Tagballot measure

Measure to create paid family and medical leave program in Colorado to appear on November ballot

An initiative to create a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado was certified for the ballot on August 25, 2020. The initiative is the 10th measure to be certified for the November ballot in Colorado.

The initiative would allow for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave and would allow for an additional four weeks for pregnancy or childbirth complications. The program would be funded through a payroll tax to be paid for by employers and employees in a 50/50 split. For the first two years of the program (2023 and 2024), the premiums would be 0.9% of the employee’s wage (0.45% paid by the employer and 0.45% paid by the employee). Employers could choose to pay a larger percentage of the cost up to 100%. Businesses with less than 10 employees would be exempt from paying the premium. Sole proprietors could opt in to the program. Premiums under the program would begin on January 1, 2023, if the measure is approved. Premiums would be adjusted for 2025 so that the total amount of premium contributions to the program equal 135% of the previous year’s claims and 100% of the administration costs. The premium could be set up to a cap of 1.2% of each employee’s wages. A covered individual would receive 90% their weekly wage if their wage is less than 50% of the state average weekly wage (AWW) and 50% of wages that are 50% or more of the AWW, up to a maximum benefit of $1,100 per week.

Colorado Families First is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. According to the most recent reports that covered information through July 27, the committee had received $2.83 million in contributions from four donors: Sixteen Thirty Fund, The Fairness Project, the Colorado AFL-CIO, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The committee reported $2.4 million in cash expenditures, of which, $2.23 million was paid to Blitz Canvassing for signature gathering, resulting in a cost-per required signature of $17.88.

Colorado Families First said, “Eighty percent of Coloradans don’t have access to paid family and medical leave. They can’t afford to take time off work to care for a newborn baby or a seriously ill loved one — something that’s needed now, more than ever. … Currently, 2.6 million Coloradans would benefit from the program. … Coloradans should not have to choose between paying their bills and taking care of their seriously ill family members or having a baby. Eight states, including Oregon, Washington, and Connecticut, have passed similar paid family and medical leave programs. These programs have had lower than expected costs, increased employee retention and have boosted morale.”

Not Now Colorado is leading the campaign in opposition to the initiative. The committee reported $25,000 in contributions from one donor: the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. The committee reported $9,968 in expenditures.

Not Now Colorado said, “[The initiative] is dishonest. To fund the program, proponents designate a ‘payroll premium’ as the source. The premium is actually a payroll tax deducted directly for the paychecks of hardworking Coloradans. … A dual-income family making $110k per year will pay approximately $1,000 per year into this state-run program. This equates to a car payment or a few weeks of groceries for a family. Did anyone ask them if they could afford it? Colorado is in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and an economic recession that has been compared to the Great Depression. Is now the time to ask families who are just getting back to work to pay a payroll tax out of their wages for an unproven, state-run program that they may not ever use? Not Now, Colorado!”

Of the 205,660 signatures submitted by proponents, 137,999 were projected to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

As of August 25, 2020, 10 statewide ballot measures were certified for the November ballot in Colorado. Along with the paid family and medical leave program initiative, voters will decide on five other citizen initiatives concerning wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, a citizenship requirement for voting, voter approval of fee-based enterprises, and an income tax rate reduction. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is also on the ballot. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

One additional initiative concerning expanded maximum bets and gaming types in the state’s casinos could also make the ballot after having submitted over 200,000 signatures in July.

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Colorado ballot initiative to require voter approval of certain new state enterprises qualifies for November ballot

In November, Coloradans will vote on whether or not to require statewide voter approval of new state enterprises if the enterprise’s projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within its first five years.

To qualify for the ballot, proponents needed to submit 124,632 valid signatures. Of the 196,090 signatures submitted by proponents on July 31, 2020, 138,852 were projected to be valid based on a random sample.

Enterprises were established through the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment of 1992. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide goods or services for a fee or surcharge that is paid for by the individuals or entities that are purchasing the goods or services. Examples of enterprises include the state lottery, state nursing homes, correctional industries, parks and wildlife, public colleges and universities, and the state unemployment insurance program. This is in contrast to government agencies or programs that provide goods or services that are paid for by tax revenue. Enterprises may receive a maximum of 10% of their annual revenue from state and local government sources but are otherwise financially independent from the state government and any local governments. Enterprise revenue does not count toward the TABOR limit. TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. It limits the annual increase for some state revenue to inflation plus the percentage change in state population. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it.

In the fiscal year 1993-94, the first year TABOR was in effect, enterprise revenue was $724.3 million. In 2017-18, state enterprises received $17.9 billion in revenue. In total, from 1993 to 2018, Colorado enterprises have received $150.17 billion in revenue.

Colorado Rising State Action sponsored the initiative. Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising State Action, said, “For too long the legislature has been going around the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). [Senate Bill 20-215] was a a perfect example of them trying to go around TABOR to raise revenue by calling them fees. Clearly, this is the move they are going to make, raising taxes by calling them fees.”

Ballotpedia identified two committees registered to support the initiative: Voter Approval of Fees and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee. Together, the committees reported $754,703 in contributions, all but $655 of the contributions were in the form of in-kind contributions. The top three donors were Unite for Colorado, Americans for Prosperity, and Colorado Rising State Action. Unite for Colorado contributed $742,931.74 as an in-kind contribution to Voter Approval of Fees for signature gathering, resulting in a cost-per required signature of $5.96. Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee is also supporting another measure on the November ballot that would decrease the state’s income tax rate.

As of August 25, 2020, 10 statewide ballot measures were certified for the November ballot in Colorado. Along with the voter approval of fees measure, voters will decide on five other citizen initiatives concerning wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, a citizenship requirement for voting, a paid family and medical leave program, and an income tax rate reduction. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is also on the ballot. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

Signatures for one other citizen initiative were submitted and are waiting a statement of sufficiency or insufficiency. The measure would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to expand allowed gaming types and bet limits.

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Measure to change elections and redistricting procedures in North Dakota blocked from November ballot

A citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that was designed to make changes to elections and redistricting procedures in North Dakota was removed from the 2020 ballot by the North Dakota Supreme Court on August 25.

The measure was certified for the ballot by Secretary of State Al Jaeger on August 11 after his office found that proponents submitted around 32,000 valid signatures for the initiative on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 26,904 valid signatures were required.

Brighter Future Alliance, which opposed the initiative, filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court on August 12, 2020, seeking to block the measure from the ballot by ordering Secretary Jaeger to declare all signatures for the measure invalid. Brighter Future Alliance argued that the measure’s sponsors failed to meet the initiative petition requirements under the state constitution and state law because the petitions did not include the full text of the measure and that the ballot title did not accurately describe the measure. Under Section 2 of Article III of the state constitution, petitions that are being circulated must include the full text of the proposed measure. Under state law, the petition title must be a “short and concise statement that fairly represents the measure.” In North Dakota, the petition titles are drafted by the secretary of state and approved by the attorney general.

On August 25, 2020, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the measure must be blocked from appearing on the ballot because the text of the constitutional amendment referenced statutory law and that “embedding a statute into the Constitution, which by definition is a law inferior to the Constitution and subject to change by normal legislative procedure, would threaten the sanctity of our fundamental law.” The court did not address the claims related to the petition title’s sufficiency.

Section 1 of the proposed constitutional amendment stated, “In order to provide military-overseas voters with ample opportunity to vote … the secretary of state shall transmit ballots and balloting materials to all covered voters who submit a valid military-overseas ballot application. This shall apply for all elections covered in N.D.C.C. section 16.1-07-19.”

Secretary of State Jaeger said, “The court made its decision, and it will not go on the ballot.” Brighter Future Alliance Chairman Pat Finken said, “We are gratified the court agreed with our position to keep Measure 3 off the ballot. It was ill-conceived, poorly written and the forces behind the measure showed contempt for our initiated measure processes and safeguards. This outcome further demonstrates why we must not allow out-of-state special interests to tamper with our constitution and our elections to further their political agenda.” North Dakota Voters First Chairwoman Carol Sawicki said, “There can be little doubt that Measure 3 was a threat to political insiders and career politicians in North Dakota. The proof is in the way they banded together in a coordinated and unprecedented effort to ensure North Dakota voters never had the chance to cast their ballot.”

The state legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one measure would change the structure of the State Board of Higher Education; the other measure would require initiated constitutional amendments passed by voters to be submitted to the legislature.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years, 56% of which were approved.

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Uber and Lyft to continue rideshare operations in California ahead of Proposition 22 vote

California residents still have access to Uber and Lyft.

On August 20, the California First District Court of Appeal stayed a superior court judge’s decision, effectively allowing rideshare companies Uber and Lyft to continue operating in the state ahead of a vote on Proposition 22 on November 3. Prop 22 would define app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than classifying them as employees.

Here’s a timeline of how we got here:

  • December 3, 2018: AB 5, which would codify a three-factor test to decide a worker’s status as an independent contractor, was introduced in the California legislature.
  • August 30, 2019: DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber each contributed $30 million into campaign accounts to fund a ballot initiative campaign should the legislature pass AB 5 without compromising with the companies.
  • September 18, 2019: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 5 without an exemption for app-based drivers and employers.
  • October 29, 2019: DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber filed the ballot initiative, which became known as Proposition 22.
    • The ballot measure, which was certified on May 22, 2020, would override AB 5 for app-based drivers. Prop 22 would also enact labor and wage policies that are specific to app-based drivers and companies.
  • January 1, 2020: AB 5 went into effect.
    • Uber and Lyft did not change how their workers are classified. Tony West, the chief legal officer for Uber, said, “Because we continue to believe drivers are properly classified as independent, and because we’ll continue to be responsive to what the vast majority of drivers tell us they want most—flexibility—drivers will not be automatically reclassified as employees. … We expect we will continue to respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court as necessary, just as we do now.”
  • May 5, 2020: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Uber and Lyft, alleging the firms were in violation of AB 5 for considering their workers to be independent contractors.
  • August 10, 2020: Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman granted an injunction in favor of Becerra and the city attorneys.
    • Schulman wrote, “Defendants’ [Uber and Lyft] position cannot survive even cursory examination. … To state the obvious, drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing business.” Schulman stayed his injunction until August 20. Both Uber and Lyft appealed the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.
    • Lawyers for Uber and Lyft said that their companies could suspend rideshare operations in the state unless the judge’s injunction was stayed.
  • August 20, 2020: The California First District Court of Appeal temporarily blocked Schulman’s ruling. Instead, the Court of Appeal gave Uber and Lyft until August 25 to file written consents to expedited procedures. Uber and Lyft have until September 4 to file opening briefs, as well as sworn statements from their CEOs confirming that the companies have developed AB 5 implementation plans should Proposition 22 be rejected and the courts uphold the injunction.
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Ranked-choice voting and redistricting commission initiatives provisionally certified for Arkansas ballot

Two Arkansas citizen-initiated measures—one that would establish ranked-choice voting and another that would establish a redistricting commission—were provisionally certified for the ballot on August 21, 2020. Whether or not votes will be counted for the measures is a question pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Sponsored by Open Primaries Arkansas, the ranked-choice voting measure would (a) change primary elections so that all candidates for an office are listed on a single primary ballot, rather than on separate partisan ballots, and (b) create a top-four ranked-choice voting system for general elections for federal congressional office, state general assembly, and statewide elected offices, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer of State, Auditor of State, Attorney General, and Commissioner of State Lands.

The redistricting measure, sponsored by Arkansas Voters First, would create the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission for state legislative and congressional redistricting. The commission would be comprised of nine commissioners who are registered Arkansas voters and would replace the Board of Apportionment, which is currently responsible for state legislative redistricting in Arkansas. The current Board of Apportionment is comprised of the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general. Currently, in Arkansas, the state legislature is responsible for federal congressional redistricting. The measure would also establish criteria for drawing district maps. All meetings of the commission would be publicized and open to the public.

The campaigns each submitted around 100,000 signatures on July 6. To qualify for the ballot, 89,151 valid signatures are required.

Secretary of State John Thurston (R) found on July 14 that signatures for the initiatives were insufficient on the grounds that petition circulators’ background check certifications did not comply with state law.

Under Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3), sponsors are required to certify to the Secretary of State that each paid canvasser passed a state and federal criminal background check. Arkansas Voters First and Open Primaries Arkansas campaigns submitted certifications stating that the background checks were acquired but did not say they were passed. The statements of insufficiency for the two measures came a day after Special Master Mark Hewett determined signatures submitted on January 31 for an optometry law referendum were invalid for the same reason. Hewett’s report was filed with Arkansas Supreme Court for a final determination.

The campaigns asked the state Supreme Court on July 17 to order Secretary of State John Thurston to give the campaigns at least 30 days to collect additional signatures. In Arkansas, if petitioners fail to meet the signature requirement, but the petitioners have gathered at least 75% of the valid signatures needed, petitioners have 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures are valid. The campaigns were granted a provisional 30-day cure period. Arkansas Voters First reported submitting an additional 50,000 signatures on August 5. Open Primaries Arkansas reported submitting an additional 59,000 signatures on August 20.

Retired Circuit Judge John Fogleman was appointed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on July 24 as a special master to resolve the disputes between Arkansas Voters First, Open Primaries Arkansas, and the secretary of state concerning petition circulator background check certifications and signature validity. Fogleman’s report was submitted to the state Supreme Court on August 10, 2020. Fogleman concluded that the Supreme Court must decide whether or not the campaigns’ background check certifications comply with Arkansas Code § 7-9-601(b)(3).

On August 21, Secretary of State John Thurston certified both measures for the ballot “for coding purposes and preparation purposes only, pending the outcome of the litigation.” Under Arkansas Code § 7-5-204, if the secretary of state has not determined a petition’s sufficiency by the 75th day before the general election or if a measure is being challenged in court, the measure must be placed on the ballot. If the measure is later declared insufficient or invalid, votes for the measure will not be counted or certified.

Two measures on the 2018 ballot in Arkansas were declared invalid by the state Supreme Court and votes for the measures were not counted. Similarly, in 2016, the supreme court declared two measures on the ballot to be invalid and votes were not counted.

Ballotpedia tracking 18 local police-related ballot measures in six states

As of August 21, Ballotpedia is tracking 18 local police-related ballot measures in 13 jurisdictions in six states. These local ballot measures were proposed in the wake of the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Seven of the 18 measures are on the ballot in California and four are on the ballot in Pennsylvania. The most common policy addressed by the ballot measures was police oversight boards and offices and the duties and powers of these boards and offices. Nine of the ballot measures addressed police oversight. Other topics include police and criminal justice funding, staffing levels, law enforcement training, and the public disclosure of police camera footage involving deaths and serious injuries.

The following is a list of local police-related measures on the ballot for November 3, 2020:
  1. Los Angeles County, California: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require that no less than 10% of the county’s General Fund be appropriated to youth, job, business, and housing programs and alternatives to incarceration.
  2. Oakland, California: The Oakland City Council referred to the ballot a charter amendment that would create an Office of the Inspector General to review the police commission’s policies, as well as change the powers, duties, and staffing of the commission and police review board.
  3. San Diego, California: The San Diego City Council referred a ballot measure to create a Commission on Police Practices, which would conduct investigations and subpoena witnesses and documents related to deaths resulting from police interactions and complaints made against police officers.
  4. San Francisco, California: Voters will decide two ballot measures related to policing. One would remove the minimum police staffing level required (1,971 full-time police officers) from the city’s charter. The other measure would create the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board and the Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General.
  5. San Jose, California: The San Jose City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize an independent police auditor to review reports and records related to officer-involved shootings and uses of force.
  6. Sonoma County, California: Voters will decide Measure P, which would make changes to the county’s Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach.
  7. DuPage County, Illinois: There are two non-binding advisory votes on the ballot. One advises the county on considering law enforcement and public safety as its top budgeting priority, and the other advises the county on funding and supporting law enforcement training methods that are designed to decrease the risk of injury to officers and suspects.
  8. Akron, Ohio: Voters will decide a ballot measure to require police body and dashboard camera recordings that document police use of force resulting in a death or serious injury to be released to the public.
  9. Columbus, Ohio: The Columbus City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would create a Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during an investigations, and make recommendations to the Division of Police.
  10. Portland, Oregon: Voters will decide a ballot measure to establish a new police oversight board, give the board subpoena powers, and allow the board to impose disciplinary actions, including termination, on law enforcement professionals.
  11. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Voters in Philadelphia will decide two police-related ballot measures and one other criminal justice proposal. One measure would add language to the city charter calling on the police department to “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.” The other police-related measure would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. Another measure would create an Office of the Victim Advocate to act as an advocate for crime victims and co-victims.
  12. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Pittsburgh City Council referred a charter amendment to the ballot that would authorize the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to audit the police bureau and require police officers to cooperate with the board’s investigations.
  13. King County, Washington: Two police-related measures will be on the ballot. One would make the county sheriff an appointed, rather than elected, position. The second measure would give the county council the authority to define the sheriff’s duties.
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Commission to redesign Mississippi state flag will decide among five finalists on September 2

At the election on November 3, 2020, Mississippi voters will be shown a colored picture of a new proposed state flag. The proposed flag cannot include the Confederate Battle Flag and must include the words “In God We Trust.” Electors will vote “Yes” to adopt the new flag or “No” to oppose adopting the new flag. If the new proposed flag is rejected by voters, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will reconvene again, design another flag, and allow voters to approve or reject it at a special election in November 2021.

House Bill 1796, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves (R) on June 30, 2020, removed the official status of the state flag, which had contained the Confederate battle cross. Mississippi became the only state with a state flag containing the Confederate battle cross after Georgia had removed it from its state flag in 2001.

On June 27, 2020, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) tweeted, “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.” State Representative Robert Johnson III (D) said, “It is a symbol of terror in the Black community. It is a symbol of oppression in the Black community and it is a symbol of slavery. Everything that has been devastating to African Americans and to especially African Americans in the South, everything that has been a complete and utter disaster for us, that flag represents.” Johnson said the protests against racism after Floyd’s death created “a perfect storm” that spurred the state legislature to act in removing the state flag.

Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) said, “I can see where any symbol can be subject to misinterpretation… I’m going to come down on the side of history and tradition.” A group called Let Mississippi Vote said that it will file an initiative petition seeking to let Mississippi voters decide if they want to keep the flag with the Confederate battle cross or change the design. To appear on the 2022 ballot, the group would need to collect 106,190 valid signatures and submit them by early October 2021.

House Bill 1796 established the nine-member Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, tasked with designing a new state flag. The bill provided that “the new design for the Mississippi State Flag shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.”

The public was able to submit flag designs (either by mail or email) to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) until August 1, 2020. Flag designs needed to adhere to North American Vexillological Association standards (be simple enough that a child could draw it from memory; use meaningful symbolism; use two or three basic colors; not use lettering or seals; and be distinctive or be related). The commission received around 3,000 flags that met the criteria.

By August 7, 2020, the nine commissioners each needed to choose 25 flags to advance to the second round. On August 14, 2020, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag narrowed down the number of potential flags to nine. The designs were posted on the MDAH’s website for public view. The commission met on August 18 and selected five flags to move forward. The final five flags were set to be printed on fabric for commissioners to view at the meeting set for August 25. The top five flags will be offered for public comment beginning on August 25 through September 2. The commission is set to select a final flag design and submit it to the legislature and the governor on September 2.

Missouri judge rewrites ballot title for Amendment 3 that would repeal 2018 redistricting amendment

On August 17, 2020, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia S. Joyce ruled against the ballot title drafted by the Missouri General Assembly for Amendment 3, the Redistricting Process and Criteria, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance Amendment. The lawsuit against the ballot title was filed by petition circulators for Clean Missouri, the campaign that sponsored Missouri Amendment 1 (2018). The lawsuit argued that the ballot title of Amendment 3 was misleading because it did not mention the elimination of the nonpartisan demographer, which was the office established by Amendment 1 to conduct legislative redistricting in the state. Missouri Amendment 1 (2018) was approved with 62% of the vote. Besides establishing the nonpartisan demographer, the amendment also prohibited the state legislature from passing laws allowing for unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature and set campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and candidate committees.

In Joyce’s ruling, she said, “While [Amendment 3] proposes several other changes to Article Ill of the Constitution, all of them pale in comparison to the scope and magnitude of undoing a recent voter mandate to change Missouri’s legislative redistricting rules. The ‘central purpose’ or ‘primary objective’ of [Amendment 3] is to effectively repeal Amendment 1. Accordingly, the summary statement must alert voters to that change in some fashion. Instead, the General Assembly’s statement does not mention the change at all. It is insufficient, unfair, and must be rewritten.” State officials requested an appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The original ballot title read:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
• Ban all lobbyist gifts to legislators and their employees;
• Reduce legislative campaign contribution limits; and

• Create citizen-led independent bipartisan commissions to draw state legislative districts based on one person, one vote, minority voter protection, compactness, competitiveness, fairness and other criteria?”

The new title drafted by Judge Joyce reads:
“Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
• Repeal rules for drawing state legislative districts approved by voters in November 2018 and replace them with rules proposed by the legislature;
• Lower the campaign contribution limit for senate candidates by $100; and

• Lower legislative gift limits from $5 to $0, with exemptions for some lobbyists?”

Missouri Amendment 3 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) on January 8, 2020. On February 10, the state Senate passed SJR 38 in a vote of 22-9. Of the 23 Republicans in the Senate, 22 voted in favor of SJR 38, one voted against it. All eight Democrats voted against it. On May 13, the state House passed SJR 38 in a vote of 98-56 with eight absent. House Republicans voted 97-16 for SJR 38, and House Democrats voted 1-40.

Fair Missouri is leading the campaign in support of Amendment 3. According to the last campaign finance reports submitted on June 30, the campaign had raised over $246,000. Clean Missouri is registered in opposition to the amendment and has raised $1.3 million. In 2018, Clean Missouri and an allied committee raised $5.63 million.

Missouri Senator Dan Hegeman (R), the sponsor of the amendment in the legislature, said, “This would give the voters another opportunity to weigh in on this monumental change that could have ramifications for years, if not generations.”

In November, Missouri voters will also be deciding Amendment 1, the State Executive Term Limits Amendment, which would limit the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and attorney general, along with the governor and state treasurer, to two terms of office.

Between 1996 and 2018, an average of seven measures appeared on the ballot in Missouri during even-numbered election years. A total of 82 measures appeared on statewide ballots during that period with 63% approved.

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Initiative to decrease state income tax becomes 8th measure on Colorado ballot

Initiative #306 was certified for the ballot on August 17, 2020. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office found that, of the 198,538 signatures that were submitted, 140,058 were projected to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

The initiative would decrease the state income tax rate for individuals, estates, and trusts from 4.63% of federal taxable income to 4.55% for tax years commencing on and after January 1, 2020. The tax rate would also reduce the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.63% of Colorado net income to 4.55%.

President of the Independence Institute Jon Caldara and Colorado State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R) sponsored the initiative. Sonnenberg said, “Small business owners all over Colorado are feeling the pain of these shutdowns, and their incomes have suffered as a result. In many rural communities, there are no big-box stores, just small businesses. An across the board income tax rate reduction will allow these business owners and their employees to keep and spend more of their own money. State government doesn’t need to increase its already bloated budget.” Caldara said, “Coronavirus has crippled our state. Colorado needs to get moving again. Desperately. We must energize our economy. And in order to do that people need to be able to use more of their own money. It’s time to lower taxes. The state legislature could do it. But they won’t. So, we will do it for them.”

Ballotpedia identified two committees registered to support the initiative: Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee. Together, the committees reported $664,945 in in-kind contributions and $1,548 in cash contributions. The top three donors were Unite for Colorado, Independence Institute, and Madsen and Associates. Unite for Colorado contributed $625,000 as an in-kind contribution for signature gathering, resulting in a cost-per required signature of $5.01.

Prior to 1987, the individual income tax rates in Colorado were graduated, meaning those with higher incomes paid higher taxes, and those with lower incomes paid less in taxes. The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. According to the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, the rates were lowered to “reduce the TABOR surplus.”

As of 2018, 32 states had graduated income tax rates, nine states had a flat tax rate, two states (Tennessee and New Hampshire) only taxed income from dividends and rent, and seven states did not have an income tax. As of 2018, flat tax rates ranged from 3.07% in Pennsylvania to 5.25% in North Carolina.

The initiative is the 8th measure to be certified for the ballot in Colorado. Four other citizen initiatives are on the ballot, including a veto referendum. Also on the ballot are two constitutional amendments and one state law referred by the legislature.

Three additional initiatives have submitted signatures and are awaiting certification. The measures concern higher maximum bet limits at Colorado’s casinos, paid family and medical leave, and voter approval of government enterprises.

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Maine Supreme Court: Ballot measure violates boundaries of legislative power

On August 13, 2020, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Secretary of State that a ballot referendum scheduled to appear on the November 2020 ballot was an unconstitutional violation of state separation of powers principles. The judges held that the referendum did not meet the requirements of the state constitution for inclusion on the ballot because, in their words, “it exceeds the scope of the people’s legislative powers” under the Maine Constitution.

The referendum aimed to overturn a decision by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to give a company permission to build a high-voltage power line to deliver electricity from Canada. The Maine Supreme Court argued that it had the power to review the constitutionality of the referendum before the November election to determine whether it would be a proper exercise of the people’s legislative authority.

The court ruled that the referendum was not within the legislative power of the people of Maine because it would be an exercise of executive or judicial power instead of legislative. The court wrote that the referendum’s “purpose and effect is to dictate the Commission’s exercise of its quasi-judicial executive-agency function in a particular proceeding.” The court added that the referendum “would interfere with and vitiate the Commission’s fact-finding and adjudicatory function—an executive power conferred on the Commission by the Legislature.”

While the legislature has the power to limit the legislative functions and authority of the PUC, the court ruled that it does not have the power to require the PUC to overturn and reverse a particular administrative decision that it had made. Since the ballot referendum process is an exercise of legislative power, the court held that the same limitation applies. Under the separation of powers provision contained in the Maine Constitution, no one in a particular branch of government may exercise the powers that belong to the other branches of government.

The court ruled that since the referendum did not propose legislation it should not appear on the November 2020 election ballot.

To learn more about the referendum and separation of powers, see here:
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Link to the Maine Supreme Court decision: