplasty.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office said proponents submitted 23,953 valid signatures and, therefore, failed to qualify for the ballot. Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) declined to count 61,065 signatures submitted by proponents, saying they were not collected in compliance with Act 376 (House Bill 346) of 2019. Act 376 changed the laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas. Act 376 contained an emergency clause that applied the new laws to petitions that were already being circulated.
Among other things, Act 376 required sponsors to submit a signed, sworn statement to the secretary of state saying that the petitioner had not been found guilty of a felony or crime of fraud, forgery, identity theft, or election law violation. Before the adoption of Act 376, that statement needed to be submitted by paid canvassers to the initiative sponsor rather than the secretary of state. The secretary of state said proponents did not properly submit the required paperwork before collecting the signatures in question.
Proponents are challenging the legality of the emergency clause and are asking the supreme court to order that the 61,065 signatures be counted and order the Secretary of State to certify the petition to the ballot.
Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.
Nationwide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).

16 initiatives filed in Massachusetts targeting 2020 and 2022 ballots

Sixteen initiatives targeting the 2020 and 2022 ballot were filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office by the August 7, 2019, deadline. Thirteen of the 16 measures are statutory and may appear on the 2020 ballot. Three of the measures would amend the state constitution, and the soonest they could appear on the ballot is 2022.
The process:
After an application is submitted, the attorney general must review the proposal to ensure that it complies with the state’s subject restrictions. If it complies, proponents then submit the petition to the secretary of the commonwealth, and he or she drafts a summary of the proposed law to be included on the official petition form. This summary must be approved by the attorney general. The attorney general’s office is set to announce certification decisions on September 4, 2019.
The requirements to get an initiated state statute certified for the 2020 ballot:
  • Signatures required (first round): 80,239 signatures
  • Signatures required (second round): 13,374 signatures
  • Deadline (first round): The deadline to submit the first round of signatures to the secretary of state is December 4, 2019. Signatures need to be submitted to local registrars by November 20, 2019.
  • Deadline (second round): The deadline to submit the second round of signatures is July 1, 2020.
If enough signatures are submitted in the first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by the first Wednesday of May. The measure only goes on the ballot if the legislature does not pass it and if the second round of signatures is successfully collected.
The requirements to get an initiated constitutional amendment certified for the 2022 ballot:
  • Valid signatures required: 80,239 valid signatures
  • Deadline (2019 petitions): The deadline to submit signatures for consideration by the legislature in 2020 and 2021 sessions is December 4, 2019.
  • Deadline (2020 petitions): The deadline to submit signatures for consideration by the legislature in 2021 and 2022 sessions is December 2, 2020.
If enough signatures are submitted by the deadline, the initiative goes to the legislature, where it must garner the approval of 25 percent of all lawmakers, with senators and representatives voting jointly, in two successive sessions. If this requirement is met, the initiative goes on the ballot at the next general election. Because of this unique requirement, the earliest an initiated constitutional amendment can reach the ballot is two years following signature submission. And, depending on the year, it can be three years after signature submission before voters decide on the measure.
Filed petitions:
2020 statutes:
  • #19-02 would implement storage requirements for firearms.
  • #19-04 and 19-05 would ban the use of electric shocks to punish or change behavior in disabled individuals, specifically at Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts.
  • #19-06, named the “Right to Repair” initiative by proponents, concerns access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system.
  • #19-08 enacts limits on campaign contributions from non-residents and out-of-state PACs.
  • #19-09 determines whale-safe status and bans certain fishing equipment.
  • #19-10 enacts a ranked-choice voting system in Massachusetts.
  • #19-11 changes the formula for Medicaid ratemaking for nursing homes.
  • #19-12 enacts a top-two primary system for elections in Massachusetts.
  • #19-13 establishes the Reducing Risks of Technology Commission.
  • #19-14 allows food stores to sell beer and wine.
  • #19-15 allows law enforcement officers to detain a person and transfer custody of the person to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under certain circumstances.
  • #19-16 prohibits public employees from accruing more than 1,000 hours of unused sick leave
2022 constitutional amendments:
  • #19-01 amends the constitution to say “Nothing in this constitution requires the public funding of abortion.”
  • #19-03 restores the right to vote to incarcerated individuals convicted of a felony.
  • #19-07 excludes corporations from the definition of people and allows the Massachusetts General Court to regulate and set limits on political contributions and expenditures.
In the ten-year period from 1998 to 2018, 32 citizen initiatives appeared on the statewide ballot in Massachusetts, of which 15 were approved and 17 were defeated. Between 1998 and 2018, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years.

Nashville voters approve two charter amendments

On August 1, over 80% of Nashville voters approved both charter amendments on their ballots.
Amendment 1 will require the mayor to annually submit additional information to the city council concerning the city’s budget, department performance and efficiency, city debt, and authorized bonds.
Amendment 2 amended the charter to say that metro education board vacancies are filled by the city legislative body rather than by remaining education board members. This made the charter compatible with state law.
Both charter amendments were put on the ballot by the metro council.

Voters in Ohio could decide whether nuclear, coal and solar plants should receive subsidies in 2020

On July 29, 2019, the campaign Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts filed a petition for a veto referendum against House Bill 6 (HB 6), which was designed to enact surcharges on customers of electric utilities to provide credits to FirstEnergy Solutions’ Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station and Perry Nuclear Power Plant, Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s (OVEC) two coal-fired power stations, and six solar-power stations. HB 6 was also designed to decrease the state’s renewable portfolio standard from 12.5 percent (by 2027) to 8.5 percent (by 2026) and decrease the state’s energy efficiency standards from a 22-percent reduction from 2008 levels to 17.5-percent reduction from 2008 levels by 2027.
Gene Pierce, spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, described the campaign’s goal, stating, “Ohio families and businesses know H.B. 6 is a costly attack on Ohio consumers. This is the first step in rolling back this corporate bailout and reinstating Ohio’s renewable standards.” Pierce also said the organizations behind Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts are not being disclosed at this time. While HB 6 was in the Ohio State Legislature, Americans for Prosperity–Ohio, the Environmental Defense Fund, and The Ohio Manufactures’ Association, among others, testified against the legislation.
House Speaker Larry Householder (R-72), a supporter of HB 6, responded to opponents. He said, “The only folks that have a tremendous interest in closing down our nuclear power plants, where Ohio generates its energy and where there are Ohio jobs, are people from outside the state of Ohio who want to monopolize our grid. And who are they? They’re foreign nationals from China.”
Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed House Bill 6 (HB 6) into law on July 23, 2019. Rep. Jamie Callender (R-61) and Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-91) sponsored HB 6. The final version of HB 6 was passed in the Ohio State Senate on July 17, 2019. The vote was 19-12. The Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 6 on July 23, 2019, in a vote of 51-38. About two-thirds of legislative Republicans and one-third of legislative Democrats supported HB 6.
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts can begin collecting signatures for the veto referendum if Attorney General Dave Yost (R) determines that the petition contains a fair and truthful statement on House Bill 6. Yost has until August 8, 2019, to make the determination. In Ohio, signatures for a veto referendum need to be filed 90 days after the bill’s enrollment, which gives Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts until October 21, 2019, to collect the 265,774 required signatures.
Since the adoption of the referendum process in Ohio in 1912, voters have addressed 13 veto referendums. Voters repealed 11, or 85 percent, of the bills put on the ballot via a veto referendum.

Signatures submitted for Referendum Measure 88 in WA, would force a statewide vote on legislature-approved affirmative action initiative

Proponents of Washington Referendum Measure 88 (R-88) targeting the 2019 ballot reported submitting 215,655 to the Secretary of State on July 27, 2019. To qualify, 129,811 valid signatures are required.
Referendum Measure 88 would require Initiative 1000 (I-1000), which was approved by the legislature on April 28, 2019, to instead be placed on the 2019 ballot in Washington for a statewide vote of the people for their approval or rejection.
Initiative 1000 was designed to allow affirmative action without the use of quotas in the state of Washington. This means that characteristics such as race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status could be used as factors when considering a person for education or employment opportunities. I-1000 would ban preferential treatment, meaning those characteristics could not be the sole or deciding factor when considering a person for education or employment opportunities. Initiative 200 (I-200), approved by voters in 1998, banned discrimination and preferential treatment. I-200 was sponsored by Washington initiative activist Tim Eyman. Eyman has said “Voters have accepted the principle that the government should treat everyone equally, without different rules for different races.”
I-1000 was sponsored by the One WA Equality Campaign and was supported by Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) and the NAACP. Regarding I-1000, Inslee said, “We know systemic inequities remain that cause communities of color, veterans, people with disabilities and women to face persistent barriers to work and education opportunities. I-1000 is a well-considered approach to updating our state’s policies and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in government contracts, employment and schools. This policy will help provide the pathways to opportunity that all our communities deserve. It embraces the parts of the 20-year-old I-200 initiative that work well while recognizing what we can do better to address the challenges facing businesses, workers and students today.”
As an Initiative to the Legislature—the name of indirect initiatives in Washington—the state legislature could either approve I-1000 or send it to the voters. The state legislature approved I-1000 on April 28, 2019, largely along party lines with all votes in favor coming from Democratic legislators. 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.
Let People Vote is leading the campaign in support of R-88. Let People Vote argued, “I-1000 can be summed up in one sentence: It would abolish the standard of equality for all, regardless of races, sex, color, age, ethnicity, or national origin, as required by Washington Civil Rights Act, and replace it with a system that uses different rules for people of different races. Initiative 1000 seeks to repeal Washington Civil Rights Act (I-200) and was enacted by the Legislature on the last day of the session in order to deny a public vote on the matter. Voter approved I-200 by more than 58% of votes in 1998. Why shouldn’t voters be allowed to decide whether to change it?”
Of the 38 Initiatives to the Legislature (ITLs) that have been certified and presented to the legislature, five were approved by legislators. Referendum efforts were subsequently filed against two of the ITLs and succeeded in overturning them.
Since the first in 1914, Washington voters have decided 37 statewide veto referendum measures at the ballot. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Washington in 2012. In 81% of cases (30 of 37), the veto referendum resulted in the targeted bill being repealed. Conversely, 19% (seven of 37) of veto referendum measures resulted in the targeted law being upheld. In Washington, successful veto referendum petitions suspend the targeted law until the veto referendum is placed on the ballot and voted on in an election.
Nation-wide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums on the ballot were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California(48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming(1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).

Bernie Sanders endorses 2020 California initiative to change how commercial and industrial properties are taxed

On July 25, 2019, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) spoke at the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, California, where he endorsed a ballot initiative to change how the state levies taxes on commercial and industrial properties and allocate the revenue resulting from the change to local governments and school districts. The ballot initiative has qualified for the election on November 3, 2020. UTLA is a supporter of the ballot initiative and has provided the campaign Schools and Communities First, which is behind the proposal, with $435,000.
Sen. Sanders is the first presidential candidate to endorse the ballot initiative. He said that billionaires and real estate developers shouldn’t receive tax breaks “while 500,000 people are sleeping out on the streets tonight and when our kids aren’t getting the education they deserve.”
Since 2016, Sen. Sanders has endorsed five statewide ballot measures in California, including Propositions 50, 61, and 64 in 2016 and Proposition 10 in 2018. Proposition 59, which advised the state’s officials on the electorate’s position on Citizens United v. FEC, and Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana, were approved. Proposition 61, which would have enacted a new regulation on drug prices, and Proposition 10, which would have expanded local rent control, were defeated.
The 2020 ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value. In California, the proposal to assess taxes on commercial and industrial properties at market value, while continuing to assess taxes on residential properties based on purchase price, is known as split roll. As of 2019, Proposition 13 (1978) requires the taxable value of residential, commercial, and industrial properties to be based on 1 percent of the property’s purchase price, with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, market values in California tend to increase faster than 2 percent per year, meaning the taxable value of commercial and industrial properties is often lower than the market value.
Furthermore, the ballot initiative would create a process in the state constitution for distributing revenue from the revised tax on commercial and industrial properties, with 60 percent being distributed to local governments and special districts and 40 percent being distributed to school districts and community colleges.
Opponents of the ballot initiative include the California Business Roundtable, California Chamber of Commerce, and California Taxpayers Association. Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Association, stated, “California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country. A split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.”

New York City 2019 Charter Revision Commission puts 19 proposals on the November ballot, including ranked-choice voting

On July 24, the 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission gave final approval to 19 proposals grouped into five separate ballot questions. Voters will decide in favor or against all proposals grouped within a question together. The questions must now be sent to the city clerk before August 5 for inclusion on the November 5 ballot. The five questions relate to the following topics:
  • Question 1: Elections (three proposals)
  • Question 2: Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) (five proposals)
  • Question 3: Ethics and Government (five proposals)
  • Question 4: City Budget (four proposals)
  • Question 5: Land Use (two proposals)
One proposal concerning units of appropriation approved in June by the commission for drafting by staff was removed from the list.
Question 1 proposes implementing ranked-choice voting for primary and special elections beginning in 2021 for the offices of mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council. It would not apply to any regular general elections.
Ranked-choice voting is a system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated, and second choices from those ballots are counted instead. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority. New York City Question 1 would allow voters to rank preference for up to five candidates.
Currently, New York City uses a plurality voting system—also called first-past-the-post or winner-take-all—for most municipal elections. In a plurality voting system, the candidate with the most votes wins outright. A combination of plurality and run-off voting systems is used for primary elections for the offices of mayor, comptroller, and public advocate.
Question 1 would also change the timing of special elections to fill vacancies and for city council redistricting.
Question 2 has five proposals concerning the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). The CCRB investigates complaints by members of the public against NYPD officers and recommends disciplinary actions. Changes include adding board members appointed by the public advocate and jointly by the mayor and speaker of the council, allowing the council to appoint members without approval from the mayor, establishing a minimum budget for the CCRB based on a ratio of CCRB staff and city police officers, and provisions concerning the board’s authority to investigate false statements and delegate its power to issue and enforce subpoenas.
Question 3 changes the structure of the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB), sets rules and restrictions related to ethics and campaigns for certain city staff and members of the COIB, and makes changes to the reporting requirements and operations of the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise.
Question 4 contains four proposals related to the city’s budget. It gives authority within the charter to establish a city rainy-day fund. The fund could not be established without changes to state law. It would also establish minimum budgets for the public advocate and borough presidents and would add requirements regarding the timing of financial reports submitted by the mayor to the city council.
Question 5 makes changes to the reporting and timing requirements for Uniform Land Use Review Procedure projects.
The ordinance creating the 15-member New York City Charter Commission of 2019 was approved by the New York City Council on April 11, 2018, and signed by the mayor on April 30, 2018. The commission is tasked with reviewing the New York City Charter and putting proposals for amending the charter before voters at the November 2019 ballot. The commission has 15 members appointed as follows:
  • four members appointed by the mayor;
  • four members appointed by the speaker of the city council;
  • five members appointed by the five borough presidents (one each);
  • one member appointed by the public advocate; and
  • one member appointed by the comptroller.
The last charter revision commission tasked with a full revision of the city charter put proposals on the 1989 city ballot. The revisions proposed by the 1989 commissioner were approved by voters. There have been other charter revision commissions approved for more specific purposes since 1989, including a commission launched by the mayor to put charter amendments on the November 2018 ballot.
Additional reading:

Signature deadlines nearing for 2019 Colorado initiatives

Signature deadlines for pending ballot measures in Colorado:
  • 2020 veto referendum petitions: 124,632 valid signatures due by August 1, 2019
  • 2019 ballot initiative petitions: 124,632 valid signatures due by August 5, 2019
The number of required signatures increased 26.54% for Colorado ballot measures following the 2018 elections due to higher voter turnout. Initiative signature requirements in Colorado are calculated by taking 5 percent of the number of total votes cast for the office of Colorado Secretary of State. Citizen initiative signature requirements increased in 13 states based on 2018 elections. In these 13 states, the signature requirement increases ranged from 3.2 percent in Maine to 70.3 percent in California, where the signature requirements are higher than they’ve ever been in the state’s 106 years of direct democracy.
For 2019 ballot initiatives, proponents must submit signatures by August 5, 2019. Just one measure was approved for signature gathering to qualify for the 2019 ballot in Colorado: Initiative #22, the Colorado Oil and Gas Severance Taxes Initiative. This initiative was designed to change the tax structure for oil and gas severance taxes. Proposed changes include eliminating a tax credit given to oil and gas producers for property taxes paid. Though the initiative was approved for signature gathering on March 5, 2019, it is unclear if the petition is being actively circulated.
Signatures for veto referendum petitions targeting the 2020 ballot are due on August 1, 2019. Two veto referendum petitions were filed with the Secretary of State: the Early Childhood Development Districts Referendum (targeting House Bill 1052) and the National Popular Vote Referendum (targeting Senate Bill 42). Sponsors of the referendum efforts seek to put bills passed by the legislature in the 2019 session to a statewide vote of the people in the hopes that voters will overturn the bills.
The Early Childhood Development Districts referendum concerns House Bill 1052. HB 1052 was designed to create special districts to provide early childhood development services for children from birth through 8 years of age. Under the bill, early childhood development services include early care and educational, health, mental health, and developmental services.
The National Popular Vote referendum concerns Senate Bill 42. SB 42 was signed by Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) on March 15, 2019. SB 42 would award all of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. SB 42 joined Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The National Popular Vote (NPV) refers to the concept of allocating a state’s presidential electors to the candidate who wins the national popular vote regardless of the state results in a presidential election. As of July 2019, 15 states (and Washington, D.C.) representing 196 electoral college votes adopted legislation to be a part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact cannot take effect until enough states have joined that the system would possess the required 270 of 538 electoral votes to elect a president.
The most recent veto referendum on the ballot in Colorado appeared on the ballot in 1932. From 1912 to 1932, 13 veto referendums were on the ballot. Of the 13 referendum efforts, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation. The targeted legislation was upheld on three occasions.

Resolutions aim to restore state and local tax deduction via the Congressional Review Act

Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions introduced in both houses of Congress on July 16 aim to allow states and local governments to let taxpayers donate more to charity in exchange for paying less in state and local taxes. The resolutions would repeal an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation designed to prevent states and local governments from helping taxpayers avoid the limits placed on state and local tax (SALT) deductions by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. According to the IRS regulation, taxpayers lose some of their federal charitable tax deduction based on how much of a deduction their state or local governments provide. If the CRA resolutions pass, many residents of states and cities that charge higher taxes would pay less in federal income taxes.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) introduced companion resolutions that would undo the IRS regulation and attracted 61 Democratic cosponsors and 1 Republican cosponsor as of July 19.
Under the Congressional Review Act, the resolutions would need to pass both houses of Congress and receive President Trump’s signature to repeal the IRS regulation.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Since the law’s creation in 1996, 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the _Federal Register_ during that time have been repealed using the CRA. 13 additional attempts either failed to pass through Congress or were vetoed.

Tucson sanctuary city initiative qualifies for the ballot after random sampling of signatures verified

On Monday, the Pima County Recorder certified that enough signatures submitted for the Tucson sanctuary city initiative were valid to qualify it for the ballot. The initiative now goes to the city council. If the mayor and city council do not approve it, the initiative goes onto the November 2019 ballot. If the mayor and city council approve the measure, it will become law without an election.
The initiative would include in city code a declaration of the city’s sanctuary status and add a new section that includes provisions:
  • restricting law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions;
  • prohibiting officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status; and
  • prohibiting city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
The group Tucson Families Free and Together submitted about 18,000 signatures on July 3, 2019. They needed to collect 9,241 valid signatures by July 5, 2019, to qualify the initiative for the November general election ballot. Through a random sampling of 871 signatures, the Pima County Recorder found that a projected 71.8% of the submitted signatures were valid. Unless there is a successful legal challenge, this means enough of the submitted signatures were valid to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The Pima County Republican Party announced it would assist in a legal challenge against the sufficiency of the initiative petition based on the number of valid signatures required and the percentage of submitted signatures counted as valid.