Great Falls Tribune

Initiatives are a way for the general public to get involved if the state Legislature won’t pass proposals that might be popular with everyday Montanans.

The right to submit an initiative is firmly granted in the state’s 1972 Constitution, and we acknowledge that voters no doubt will have a chance to cast ballots on some of these issues on the Nov. 4 general election ballot this year.

Granted, a few of the proposals on this year’s list of potential initiatives are either inane — such as a proposal to require half of the members of the Legislature to be women and half men — or the language has already been discarded in favor of a different initiative.

When voters went to the polls last November, they noticed several measures they do not typically see.

The three referendums on the ballot came directly from the 2011 Legislature, and current lawmakers are aiming to do more of the same in 2014.

They are running up against a deadline next week to propose referendum bills. So far, Republicans have made at least 15 requests on topics ranging from property taxes to sex education.

“It is a good way to have people engaged with the legislative process,” said Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell. “I think it gives them an idea of what goes on here.”

A ballot initiative that caps the rate that title, payday and other lenders can charge passed last week in a landslide, and supporters say it leaves Montanans safe from becoming the prey of predatory lenders. Meanwhile, industry officials say the measure will result in the closure of more than 100 Montana businesses and the loss of several times as many jobs, in addition to leaving consumers with fewer options for credit.

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An outfitters organization has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent a November vote on an initiative aimed at abolishing outfitter-sponsored nonresident big-game and deer combination hunting licenses. The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association filed the lawsuit in Lewis and Clark County District Court last week contending the signatures to get the initiative on the ballot were obtained using “a statewide pattern of deceptive practices.”

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The state’s Supreme Court chief justice is advocating a new ballot measure that would use alcohol tax money for prevention and treatment efforts. Mike McGrath, who used to be the state’s attorney general, pitched the plan to a legislative committee Tuesday.

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The struggle for access to public wildlife on private land in Montana may go to the ballot box in the form of a citizen’s initiative that would abolish outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game licenses. Citizen’s Initiative 161, sponsored by Montana Public Wildlife, was certified by the Montana Secretary of State’s Office and is out for signature gathering. If enough people sign the petition, it will be on the ballot in November.

A Kalispell man says he will try again to limit property tax increases with a constitutional ballot measure. John McMenamin failed last year to get enough signatures for placing a measure on the ballot that would have capped homeowners’ property tax increases at 1.5 percent a year.

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Voting is brisk in a ballot measure asking for additional taxes for Great Falls public safety, but some ballots aren’t being accepted until signatures can be verified, Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Rina Fontana Moore said. As of Tuesday morning, 8,838 of the 28,061 ballots had been returned, Fontana Moore said.

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Footloose Montana, an anti-trapping group headquartered in Missoula, plans to file a ballot initiative today that would seek to outlaw trapping on public land in Montana. Anja Heister, executive director of Footloose Montana, said the move comes in response to the 2007 death of Cupcake, a boarder collie mix that was caught in a Conibear trap along Rock Creek east of Missoula.

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