Organizers of an effort to repeal a tax cut for oil companies expect to collect enough signatures before Saturday’s deadline to put a referendum before voters.

Pat Lavin, a leader of “Vote Yes - Repeal the Giveaway, estimates his group has collected 35,000 signatures and will get more before the deadline, the Anchorage Daily News reported ( ).

“We’re feeling very good about where we are, numbers-wise,” he said.

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California: Power from the people

Mon, Jul 8 2013 — Source: The Economist

DIRECT democracy is often blamed for making California ungovernable. The state keeps holding ballot initiatives (ie, what non-Americans call referendums). Voters decide that taxes must fall but spending must rise. Elected politicians struggle to make the sums add up. But last week this dysfunctional system was sideswiped. The Supreme Court, in upholding the right of gays to marry in California, may have weakened direct democracy throughout America, some fear.

Privacy issues are the focus of a first-in-the-nation petition bill in Iowa City, Iowa, which seeks to curb automated law enforcement in the form of red light cameras, license plate readers and drone aircraft used to catch traffic violations.  The petition was originally a referendum against the red light cameras and was sponsored by the citizen group “Stop Big Brother” as well as the ACLU of Iowa. The referendum was later expanded to include plate readers and drones.

A “proactive” move, says “Stop Big Brother” member Aleksey Gurtovoy since Iowa City currently does not utilize the plate readers or drones.

From ancient Athens to the New England town meeting, direct democracy has long been celebrated at the local level. But the initiative, the most common form of direct democracy in the U.S., is most visible at the state level. Would it serve democracy if the initiative spread more to towns and cities?

Ballot propositions can be expensive fights, with hundreds of thousands ”” and even millions ”” of dollars spent. The Alaska Public Offices Commission, or APOC, is the group that tracks all that money. Yesterday, they ruled that groups can campaign for or against a pending referendum without declaring their expenditures, as long as they aren’t sponsoring it.

The differences between a referendum and an initiative are pretty technical. A referendum allows voters to strike down legislation, while an initiative allows them to draft their own policy. But in the end, they’re both items that appear on the ballot that allow citizens to shape the law themselves. And so, they were mostly treated the same under law.

So, it appears there will be no referendum on the city of Cincinnati’s parking lease agreement on the ballot this fall.

Unless, that is, in the unlikely event that the Ohio Supreme Court decides to take up the appeal of the decision made by the Ohio First District Court of Appeals this week saying the agreement is not subject to referendum because it was passed in March as an emergency ordinance.

But nobody on either side of this really expects this to happen.

The appeals court ruling came out Wednesday; and immediately some council members – five to be exact – signed a motion asking that the parking lease agreement, which would pump $92 million into city coffers and turn the parking system over to the Port Authority, be repealed.

Ohio’s Hamilton County Court of Appeals blocked a voter referendum in Cincinnati over the proposed decades-long lease of city parking lots to a private company in return for a lump sum payment of $92 million to plug a $35 million city budget deficit. The legal case concerns whether an ordinance passed as an emergency measure was subject to a citizen-initiated referendum.

This week’s appeals court ruling overturned an earlier decision by Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler allowing the referendum to go forward. Winkler found that the right to referendum trumped the city council’s determination that the lease agreement was an emergency.

The parking lease opponents who sued the city of Cincinnati to stop it from leasing parking meters, lots and garages plan to appeal the decision and ask the appellate court for a stay to stop the city from signing the lease.parking meter

Curt Hartman, a lawyer for the group, says he plans to email the 1st District Court of Appeals tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Referendum returned to Maryland last November in the form of three ballot questions seeking to do away with recently passed laws in the Old Line State.  The efforts came to naught as the ballot questions failed, but the three questions were unique in the fact that in the last 20 years only one previous referendum had graced the ballot in Maryland.

Past petition drives had tried and failed to make the ballot, but a new online petitioning website, sponsored by Maryland Delegate Neil Parrott, made it easier for citizens to refer laws in the state by petition.

For the first time in 20 years, Maryland voters had a chance last November to decide whether major legislation passed by state lawmakers would become law, thanks largely to the help of an online tool that made it easier to submit valid signatures in referendum petition drives.

The sudden appearance of three ballot questions after two decades without any made some in Annapolis talk about referendums becoming a regular feature on Election Day, giving outnumbered Republicans a new way of battling against the Democratic majority in the Maryland General Assembly.

Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and some lawmakers even mentioned the possibility of raising the bar from the verified 55,736 signatures needed to trigger a referendum.

Missouri lawmakers sent a bill to the governor that would change the process for citizens to place proposals on voting ballots.

House Bill 117 makes new requirements for those involved in petitioning to have a proposal appear on election ballots in 2014. State Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, who handled the bill in the Missouri Senate, says it will make the petition process more open and understandable to voters.

“It does five things basically, and the main thing you want to think about is transparency,” Wasson said.

House Bill 117 would require the ballot title to appear on initiative and referendum petitions, and would increase penalties for persons who commit petition signature fraud.

A broad coalition of citizens groups and petition-rights supporters in Oregon, joined by Citizens in Charge, sent a letter to state senators urging them to defeat Senate Bill 154, which “represents the extreme criminalization of direct democracy.” The bill is expected to be voted on by the full state senate next week.

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.

Washington State initiative promoter Tim Eyman doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the political Left on most issues, but, as a proponent of voting rights for people of every political persuasion, he is standing up for the right of a progressive group to place an issue on the ballot in Spokane.

A referendum petition regarding a zoning ordinance that would allow construction of a Walmart Neighborhood Market is one step closer to appearing on a ballot.

Russellville City Clerk Kathy Collins confirmed Thursday she verified 917 of the petition’s signatures; 878 signatures were required.

The petition called for a special election on Aug. 13 to allow voters to decide whether to keep or overturn an ordinance rezoning property located at South Vancouver Avenue and West Main Street to a planned unit development (PUD).