CategoryBallot measures

Maine will not vote on ballot initiatives in 2019, as no campaigns filed signatures—the first time since 2013

Voters in Maine won’t decide any citizen-initiated statutes in 2019, making this year the first since 2013 to not feature initiated statutes. The deadline to file the 63,067 required signatures for citizen-initiated statutes was January 24, 2019. According to the secretary of state’s office, no signatures were filed for ballot initiatives.
 
There were three ballot initiatives that signatures could have been filed for—the Physician-Assisted Death Initiative, the Paid Sick Leave Initiative, and the Criminalization of Female Genital Mutilation Initiative. Each of these ballot initiatives is still eligible to appear on the ballot for November 3, 2020.
 
Maine Death with Dignity, which is leading the campaign in support of the Physician-Assisted Death Initiative, decided to aim to get its initiative placed on the ballot for the presidential election on November 3, 2020, instead of 2019. Backers of the Paid Sick Leave Initiative are also considering the 2020 ballot. Both of the campaigns have begun collecting signatures.
 
Between 1995 and 2017, an average of one citizen-initiated statute appeared on the ballot in odd-numbered years. Citizens could still propose a veto referendum, known as a people’s veto in Maine, against legislation passed in 2019, which could end up on the ballot in 2019 or 2020, depending on when signatures are submitted. Proponents of veto referendums are allowed to gather signatures for 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the targeted law was passed.
 
The lack of citizen-initiated statutes on the ballot in 2019 doesn’t mean Maine voters won’t have ballot measures to consider. There hasn’t been a single year in Maine without at least one ballot measure since 1956. The Maine State Legislature can refer statewide ballot measures, in the form of constitutional amendments and state statutes, to the ballot. In Maine, the most common type of referred statute is the bond issue. Between 1995 and 2017, an average of three to four bond issues appeared on the ballot in Maine in odd-numbered years.


Los Angeles mayor, teachers’ union, and school district support a 2020 ballot initiative to amend California’s property tax structure

On January 22, 2019, an agreement was announced to end the six-day Los Angeles teachers’ strike. The agreement summary said the teachers’ union, school district, and Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) would endorse and advocate for a 2020 ballot initiative to amend California’s property tax structure.
 
The ballot initiative, which qualified for the election on November 3, 2020, in October 2018, would require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on their market value. As of 2019, California Proposition 13, passed in 1978, requires properties to be taxed based on their purchase price, with annual increases equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. The ballot initiative would continue to tax residential properties based on purchase price, leading to a tax system referred to as split roll.
 
The California Legislative Analyst estimated that the initiative’s changes would generate between $6.5 and $10.5 billion in additional revenue each year. Some of that revenue—about $500 million, according to the legislative analyst—would be used to supplement decreases in income tax revenue, as state law allows businesses to deduct property tax payments from their income taxes. The ballot initiative would require 40 percent of the remaining $6.0–$10.0 billion to be distributed to school districts and community colleges.
 
UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said, “We’ve all got a lot of work to do to make sure that that ballot initiative passes.” The UTLA is on the steering committee of the Schools and Communities First campaign, which is sponsoring the ballot initiative. The union’s political arm has contributed $350,000 to the campaign, as of the most recent campaign finance reports through September 30, 2018. Schools and Communities First had raised $3.71 million. Veronica Carrizales of California Calls, which supports the ballot initiative, said the campaign hopes to raise $45 million.
 
California Business Roundtable president Rob Lapsley, who opposes the ballot initiative, said the teachers’ strike “was all to start a campaign for split roll. It is not about the kids.” Lapsley said opponents of the ballot initiative are prepared to raise at least $100 million.
 
In California, ballot initiatives can be withdrawn after qualifying for the ballot. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), speaking about the ballot initiative, said, “My desire is to use this as an exercise in bringing the parties together to see if we can compromise on a more comprehensive tax package.” If negotiations do occur, the various parties involved would have until 131 days before the general election, which is June 25, 2020, to reach a deal.


Bipartisan bill introduced in Oklahoma House to retroactively apply 2016 State Question 780’s reduced criminal penalties

House Majority Leader Jon Echols (R-90) and Jason Dunnington (D-88) filed House Bill 1269 on January 17, 2019. The bill would make State Question 780 retroactive for those convicted before the measure became effective for crimes that were changed from a felony to a misdemeanor by SQ 780.

State Question 780 was on the ballot in Oklahoma on November 8, 2016, as an initiated state statute. It was approved by a vote of 58 percent to 42 percent.
 
State Question 780 changed certain non-violent drug- and theft-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, which come with a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. SQ 780 was designed to reduce the number and duration of state prison sentences for those crimes. State Question 781, the companion initiative to SQ 780, was also approved. It allocated prison cost savings brought about by SQ 780 to counties in proportion to their population to be claimed by privately-run rehabilitative organizations that provide drug and mental health treatment, job training, and education programs. Both measures went into effect in July 2017.
 
Jason Dunnington (D) said, “We have Oklahomans that are labeled as felons, and their crimes would be legal or a much lesser crime today. These folks are disenfranchised, and their families are suffering. This legislation seeks to heal these wounds and continue Oklahoma down the road of responsible criminal justice reform.”
 
Ryan Gentzler, the director of Open Justice Oklahoma, estimated that House Bill 1269 would make between 2,500 and 3,000 people eligible for reduced criminal sentences right away.
 
The bill is scheduled to be read for the first time on February 4, 2019.


Florida minimum wage initiative moves forward but still needs about 700,000 signatures to make the 2020 ballot

The Florida $15 Minimum Wage Initiative (#18-01) may appear on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020. The measure is backed by Florida For A Fair Wage, which is chaired by Florida lawyer John Morgan.
 
The measure would increase the minimum wage from $8.25 (2018) to:
 
$10.00 on September 30, 2021;
$11.00 on September 30, 2022;
$12.00 on September 30, 2023;
$13.00 on September 30, 2024;
$14.00 on September 30, 2025; and
$15.00 on September 30, 2026.
 
Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase or decrease each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
 
The initiative was approved for circulation on January 10, 2018. To trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court, 76,632 valid signatures from at least seven of Florida’s congressional districts are required. Morgan announced on January 22, 2019, that he was submitting more than 120,000 signatures to start that process.
 
To qualify for the ballot, a total of 766,200 valid signatures are required. The deadline for signatures to be certified by the Florida secretary of state in order to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 Florida ballot was set by law to be 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 For a Fair Wage has raised $478,173.80 so far, with all but $15 coming from Morgan & Morgan law firm. The committee reported expenditures totaling $475,669.26, of which 88 percent was paid to AAP Holding Company for signature collection. The average cost of a successful initiative in Florida was $4.15 million in 2016 and $4.59 million in 2018. Morgan also sponsored Florida’s marijuana legalization measure (Amendment 2) of 2016. Morgan’s law firm gave $2.74 million to the People United for Medical Marijuana PAC, which John Morgan was also the chair of. It cost a total of $2.8 million to get the marijuana initiative on the 2016 ballot.
 
Proponents of another measure, the Florida Changes to Energy Market Initiative (#18-10), reported submitting around 60,000 preliminary signatures for their initiative to start the supreme court ballot language review process. The measure would declare that it is the policy of the state of Florida that “its wholesale and retail electricity markets be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.” According to reports available as of January 16, 2019, Citizens for Energy Choice reported $1.14 million in contributions, all from Coalition for Energy Choice, Inc. The committee reported $574,080.39 in total expenditures. Of the total expenditures, $546,500 was expended to Ballot Access LLC and Linjen Corp for signature gathering.
 
The Florida initiative process at a glance:
1. Sponsors must register as a political committee with the Florida Division of Elections before submitting a petition.
 
2. The Division of Elections must ensure that the proposed initiative’s petition format meets statutory requirements (such as ensuring that the proposed ballot title and summary are within the word-count limits and other technical formatting requirements).
 
3. A serial number is assigned and sponsors may begin to gather signatures for their proposed measure.
 
4. Sponsors must submit 76,632 valid signatures (10% of the number of signatures required statewide coming from at least 7 of Florida’s congressional districts). Sponsors must pay 10 cents per signature or the actual cost of signature verification (whichever is less) at the time signatures are submitted before state officials begin verifying signatures. Sponsors may declare that paying for signature verification would be an undue burden on resources and request to have signatures verified at no charge, however, committees may not file an undue burden affidavit if the committee used paid signature gathering.
 
5. Once preliminary signatures are submitted and verified, the secretary of state will forward the petition to the attorney general who will petition to the state supreme court for an advisory opinion on whether or not the measure complies with the single-subject rule and whether or not the ballot title and summary are appropriate. Simultaneously, the petition is also sent by the secretary of state to the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FEIC) which prepares a fiscal analysis statement. The fiscal statement is also submitted to the supreme court for review and will appear on the ballot if the measure becomes certified.
 
6. A total of 766,200 valid signatures must be submitted and verified by February first of the target election year. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1 to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot. Florida, like many states, uses a random sample process or a full verification of signatures.
 
7. Amendments that are on the ballot, whether legislatively referred or citizen-initiated, require an approval vote of at least 60% to become law.


Legislators have altered nine ballot initiatives in five states and D.C. since 2017

Legislative alteration is an action by lawmakers at the local or state level to directly amend or repeal a citizen initiative that was approved by voters. Legislative alteration is also called legislative tampering or legislative intervention.
 
State legislators in Oklahoma, Utah, Washington are currently considering bills to legislatively alter initiatives passed in 2018.
 
In 2018, Ballotpedia tracked two instances of legislative alteration:
* an ordinance in the District of Columbia overturning Initiative 77 (June 2018), an initiative to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers; and
* a bill in Utah to repeal and replace Proposition 2, the medical marijuana initiative approved in November 2018.
 
In 2017, Ballotpedia tracked seven initiatives in four states that were repealed or amended through legislative alteration. Most of the affected initiatives were approved by voters in 2016. There were also proposed bills for legislative alteration of two additional initiatives, one in Oklahoma and one in Maine. The bill in Maine was to delay the implementation of a 2016 ranked-choice voting initiative and was approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. But the legislative alteration attempt was prevented through a successful veto referendum petition targeting the bill. Voters overturned the bill in June 2018.
 
Eleven of the 21 states that feature the initiated state statute power have no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiated statutes. Four states have restrictions on how soon state legislators can repeal or amend initiative statutes—ranging from two to seven years. Six states have restrictions on how large of a supermajority vote is required in the legislature to repeal or amend initiative statutes. Two of these states have restrictions both on how soon and with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiative statutes.
 
California and Arizona are the only two states with voter approval requirements for changes to or the repeal of citizen-initiated state statutes. South Dakota voters rejected an initiated constitutional amendment at the November 2018 ballot that would have enacted a voter approval requirement like in California and Arizona, among other provisions related to campaign finance requirements, lobbying rules, an ethics commission, and other initiative and referendum rules.
 
The last time voters approved a measure to enact restrictions on legislative alteration was in 2004, when Nebraska voters approved Measure 418. Measure 418 was an initiated constitutional amendment that required a two-thirds supermajority vote in the legislature to amend or repeal initiated state statutes. Colorado voters rejected initiatives in 2006 and 2008 that would have restricted legislative alteration, among other changes to the state’s initiative process.
 
Legislative alteration does not apply to initiated constitutional amendments but only to initiated state statutes. This is because constitutional amendments proposed by the state legislature must be put before voters for ratification in every state but Delaware. Thus, state legislators cannot directly amend initiated constitutional amendments themselves. However, the implementation of initiated constitutional amendments through statutes passed by the legislature are sometimes criticized by initiative proponents as incompatible with the purpose of the initiative. Moreover, deals, compromise legislation, or certain legislative actions can result in policies proposed through successful citizen initiative petitions being changed or prevented without the initiatives themselves ever going on the ballot. In 2018, there was a higher-than-usual number of compromises and legislative actions precluding elections on citizen initiatives.


Looking back at 2009’s ballot measure landscape

One statewide ballot measure has been certified for 2019 so far. 10 years ago, voters in 7 states decided the fate of 32 ballot measures.
 
Three things to know from 2009.
— Maine veto referendum: In 2009, the Maine state government legalized same-sex marriage. That November, voters approved a veto referendum, nullifying the law that had been passed earlier that year. Maine voters would later approve a ballot measure in 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage. The 2009 veto referendum passed by a vote of 52 percent to 47 percent.
— Casinos in Ohio: Voters in Ohio approved a citizen initiative to authorize the construction of casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. The ballot measure attracted nearly $75 million in support and opposition spending. Since 2009, voters nationwide have seen 42 statewide ballot measures related to gambling.
— The 7 states that saw statewide measures was the second-lowest odd-year figure from the past 30 years. Since 1987, odd-year ballots saw an average of 50 measures across 11 states.


Union-backed veto referendum to overturn Gwyneth Paltrow’s Arts Club project on the March ballot in West Hollywood, California

The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to place an issue on the ballot for March 5, 2019—Measure B—giving voters the opportunity to decide on the future of a development project backed by Gwyneth Paltrow.
 
The proposal in question was designed to redevelop commercial property at 8920 Sunset Boulevard. Paltrow and Gary Landesberg, chairman of the Arts Club of London, purchased the site in 2015.
 
The two hired design firm Gensler to design a West Hollywood branch of the Arts Club—a private London-based social club—for the 20,241 square foot site. The proposed nine-story building would be approximately 120,000 square feet and would include the private club as well as hotel rooms, restaurants, office and retail space, and a public art gallery.
 
After the West Hollywood City Council voted 4-1 to approve the development project in August 2018, Unite Here Local 11, a union representing hospitality industry workers, collected over 2,800 valid signatures to refer the Arts Club proposal to the city council for reconsideration. The number of signatures met the threshold required to initiate a referendum, which is 10 percent of the city’s registered voters. The city council had the option either to overturn the resolution approving the Arts Club project or to send the issue to the ballot.
 
There are eight other local ballot measures on ballots for the election on March 5, 2019, in California. The measures will go before voters in six local jurisdictions within Los Angeles and Fresno counties.


Majority of parcel tax elections held in San Francisco Bay Area in 2018

There was a decade high of 100 parcel tax measures on local ballots across California in 2018. A parcel tax is a type of property tax commonly used in California that is based on units of property rather than property value and has revenue dedicated to a specific purpose. These taxes can be levied by cities, counties, school districts, and special districts.
 
In 2018, the majority (71.4 percent) of all parcel tax elections took place in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is consistent with trends tracked by Ballotpedia over the last decade. Between 2008 and 2017, 64 percent of all parcel tax elections took place in the Bay Area, which comprises nine counties.
 
Of the 100 parcel tax measures in 2018, 65 were approved, and 35 were defeated. The highest parcel tax rate to be approved was $6,000 per parcel for vacant properties in Oakland, with funds earmarked for addressing homelessness and illegal dumping. The highest school parcel tax was proposed in Kentfield School District of Marin County, where voters approved a tax rate of $1,498 per parcel with a 3 percent automatic annual increase.
 
Parcel taxes require two-thirds supermajority votes (66.67 percent) at the ballot to be approved. The California Constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority vote for all special local taxes, as opposed to general taxes with revenue that can be used for any purpose. General local tax measures require a simple majority vote for approval.


Signatures verified for Washington Initiative 976 to limit vehicle license fees

On January 15, 2019, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman declared that enough valid signatures were submitted and that Washington Initiative 976, to limit vehicle license fees, was certified to the legislature. The initiative will be on the 2019 ballot unless the legislature approves it.
 
Initiative 976 sponsor Tim Eyman reported submitting 352,111 signatures on January 3, 2019, surpassing the required 259,622 valid signatures by over 92,000. 
 
Eyman’s I-976 would cap annual state and local vehicle license fees for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds at $30.00. As of 2019, the state annual fee is $30.00 plus an amount based on a vehicle’s type and weight. In addition, certain local governments, including cities and regional transit authorities, add an additional fee. Initiative 976 would also repeal Sound Transit’s power to impose voter-approved motor vehicle taxes. Voters in the greater Seattle, Washington, region approved tax and fee increases proposed by Sound Transit for transportation infrastructure projects in 2016.
 
Proponents of one other Initiative to the Legislature in Washington, Initiative 1000, submitted signatures that are awaiting certification by the secretary of state. I-1000 would explicitly allow the state of Washington to implement affirmative action laws and policies while continuing to ban discrimination and preferential treatment. It would also define preferential treatment and affirmative action so that banning one and allowing the other would be compatible.
 
Initiative to the Legislature is the name for indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature at its next regular legislative session in January. The legislature must take one of three actions:
  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
Over the past decade, an average of 33 statewide measures have appeared before voters in odd years (nationwide). In Washington, an average of five statewide measures have appeared on odd-numbered election ballots from 1995 through 2017.


In 2020, California voters will decide on bill to make their state the first to eliminate cash bail

In 2020, Californians will decide a veto referendum to repeal Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), which would make California the first state to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials. Instead, SB 10 would institute a system of risk assessments to determine whether a detained suspect should be granted pretrial release and under what conditions.
 
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed SB 10 on August 28, 2018, and the veto referendum to overturn the bill was filed on August 29. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association, organized the political action committee Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to advocate for the veto referendum. The PAC had raised $3.00 million as of September 30, 2018, with the next campaign finance report due on January 31, 2019. The top-ten donors to the committee were bail bond businesses, owners of bail bond businesses, or companies that provided services or insurance to bail bond businesses.
 
On November 20, 2018, proponents reported filing 576,745 signatures with election officials. At least 365,880 (63.44 percent) needed to be valid for the referendum to appear on the ballot. On January 16, 2019, the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla reported that an estimated 80.69 percent of the signatures were valid, putting the targeted law, SB 10, on hold until voters decide the bill’s fate in 2020.
 
In the California State Legislature, one Republican supported SB 10, while most Democrats (67 of 81) voted to pass the bill. Some organizations, including the ACLU of California and Human Rights Watch, that oppose the existing structure of cash bail also testified against SB 10, taking issue with how risk assessments were going to be implemented and used. John Raphling, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said, “We will not be joining the bail industry’s efforts, but we are not fighting for SB 10. We have a different vision of how to reform the pretrial detention system.”
 
Besides the Cash Bail Referendum, Californians will also decide a ballot initiative designed to amend or repeal several criminal sentencing and supervision laws passed during the second tenure of Gov. Brown (2011-2019). As of January 2019, three citizen-initiated measures had qualified for the ballot. The number of citizen-initiated measures on the 2020 California ballot will be set 131 days before the 2020 general election, which is June 25, 2020.