Missouri could start holding public hearings on proposed ballot measures next year under legislation heading to Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.

The state Legislature passed several initiative petition reforms in a bill before the session ended last week. In addition to the creation of public meetings on the proposals, the legislation sets up requirements so Missourians will be able to access information about petitions online, requires petition circulators to disclose whether they are being paid for signatures and by whom, and enhances penalties for petition signature fraud.

Missouri has seen a large jump in the use of citizen petitions in recent years – from 16 submitted to the secretary of state’s office in 2004 to 143 submitted last year.

When our nation’s founders wrote the language in the First Amendment guaranteeing the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” there were no words describing the form of that petition.

Obviously the intent was to make sure the content of your complaints to your government would never land you in jail or to suffer some other harm.

Now, of course, common sense would say that for your petition to have any effect, your words would have to be legible and understandable to a reasonable person. Skywriting or putting a couple of thousand words on a thimble head might impede that legibility or understandability, for example.

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.”

More bad news: Couch also e-mails me that SJR 16, the amendment meant to cripple grassroots petition campaigns ”” think medical marijuana, ethics, casinos, gas severance taxes ”” also won committee approval this morning.


Read the rest: Here

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.

Striking at the heart of a city of Vancouver argument against a citywide vote on light rail, a Cowlitz County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that when people sign their names to a petition, the original signature should be counted, no matter how many times they sign it again.

Judge Stephen M. Warning ruled in favor of a group of 75 light-rail opponents from Vancouver who challenged a law stating that, on municipal petitions, “signatures, including the original, of any person who has signed a petition two or more times shall be stricken.”

Read More: from The Columbian

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:

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.

I noted recently objections to the effort by Arkansas’s duopoly casinos at Southland and Oaklawn, in league with their friend Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, to make the referendum process prohibitively difficult in Arkansas so as to discourage future casino amendments, along with other potential laws unpleasant to the business lobby.

Legislation signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on March 22 has infuriated Democrats and advocacy groups who say it will make it harder for voters to repeal laws and introduce their own.

Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, sets strict rules on the time organizers have to collect signatures when mounting a petition drive to strike down laws. The bill, which passed swiftly through the legislature, will essentially cut at least two weeks from the existing timetable.

Read More at the Plain Dealer

The Senate has voted 33-1 in favor of SB 1191, a “trailer” bill to SB 1108, the bill that makes it tougher to qualify initiatives or referendum measures for the Idaho ballot. Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said the idea behind the trailer bill is to ease the signature-gathering process in counties like his and Ada County, where there are multiple legislative districts. SB 1108 requires signatures from 6 percent of registered voters in 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts for a measure to qualify for the ballot, and it requires signature-gatherers to have a separate petition for each district, and signers to face penalties if they signed the petition for the wrong legislative district.

SB 821 threatens petition process

Arkansas State Senators will vote today on Senate Bill 821, sponsored by Sen. Keith Ingram of West Memphis, which would place extremely heavy new burdens on Arkansas’s initiative and referendum process.

Also today, the Advance Arkansas Institute has released a paper by Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob, which outlines the roadblocks SB 821 places on the I&R process in the Natural State, including the creation of an extensive state registration, training and tracking program for paid petition circulators and making it a crime to “relate” pay to productivity.

Jacob noted that “the bill almost seems designed to make it difficult or impossible for citizens to run successful ballot campaigns.”

HB1187 is now Act 312 after being signed into law by Governor Beebe today. The new law prohibits the use of public funds by a public employee, school board, city, county, or any public entity to influence the outcome of ballot measure elections. (We’ve previously analyzed it here.)

Today, Citizens in Charge released a mailer sent to residents of Montgomery County, Maryland Delegate Eric Leudtke’s district informing citizens of the destructive impact Leudtke’s House Bill 493 will have on the state’s citizen referendum process.

“Delegate Leudtke’s bill, filled with new rules, regulations and signature disqualification penalties, will effectively stop the public’s ability to use the petition process in Maryland,” said Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge.

The Idaho Senate voted today to make it tougher for initiatives or referenda to qualify for the state’s ballot, while saying repeatedly that the move had nothing to do with the successful repeal of “Students Come First” legislation in November.

Under SB 1108, measures wouldn’t qualify unless they had signatures from 6 percent of the voters in each of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, rather than just 6 percent statewide, as current law requires. It passed the Idaho Senate on a 25-10 vote; the bill now moves to the House.

“This allows rural Idaho to participate in this process,” said Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton.