CategoryBallot measures

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 Manufacturers’ 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.
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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.

Maine could vote on a physician-initiated death referendum in November or June

In April 2018, when Maine had a divided government, the group Maine Death with Dignity launched a ballot initiative to legalize physician-assisted death in the state. Maine Death with Dignity collected around 72,000 signatures—about 9,000 more than required—for the ballot initiative but decided against submitting signatures after Gov. Janet Mills (D), elected the previous November, signed LD 1313 on June 12, 2019. LD 1313 was written to allow adults suffering from a terminal illness to request medications that can be self-administered to end his or her life. Valerie Lovelace, chairperson of Maine Death with Dignity, said, “We are so proud and grateful to finally be heard by our lawmakers and our governor on this issue.”
Some opponents, however, preferred a public vote over a legislative vote on legalizing physician-assisted death. Because Maine is one of 23 states that provides citizens with a process for veto referendums, voters could still have the final word on physician-assisted death. Kandyce Powell, executive director of the Maine Hospice Council, filed the veto referendum after the 2019 legislative session adjourned on June 20, 2019. The veto referendum was approved for signature gathering on July 11, 2019.
The veto referendum could appear on the ballot for the election on November 5, 2019, or June 9, 2020, depending on when signatures are submitted and verified. Opponents of LD 1313 have until September 18, 2019, to collect and file 63,067 valid signatures.
Maine became the eighth state with a law providing for physician-assisted death after Gov. Mills signed the legislation. Three of those states—Colorado (2016), Oregon (1994), and Washington (2008)—authorized physician-assisted death through citizen-initiated ballot measures. Voters in Maine rejected a physician-assisted death ballot initiative in 2000, with 51.3 percent voting to reject the measure.
Maine’s legislation passed 73-72 in the House, with Democrats divided 68-17. One Republican supported the legislation, while the remaining were opposed. In the Senate, the vote was 19-16, with 18 Democrats and one Republican supporting the legislation, and 13 Republicans and three Democrats opposing the legislation.
Since Maine adopted the referendum process in 1908, there have been 30 veto referendums on the ballot. The last veto referendum was in 2018 when voters overturned legislation designed to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting. Of the 30 bills placed before voters as veto referendums, 18 of them (60 percent) were overturned at the ballot box. Voters upheld 12 (40 percent) of the bills.
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Four new statewide ballot measures certified for 2019 and 2020

Four new statewide ballot measures were certified for 2019 and 2020 ballots in the past 30 days.
Three statewide measures were certified for 2019 in Maine, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Here’s what they would do:
  • Maine: allow legislation to let persons with physical disabilities that prevent them from signing their own names use an alternative signature to sign petitions for citizen-initiated ballot measures.
  • New Jersey: extend an existing $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there, and require retirement centers to pass the value of the deduction on to veterans in the form of credits or payments. 
  • Pennsylvania: add specific rights of crime victims, together known as a Marsy’s Law, to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
A 2020 measure to establish the authority of state and local governments to pass campaign finance laws was certified in Oregon.
All four statewide measures certified in the past month were proposed constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by state legislatures.
Proponents of a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment in Florida designed to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors announced that they had collected 1.5 million signatures seeking to qualify their measure for the 2020 ballot; they need to submit 766,200 valid signatures and have them verified prior to a deadline on February 1, 2020.
Proponents of a 2019 sanctuary city measure in Tucson also submitted signatures for their initiative.

Florida Citizen Voters announces collecting 1.5 million signatures for 2020 initiative to require Florida voters to be U.S. citizens

On July 11, 2019, Florida Citizen Voters, sponsors of Florida Initiative 18-14, announced having collected more than 1.5 million signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 766,200 valid signatures must be submitted by February 1, 2020.
This measure would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Florida.
Constitution as it presently exists: Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.
Proposed change under the ballot measure: Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.
A similar amendment is certified to appear on the ballot in Alabama in 2020.
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
Voters in San Francisco approved a measure, Proposition N, in 2016 which allowed non-citizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago has allowed noncitizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing the qualifications of an elector. Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. As of June 2019, North Dakota was the only state to use the phrase “Only a citizen of the United States…” after having changed it from “every” via a constitutional amendment in 2018.
Map key:
Purple: “Only a citizen of the United States…”
Dark green: “Every citizen of the United States…”
Light green: Uses the term “every”
Dark blue: Uses the terms “any” or “all”
Grey: Unique language concerning citizenship and suffrage
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