Citizen Blog

Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Mary McGowan issued a final judgment striking down a myriad of provisions in Act 1413 as unconstitutional violations of the rights of Arkansas citizens to petition their government. Her decision, a major victory for petition rights, will likely now be appealed by the Arkansas Attorney General.

Two organizations, Judicial Watch and Allied Educational Foundation, have filed an amicus curiae brief in the federal lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, which seeks a permanent injunction against an Ohio law that bans the recruitment of out-of-state petitioners to collect signatures for ballot initiatives.

“This Ohio law unlawfully limits the right of the people to govern themselves through the initiative process,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Ohio’s law intrudes on a fundamental right not often emphasized by politicians – the citizens’ right to place additional checks on the power of their elected representatives.”

Yesterday, Circuit Court Judge Mary McGowan issued an 11-page decision declaring Act 1413’s restrictions on initiative and referendum petitions to be unconstitutional and enjoining Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin from enforcing the 19-page law’s new “crushing” rules on paid and volunteer signature canvassers.

Act 1413 (Senate Bill 821) was passed at the behest of the state’s current duopoly gaming interests, who presumably wanted to foil any future attempts through ballot measures to permit competition. The law was offered officially as a way to fight fraud in the petition process, after a spate of allegations of fraud and forgery in several 2012 measures.

Yesterday, the Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments in People’s Legislature, et al, vs. Miller, a challenge to Nevada’s single-subject rule brought by attorney and activist Kermitt Waters. Waters is also a member of Citizens in Charge Foundation’s board of directors.

Nevada’s state constitution expressly limits legislative statutes to a single subject. Waters’ lawsuit argues that the legislation imposing the single-subject rule on citizen initiatives itself contained numerous subjects in violation of the constitution – and is, therefore, unconstitutional and should be declared null and void.

That would strike down the single-subject rule as applied to citizen initiatives.

Citizens of Sacramento, California, won’t get a vote on the city’s decision to use $258 million from taxpayers to fund the construction of a new arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley found the petitions forms contained too many errors, which violated state election laws. 

In addition, Judge Frawley indicated he believed the proposed ballot measure would have violated the city’s charter, by inhibiting the council’s ability to manage the city’s finances.

Today, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Citizens in Charge and others to overturn the state’s residency requirement as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment rights of Michigan citizens and also a violation of the right of non-residents to be treated equally in employment opportunities in the state.

The lawsuit also seeks either a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of Michigan’s residency law while its ultimate fate is being fully determined in this court proceeding.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved circulation of an initiative constitutional amendment to ease rules for petitioning in Michigan. The sponsors of the proposal, a group called Put the Citizens in Charge, have until July 7 to collect 322,000 valid signatures in order for the measure to appear on the ballot this November.

Reducing costs is at the heart of the issue.

“One of the biggest complaints people have about the initiative process is you have to have a lot of money involved,” Scott Tillman of Put the Citizens in Charge told Gongwer News Service.

The proposal also would allow the signatures of more voters to count on petitions, signatures that otherwise might be eliminated due to trivial errors.

Shirley Concolino, Sacramento’s City Clerk, announced last Friday that she was disqualifying the petition filed with her office containing more than 40,000 signatures to put a proposed new arena for the Sacramento Kings to a public vote this June.  The arena is to be partially funded through a taxpayer subsidy, which the group known as STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) opposes and seeks to petition to the ballot.

ABC News 10 reports that the city clerk invalidated petitions based on various “election code violations,” though mostly technical mistakes, including a missing notice of intent on some petitions and faulty dates on others.

As the sun rises on the 2014 session of the Arizona Legislature, politicians seem to be scurrying about. Citizens in Charge strongly opposed controversial House Bill 2305, a grab-bag elections bill stuffed with partisan power-plays that passed in the waning hours of last year’s legislative session, and we endorsed the petition signed by more than 110,000 unhappy voters to put that misguided measure to a voter referendum this November.

Apparently, we’re not alone in wanting to see HB 2305 repealed. So now, too, does its author, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilberts). Farnsworth just introduced House Bill 2196, which simply and completely erases last year’s reckless, anti-democratic, late-night legislative swerve known as HB 2305.

With the turn of the New Year, new initiatives will take the stage and petitioners will hit the streets to rally support for their causes. The causes are as varied as they can be and both local and state-wide issues.  With some already submitted and others in the planning stages, initiatives for many hot-button issues will be championed and fought against in 2014.

In Oregon, an initiative attempting to strike down the state’s gay marriage ban:
http://www.pqmonthly.com/two-court-cases-ballot-initiative-one-big-goal/18148

In Oklahoma, two initiatives advocated by a city councilman to prohibit use of sales tax revenue for new buildings:

After two lawsuits failed to block a vote on a San Diego referendum over the city council’s Barrio Logan land use plan, those opposed to the referendum claimed the process was “undemocratic.”

Attorney Jan Goldsmith took issue with that in an op-ed in the local Union-Tribune newspaper. “The use of referendums to challenge legislative decisions is legal and has deep roots in democracy,” wrote Goldsmith. “There is nothing undemocratic about leaving decisions to San Diego voters, which is all a referendum does.”

Since 2011, there have been three referendums in San Diego challenging enactments by the city council and putting those ordinances before voters.

The proponents of a statewide pension reform initiative are crying foul at the ballot summary prepared for their proposed constitutional amendment by Attorney General Kamala Harris.  San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed called the language “inaccurate” and “pejorative” and “a bit of a problem.”

“You read this and you don’t know what we’re trying to do,” Reed added. The first sentence of the AG’s summary was most problematic according to Reed. It reads: “Eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including teachers, nurses, and peace officers, for future work performed.”

The ballot initiative process in California has been popular with citizens since its inception in 1911. However, the state legislature, especially its current Democratic super-majority, has had a far less sunny view of the prospect of the people trumping legislative power through the initiative.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), author in recent years of numerous bills to undercut the power of the initiative, recently proposed a new tactic in formulating legislation: using “crowdsourcing” techniques.  This would enable citizens to use a wiki-style website to propose ideas for a bill, and Gatto’s first such crowdsourced bill would deal with probate taxes.

Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge Foundation, speaks on Nelson Mandela (just prior to Mandela’s death), and his example in pursuing peaceful political change. Jacob also addresses Winnie Mandela’s calls for violence and compares that with the peaceful opportunities for change in America; citizen initiative, referendum and recall.


Watch the video: here

In Sacramento, California, a planned basketball arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings is the flashpoint of citizen action.  Two citizen groups, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork and Voters for a Fair Arena Deal are opposed to the fact that the arena would be largely financed through a taxpayer subsidy totaling $258 million.

The two groups have gathered 40,000 signatures, almost double the number required to place the issue of the subsidy on next June’s ballot.  The groups are expecting to have enough valid signatures to qualify the referendum despite opposition groups claiming they have 15,226 “rescissions” from citizens who reportedly want their signatures removed from the petition opposing the subsidy, though no signatures have yet been validated.