CategoryBallot measures

Referendums filed to overturn California’s new laws to regulate vaccine medical exemptions

On September 11, veto referendums were filed against Senate Bill 276 and Senate Bill 714 in California. Both of the bills address the use of medical exemptions from vaccination schedules for school students. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the bills on September 9.
 
Proponents of the veto referendums will need to collect 623,212 valid signatures within 90 days of the governor’s signature, which means signatures are due on December 8, 2019. Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) is expected to release ballot language for the veto referendums on September 23. If enough signatures are collected for the referendums, the laws would be on hold until voters decide whether to uphold or repeal them at the election on November 3, 2020.
 
SB 276 and SB 714 were designed to create a process for the California Department of Public Health to review medical exemption forms for school attendance and allow a trained immunization department staff member (who must be a physician, surgeon, or registered nurse) to revoke medical exemptions that do not meet CDC, ACIP, or AAP criteria. The bills also include a process to appeal decisions to revoke exemptions, prohibit doctors who the department considers to be contributing to a public health crisis from writing medical exemptions, establish the information that must appear on medical exemption forms, and create a system to monitor immunization levels in schools and institutions and patterns of high exemption form submissions by physicians. SB 714 was written to amend SB 276 after Gov. Newsom requested several changes to the original bill, including a longer grace period for students with medical exemptions that were issued before January 1, 2020.
 
The three individuals who filed the veto referendums—Denise Aguilar, Heidi Munoz Gleisner, and Tara Thornton—were active in protesting the vaccination bills in August and September, according to The Sacramento Bee. Aguilar described the protests as “just parents who are getting a little bit fed up with the bills that are being passed.” She added, “To have our health in bureaucrats’ hands, that’s the complete tyranny of the government.” Senator Richard Pan (D-6), who authored the laws, responded to the referendums, saying, “What they haven’t demonstrated through the legislative process is a compelling argument based on science and facts and when they go to the public they will need that. Pounding on doors and walls won’t be any more compelling to the public as it was to the Legislature.”
 
After Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed SB 277, which eliminated personal belief and religious exemptions from vaccination requirements, former Rep. Tim Donnelly (R-33) filed a veto referendum to overturn the law. On October 7, Donnelly said the campaign lacked financial contributions and signatures, which led to the veto referendum failing to make the ballot. While the signature requirement in 2015 was 365,880, the signature requirement in 2019 is a quarter-million higher at 623,212.
 
Californian’s have voted on 48 veto referendums since the state’s first in 1912. Voters upheld the targeted legislation in 20 veto referendum measures and repealed it in 28. Nationwide, between 1906 and 2018, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws and upheld 181 (34.7 percent). California has had the third most veto referendum measures certified for the ballot behind North Dakota (75) and Oregon (68).
 
 
 


Potential 2020 Florida initiatives: which have made progress?

Proponents of seven citizen initiatives in Florida have submitted enough valid signatures to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court. Sponsors must submit 76,632 valid signatures (10% of the number of signatures required statewide coming from at least seven of Florida’s congressional districts) to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court concerning whether or not the measure complies with the single-subject rule and whether or not the ballot title and summary are appropriate.
 
Proponents must submit a total of 766,200 valid signatures to qualify initiatives for the 2020 ballot. Signatures must be verified by February 1, 2020. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot in 2020.
 
Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Petitions are allowed to circulate an initiative for an indefinite period of time, but signatures are valid for a two-year period of time; therefore, proponents must collect all of their signatures for verification within a two-year period.
 
One measure, Initiative #18-14 (designed to specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections), has more than the required number of total statewide valid signatures but has not yet officially met the distribution requirement in each district and county. Proponents of the measure reported submitting more than 1.5 million signatures in July.
 
The list below shows which initiatives have enough signatures to trigger a ballot language review and how many signatures are currently valid statewide:
 
 
An additional 11 measures have been filed in 2018 and 2019 targeting the 2020 ballot in Florida, but proponents have not yet submitted enough valid signatures to trigger the supreme court ballot language review. Initiative #19-11, sponsored by Make It Legal Florida, was the most recent filed initiative and would legalize recreational marijuana. It was approved for signature gathering on September 9, 2019.
 
A total of 91 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Florida between 1996 and 2018, with an average of between seven and eight measures appearing on the ballot during each even-numbered year. Between 1996 and 2018, 75.82% (69 of 91) of statewide measures were approved by voters and 24.18% (22 of 91) were defeated.


Fresno court upholds supermajority requirement for citizen-initiated special taxes, says issue could be decided by state supreme court

On September 5, 2019, Judge Kimberly Gaab ruled that Fresno Measure P was defeated because it required a two-thirds vote for approval. Gaab had previously stated that the cases surrounding this issue were likely to be decided by the California Supreme Court, superseding her decision. Measure P was designed to enact a 0.375% sales tax for 30 years to fund city parks, recreation, streets, and arts. It was put on the ballot by a citizen initiative and received approval from 52% of voters in 2018.
 
After the election, the city certified the measure as defeated. The group Fresno Building Healthy Communities filed a lawsuit against the city on February 1, 2019, arguing that because Measure P was a citizen initiative, it did not need to meet the supermajority requirement. The lawsuit argued based on a previous state supreme court ruling differentiating election date timing requirements for citizen initiatives from those for measures referred by the local lawmakers. It stated that the supermajority requirement in the state constitution applied to referred measures but not to citizen-initiated ones. The office of the Fresno City Attorney also asked the Fresno County Superior Court to determine the correct vote requirement for Measure P, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association intervened in the case, arguing that a two-thirds supermajority was required.
 
Judge Gaab’s ruling stated, “The two-thirds vote requirement is not placed on the ‘local government.’ Rather, proposed special taxes must be ‘submitted to the electorate,’ which must approve the proposals by a two-thirds vote. Since local government does not approve special tax proposals, it is erroneous to conclude that the two-thirds vote requirement in article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (d) applies only to a ‘local government.’ Once the initiative is submitted to the voters, it is incumbent upon to the voters to approve it by a two-thirds vote, or otherwise reject it.” Gaab also argued that the ruling in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland upon which the plaintiffs’ arguments were based differentiated between the election date issue and the supermajority requirement issue.
 
California voters approved Proposition 218 in 1996. The proposition included the requirement that local governments may only enact, extend, or increase a special tax with a two-thirds supermajority vote of the electorate. Following the passage of Proposition 218, the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement was applied to legislative referrals and citizen initiatives.
 
In August 2017, however, the California Supreme Court categorized taxes imposed by citizen initiatives as separate from taxes imposed by local governments in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland. This ruling brought the supermajority vote requirement into question for special taxes proposed through citizen initiatives.
 
In 2018, eight local citizen initiatives in California proposing special taxes were approved by more than a simple majority but less than a two-thirds supermajority vote. Local officials declared two of the measures to be defeated based on the two-thirds supermajority requirement. The other six measures were certified as approved. In July 2019, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled a different direction than Judge Gaab, deciding that the two San Francisco tax measures were properly certified as approved with 50.9% approval and 61.3% approval, respectively.
 


Signatures submitted for Mississippi medical marijuana amendment targeting 2020 ballot

Mississippians for Compassionate Care, proponents of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana, reported submitting more than 214,000 signatures as of September 5, 2019; 105,686 of which have already been certified by county clerks. Once the clerks have certified the signatures, proponents must file the entire petition with the secretary of state for signature verification. 86,185 valid signatures are required to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. Moreover, signatures must be from voters distributed across the state’s congressional districts. If enough signatures are found valid, the initiative goes to the state legislature, which cannot prevent the measure from going onto the ballot but can put an alternative measure on the ballot along with the initiative.
 
The measure was filed by Ashley Durval, the mother of Harper Grace Durval. In 2014, the Mississippi Legislature passed Harper Grace’s Law, which removed marijuana extract oil (CBD oil) from Mississippi’s list of controlled substances and allowed its prescription for medicinal applications. Harper Grace Durval has Davet Syndrome, a type of epilepsy that causes seizures.
 
This measure would provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Health. Individuals with a debilitating medical condition could seek a certification from a Mississippi-licensed physician to obtain medical marijuana.
 
The measure specifies that no qualified patient could possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time and that no more than 2.5 ounces could be provided to a patient in a 14-day period. The weight limit would not include ingredients combined with medical marijuana to prepare edible products, topical products, ointments, oils, tinctures, or other products. Under the measure, no medical marijuana treatment center could be located within 500 feet of a school, church, or child-care establishment.
 
The measure defines debilitating medical condition as “cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, chronic or debilitating pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, glaucoma, agitation of dementias, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, spinal cord disease or severe injury, intractable nausea, severe muscle spasticity, or another medical condition of the same kind or class to those herein enumerated and for which a physician believes the benefits of using medical marijuana would reasonably outweigh potential health risks.”
 
The last time Mississippi voters had a statewide measure on the ballot was in 2015, when they defeated both a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment and its alternative put on the ballot by the legislature.


Campaign finance reports published for Colorado Proposition CC

Colorado Proposition CC on the 2019 ballot would allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to provide funding for transportation and education.
 
One committee is registered to support Proposition CC: the Great Education Colorado Issue Committee. The support campaign has reported $51,040 in contributions and $12,773 in expenditures so far. Daniel Ritchie, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Denver, contributed $50,000 to the support campaign.
 
Two committees are registered to oppose Proposition CC. Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee has reported $293,854.71 in in-kind contributions, all of which came from Americans for Prosperity. Citizens Against CC had not yet reported campaign finance activity.
 
The reports covered through August 28, 2019. The deadline for the next scheduled reports is September 16, 2019.
 
Also on the 2019 ballot in Colorado is Proposition DD, which would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to levy a tax of 10% on those conducting sports betting operations. Ballotpedia did not identify any committees registered to support Proposition DD.
 
One committee is registered to oppose Proposition DD: Coloradans for Climate Justice. The committee had not reported any campaign finance activity.
 
Both propositions were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. In 2018, the legislature referred six measures to the ballot in the form of constitutional amendments. Campaigns supporting those measures raised funds ranging from under $5,000 to over $5.8 million in the case of Amendments Y and Z designed to create independent redistricting commissions.
 
Additional reading:


Colorado voters to consider the national popular vote compact in 2020 through first successful Colorado veto referendum petition since 1932

On Thursday, the secretary of state certified the Colorado National Popular Vote veto referendum for the November 2020 ballot. Voters will decide whether they want to give Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate that receives the most votes nationwide or continue to give them to the candidate that wins the most votes in Colorado. It will be the first veto referendum to appear before Colorado voters since 1932.
 
State Sen. Mike Foote (D-17) and Reps. Emily Sirota (D-9) and Jennifer Arndt (D-53) sponsored Senate Bill 42—the legislation adding Colorado to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). SB 42 passed in the legislature along party lines, with all yes votes coming from Democrats and all Republicans voting against it. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019.
 
Veto referendum sponsors—opponents of SB 42—reported submitting over 227,000 signatures to the secretary of state on the August 1 deadline, more than the 124,632 valid signatures needed. SB 42 was suspended until voters decide the issue on November 3, 2020.
 
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is a compact to award member states’ presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt the legislation. As of August 1, 2019, 15 states and Washington, D.C., together representing 196 electoral votes, had joined the NPVIC.
 
Most states use a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes—a candidate who receives 51 percent of the popular vote in a state would receive 100 percent of that state’s electoral votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 227 electoral votes. Clinton won the national popular vote with 65.84 million votes compared to Trump’s 62.98 million votes. The 2016 election was not the only instance in which the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes; it happened in five of the 58 presidential elections in U.S. history.
 
Coloradans Vote sponsored the referendum position and is leading the campaign in support of a vote against joining the NPVIC. The group argued that “demanding Colorado’s electors cast their votes this way is theft of our votes for president and gives them to more populated areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. [The current Electoral College system] ensures that the minority always has a voice by allowing smaller, less populated states to have a more proportionate voice in electing our president.”
 
Colorado National Popular Vote (Colorado NPV) is campaigning in support of joining the NPVIC and hopes voters will approve Senate Bill 42. In a statement to Ballotpedia, Co-Chair of Colorado NPV Sylvia Bernstein said, “The Electoral College system has resulted in 5 out of 45 American presidents not winning the popular vote. This does not fairly reflect the will of the voters and is harmful to a modern democracy … We believe every vote by every American for the President should count equally, no matter where you live.”
 
In addition to Colorado, three other states joined the NPVIC in 2019: Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon. The first state to join was Maryland in 2007. Colorado is a Democratic trifecta. Thirteen of the 15 states to join the NPVIC and Washington, D.C., were controlled by Democratic trifectas at the time. Two were controlled by divided governments.
 
From 1912 to 1932, 13 veto referendums were on the ballot in Colorado, and none have been on the ballot since. Of the 13 referendum efforts, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation. The targeted legislation was upheld by voters on three occasions.
 
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).
 


$1.7 million raised by campaigns for and against Phoenix pension and light rail initiatives ahead of Aug. 27 special election

On August 27, Phoenix voters will decide Proposition 105 and Proposition 106 in a special election.
 
If approved, Proposition 105 would end construction of light rail extensions and redirect funds to infrastructure improvements in Phoenix. Building a Better Phoenix sponsored the initiative and argued, “Phoenix taxpayers are wasting BILLIONS on light rail expansion at the expense of other critical infrastructure. This is money that can be used to fix our streets and sidewalks, expand bus and dial-a-ride service, improve lighting and address other infrastructure improvements.” The Building a Better Phoenix committee reported $460,000 in cash contributions, $29,000 in in-kind contributions, and $394,000 in cash expenditures through August 10 (the last day covered by pre-election campaign finance reports). Top donors to the campaign were Mel Martin, Chris Hinkson, Rachel Palopoli, and Scot Mussi.
 
If approved, Proposition 106 would do the following:
  • require annual assessments of the city’s pension debt,
  • limit budget growth if pensions are not 90% funded,
  • earmark revenue over the budget limit to paying down pension debt, and
  • require city officials to reimburse the city for pension benefit employer contributions.
Responsible Budgets Inc. sponsored Proposition 106. Councilmember Sal DiCiccio (District 6) argued, “The City of Phoenix owes $4.4 BILLION on our pensions! Responsible Budgets takes the first steps to addressing Phoenix’s long term funding deficit[.]” The committee reported $197,000 in cash contributions, $101,000 in in-kind contributions, and $298,000 in cash expenditures. Top donors included Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment, Morning in America, and Chuck Warren.
 
Opponents of the initiatives joined to form the Invest in PHX, No on 105 and 106 campaign. Concerning Proposition 105, the campaign argued, “Prop 105 stops all light rail construction and kills light rail plans already approved by voters three times. … It also sends billions in federal dollars to cities in other states.” Concerning Proposition 106, the campaign argued, “Prop 106 is dangerous, and would slash access to critical city services like parks, libraries, senior centers, and support for those experiencing homelessness, just as Phoenix emerges from the worst recession in generations.” The top donors to the Invest in PHX committee were Devil’s Advocate, We Build Arizona, and Greater Phoenix Leadership, Inc.
 
Both measures are citizen initiatives that required 20,510 signatures from registered city voters to qualify for the ballot. In Phoenix, initiative petition signatures must equal 15 percent of the voters who voted in the previous mayoral election.
 


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.


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