Denver appears to have become the first city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.
Although early reporting showed Denver Initiative 301 behind by several points, the final unofficial report on Wednesday revealed the measure has a lead of 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, which is a margin of 1,979 votes out of a total of 176,661. Results could still change ahead of the deadline of May 16 for official results to be certified.
The citizen initiative would make the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver and prohibit the city from spending resources on enforcing penalties related to psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin was classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). At the state level, the use and possession of psilocybin were illegal and penalized, except in certain cases allowed under the state’s right-to-try law. Right-to-try laws aim to allow terminally ill patients to gain access to experimental drugs without the permission of the FDA. Colorado was the first state to adopt a right-to-try law in 2014.
The support campaign, Decriminalize Denver, collected 5,559 valid signatures for the initiative and submitted them in January 2019. They needed 4,726 signatures, which was 5 percent of the votes cast for mayoral candidates in the preceding mayoral election.
Also at Tuesday’s election, Denver voters defeated Initiative 300, which would have overturned Denver’s ban on camping in public areas and established rights to resting, sheltering oneself, eating or exchanging food, and occupying a legally parked vehicle in public outdoor areas.
According to preliminary vote counts, voters in Denver were rejecting a citizen initiative to allow resting, sheltering oneself, eating or exchanging food, and occupying one’s own car in outdoor public places without limits or penalties enforced by the city or county, law enforcement, or any other entity. The initiative was failing by 84 percent to 16 percent.
As of May 5, 2019, Initiated Ordinance 300 had drawn over $2.4 million in campaign contributions, with $2.35 million in donations reported by the No on 300 campaign.
Key endorsements of Initiative 300 included Carrie Roberts, former officer and sheriff’s deputy; the Colorado Department of Corrections; the ACLU of Colorado; the Democratic Party of Denver; and the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Key opponents of Initiative 300 included Larry Trujillo, former Denver fire chief; Wellington Webb, former mayor of Denver; the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce; and the Denver Rescue Mission.
Denver voters also decided Initiative 301, a first-of-its-kind psilocybin mushroom decriminalization initiative. According to preliminary results, it was being defeated 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent.
On Tuesday, Columbus voters approved a total of five bond issues ranging from $50 million for neighborhood development projects to $425 million for public service, including roads, trash, equipment, real estate, and landscaping. In total, voters approved $1.03 billion in new bond debt. The bond issues will require an estimated 5.04 mills ($5.04 per $1,000 in assessed property value) in property tax to repay them.
The Colorado Legislature gave final approval to House Bill 1327 on May 3, sending it to the 2019 ballot for voters to decide.
House Bill 1327 would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to create a 10 percent tax on sports betting proceeds to be levied on those who conduct sports betting operations. This measure requires voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). According to the fiscal impact statement for the measure, revenue from the 10 percent tax on sports betting proceeds is expected to generate revenue for the state of around $10 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 and is expected to grow to between $13.5 to 15.2 million for FY 2021-22.
HB 1327 was introduced in the House on April 18, 2019. It passed in the House in a vote of 58-6 on April 24, 2019. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-8 on May 3, 2019.
Revenue generated from the tax on sports betting would be used to fund expenses related to the administration and regulation of sports betting in Colorado and to fund the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund. Additionally, under the measure, $130,000 would be transferred per year to the Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health to be used for operating a gambler’s crisis hotline (to be operated by Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners) and to fund prevention, education, and treatment of gambling disorders.
Seven states have active sports betting industries: Delaware, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Voters in Arkansas approved legalizing sports betting through Issue 4 in 2018. In many other states, bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced.
Also on Colorado’s 2019 ballot is a legislatively referred measure that would allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to be used for education. A third measure authorizing transportation bonds was certified for the 2019 ballot but was moved by the legislature to the 2020 ballot.
So far, six statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2019 ballot in four states.
Voters in three Dallas-Fort Worth jurisdictions approved bond packages ranging from $44.7 million to $1.1 billion in the general election May 4.
Approval of Proposition A in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) authorizes $1.1 billion in bonds to construct, improve, and equip school buildings. The DCCCD chancellor, Joe May, recommended the bond measure, and the board of trustees voted in February to place it on the ballot. District officials stated that the bonds would not raise property taxes. Proposition A was approved by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, according to unofficial results on election night.
In Garland, voters approved all eight bond measures on the ballot. The bond package totaled $423.7 and was designed to fund projects such as improving streets, parks and recreation facilities, and public safety facilities. Garland voters also approved Proposition A-1, a measure authorizing the city to sell Bunker Hill Park with proceeds dedicated to public parks.
Plano voters approved three bond measures totaling $44.7 million. The bond measures were designed to fund improvements to streets, parks and recreational facilities, and municipal facilities. Voter approval rates ranged from 56 percent to 71 percent on election night.
City officials in Garland and Plano will decide whether additional property taxes are needed to pay for the bonds, which must be repaid within a maximum of 40 years.
Voters in El Paso, Texas, approved Proposition A on Saturday, permanently prohibiting development on the 1,107 acres known as Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number Twelve (TIRZ 12). TIRZ 12 includes the Franklin Mountains, Transmountain Road, and Lost Dog Trail. According to unofficial election night results, 89 percent of voters favored preserving TIRZ 12 as open space, with 11 percent voting against the initiative.
Proposition A was backed by citizen group Progress 915 through a campaign called Save Lost Dog. In 2018, the group submitted 1,977 valid petition signatures for the initiative to the El Paso city clerk. A total of 1,666 signatures (5 percent of turnout at the last general election) was required to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
The initiative effort started after the El Paso City Council voted 5-4 in favor of creating TIRZ 12 in May 2018. City officials stated at the time that they intended to sell 750 acres of the land in TIRZ 12 to a private entity for housing and commercial development. The council then voted in September 2018 to place a two-year moratorium on the sale and development of the land after receiving feedback from the public.
Approval of Proposition A effectively blocks any future private development of the entire 1,107-acre property, which is adjacent to Franklin Mountains State Park. The initiative also prohibits any major roadways on the land. Progress 915 argued prior to the election that “the Franklin Mountains and Transmountain Road are without a doubt some of the most scenic and iconic parts of our cultural identity” and that “development will damage the western slopes of our mountain, degrade the view and completely alter the area forever.” The group also argued that development would require over $100 million of incentives to developers and that El Paso property owners would pick up the tab.
The city council had stated prior to the election that approval of the initiative would “require the City to expend $11.3 million or more to preserve the land” and that a funding mechanism had not been identified.
City officials reported that voter turnout for the May 4 election was 5.13 percent of registered El Paso voters.
An amendment to remove the authority of local governments to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons will appear on the 2020 ballot in Montana. The measure was designed to be sent to voters if an identical bill, House Bill 325, was vetoed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. Bullock vetoed HB 325 on May 3, 2019.
To override the governor’s veto in Montana, a two-thirds vote in each chamber (67 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate) would be required. The concealed carry bill was approved by 56 percent majorities in both chambers of the legislature. Proposed changes to statute that are referred by the legislature to the voters do not require the governor’s signature and cannot be vetoed.
The measure’s text states that its purpose is “to secure the right to keep and bear arms and to prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments across the state.” The measure would state that it is the policy of Montana “that the citizens of the state should be aware of, understand, and comply with any restrictions on the right to keep or bear arms… and to minimize confusion the legislature withholds from local governments the power to restrict or regulate the possession of firearms.”
The governor explained his veto, writing, “Montana law already contains strong protections that totally prohibit localities from restricting our basic right to keep and bear arms. House Bill 325 does something else, eliminating local control over whether the mentally ill may bring guns into schools, or whether a local government can permit concealed weapons. These are decisions that Montanans have long entrusted to their local governments. I see no reason to reassign that power to decision-makers in Helena.”
Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which supports the measure, said, “Bullock is effectively arguing that a felon who would disregard committing another federal felony and disregard a state law prohibiting guns in schools would be deterred from bringing guns into schools if only local governments are allowed to enact an ordinance for a local misdemeanor prohibiting that conduct. Right, as if felons spend their time first reading and then complying with local ordinances.”
Also on Montana’s 2020 ballot are two measures that would amend constitutional language regarding initiative signature requirements to match what is currently enforced due to case law and an attorney general opinion.
Citizens in Montana may initiate constitutional amendments, state statutes, and veto referendums through citizen signature petitions. So far, there are no citizen initiatives circulating.
From 1996 through 2018, an average of between four and five measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Montana. Between 1996 and 2018, about 61.67 percent (37 of 60) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 38.33 percent (23 of 60) were defeated.
On May 2, 2019, the Colorado state legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 263, which moved a legislatively referred bond issue from the 2019 ballot to the 2020 ballot. The bond issue was designed to authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes. Proceeds from the debt would be credited 85 percent to the State Highway Fund and 15 percent to the Multimodal Transportation Options Fund. The maximum repayment cost of the TRANs debt would be $3.25 billion, and it would have to be repaid fully within 20 years. Senate Bill 263 also amended the bond issue to reduce the amount of TRANs that would be authorized from 2.337 billion to 1.837 billion and make other changes.
In the Senate, all three no votes came from Republican Senators. In the House, Republicans were split with 11 voting in favor and 13 voting against. Thirty-nine of 41 House Democrats voted in favor except for two Democratic Representatives who were excused from voting.
Still on the 2019 ballot is a measure to 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. The revenue would be used for transportation.
Democratic Senator Rachel Zenzinger of Colorado’s 19th Senate District said, “If we were to move forward this year (with the bonding measure), the same thing we saw last fall — with two competing ballot measures on transportation — would sink them both.”
On May 1, 2019, the Illinois State Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would repeal the state’s constitutional requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate across income. Instead, the amendment would allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. Voters would address the constitutional amendment at the general election in 2020 if it is approved in the House.
In Illinois, a 60 percent vote is needed in each chamber of the Illinois General Assembly to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration. In the state Senate, the amendment passed along partisan lines. Democrats supported the amendment, and Republicans opposed the amendment. Democrats have supermajorities in both legislative houses and can pass amendments without support from Republicans. In the state House, 71 votes will be needed to pass the amendment. Democrats control 74 seats in the state House, and Republicans control 44 seats.
Sen. Don Harmon (D-39), who voted for the amendment, stated, “If you’re saying the flat tax is a good idea, you are protecting the uber-rich, not the middle class. Because we can’t raise taxes on anyone without raising taxes on everyone, and that’s a protection for the richest among us.” Sen. Dale Righter (R-55), who voted against the amendment, said, “There are a handful who believe that the answer to government’s problems is simply to raise taxes. This will make it easier for those who believe that to reach into your constituents’ pockets and get more money.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) supports the constitutional amendment and campaigned on a graduated income tax during his gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Pritzker defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In addition to the constitutional amendment, the state Senate approved a bill changing the state’s income tax from a flat rate to graduated brackets beginning on January 1, 2021, if voters approve the constitutional amendment in 2020. For income earned in 2018, the personal income tax in Illinois was a flat rate of 4.95 percent. Under the bill, the income single filers who earned $750,000 or less would be marginal rates between 4.75 percent and 7.85 percent. The income of single filers who earned $750,001 or more would be 7.99 percent on their total net income.
The Texas State Legislature has referred its first constitutional amendment to the ballot for the election on November 5, 2019. The constitutional amendment, which received unanimous approval in the state legislature, would allow law enforcement agencies to transfer a dog, horse, or another animal to the animal’s handler if the transfer is in the animal’s best interest. State Sens. Brian Birdwell (R-22) and Jane Nelson (R-12) proposed the constitutional amendment.
Under the state’s Local Government Code, a retiring police dog or working animal is classified as salvage or surplus property and, according to code, surplus or salvage property can be auctioned, donated to a civic or charitable organization, or destroyed. According to the Texas Senate Research Center, the existing Local Government Code makes transferring a retiring animal to its handler difficult.
While the constitutional amendment is the first referred to the 2019 ballot, the Texas State Legislature generally refers multiple amendments to odd-year ballots. The average number of amendments on the ballot was 13, with a range of seven to 22, between 1995 and 2017.
The legislature is expected to adjourn on May 27, 2019, and additional amendments can be referred before adjournment. Legislators proposed 216 amendments in 2019. Between 2009 and 2017, an average of 187 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7 percent.