Archives for February 2013

Washington’s State Supreme Court ruled 6-3 yesterday to strike down a law passed by voters which requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people to increase taxes. The decision specifically overturns a 2010 initiative, but comes after two decades of voters passing the same basic initiative and seeing it repealed by legislators.

Maryland’s Senate committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs voted 8-3 along Democratic Party lines on February 25 to kill a bill that oddly enough had nothing to do with Education, Health or Environmental Affairs. The bill did have to do with petitioners and protecting their identities.

Sponsored by Harford County Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs, SB 367 would have made the names, addresses and other pertinent information given by the signer of a petition private, once the petition had been submitted to the State Board of Elections.  The bill had been proposed to help prevent identity theft and fraud.

Washington’s Initiative 517 is well on its way through the Legislature and recently earned some new allies. An unlikely supporter, perhaps, is attorney Stonewall Jackson Bird, who has never supported an initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman.

Bird has a special interest in I-517 though, as one of its provisions requires a vote on any initiative that receives the required number of verified signatures, stopping any legal actions that would keep it off the ballot. A previous local initiative that Bird championed, dealing with corporate personhood, was struck down in court before voters had a chance to weigh in at the ballot box.

Sacramento, California political columnist Dan Walters begs the question, has the Legislature become irrelevant because of an excessive number of ballot measures challenging their authority? Or is it the other way around?

Many, Walters included, think that the initiative process is flawed and should be reformed.  Democrats, having super-majority powers in the Golden State, are very much in a position to change things.  However, the reforms that are being proposed don’t seem so much like reforms as they do hindrances.

Walters argues that Democrats are pandering to their allies rather than seeking true reform to the initiative process.

Read more at the Sacramento Bee

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Citizens in Charge found itself on the front lines again yesterday as our president, Paul Jacob, traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, to testify in opposition to House Bill 493. The referendum or “People’s Veto” is already a tough proposition in the Old Line State.  Only once in the last 20 years – in 2012 – have citizen-initiated referendums made their way onto the ballot.

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Previous efforts to get pro-initiative measures on the ballot in Washington have been dodgy at best. The last one to make it through with a full Senate vote was 19 years ago in 1994. This term seems to be different with Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517 and other proposals progressing through committee and being divvied up into 4 easily-digested bills.

The ease with which I-517 has progressed has something to do with the new Senate majority. Chairwoman Pam Roach (R-Auburn) has been a supporter of I-517 and pushed for its passage out of committee.

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Recently, the Arizona legislature proposed several bills that would impose complications on the process of petitioning the state to refer or initiate laws. On February 19, Citizens in Charge’s Director of Field Operations, Scott Tillman, went before the Arizona Senate’s Elections committee to give testimony in opposition to two bills in particular that would restrict the process the Citizens in Charge works diligently to protect.

An op-ed piece written by former North Dakota lieutenant-governor Lloyd Omdahl points to more attempts by state legislatures to throw up roadblocks to the initiative and referendum process. The legislature in the Roughrider State has proposed new provisions in the shape of HCR 3011.

Bill Lucas, of Ferndale, Michigan, is set to lead an initiative effort to amend the Wolverine State’s constitution to guarantee citizens full use of their referendum power in repealing any state law, including those that include appropriations.

Currently under the Michigan constitution, laws that include an appropriation are exempt from referendum. Last December, state lawmakers  attached an appropriation to passage of Right-to-Work legislation, thus denying union opponents the ability to take the legislation to a statewide vote of the people.

Legislation to change the process for recall elections passed Arizona’s House Judiciary Committee, 5-2, and now heads to the House floor. House Bill 2282, introduced by Rep. Steve Smith (R), would require a primary election to precede the general election when a recall is triggered by petition.

>The bill comes in response to the successful 2011 recall of Arizona Senate President Russell Pierce, who lost to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis in their heavily Republican Mesa district. The more moderate Lewis likely would have lost to Pearce in a closed GOP primary, where only Republicans could have voted, but Lewis defeated Pearce in a general election in which Democrats were able to vote.

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After last November’s election, Democrats in California enjoy a super-majority in both chambers of the state legislature.  In a bid to use that new-found clout, Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg seeks to get the legislature more involved in initiatives.

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In snowy and forbidding environments like Alaska, getting anything done takes a lot of hard work.  Likewise, petitioning for ballot measures takes a lot of hard work everywhere – and even more to brave the elements in The Last Frontier.

But Alaskan Dorene Lorenz, host of the local TV program “Alaska Political Insider,” seems to think that ballot measures are too easy, claiming supreme confidence that she can single-handedly collect the 30,000 signatures necessary to qualify a statutory initiative for the ballot. Not that she is going to actually do so, mind you.