CategoryBallot measures

Kansas City voters turn down early childhood education sales tax

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, rejected an initiative to establish a sales tax that would fund early childhood education by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent on Tuesday.
 
The ballot initiative, Question 1, would have authorized an additional citywide tax on all retail sales at a rate of 0.375 percent (three-eighths of a cent) for ten years. Proponents designed the initiative to set aside tax revenue for pre-k instruction, early childhood center improvements, and early childhood education staffing.
 
The group Progress KC led the support campaign—Pre-K for KC, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James supported Question 1. Vote No KC Question 1 led the opposition campaign, arguing that an insufficient portion of the funds would benefit students directly.
 
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Colorado Springs voters reject collective bargaining for firefighters

On Tuesday, voters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, rejected Issue 1, a citizen initiative designed to allow collective bargaining for uniformed city fire employees. According to unofficial election night results with 95 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was opposed by 69 percent of voters.
 
Approval of Issue 1 would have added an article to the city charter permitting firefighters to select an employee organization as their sole representative to act in negotiations with the city.
 
Under SB 25, known as the Firefighter Safety Act (2013), local governments in Colorado may allow collective bargaining with voter approval. However, following the rejection of Issue 1, the Colorado Springs City Charter will continue to prohibit employee organizations from negotiating with the city regarding firefighters’ compensation. Public employers in the city are still required under SB 25 to meet and confer with firefighters or their employee organizations upon request to discuss other policies, such as safety and equipment.
 
Issue 1 was put on the ballot after initiative proponents submitted 17,322 valid signatures to the city clerk in December 2018. The group Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs led the campaign in favor of a “yes” vote, raising over $670,000 by March 29, 2019. The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 5, was the top donor to the “yes” campaign, funding 44 percent of the total contributions to date.
 
Two opposition campaigns, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions and Americans for Prosperity, raised a combined $392,000 to defeat Issue 1 as of the March 29 filing. The group Colorado Springs Forward was the top donor in opposition to the initiative, providing 45 percent of the monetary contributions leading up to the election.
 
With the defeat of Issue 1, Colorado Springs continues to diverge from other major cities in Colorado that have adopted collective bargaining for firefighters, including Denver, Fort Collins, Aurora, and Pueblo.
 
Voter turnout for the April 2 general election was 32 percent, according to city officials. In addition to deciding Issue 1, Colorado Springs residents cast votes for the offices of mayor and three of nine seats on the city council.
 


U.S. Virgin Islands Legislative Apportionment Initiative fails due to low turnout

A ballot initiative in the U.S. Virgin Islands failed despite winning 75 percent of the vote because turnout did not reach the required 50 percent threshold. The initiative was proposed by St. Croix Government Retirees, Inc., and would have changed the territory’s system of legislative apportionment. The measure would have replaced the territory’s two seven-member legislative districts and one at-large member with four two-member districts, one single-member district, and six at-large members.
 
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a majority of registered voters must turn out for a ballot initiative to be approved, and a majority of voters who turn out need to cast their votes in support of the initiative. As of March 1, 2019, there were 51,741 registered voters in the U.S. Virgin Islands, meaning at least 25,872 people needed to vote in the election. With 86 percent of precincts reporting, voter turnout was at 9 percent (4,651 votes), meaning that the measure failed.


Citizen initiative process restrictions advanced in Idaho and signed into law in Utah

On Friday, the Idaho House of Representatives approved two bills changing the state’s initiative process. On Monday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed five bills into law making significant changes to the state’s initiative process.
 
Here’s what each piece of legislation would do:
 
Idaho
 
Senate Bill 1159 would make the following changes to Idaho’s initiative process:
  • increase the signature requirement for initiatives and veto referendums from 6 percent to 10 percent of votes cast at the last general election;
  • increase the state’s distribution requirement to require initiative and referendum petitioners to meet the 10 percent requirement in 32 legislative districts;
  • going into 2019 the requirement was to meet the 6 percent signature requirement in 18 legislative districts;
  • reduce the amount of time allowed for signature gathering from 18 months to 180 days (about six months);
  • enact a single-subject rule for initiatives;
  • require a fiscal impact statement for each initiative certified for the ballot.
House Bill 296 would make the distribution requirement apply in two-thirds (24) of legislative districts instead of 32 of them and would allow nine months for signature gathering instead of 180 days.
 
The state House approved SB 1159 along party lines in a vote of 40 to 30, with all 14 Democrats voting against it and Republicans split 40 to 16. House Bill 296 was also opposed by all voting Democrats (one was absent). It was approved 47 to 22. Both bills now go to the state Senate. The Senate previously approved SB 1159 on March 22 by a vote of 18 to 17, with all seven Democrats opposed and Republicans split 18 to 10.
 
Utah
 
In Utah, Gov. Herbert signed five bills into law on Monday: House Bill 195, Senate Bill 151, House Bill 145, House Bill 133, and House Bill 119. The most significant changes made by the bills are below:
  • change the signature requirement for initiatives and referendums from 10 percent (5 percent for indirect initiatives) of votes cast at the last presidential election to 8 percent (4 percent for indirect initiatives) of active voters in the state as of January 1 of even-numbered years;
  • change the signature submission deadline and the deadline for signature removal requests to February 15 before the election;
  • require initiative petitions to contain a summary of all funding sources (with percentages) for the costs associated with the proposed law and to include this information in the fiscal impact statement;
  • require the fiscal impact statement for an initiative to be prepared by the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst instead of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget;
  • require county clerks to post the names of registered voters who sign initiative and referendum petitions on the county website;
  • require signatures to be submitted and verified on a rolling basis as they are collected instead of all at once before the deadline; and
  • delay the effective date for approved citizen initiatives, allowing the legislature to consider them prior to enactment.
 
In 2018, voters in both states approved citizen initiatives to expand Medicaid coverage according to the Affordable Care Act. Utah voters also approved medical marijuana and redistricting commission initiatives. Idaho and Utah are Republican state government trifectas.
 
Ballotpedia is tracking nearly 150 changes to laws governing ballot measures and recall in 31 states proposed in 2019, including changes to distribution requirements, signature requirements, subject restrictions, ballot language rules, supermajority requirements, and bills proposing to establish initiative or referendum processes in states without them. So far, significant changes have been approved in Arkansas and Utah.
 
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Voters in New Orleans reject property tax initiative to fund senior citizen services on Saturday

Voters in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, voted on Proposition 1 on March 30, 2019, rejecting it 71 percent to 29 percent.
 
The initiative would have authorized the city to levy an annual property tax for five years at the rate of $2 per $1,000 in assessed property value (2 mills), with funds dedicated to services and programs for senior citizens.
 
The senior services tax measure was backed by the New Orleans Council on Aging. City council members Jason Williams and Jared Brossett co-sponsored the proposal. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the Action New Orleans PAC opposed the measure.


Washington activist Tim Eyman to launch his third 2019 signature petition drive; this initiative would ban income taxes

Sponsor Tim Eyman announced on March 26, 2019, that he would launch a signature drive for Initiative 1650 beginning on April 1, 2019, leaving 96 days to collect 259,622 valid signatures. Eyman refers to the measure as the We Don’t Want An Income Tax Initiative. I-1650 would prohibit local and state governments from enacting or imposing taxes on income including net, gross, or adjusted gross income; capital gains income; or any other portion or type of income. Washington state does not currently have a personal or corporate income tax.
 
This is the third active initiative or veto referendum petition drive Eyman has sponsored targeting the 2019 ballot. He successfully qualified Initiative 976 for the 2019 ballot. I-976 is currently certified to the legislature. The legislature can either approve the measure, reject or refuse to act on the measure and send it to the ballot, or send it to the ballot accompanied with an alternative. Eyman is currently collecting signatures for Referendum Measure 80, which would block salary increases for state elected officials set by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials (WCCSEO). The signature submission deadline for Referendum Measure 80 is on May 7, 2019.
 
Tim Eyman has sponsored or worked on a number of ballot initiative campaigns in the state of Washington each year since at least 1998. Of the Eyman initiatives that have been filed over the years, 16 qualified for the ballot. Of the 16 measures that appeared on the statewide ballot, 10 of them were approved, although eight (50 percent) were later invalidated. Six of the 16 were defeated by voters.
 
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Measure to amend Oregon’s recreational and medical cannabis laws filed targeting 2020 ballot

Oregon Initiative #18, filed on March 18, would make changes to state laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana.
 
Among other things, the initiative was designed to do the following:
  • Legalize cannabis cafes/ lounges where consumers could smoke marijuana indoors and allow existing dispensaries to add social consumption spaces;
  • Prohibit employers from requiring as a condition of employment that an employee or prospective employee refrain from using marijuana off-the-clock;
  • Issue lifetime medical marijuana cards to those diagnosed with incurable or chronic illnesses; and
  • Redistribute cannabis tax revenue to fund minority community development and subsidize medical cannabis purchases for low-income patients.
Leia Flynn, Madeline Martinez, and Angela Bacca, are the initiative’s sponsors. The Oregon Justice League is the group behind the initiative. Madeline Martinez is the executive director of Oregon NORML.
 
On the initiative petition, sponsors wrote, “The Oregon Justice League does not believe the State of Oregon has implemented Measure 91 in the spirit under which the law was passed. The OJL seeks to right these wrongs as well as provide a model for other states to implement a more just version of cannabis legalization. Legalization was sold to Oregon citizens as a way to grow, develop and sustain our small business economies, end the discrimination of citizens based on their interactions with the cannabis plant and uphold, protect and ensure the right of medical cannabis patients to safe botanical access.”
 
Oregon Measure 91, also known as the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014, was on the November 4, 2014, statewide ballot in Oregon as an initiated state statute, where it was approved by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent. Since its approval, the legislature has amended or repealed and replaced the text of Measure 91 multiple times.
 
Oregon is one of several states that require a certain number of signatures to accompany an initiative petition application. The signatures of at least 1,000 electors are required to trigger a review by state officials, a period of public commentary, and the drafting of a ballot title. The 1,000 preliminary signatures count toward the final total required.
 
To get an initiated state statute certified for the 2020 ballot, a total of 112,020 valid signatures are required. The deadline to submit signatures is July 2, 2020.
 
A total of 183 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Oregon from 1995 through 2018. The approval rate for measures appearing on Oregon’s ballot was 47.54 percent.


Campaign contributions for and against Colorado Springs Issue 1 near $1 million ahead of April 2 election

Here’s a quick breakdown of the almost $1 million in campaign finance spending for Colorado Springs Issue 1
 
At the municipal election on April 2, 2019, Colorado Springs voters will decide whether or not to allow collective bargaining for city firefighters. The initiative in question, Issue 1, was placed on the ballot through a citizen petition campaign led by Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs. A total of $924,000 has been contributed to campaigns for and against the initiative as of the March 15 filing date.
 
Below is a quick overview of current campaign finance reporting for Issue 1:
 
Support total: $570,847.13
  • Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs reported $570,847.13 in total contributions and $414,442.28 in expenditures for the #YESon1 campaign.
  • The top donor to the #YESon1 campaign thus far has been Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters – IAFF Local 5 with $269,509.05 in total contributions.
 
Opposition total: $353,142.57
  • Citizens Against Public Employee Unions reported $344,058.31 in total contributions and $268,976.61 in expenditures for the No on #1 campaign.
  • Americans for Prosperity Colorado Springs IC also registered in opposition to Issue 1 and reported $9,084.26 in non-monetary contributions.
  • The top donor to the No on # 1 campaign thus far has been Colorado Springs Forward with $166,000.00 in total contributions.


In 2020, New Mexico voters will decide whether to make the Public Regulation Commission appointed instead of elected

In 2020, voters in New Mexico will decide a constitutional amendment to change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission.
 
The PRC is responsible for the regulation of public utilities, transportation companies, transmission and pipeline companies, insurance companies, and other public companies. As of 2019, the PRC’s five members include four Democrats and one Republican.
 
Rather than having voters elect the PRC’s members, the constitutional amendment would create a nominating committee which would develop a list of candidates, and the governor would appoint three members from the list, with the consent of the state Senate, to serve on the commission. The PRC would change from an elected commission to an appointed commission on January 1, 2023.
 
PRC commissioners Cynthia Hall (D) and Steve Fischmann (D) wrote an article supporting the constitutional amendment, which said, “The public and the utility companies that serve them deserve to have commissioners with meaningful expertise when they begin working on the commission. That means graduate-level education plus significant industry or regulatory experience. Commissioners should be experts at the outset, not rookies.” Theresa Becenti-Aguilar (D) and Jeff Byrd (R) wrote an article opposing the amendment, which said that the measure would “make our state’s most powerful regulatory agency less representative, less responsive to the public and more susceptible to the influence of powerful special interests.”
 
The constitutional amendment was approved 59-8 in the House and 36-5 in the Senate. It’s the first constitutional amendment referred to the 2020 ballot in New Mexico. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.


Commissioner’s lawsuit against transportation sales tax dismissed in Hillsborough County, Florida

Florida Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Rex Barbas dismissed a lawsuit filed by Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White regarding a transportation sales tax approved by Hillsborough County voters in November 2018.

Referendum 2 was placed on the general election ballot in November after the group All for Transportation led a successful citizen initiative petition campaign. The measure received 57 percent approval from voters and authorized a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects in the county. In December, County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the sales tax arguing that provisions of the initiative illegally allowed tax revenue to be allocated without the approval of the county commission. All for Transportation filed a motion calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed on January 24, 2019. The group argued that White did not have standing to file the lawsuit in his official capacity as county commissioner.