Secretary of Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer Linda McCulloch has completed tabulating petition signatures for the 2014 ballot issues, and says no citizen-proposed issue has qualified to appear on the November General Election ballot.  Two legislative referenda will appear on the ballot, as referred by the 2013 Montana Legislature.

“We haven’t had a general election without a citizen initiative on the ballot since 1972,” Secretary McCulloch said.  “That’s the same year voters approved the current Montana Constitution.”

Sponsors of proposed ballot initiatives are scrambling in the final days before a Friday deadline to gather enough signatures to put their issues to Montana voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The Montana Secretary of State’s office has approved a dozen initiative petitions for signature-gathering after they passed legal reviews by the attorney general. Officials on Monday did not know how many — if any — would make the deadline.

“We’re just kind of waiting,” said spokeswoman Terri McCoy. “It’s not unusual for all those signatures to come in at the last minute.”

Read more: here

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.”

Residents of Missoula, Montana – both students and adults – are speaking their minds via an online petition regarding the local superintendent of schools and a member of the school board. The petition was sparked by the school board giving Superintendent Alex Apostle a 13% pay raise, which would take his annual salary to upwards of $220,000 after three years.

Public employee unions asked a judge Thursday to stop the Montana Legislature’s tax rebate initiative from going on the November ballot.

The initiative was advanced last year by the Republican-led Legislature. It proposes that a portion of tax collections exceeding original budget estimates be returned with tax credits and rebates.

Read more at CBS News.

Good news! A potential 2012 ballot measure in Montana would protect voter-passed initiatives from unilateral repeal and amendment by the State Legislature. This protection is essential in keeping the citizen initiative process effective as a tool to keep elected officials in check:

State officials have given the go-ahead for backers to begin gathering signatures for a proposed 2012 ballot measure that’s intended to protect voter-passed initiatives from later changes or repeal by the Legislature. Attorney General Steve Bullock’s office informed Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office that the proposal is “legally sufficient,” McCulloch told the Montana Coalition for Rights, the group advocating for the measure. Constitutional Initiative 109 declares that the people reserve for themselves the right to repeal or amend any laws passed by initiative.

Read the story from the Billings Gazette

The state formally approved the petitions Tuesday to clear the way for medical marijuana advocates to begin gathering signatures in their attempt to suspend the more restrictive 2011 law and let voters decide its fate next year. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch notified the effort’s sponsor, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, that Attorney General Steve Bullock had found the petition’s language legally sufficient. Her office reviewed and the ballot statements, McCulloch said.

Read the story from The Missoulian

Once in the past 18 years...

Wed, May 18 2011 by Staff

An interesting story out of Montana:

Two Montana citizen groups are trying to do what has only been done once in the past 18 years: block a bill from becoming law by petition. One group proposes to prevent sweeping changes to the state’s medical marijuana law on July 1. The other wants to block a new law that has taken effect and gives utilities the power of eminent domain over private landowners.

Read the story from the Daily Journal

A crowd of people lined the streets near the Whitefish Performing Arts Center on Thursday to urge Gov. Brian Schweitzer to stop a bill that is expected to effectively bring an end to the state’s medical marijuana industry. With T-shirts and placards that read, “Veto 423,” the crowd swelled to more than 200 people of all ages at one point just before Schweitzer was scheduled to speak at a forum.

Read the story from the Daily Inter Lake

A state panel on Monday held hearings on two bills that would either repeal or ask voters to tweak term limits for state senators and representatives, with its sponsors saying the current system has made the Legislative branch of the government the weakest when it should be the strongest. Opponents, however, opposed the proposed legislation, saying the current system reflects a more citizen Legislature rather than a chamber filled with “professional politicians.”

Read the story from the Montana Watchdog

Can he do that? Marijuana advocates asked the question last week, when Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said he was pushing legislation to override the 2006 voter initiative that recommends making pot the county’s lowest law-enforcement priority. “It honestly sounds like an end run around the voters’ will,” said Nathan Taub, a University of Montana student who testified against Van Valkenburg’s successful 2007 attempt to tweak the measure. “It’s politics, plain and simple.”

Read the story from the Billings Gazette

GaggedMontana state Sen. Anders Blewett wants to make sure Montana voters won’t be putting any more initiated constitutional amendments on the state’s ballot. He wouldn’t like to see any initiated state statutes on election day either. A real friend to democracy, it seems.