CategoryBallot measures

State signature deadline for Massachusetts 2020 initiatives was Wednesday

The Massachusetts secretary of state reported receiving signatures from eight initiative campaigns on Wednesday, December 4. Wednesday was the deadline for 2020 ballot measure sponsors to submit signatures to state officials. November 20 was the preliminary deadline to submit signatures for verification to local registrars before submitting them to the secretary of state.
The number of verified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot is 80,239, which equals 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Four campaigns reported submitting more than the required amount:
  • Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition reported submitting 102,000 signatures in support of an initiative that would broaden access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system.
  • Massachusetts Senior Coalition reported submitting 87,000 signatures in support of an initiative that would change the formula for Medicaid ratemaking for nursing homes.
  • Voters Choice for Massachusetts, which is sponsoring a ranked-choice voting measure, reported submitting 110,584 signatures.
  • The sponsors of an initiative backed by Cumberland Farms that would allow food stores to sell beer and wine reported submitting 130,000 signatures.
The sponsors of two initiatives regarding the treatment of the disabled reported submitting signatures to the secretary of state, but it was not clear as of December 5 if they submitted at least the minimum required number of signatures.
Proponents of two initiated constitutional amendments reported submitting an insufficient number of signatures. These initiatives were the Massachusetts No Right to Public Funding for Abortion Initiative and the Massachusetts Voting Rights Restoration for Incarcerated Felons Initiative.
If enough signatures are submitted in this first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by May 6, 2020. If the legislature fails to adopt the proposed law, petitioners then have until July 1, to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of 13,374 signatures. If successful in that second round, the initiative will be placed on the 2020 ballot.
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Signatures for Colorado gray wolf initiative due Friday the 13th

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) needs to submit signature petitions by Friday to qualify their initiative for the 2020 ballot. The measure would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023.
The gray wolf, Canis lupus, was classified as a federally endangered species in 1978 (except in Minnesota, where it was classified as threatened). The gray wolf was removed from the endangered lists in Idaho and Montana in 2011. Idaho and Montana began wolf reintroduction programs in 1995.
To qualify for the 2020 ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are due on December 13, 2019. As of late October 2019, sponsors reported having collected around 170,000 signatures. The average signature validity rate for ballot initiative petitions is 75.33%, according to a study based on 143 ballot initiatives from 2006 through 2018.
Proponents of ballot initiatives in Colorado have a six-month window to collect the required number of signatures, which establishes a specific deadline for each measure. The overall deadline for all 2020 initiatives in Colorado is August 3.
According to campaign finance reports which covered through September 30, the group has raised about $797,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind contributions. Speaking about why they believe gray wolves should be reintroduced in Colorado, RMWAF wrote, “Since the 1940s, when Colorado’s last wolf was killed, our ecosystem has suffered. A lack of natural balance means that too many elk and deer eat away the vegetation that holds streams and rivers back, leading to erosion and the disruption of even more habitats, like those for native beavers and songbirds. Wolves also naturally limit the spread of disease, such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), by taking vulnerable animals out of the population.”
Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition is leading the campaign against the measure. The group has not yet reported campaign finance activity. The Colorado Farm Bureau is also opposed to the measure. CFB Vice President of Advocacy Shawn Martini said, “We remain skeptical that you can introduce wolves into Colorado and not create significant problems. Not only to our way of life here in the state which is based on outdoor recreations but also on livestock production in the western part of the state and to the ecosystem. Colorado is home to a number of endangered species that could be potentially be preyed upon by an apex predatory like the Canadian gray wolf. So we’re skeptical that these kinds of decisions should be put in the hands of voters through a ballot initiative.”
Two measures are currently certified for the 2020 ballot in Colorado: a citizen-initiated veto referendum over Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and a transportation bond issue referred to the ballot by the state legislature.
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Signatures filed for ballot initiative to expand local governments’ rent control powers in California

Californians could vote on a ballot initiative to expand the power of local governments to enact rent control in 2020. The campaign behind the ballot initiative filed around 1 million signatures on December 5, 2019. At least 623,212 signatures need to be valid for the measure to appear on the ballot.
Counties will first conduct a random sample of signatures to determine whether enough valid signatures were filed. If the random sample projects that more than 685,534 signatures, which is 110 percent of the required minimum, are valid, then the measure qualifies for the ballot. If the projection is between 95 percent and 110 percent of the requirement, a check of each signature will be conducted. If the projection is less than 95 percent of the requirement, the initiative fails to make the ballot.
In 2018, 59 percent of voters rejected Proposition 10, which would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which is headed by Michael Weinstein, co-sponsored Proposition 10 and an AHF division called Housing Is A Human Right is sponsoring the campaign in support of the 2020 ballot initiative. Rand Martin, a lobbyist for AHF, said, “The one lesson we learned from Proposition 10 is that the voters were not interested in a wholesale repeal of Costa Hawkins. But the other message we got in polling and focus groups is that people believe there are excesses to Costa Hawkins and there needs to be reforms.” Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association, opposed Proposition 10 in 2018. He said, “Voters overwhelming rejected the measure the last time it was on the ballot. Once we educate voters about Weinstein’s latest housing-freeze measure, it’s bound to fail just as miserably as Prop. 10.”
Unlike Proposition 10, the new proposal was designed to exempt some units from rent control. Exemptions would be made for (a) units first occupied within the last 15 years and (b) residential units owned by landlords who own no more than two properties. The new initiative would also require that local governments allow landlords to increase rental rates by 15 percent during the first three years following a vacancy.
The campaigns surrounding Proposition 10 raised a combined $96.66 million. Opponents of Proposition 10 raised $71.37 million, with the largest contribution ($8 million) coming from the California Association of Realtors. Supporters raised $25.30 million. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation provided 89.0 percent of the campaign’s funds. As of the most recent deadline on September 30, 2019, the campaign behind the new initiative has raised $2.26 million, which all came from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
If the ballot initiative qualifies for the 2020 ballot, it will be the fourth citizen-initiated measure to do so. The deadline for signatures to be verified for ballot initiatives is June 25, 2020. A total of 44 initiatives have been proposed for the California ballot this election cycle.
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Judge blocks Washington Initiative 976 from taking effect on Dec. 5

At the election on November 5, Washington Initiative 976 was approved, receiving 53 percent of the vote. Initiative 976 was designed to limit annual license fees for vehicles to $30, repeal Sound Transit’s authorization to impose motor vehicle excise taxes, and reduce other vehicle taxes and fees. Tim Eyman proposed Initiative 976, which was his 17th initiative to appear on a statewide ballot.
 
On November 13, 2019, nine plaintiffs, including the governments of Seattle and King County, filed a legal complaint in the King County Superior Court to declare that Initiative 976 violated the Washington Constitution. The complaint named the State of Washington as the defendant. Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) was tasked with defending the state. The complaint read, “As with prior initiatives by the same sponsor, I-976 is a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.” The complaint stated that Initiative 976 violated the single-subject rule, the separate subject-in-title requirement, the requirement to disclose the repeal of statutes, and other constitutional provisions.
 
On November 26, 2019, Judge Marshall Ferguson blocked Initiative 976 from taking effect on December 5, pending the conclusion of the case. Judge Ferguson said that plaintiffs possessed “a clear legal and equitable right because they are likely to prevail on the merits of their constitutional challenge… specifically the ‘subject-in-title’ requirement.” The subject-in-title requirement states that “No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.” Plaintiffs contended, “… the [I-976] title misleadingly suggests that voters will retain the authority to approve vehicle charges, but several provisions of I-976 then repeal statutes that provide for voter-approved charges.”
 
Judge Ferguson also said, “If the collection of vehicle license fees and taxes stop on December 5, 2019, there will be no way to retroactively collect those revenues if, at the conclusion of this case, the Court concludes that I-976 is unconstitutional and permanently enjoins its enforcement. Conversely, refunds of fees and taxes impacted by I-976 can be issued if the State ultimately prevails in this matter, albeit at some expense to the State.”
 
Attorney General Ferguson responded to the injunction, “This is not a final judgment, and this case is far from over. We will continue working to defend the will of the voters. This case will ultimately wind up before the State Supreme Court.” Tim Eyman called on people to “join me and refuse to renew your vehicle taxes.” He added, “It is absolutely critical that the people of Washington state, regardless of how they voted, not pay taxes and fees that the voters voted to get rid of.”
 


Eight former Michigan state legislators sue to overturn 1992 term limits ballot initiative

On November 20, eight former state legislators filed a legal complaint in the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan to invalidate provisions of a ballot initiative that enacted term limits on legislators. The ballot initiative, titled Proposal B, was approved on November 3, 1992, with 58.7 percent of the vote. Proposal B was designed to limit the number of terms that a person could be elected to congressional, state executive, and state legislative offices in Michigan.
 
Plaintiffs sued to “vindicate their own rights to appear on the ballot, as well as their right to themselves vote for experienced candidates,” according to the complaint. Proposal B, according to the plaintiffs, violated their freedom of association as voters and officials. The complaint states, “[Proposal B] denies voters the opportunity to participate on an equal basis with other voters in the election of their choice of representatives, and denies such voters the ability [to] support an entire class of candidates—experienced legislators.” The former state legislators also contend that Proposal B, as presented to voters in 1992, violated the state’s single-subject rule and had prejudiced ballot language.
 
Patrick L. Anderson, an economist and principal author of Proposal B, responded to the litigation, saying, “It is disgraceful for people who took an oath to uphold the Michigan constitution, to now go before a federal judge and ask for it to be put aside.”
 
As of 2019, state legislators are subject to term limits in 15 states. State legislative term limits came through citizen-initiated ballot measures in each state except Louisiana, where the legislature referred a ballot measure to voters.
 
In Idaho, voters passed a ballot initiative for state legislative term limits, which the state legislature then repealed. In Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, voters approved ballot measures for state legislative term limits, which state supreme courts struck down as unconstitutional.
 


Wednesday was a signature deadline for 2020 Massachusetts ballot initiatives

Ballot initiative campaigns hoping to land a spot on the 2020 Massachusetts ballot had to submit 80,239 signatures to local registrars by Wednesday, November 20. After signatures are verified by local authorities, petitioners must submit those signatures to the secretary of the commonwealth by December 4.
 
On September 4, the attorney general cleared 10 initiatives for circulation. As of Thursday, Voter Choice for Massachusetts, Right to Repair Coalition, and the Massachusetts Senior Coalition reported submitting signatures. It is unclear whether the seven other campaigns met the deadline.
 
Voters Choice for Massachusetts is sponsoring the Massachusetts Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative that would enact ranked-choice voting for all elections in Massachusetts, excluding presidential electors, county commissioners, and regional district school committees, as well as elections in caucuses. Right to Repair Coalition is sponsoring Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative which concerns access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system. Massachusetts Senior Coalition is sponsoring the Massachusetts Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, which would change the formula that state healthcare programs, such as MassHealth (Medicaid), use to determine payments to nursing homes and rest homes.
 
The Wednesday deadline required at least 80,239 signatures, which equals 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. If enough signatures are submitted in the first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by May 6, 2020. If the legislature fails to adopt the proposed law, petitioners then have until July 1, to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of 13,374 signatures. If successful, the initiative will be placed on the 2020 ballot.
 


Voters in New Orleans approve bond proposition, short term rental tax, and Human Rights Commission measure; defeat millage proposition

Voters in New Orleans decided four ballot measures on November 16, 2019, approving three of them and rejecting one. All of the measures were referred to the ballot by the New Orleans City Council.
 
Approved measures:
 
  • Short Term Rentals Occupancy Tax (65% in favor, 35% against): This measure authorized an additional 6.75% tax on the rent or fee charged for short-term rentals to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and a fund to promote tourism in New Orleans. The funds to promote tourism would be allocated to New Orleans & Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • Human Rights Commission Charter Amendment (74% in favor, 27% against): This measure amended the Home Rule Charter of New Orleans to create a local Human Rights Commission. Going into the election, there was a Human Relations Commission that was created in Chapter 86 of the City Code. The City of New Orleans website on the Human Relations Commission wrote, “The Human Relations Commission was created in the early 1990s in New Orleans. Because it was not put in the City’s Home Rule Charter, it does not have the powers granted by the state to local human rights commissions. Today, it is only able to provide information and referrals.”
  • Bond Proposition (66% in favor, 34% against): This measure authorized the city to issue up to $500 million in bonds to fund infrastructure improvements, public buildings, housing projects, recreational facilities, public safety equipment, and all necessary land and equipment for said improvements.
 
Defeated measure:
 
  • Millage Proposition (54% against, 46% in favor): This measure would have authorized a special tax of $3.00 per $1,000.00 of assessed value of all taxable property for twenty years, beginning January 1, 2020, to help fund infrastructure repairs and purchase equipment, software, and technology for the city. City officials estimated the tax would have generated about $10.5 million in revenue each year. Officials from the New Orleans police and fire departments supported the measure.


Coalition of 18 tribes files ballot initiative to legalize sports betting in California

On November 14, four tribal chairmen filed a ballot initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California. The ballot initiative has the support of 18 tribal governments.
 
The announcement comes nine days after voters in Colorado passed Proposition DD, which authorized sports betting in the state. California would be the third state—after Colorado and Arkansas—to vote on sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law requiring states to prohibit sports betting on May 14, 2018.
 
The ballot measure would enact a tax of 10 percent on profits derived from sports betting. The state would be required to distribute 15 percent of the revenue to the California Department of Health and local governments for programs related to problem gambling and mental health. The measure would earmark another 15 percent of revenue for enforcing and implementing gambling laws. The remaining 70 percent would be allocated to the General Fund.
 
Some of California’s most expensive ballot measures addressed tribal gambling authorizations. Based on available reports on Cal-Access, which provides information on campaign finance from 1999 to present, the most expensive ballot measures in California were 2008’s Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97—four veto referendums against gaming compacts between tribes and the state government. The political action committees (PACs) were the same for each measure; therefore, the combined total of $154.55 million in contributions was raised for or against four ballot measures.
 
Proponents of the sports betting ballot initiative will need to collect at least 997,139 valid signatures, with a verification deadline of June 25, 2020. However, the process of verifying signatures can take multiple months. The recommended signature submission deadlines are March 3, 2020, for an initiative requiring a full check of signatures and April 21, 2020, for an initiative requiring verification only of a random sample of signatures. Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) is expected to release ballot language for the initiative on January 21, giving the initiative’s proponents between six and 13 weeks to collect around 1 million signatures.
 
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Colorado local ballot measure election recap

Ballotpedia covered eight local measures in Denver, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe County, and Douglas County on Nov. 5. Six were approved, one was defeated, and one has not been called.
 
Approval of Douglas County Ballot Issue 1A was ahead as of Nov. 14 with a margin of 52.27% to 47.73%. Because of mail-in ballots, this race is too close to call with certainty until results are official. The measure would extend the 0.13% sales tax for 15 years to fund transportation infrastructure.
 
All four measures in Denver were approved, including a measure to create a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and a measure establishing residency requirements for elected officials. All of the measures received at least 75% of the vote.
 
In Colorado Springs, Ballot Issue 2B was approved with 57.72% of the vote, and Ballot Issue 2C was approved with 65.10%. Ballot Issue 2B authorizes the city to retain its $7 million revenue surplus to be used for the improvement of parks and recreational facilities rather than refunding to taxpayers as required by law without voter approval. Ballot Issue 2C renewed at a decreased rate a sales tax used to fund road repairs.
 
Arapahoe County Ballot Issue 1A was defeated with a margin of 33.34% to 66.66%. The measure would have authorized an additional property tax of $3.4 per $1,000 in assessed property value to fund public safety services.
 


California local ballot measure election recap

According to unofficial election results, voters in local jurisdictions in 13 different California counties approved 35 local ballot measures and defeated eight measures on November 5, 2019.
 
Two measures are too close to call with certainty. San Francisco Proposition D and Redwood City School District Proposition H are tax measures that require a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass. Unofficial election results report Proposition D has crossed that threshold with 67.65% of the vote. However, it’s unclear how many votes remain to be counted. Proposition H is currently below the two-thirds threshold with 66.21%.
 
Voters in Rancho Palos Verde defeated Measure B, which would have increased the minimum wage of hospitality workers to $15 and enacted other labor regulations. The margin was 23% to 77%.
 
Topics on the ballot ranged from parcel taxes to e-cigarette regulations. California voters decided on 14 parcel tax measures, approving ten and defeating three. Redwood Proposition H concerns a parcel tax but is too close to call. Out of the nine sales tax measures on California ballots, eight were approved and one was defeated. All four hotel tax measures were approved. Out of the four measures concerning appointment and election of city officials, three were approved and one was defeated. Both marijuana business tax measures were approved, and both spending limit (Gann override) measures were approved. There were two measures concerning development and land use on the ballot, and both were approved. Two measures concerning housing in San Francisco were approved. Out of the two measures concerning local business taxes, one was approved, and San Francisco Proposition D, which would tax ride-share businesses, is still too close to call.


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