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Signatures filed for ballot initiative to expand California’s Consumer Privacy Act

On May 4, 2020, the campaign Californians for Consumer Privacy reported filing more than 900,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to expand the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was passed in 2018. At least 623,212 of the signatures need to be valid to qualify for the ballot. As the suggested deadline to file signatures was April 21, 2020, the ballot initiative could appear on the ballot for November 3, 2020, or November 8, 2022, depending on how long the process of signature verification takes. Signatures need to be verified before June 25 to secure a spot on this year’s general election ballot.

Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco-based real estate developer, filed the ballot initiative. He was the proponent of a different proposal that qualified for the ballot in 2018, but the ballot initiative was withdrawn after negotiations with the California State Legislature. Negotiations resulted in the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA).

With the new ballot initiative, Mactaggart said his intention “is to go to the ballot.” He described the CCPA of 2018 as a “great baseline. But I think there are additional rights that Californians deserve.” Unlike the CCPA, which the legislature passed, the ballot initiative couldn’t be amended without the approval of voters at the ballot box due to the state constitution’s limits on legislative alteration. “The only thing I want to make sure is they can’t undo the act,” said Mactaggart, “There is basically unlimited resources on one side of the fight. If you don’t do anything, they will win eventually.”

The CCPA was designed to require companies that store personal information to disclose to consumers what types of information are collected and allow consumers to request that certain businesses not disclose or sell their personal information. The ballot initiative would also require businesses to not share a consumer’s personal information upon the consumer’s request; provide consumers with an opt-out option for having their sensitive personal information, as defined in law, used or disclosed for advertising or marketing; obtain permission before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 16; obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 13; and correct a consumer’s inaccurate personal information upon the consumer’s request. It would create the California Privacy Protection Agency to implement and enforce the CCPA. The ballot initiative would also remove the ability of businesses to fix violations before being penalized for violations.

Through March 31, 2020, Californians for Consumer Privacy raised $4.75 million, with Mactaggart as the sole funder. Currently, there is no organized opposition. Mactaggart’s last proposal, which resulted in the CCPA being passed, was opposed by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft, among others.

As of May 5, 2020, five citizen-initiated ballot measures have qualified for the November ballot in California. Four more, including the ballot initiative to expand the CCPA, are pending signature verification. The California State Legislature also has until June 25 to refer measures to the ballot.

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Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative was lone citizen initiative for which signatures were submitted by May 3 deadline

Healthcare for Missouri, the sponsor of the Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative, was the only campaign targeting the Missouri 2020 ballot to submit signatures by the May 3 deadline. The campaign reported submitting over 350,000 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State. A total of 160,199 valid signatures are required to make the ballot.

The Medicaid Expansion Initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution to require the state government to provide Medicaid for persons whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below and who are not eligible for other state insurance coverage, which would effectively increase the coverage level to 138 percent under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of low-income people and individuals with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid. The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states. As of January 2020, a total of 36 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 14 states had not.

In Missouri, the signature requirement totals for initiatives are based on the number of votes cast for governor in the state’s most recent gubernatorial election. In two-thirds of Missouri’s congressional districts, proponents must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the gubernatorial vote for initiated state statutes and veto referendums and 8 percent of the gubernatorial vote for initiated constitutional amendments. Therefore, the total number of signatures required is less than 5 percent or 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor. For 2020, petitioners needed to collect at least 160,199 valid signatures for initiated constitutional amendments and at least 100,126 valid signatures for initiated state statutes and veto referendums.

There is one legislatively referred constitutional amendment certified for the November ballot in Missouri. The State Executive Term Limits Amendment 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. In Missouri, the state legislature can refer state statutes and constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter consideration during its legislative session. The 2020 legislative session was scheduled to convene on January 8, 2020, and adjourn on May 15, 2020.

A total of 82 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Missouri from 1996 to 2018. About 63 percent (52 of 82) of the total number of measures that appeared on Missouri ballots were approved, and about 37 percent (30 of 82) were defeated. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of seven measures appeared on the ballot in Missouri during even-numbered election years.

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Deadline for Idaho 2020 ballot initiatives passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures

The signature deadline for citizen initiatives in Idaho targeting the 2020 ballot passed on May 1 with no campaigns submitting signatures. Petitioners needed to gather 55,057 valid signatures, which is equal to 6 percent of the number of registered voters as of the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement requiring signatures equal at least 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts.

Three ballot initiatives—the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, and the Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative—were cleared for signature gathering by the Idaho Secretary of State. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all three campaigns announced that they were suspending their signature drives prior to the signature deadline.

In Idaho, petitioners have 18 months to collect signatures after the ballot title has been granted. Signatures may not be collected after April 30 of the year in which the measure would appear on the ballot. This means that proponents of citizen initiatives that did not make the ballot in 2020 must start the initiative process over for the 2022 election cycle and collect a new number of signatures determined by the number of registered voters at the 2020 election.

The Idaho Require 35 Legislative Districts Amendment is the only ballot measure certified to appear on the November 3 ballot. It was referred by the state legislature on March 4. The amendment would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 districts and, instead, require the state to have 35 state legislative districts. Currently, the Idaho State Senate contains 35 Senators, who are elected from 35 districts. The Idaho House of Representatives consists of 70 Representatives, who are elected from the same 35 districts, with two being elected from each constituency.

A total of 36 measures appeared on the Idaho ballot between 1996 and 2018, 72 percent of which were approved. From 1996 to 2018, an average of three ballot measures appeared on the ballot in even-numbered years.

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Campaign behind ballot initiative to increase California’s medical damages cap decides to aim for 2022 ballot due to coronavirus pandemic

On April 30, 2020, the campaign behind a ballot initiative to increase California’s medical damages cap announced that 988,000 signatures had been collected. At least 623,212 of those signatures need to be valid. However, proponents have decided to hold off on submitting the signatures until after the deadline for 2020. Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, whose organization supports the ballot initiative, said the decision was due to the coronavirus pandemic. He stated, “This has been a really tough decision, but it’s really foggy out there now, with all the concern about the coronavirus. No one really knows how that will affect the November elections. … The medical negligence cap hasn’t changed in 45 years. We didn’t want to blow our chance.”

In California, ballot initiative campaigns have 180 days to gather signatures. The medical damages ballot initiative was given the go-ahead to gather signatures on December 2, 2019, and signatures are due on June 1, 2020, to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Signatures need to be verified at least 131 days before the general election to appear on the ballot for that election. This year’s verification deadline is June 25, but the secretary of state recommended filing signatures in late April because local election offices have eight working days to count signatures and 30 working days to conduct a random sample for validity.

The ballot initiative would increase California’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits based on changes in inflation since 1975, which is when the cap on non-economic damages was enacted. In 2021, the damages cap of $250,000 would increase to around $1.2 million under the measure. Thereafter, the ballot measure would require an annual adjustment of the cap based on inflation.

Two PACs—Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition and Consumer Watchdog Campaign for the Fairness for Injured Patients Act—were registered to support the ballot initiative. The committees have raised $4.78 million, including $3.65 million from lawyer Nicolas Rowley. The Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs PAC was registered to oppose the ballot initiative. The committee has raised $18.32 million, including $9.80 million from The Doctors Company.

In 2014, Consumer Watchdog worked on a similar ballot initiative, titled Proposition 46, which was defeated. Proposition 46 would have increased the cap on non-economic damages from $250,000 to $1.00 million and required drug and alcohol testing of doctors.

Campaigns behind four additional ballot initiatives that were proposed for 2020 have the option to delay until the November 2022 ballot. Proponents of a ballot initiative designed to adopt regulations that reduce the use of single-use packaging have said that they may seek the 2022 ballot, rather than the 2020 ballot, due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of April 25, which was four days after the recommended deadline, the campaign for a bond issue to fund the state stem cell research institute was still seeking signatures from supporters on social media. An initiative to legalize sports betting in California suspended in-person signature gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic in March but has until July 20, 2020, to get the initiative on the ballot for 2022. A ballot initiative to expand the provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) could also end up on the 2020 or 2022 ballot depending on when signatures are filed.

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Massachusetts becomes the first state to allow electronic signatures for 2020 ballot initiative petitions

On April 26, the campaigns sponsoring the Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, and the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative filed a joint lawsuit against Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically.

On April 29, all four active ballot initiative campaigns and Secretary Galvin agreed to a resolution that allows the campaigns to gather the second round of signatures electronically. The resolution allows campaigns to distribute the petitions online to be electronically signed or printed and mailed or emailed back to the respective campaign.

Justice Barbara Lenk, who issued the judgment, determined that typed names would not be considered valid signatures. The judgment stated, “Voters who wish to sign the Form online shall apply an electronic signature with a computer mouse, stylus, or finger, in-person directly on the Form. A typewritten name, uploaded image, or computer-generated generic signature shall not be considered a genuine signature of a voter.”

In Massachusetts, citizens may propose initiated state statutes and initiated constitutional amendments. The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any initiative petitions that meet the first-round signature deadline and requirement (80,239 for 2020). The deadline for the Massachusetts General Court to act on the petitions is May 5. If a statute proposed by a valid initiative petition is not adopted, proponents must collect by July 1 another smaller round of 13,347 signatures to place the statute on the ballot. Four initiative campaigns submitted enough signatures to qualify their measures for review by the state legislature. The petitioners did not seek relief from the number of signatures required or the July 1 deadline because those requirements are determined by the state Constitution.

Ballot initiative sponsors in Arkansas, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, and Oklahoma have also filed lawsuits seeking relief from signature deadlines and requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Voters in Ohio’s four largest cities decided tax measures, bond issues, and charter amendments on April 28

Voters in Ohio’s four largest cities decided eight local ballot measures on April 28, 2020. The election used mail-in absentee ballots, with disabled voters and those without a home address allowed to vote in-person at vote centers. Mail-in ballots needed to be postmarked by April 27 and will be counted if received by May 8.

In Cleveland, which is located in Cuyahoga County, voters approved Issue 5, Issue 6, and Issue 7. All three measures were put on the ballot by the Cleveland City Council.

  • Issue 5 amended the city charter to be in accord with state law on the electronic tabulation of ballots.
  • Issue 6 limited the annual salary increase of city council members to the percentage increase in salary of a majority of city-recognized unions.
  • Issue 7 amended the city charter to allow the first city council meeting in January to be held on the first business day if the first Monday is on a legal holiday.
  • Voters also approved the countywide measure, Issue 33, to increase the county’s property tax to provide funding for health and human or social services. Under Issue 33, the property tax is increased from $390 to $470 per $100,000 of assessed property value. In Ohio, assessed property value for taxation is set at 35% of market value. Issue 33 had the support of U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D) and Marcy Kaptur (D), as well as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

In Columbus, Ohio, voters approved a $300-million bond issue, titled Issue 21, for Columbus State Community College and a property tax renewal measure, titled Issue 20, for Southwest Public Libraries.

Measures in Cincinnati and Toledo were too-close-to-call as of April 29, with additional mail-in ballots being counted through May 8.

In Cincinnati, Issue 7 was leading by 625 votes out of 131,261 total reported votes. Issue 7 would authorize the Hamilton County Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to impose a 0.8% sales tax to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and operating the Metro transportation system. Cincinnati Public Radio reported that there were at least 14,736 outstanding absentee ballots remaining and 4,280 provisional ballots that could be counted.

In Toledo, Issue 1 was down 3,268 votes of 27,484 total reported votes. Issue 1 would authorize the city to increase the local income tax from 2.25% to 2.75% for 10 years beginning July 1, 2020, and going through December 31, 2030. Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who supported Issue 1, said that before the election was postponed from March 17 to April 28, he thought the ballot measure would pass. “But in the last 40 days, the world has turned upside down,” Kapszukiewicz said, “I know Toledoans want their roads fixed, but I don’t blame them for being cautious with their own money in these uncertain times.”


Massachusetts ballot initiative campaigns file a joint lawsuit seeking permission to gather signatures electronically

On April 26, the campaigns sponsoring the Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Initiative, the Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative, the Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, and the Beer and Wine in Food Stores Initiative filed a joint lawsuit against Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin asking the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the campaigns to gather the second round of 13,347 signatures electronically.

Petitioners argued, “Without immediate relief from this Court, Petitioners and all other ballot proponents similarly situated will face an unduly burdensome Catch-22: either risk their health and the health of voters to satisfy unjustifiable and unachievable ballot restrictions and participate in democracy or protect their health and give up their fundamental right to access the ballot.” The petitioners could not seek relief from the number of signatures required or the July 1 deadline because they are determined by the state Constitution.

In Massachusetts, citizens may propose initiated state statutes and initiated constitutional amendments. The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative proposals. The deadline for the Massachusetts General Court to act on the petitions is May 5. If a statute proposed by a valid initiative petition is not adopted, proponents must collect by July 1 another smaller round of 13,347 signatures to place the statute on the ballot.

On April 17, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reduced the number of signatures needed by half, allowed some use of electronic signature gathering for certain offices, and extended the deadline to May 5 for candidates seeking to appear on the September 1 primary ballot.

Assistant Attorney General Anne Sterman wrote a response to the ballot initiative lawsuit on behalf of Secretary Galvin stating that the Secretary was working to negotiate with the campaigns and believed the Court should not grant the petitioners more relief than was offered to the primary candidates.

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Voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approve property tax increase to fund health and human services

On Tuesday, voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approved the Issue 33 ballot measure, which increased the county’s property tax to provide funding for health and human or social services. Under Issue 33, the property tax is increased from $390 to $470 per $100,000 of assessed property value. In Ohio, assessed property value for taxation is set at 35% of market value.

Issue 33 had the support of U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D) and Marcy Kaptur (D), as well as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

In Cleveland, which is located in Cuyahoga County, voters approved Issue 5, Issue 6, and Issue 7. All three measures were put on the ballot by the Cleveland City Council.

  • Issue 5 amended the city charter to be in accord with state law on the electronic tabulation of ballots.
  • Issue 6 limited the annual salary increase of city council members to the percentage increase in salary of a majority of city-recognized unions.
  • Issue 7 amended the city charter to allow the first city council meeting in January to be held on the first business day if the first Monday is on a legal holiday.
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Lawsuit concerning voting rights restoration in Florida goes to trial

Florida voters approved Amendment 4, a citizen initiative, in 2018 by a vote of 65% in favor to 35% against. The initiative was designed to automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation.

Senate Bill 7066 was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) in June 2019. The bill required convicted felons to complete “all terms of sentence” including full payment of restitution, or any fines, fees, or costs resulting from the conviction before regaining the right to vote.

Four lawsuits against Senate Bill 7066 were consolidated into one case, Jones v. DeSantis, which went to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on April 27, 2020. The case was set to be conducted by phone due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Plaintiffs in the case against the state of Florida are represented by the ACLU, ACLU of Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Fund of Washington, D.C., the firm of Brazil and Dunn of Miami, and attorney Michael Steinberg.

The ACLU called SB 7066 a poll tax and made the following arguments:

  • SB 7066 violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits excessive fines;
  • SB 7066 violates the First Amendment rights of organizations, like the Florida League of Women Voters, that engage in voter registration activity, because it makes unclear who is qualified to vote and who is not;
  • SB 7066 violates the 19th Amendment, which specifically protects women from any election law that denies or diminishes their right or ability to vote. Women, Black women in particular, who are returning citizens are particularly burdened by SB 7066 due to their low average incomes compared to men, making them less able to pay fines and court fees; and
  • SB 7066 violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which governs voter registration forms, voter registration, and voter list maintenance.

Rulings in U.S. District Court and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and an advisory ruling in the Florida Supreme Court have already been issued concerning SB 7066. After SB 7066 was signed into law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law filed a different lawsuit seeking to block SB 7066 from taking effect. The groups argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it denied the right to vote based solely on an individual’s inability to pay fines, fees, and restitution associated with their convictions. The case, Gruver v. Barton, concerned 17 individuals and three organizations.

On August 9, 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) asked the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion concerning “whether ‘completion of all terms of sentence’ includes the satisfaction of all legal financial obligations.” On January 16, 2020, the court issued its opinion in which it found that ‘all terms of sentence’ does include the satisfaction of all legal financial obligations.

On October 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in Gruver v. Barton that “the state of Florida cannot deny restoration of a felon’s right to vote solely because the felon does not have the financial resources necessary to pay restitution.” The ruling applied only to the 17 plaintiffs in the case. The state appealed Hinkle’s October ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Hinkle’s ruling. The state asked the court to reconsider the case en banc, though the court declined.

As of 2018, Florida was one of four states—the three others are Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia—where convicted felons do not regain the right to vote, until and unless a state officer or board restores an individual’s voting rights.

Law360 reported that the Jones v. DeSantis trial is expected to last a week and that the judge plans to issue a ruling quickly upon the trial’s completion.


California to vote on realtors-backed property tax transfers and exemptions initiative in November

On April 23, 2020, the office of Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that a random sample of signatures projected that enough were valid for the California Association of Realtors’ (CAR) initiated constitutional amendment to appear on the ballot for November 3, 2020.

Some of the ballot initiative’s provisions are similar to CAR’s 2018 ballot initiative, Proposition 5, which was defeated. Like Proposition 5, the ballot initiative would increase opportunities for eligible homeowners to transfer their property’s tax assessment to a new home.

In California, properties are taxed at no more than 1 percent of their market value at the time of their purchase (with an exception for voter-approved taxes) and assessed value can increase each year based on the inflation rate or 2 percent, whichever is lower. According to the California Legislative Analyst, residential market values have increased faster than 2 percent per year in the state. Therefore, movers could have higher tax bills on their new home than their old home, despite the new home having a similar or lower market value than the old home. In 1986 and 1988, voters approved ballot measures that allowed eligible homeowners to transfer the taxable value of their sold home to a newly purchased home, with limitations. Homeowners who are eligible for tax assessment transfers are persons over 55 years old, persons with severe disabilities, and victims of natural disasters and hazardous waste contamination.

The ballot initiative would allow eligible homeowners to transfer their tax assessments anywhere within the state, increase the number of times a tax assessment can be transferred from one to three, and allow tax assessments to be transferred to a more expensive home with an upward adjustment.

Unlike Proposition 5, the ballot initiative would address reassessments for inherited properties and changes in ownership of business properties. In California, parents or grandparents can transfer their properties to their children or grandchildren without the property’s tax assessment resetting to market value, which would happen upon sale to someone else. For vacation homes, business properties, rental properties, and other types not used as the parent’s main residence, the first $1 million of taxable value is exempt from re-assessment when transferred. The ballot initiative would require that properties not used as main residences be reassessed at market value when inherited; therefore, the first $1 million would no longer be exempt. The reassessment exemption on residential properties would also change so that the first $1 million would not be reassessed but the remaining value would be.

CAR’s 2020 ballot initiative would also require that a legal entity’s property be reassessed to market value if 90 percent of a legal entity’s ownership changes, even if no one person or entity acquires more than 50 percent. Currently, the property is only reassessed if one person or entity acquires more than 50 percent of a legal entity’s ownership.

In 2018, opponents of Proposition 5 emphasized the fiscal analyses of the ballot measure, which suggested that local governments and school districts would lose $2 billion or more per year in the long term. CAR’s 2020 ballot initiative would have a net positive effect on local and school revenue, according to the California Legislative Analyst. While the expansion of opportunities for eligible homeowners to transfer their property’s tax assessment to a new home would cause a decrease in revenue, the ballot initiative’s changes to inherited properties and ownership transfers would cause an increase. CAR has said the ballot initiative would encourage people, especially seniors, to downsize their homes, which would increase the housing stock for young families.

Through April 17, 2020, which is when the most recent campaign finance report was filed, the campaign behind the ballot initiative has raised $12.15 million from CAR and the National Association of Realtors. In 2018, the Proposition 5 campaign received $13.22 million.

The ballot initiative is the fifth citizen-initiated measure certified for the general election ballot in California. As of April 24, three additional ballot initiatives were pending signature verification. The deadline for signature verification is June 25, 2020, but the state’s recommended deadline to file signatures was April 21, 2020. The California State Legislature could also refer constitutional amendments, bond issues, and statutes to the ballot.

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