Tagveto referendum

Californians to vote on flavored tobacco ban referendum in 2022

In 2022, Californians will vote on a veto referendum to uphold or repeal a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. On January 22, 2020, the secretary of state’s office confirmed that referendum petitioners submitted more signatures than the minimum requirement of 623,212. SB 793 was written to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but with the veto referendum pending signature verification, the effective date was suspended. As the signatures for the veto referendum were certified, the law is suspended until voters decide the issue at the election on November 8, 2022.

The California Coalition for Fairness is campaigning for the veto referendum to repeal SB 793. Through January 1, 2021, the campaign had reported $21.2 million, including $10.4 million from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and $9.8 million from Philip Morris USA.

The contested legislation, Senate Bill 793 (SB 793), was passed in August 2020, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the bill on August 28. SB 793 was designed to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, with exceptions for hookah tobacco, loose-leaf tobacco, and premium cigars. Retailers would be fined $250 for each sale violating the law.

In the state Legislature, SB 793 received support from most Democrats (84 of 89) and a quarter of Republicans (8 of 30). One legislator voted against the bill, and the remaining legislators were absent or abstained. State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-13), the sponsor of SB 793, said, “Using candy, fruit and other alluring flavors, the tobacco industry weaponized its tactics to beguile a new generation into nicotine addiction while keeping longtime users hooked. SB 793 breaks Big Tobacco’s death grip.” The California Fuels & Convenience Alliance, which opposed SB 793, described the flavored tobacco ban as “misguided policy that will do more harm than good” and “hurt small businesses, eliminate necessary tax revenue, and perpetuate dangerous and avoidable police interactions in our communities.”

If SB 793 had gone into effect on January 1, California would have been the second state, after Massachusetts, to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. California would have been the fifth state to ban flavored e-cigarettes. 

The ballot measure is not the first flavored tobacco ban veto referendum in California. In 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that banned the sale of flavored tobacco. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched a veto referendum campaign to repeal the ordinance. The signature drive was successful, placing the ordinance on the ballot as Proposition E. Voters approved Proposition E, thus upholding the board’s ordinance; 68.4% voted to adopt the ordinance. R.J. Reynolds provided $12.9 million to the campaign to overturn the ban. The campaign to uphold the ban received $3.2 million, including $2.3 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The ballot measure is the 50th veto referendum in California since the veto referendum process was adopted in 1911. Of the 49 veto referendums that Californians have voted on, voters upheld 20 (41%) of the laws and repealed 29 (59%) of the laws. Voters last decided a veto referendum in 2020, when they repealed a law to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects. 

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Voters will decide a vaccination requirements referendum in Maine on March 3

On March 3, 2020, Maine voters will decide Question 1, a veto referendum that would repeal legislation related to vaccine requirements and have the effect of reinstating religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements. In 2019, the state legislature passed Legislative Document 798 (LD 798), which was designed to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of healthcare facilities. The legislation is scheduled to take effect on September 1, 2021, unless voters approve Question 1.

Question 1 is the 31st veto referendum on the ballot in Maine. The first one was on the ballot in 1910. Of the 30 veto referendums that have been decided, voters approved 18 (60 percent) of them, repealing the targeted legislation. The last time that voters rejected a veto referendum, thus upholding the targeted legislation, was in 2005.

Besides Maine, four states—California, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia—did not provide for non-medical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools. West Virginia has never provided non-medical exemptions. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that non-medical exemptions violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1979. Like Maine, California and New York repealed non-medical exemptions in 2015 and 2019, respectively.

Yes on 1 Maine to Reject Big Pharma is leading the campaign in support of a “yes” vote, which would repeal LD 798 and reinstate religious and philosophical exemptions. An associated PAC, Mainers for Health and Parental Rights, collected 79,056 valid signatures to place the veto referendum on the ballot. At least 63,067 signatures needed to be valid. Yes on 1 and Mainers for Health and Parental Rights raised a combined $602,428 as of February 21, 2020. The largest donor was the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), which contributed $50,000. OCA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that, according to the group’s website, “educates and advocates on behalf of organic consumers.” The second-largest contribution was $27,020 from Stephanie Grondin, the office manager at Capital City Chiropractic.

Maine Families for Vaccines is leading the campaign in support of a “no” vote, which would uphold LD 798. Maine Families for Vaccines and the allied Maine Street Solutions – Protect Schools PAC received $822,256. The pharmaceutical companies Merck, Sharp & Dohme, and Pfizer were the largest donors, each contributing $250,000.

Question 1 is the only Maine measure on the ballot for March 3, 2020. The election on November 3, 2020, could feature additional citizen-initiated measures and legislative referrals. The deadline for initiated statutes passed on February 3, 2020, and proponents of one initiative filed signatures, which are under review. The legislature can refer bond measures and constitutional amendments during the legislative session, which is expected to adjourn around April 15. Campaigns for referendums to repeal legislation passed in the 2020 session must submit signatures within 90 days after the legislative session ends.

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