Archives for August 2011

In a decision released late yesterday, Federal Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska’s initiative law requiring petition circulators to be residents of the state, declaring the statutory provision “unconstitutional” as a violation of the First Amendment rights of Nebraskans.

The decision was a surprise to many observers. Although in recent years residency laws have been struck down unanimously by three separate federal circuit courts (Sixth, Ninth and Tenth), there is an Eight Circuit case from a decade ago (Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger), which upheld a North Dakota residency law. When plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction in this case, Judge Bataillon denied it and signaled that the Jaeger case would be controlling.

As state Democrat Party leaders push yet again to restrict California voters’ access to their state ballot, a new poll finds the public wary of legislative action. According to the L.A. Times:

A June poll conducted by good-government groups found that although voters support bids for more transparency in the initiative process…they strongly oppose those that would give the Legislature more power.

State Sen. Doug LaMalfa has introduced legislation to honor the upcoming 100th anniversary of the state’s initiative and referendum process, saying [emphasis mine]:

The initiative process allows people to circumvent a legislature that is often ineffective, cumbersome and has many priorities that do not reflect the will of the people. In its 100 years, direct democracy has been a game-changer in California politics.

Red Light Cam

After a judge fined camera maker American Traffic Solutions $10,000 for bringing a frivolous lawsuit aimed at a suppressing voters in Bellingham, some state elected officials are speaking out. State Rep. Christopher Hurst, a former police officer who says the camera revenue has become “crack cocaine” for cities, told the Seattle Times:

Citizens in Charge president Paul Jacob sent the following message to California Governor Jerry Brown after the California Legislature went over the deep end and passed an absurd restriction on petitioners for the second time this year:

Dear Governor Brown,

Today I write to ask you to veto Senate Bill 448. If passed the bill would require citizens petitioning for an initiative, referendum or recall, and receiving any kind of compensation whatsoever, to wear a large badge on their chest saying, “PAID SIGNATURE GATHERER.”

Next month in San Francisco, I’ll participate in a panel discussionZócalo Public Square entitled, “How Do We Put The People Back in The Initiative Process?”

The title is far too negative, as I’ll be pointing out that the people of California are already “in the initiative process,” relishing their power to vote on every measure, defeating even the biggest spending issues backed by special interests, passing needed reforms. Yet, there are important ways to improve the process.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 448 and sent it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk yesterday. Brown now has 12 days to sign or veto the bill.

SB 448 requires only persons circulating initiative, referendum or recall petitions to wear a large badge or sign on their chest proclaiming that they are a “PAID SIGNATURE GATHERER,” if they are compensated in any way for their efforts.

At the Fox & Hounds website, Joel Fox reports that “signatures calling for a referendum on the so-called Amazon tax law requiring out-of-state Internet companies to collect sales taxes from California buyers are piling up.”

If enough signatures are collected in the short 90-day window permitted for referendum petitions — and Fox is predicting that Amazon’s signature drive will, in fact, finish early — the tax would be stayed from going into effect until the voters get to decide the matter at the June 2012 primary election.

[From The Missouri Record]

Established politicians have a vested interest in opposing the right of the people to pass laws through the petition process.  Missouri is no different. As Citizens in Charge wrote in 2010:

In all, Wisconsin voters recalled nine state senators, three Democrats and six Republicans, forcing them to stand for new elections. So far, one incumbent D has been re-elected and four of six Rs have kept their seats, with two GOP senators defeated. The last two districts vote today, with two incumbent Democrats on the ballot against Republican challengers.

An article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on the broad-based coalition supporting a new initiative – the Your Vote Counts Act – that would make it harder for legislators to overturn an initiative without sending it back to the people for their approval.

Citizens in Charge has endorsed the ballot measure and is working with individuals and groups in the Show Me state, all across the political spectrum, to gather the signatures required to place the measure on the 2012 ballot.