Newswire

Californians could be faced in November with a proposal to dramatically alter the pension and benefit system for public employees. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has submitted a statewide ballot initiative that would allow government agencies to negotiate changes to current employees’ future retirement benefits, reversing the long-standing principle that once a public employee is hired, his or her retirement benefits cannot be reduced.

There is little doubt about the historical veracity of one statement in the text of a vetoed California law that would have required at least some signatures for ballot initiatives to be gathered by volunteers instead of paid workers:

“The voters amended the California Constitution to reserve for themselves the power of the initiative because financially powerful interests, including railroad companies, exercised a corrupting influence over state politics.”

An attorney who specializes in election law said timing, not signature validity, may prove to be the toughest obstacle to a ballot measure seeking to require public approval of any subsidies for a new downtown Sacramento arena.

Tom Hiltachk, of Bell McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP in Sacramento, said the wild card is if approvals for the arena go through in the spring, as both city and Sacramento Kings officials have said was the plan.

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Sheer math suggests the number of signatures submitted for a 2014 ballot measure on the Sacramento Kings arena may have a narrow margin to succeed.

According to the city clerk’s office Friday, there were more than 34,000 signatures in support of the measure submitted to the Sacramento County registrar’s office, along with more than 15,000 signature withdrawal forms. Typically, not all signatures submitted hold up as valid; some people who signed either won’t be registered voters, or won’t be registered in the city of Sacramento. Some duplicates or signatures that can’t be verified because of illegibility are also possible.

Oh tidings of great citizen joy. Last week several groups of activists from across the political spectrum managed to collect enough signatures to get their initiative petitions heading for the 2014 ballot.

Each petition needed 68,911 certified signatures, which means that the signatures collected through the fall had to be validated by city and town clerks as belonging to registered voters before they were turned in to the Secretary of State’s Office on Dec. 4. This means that petition groups aim to collect 100,000 signatures, since many would be either invalid, duplicates or in violation of some regulation. If you’ve never run one of these drives, you can’t imagine how much time and energy they consume.

With Michigan’s first-ever wolf hunt well underway, a new coalition of conservationists and sportsmen is seeking to protect future hunts from a planned voter referendum.

A group calling itself Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management on Tuesday announced plans to launch a petition drive for citizen-initiated legislation that would affirm the Michigan Natural Resource Commissions’ ability to designate game species and issue fisheries orders.

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Last week, the Michigan legislature approved a measure that prevents women from using their private insurance plans to cover abortion services, even in cases of rape and incest. The legislation, widely decried as a “rape insurance” bill, incited fierce debate. One Democratic lawmaker shared her personal story of sexual assault on the floor, pointing out that women shouldn’t be required to purchase a separate insurance rider in case they become pregnant from rape at some point in the future. Nonetheless, the bill passed along mostly party lines.

Supporters of an Oregon ballot initiative to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms have cleared another legal hurdle, allowing them to begin gathering signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

The move comes on the heels of defeat of similar bills in Washington state and California.

The Oregon Supreme Court Nov. 27 dismissed a challenge to the ballot title, according to court records.

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A group wants Columbus residents to vote on whether the city should be paying for its professional hockey team’s home arena, and it has collected enough signatures to get the issue on the May ballot.

That means voters will be asked whether to end the city’s purchase contract for Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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The right to referendum is the basic democratic right of the people to appeal a government legislative action through petition and the power of the vote. As a former citizen activist and a current elected official, I wholeheartedly support this right.