New Jersey

New Jersey

Last week’s elections allowed voters across the country to decide issues important to them. But not in New Jersey, a state that lacks any process for citizens to petition initiatives onto the ballot or to refer laws passed by the state legislature to voters.

Jersey citizens are on the outside looking in at states that allow direct democracy, i.e. citizen-initiated measures. That might be one reason that less than one in three Garden State citizens turned out to vote in the mid-term election – setting an all-time record low.

In the last week, calls for citizens to have the right to initiative and referendum have been heard loud and clear in New Jersey and South Carolina.

In tackling the issue of marijuana legalization, New Jersey Star Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine longs for a way voters can decide, writing “if only we had I&R here in New Jersey.”

He’s not sure Colorado voters got it right in legalizing pot, but notes, “Polls show Coloradans are evenly divided on legalization - as are New Jersey voters. The difference is that there they can gather signatures to reverse it if they so desire. Here we’re stuck with whatever the politicians hand us.”

Election laws that prevent elections

Tue, Jun 10 2014 — Source: Reuters

After a half-century in the House of Representatives, Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), now the second longest serving member of Congress, may be an unsympathetic victim to show how election laws can be unfairly used to keep potential challengers off the ballot.

But recent court rulings on Conyers as well as a New Jersey recall attempt highlight how election laws are frequently designed to benefit those in power — and block potential challengers.

The city is rescinding an ordinance that would have created a beach utility, another demonstration of the power of the petition.

Residents in this shore community have used the power of initiative and referendum recently to reverse decisions made by the three-member City Commission including the 50-year lease of a Boardwalk property and beach, plans to buy a downtown property for recreation, and most recently the utility’s formation.

Residents say the use of petitions gives them the ability to keep local government in check, but some city officials say it is being used to micromanage city government.

The minimum wage issue is one step closer to November’s ballot.

The Senate Thursday approved SCR-1, Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney’s (D-West Deptford) measure to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 and change the state’s constitution to allow automatic future minimum wage increases based on the consumer price index.

If the Assembly follows suit and approves the resolution, a public question will be placed on November’s ballot.

Read more at: NJBIZ

Republican lawmaker said Thursday he has submitted a proposal for a ballot question that would ask New Jersey voters to approve gay marriage in November.
Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie met with a gay lawmaker with whom he exchanged barbs over putting the issue of same-sex nuptials to a popular vote.

Read more at CBS New York.

Opening a new front in the battle over same-sex marriage, Gov. Christie called Tuesday for the issue to be put to voters in November as a proposed amendment to the state constitution.
The Republican governor’s proposal, which would need three-fifths approval in the Legislature to be implemented, could for the first time in U.S. history ask voters to legalize same-sex marriage via a ballot question.

Read more at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

One of New Jersey’s most popular shore towns may ask residents if they’re willing to pay to get on the beach.

Wildwood is considering a referendum in which voters would be asked whether the city should start charging for beach badges. Wildwood is one of a handful of Jersey shore towns that don’t charge for beach access.

Read more are

The Fort Lee Board of Education and school district officials are “hitting the ground running in 2012 with a focus on passing the referendum,” according to information released by Acting Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle Monday.

The Board of Education’s recently unveiled “Bond Referendum 2012” website now includes a section devoted specifically to science lab renovations””complete with downloadable plans and “before and after” images””at Lewis F. Cole Middle School and Fort Lee High School “to provide students with a 21st Century learning environment that will support their success in an increasingly competitive world.”

A group of restaurant owners wants voters to decide if Ocean City should remain a completely dry town, and their bid enters a new stage today with the start of a petition drive. A five-member committee of Ocean City residents will begin seeking signatures on a petition that asks for a public vote in November on an ordinance that would allow restaurant patrons to bring their own alcoholic beverages to certain restaurants — a practice commonly known as “Bring Your Own Bottle,” or BYOB.

Read the story from the Ocean City Patch

With school elections less than two weeks away, borough officials are holding an information session tonight on the special ballot question to change the River Dell Regional School District’s funding formula. “It’s a get-out-the-vote effort to get the residents aware of the issue,” Mayor Dianne Camelo Didio said. At the same time, a group of River Edge residents has launched a campaign urging people to defeat the question, and a large sign telling voters to do just that was vandalized this weekend.

Read the story from The Record

Members of the group Concerned Citizens of Margate have filed a motion with Judge Valerie Armstrong asking for a stay of the Dec. 21 decision in which she determined that the city does not have to abide by a petition to place a spending initiative on a ballot referendum. City Solicitor Mary Siracusa said Monday that the city was notified that the group is planning to appeal the decision rendered in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division.

Read the story from Shore News Today

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets it. He understands that the people are tired of unresponsive government and they want to have more say in what goes on.

He is proposing that a constitutional amendment be placed on the ballot to cap property taxes in the state. While it would be great if they people of New Jersey themselves could put measures on the ballot for a vote, this is a step in the right direction. Here’s a video of him discussing the ballot measure at a townhall.

That question will be decided by New Jersey’s highest court - which heard oral arguments in the case Tuesday - and many think the issue will eventually go to the United States Supreme Court.

Of the 45 states whose legislatures hold sessions in 2010, 27 of them have adjourned for the year, and 5 more will wrap up before the end of the month. Of the more than 80 bills dealing with the initiative and referendum process in various states, 51 of them would have reduced citizens’ initiative rights. Thanks to the work of activists in our coalitions, only 3 bills reducing citizen’s rights have passed and become law.