Archives for April 2013

Along the banks of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, citizens are taking the city’s charter to court – at least, the city attorney’s interpretation of it.

Sponsors of an initiative on light rail won a recent court case overturning a state law on duplicate signatures and providing the measure with enough valid signatures to qualify, Vancouver City Attorney Ted Gathe declared the city would not allow the measure to appear on this November’s ballot because it was “ambiguous and susceptible of multiple interpretations.” Gathe argues that violates the city charter, which states: “The proposed ordnance shall be expressed in clear and unambiguous language and so that its entire effect is apparent on its face.”

Washington initiative guru Time Eyman is back in the saddle again with a new anti-tax initiative, filed on Wednesday.

The initiative seeks to curb tax hikes by giving any new taxes a one-year expiration date.  However, Eyman gives Evergreen State legislators an easy way out. Written into the ballot measure is a provision removing the one-year expiration on new taxes IF the legislature passes a constitutional amendment reestablishing a 2/3rds majority vote in order to pass new tax hikes.

Citizens in Maricopa County, Arizona, may not see a recall election for their controversial sheriff, Joe Arpiao. The current recall effort, spearheaded by the group Respect Arizona, has reportedly collected over 200,000 signatures, but that remains well short of the 335,000 signatures required by May 30.

With time running short, the group is hoping to raise additional funding beyond the $300,000 they’ve spent on the campaign so far.

“It’s one signature at a time,” Respect Arizona Campaign Manager Lilia Alvarez recently told reporters. “What people tell me is yes I want to sign or I’m too afraid to do so and that’s the same for donors.”

Michigan voters are seeking to correct a flaw in the state’s referendum laws. Ferndale, Michigan-based Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum are launching their drive to collect signatures on a petition to alter the Wolverine State’s constitution, removing a roadblock in the referendum petition process.

As it currently stands, Michigan law prevents referendums on statutes that contain appropriations. Last fall, Michigan’s controversial right-to-work law purposely added an appropriations in order to block citizens from exercising their right to the “People’s Veto”.

In the city of Vancouver, Washington, opponents of a local light rail system have secured a victory for petitioners.
A Cowlitz County judge, Stephen M. Warning, ruled against a law requiring that on municipal petitions, “…signatures, including the original, of any person who has signed a petition two or more times shall be stricken.”

Under this law, a petition filed against the proposed light rail system fell short by 32 signatures due to those who signed more than once being thrown out, including the person’s original signature. The city government had concluded that since the petition fell short of the required number of signatures, no vote would be held on the light rail.

Earlier today, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed an amended version of Senate Bill 821 by a vote of 78 to 9.  The legislation, which passed the Senate in different form last month, creates a cumbersome, new state regulation scheme over paid petition circulators, including requiring registration with the state, a training program, providing a mug shot to the Secretary of State and a waiting period before a paid petitioner can begin gathering signatures.

Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob today sent a letter to members of the Arkansas House of Representatives urging them to defeat Senate Bill 821, which is pending today in the House State Agencies and Government Affairs Committee.

Jacob argues that the provisions of the bill are unconstitutional, not only under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but also under Amendment 7 to the Arkansas State Constitution, which in part, reads:

Last week, we warned of Senate Joint Resolution 16 in Arkansas, an amendment to the state’s constitution that would make it tougher for initiative petitions to qualify for the state’s grace period, which allows campaigns turning in more signatures than the minimum requirement to have an additional 30 days for gathering signatures should they need it due to some signatures being disqualified.

But today, we are pleased to announce that this constitutional amendment appears to be dead in the water, thanks to an 11-13 vote late Friday in the Arkansas Senate State Agencies and Government Affairs committee.  There is the possibility that the bill could resurface, but baring extraordinary legislative maneuvers, SJR 16 seems to be done for this legislative session.

Today, unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Cert petition filed by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, et al, seeking review of a DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a 1998 regulation promulgated by the U.S. Postal Service that denies petition circulators access to walkways leading to post offices. In addition to the Initiative & Referendum Institute, a number of state and local grassroots groups joined the 13-year lawsuit against the Postal Service, including two national groups, the Humane Society of the U.S. and U.S. Term Limits.

But Not Dead Yet

When laws are broken, what’s the best response? Should we prosecute the law-breakers?

Or pass yet new laws?

Unfortunately, not a single “bad actor” has been prosecuted for any of the alleged acts of fraud. Not one. Instead, Arkansas legislators have proposed new laws to punish the good citizen seeking to take part in the political process right along with the bad actor.

In the great white north of Alaska, citizens of Anchorage are fighting back against the city’s recent labor overhaul law known as AO-37.  The law, passed by the Anchorage Assembly on March 26, changes the ways that unions negotiate with the city.

Many labor groups, including the Anchorage Education Association and the Anchorage Fire Fighters Union are spearheading a referendum petition to repeal AO-37. Once the petition is approved by the city clerk’s office, the petitioners would have 60 days from when the law was passed (May 25) to collect 7,100 signatures. After collecting the signatures, the city would have 75 days to organize a special election to have the law put to a vote.