Texas: I&R in El Paso

Tue, Feb 26 2013 — Source: El Paso Times

The ongoing litigation and petitions about the demolition of City Hall and construction of the ballpark raise important questions about initiative and referendum petitions. Regardless of their viewpoints on the merits of the issues, El Pasoans should understand the initiative and referendum process.

Initiative and referendum petitions are methods to allow direct citizen participation in the legislative process at state or local levels. Despite the fundamental nature of the right to vote, the right to an initiative or referendum is not a federally guaranteed right, nor is it guaranteed under the Texas Constitution.

The powers of initiative and referendum are considered powers reserved to the people by charter.

A bill changing the state’s petition process could make it harder for voters to bring controversial laws to referendum. The Referendum Integrity Act will be among numerous bills debated in Annapolis Thursday that could fundamentally change state election law.

According to state law, to get a referendum on the ballot, 6% of the state’s registered voters are required to sign a petition.

That’s not hard enough, says one lawmaker.

“Currently, you could easily gather all those signatures from a single location,” says Senator Curt McKenzie (R – Nampa). “Ya know, if an entity came in, paid people to gather signatures, you could get it from one spot in the state.”

McKenzie’s Senate Bill 1108 forces referendums to reach signature quotas in areas all around the state, not just one. But, Democrats say the bill is aimed at certain voters.

Read more Here

Bill Lucas, of Ferndale, Michigan, is set to lead an initiative effort to amend the Wolverine State’s constitution to guarantee citizens full use of their referendum power in repealing any state law, including those that include appropriations.

Currently under the Michigan constitution, laws that include an appropriation are exempt from referendum. Last December, state lawmakers  attached an appropriation to passage of Right-to-Work legislation, thus denying union opponents the ability to take the legislation to a statewide vote of the people.

A Ferndale man says he will lead an effort to amend the state’s constitution to strengthen the ability of citizens to use the ballot to repeal objectionable laws.

Bill Lucas, founder of Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum, said his proposed change would allow Michigan voters to use a referendum to repeal any state law, even one with an appropriation attached.

The Board of State Canvassers is to consider the group’s proposed ballot petition at a meeting in Lansing Friday.

Read more at the: Detroit Free Press

Developers and shopping center owners contributed nearly $600,000 in the rejected bid to overturn Baltimore County Council votes on zoning issues, according to financial reports.

If successful, the referendum drive would have allowed county voters to decide the fate of dozens of properties, including the former Solo Cup site in Owings Mills, the Middle River Depot and Green Spring Station in Lutherville.

Read more from the Baltimore Sun

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

Maryland’s largest-circulation newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, came out against new legislation being proposed by Democrats to make it more difficult for citizens to refer legislative enactments to a vote of the people. The paper editorialized against one proposal to more than triple the number of signatures required from the current 3% of votes cast for governor in the previous election (55,736 voter signatures) to 5% of registered voters (184,726 signatures). Other proposed changes include outlawing paying circulators based on their productivity and reducing the amount of time for citizens to gather all these signatures on petitions.

The Idaho Legislature seems to be following the Maryland Legislature’s lead with the same knee-jerk reaction, seeking to legislatively block future referendums after several appeared on the ballot last November. The key difference is that Maryland voters approved the legislature’s enactments in three referendums last November, while Idaho voters reversed the legislature for the first time since the 1930s, overturning three laws concerning education policy.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas Miller say they are overwhelmed by voter referendums “every time someone doesn’t like one” of their decisions. These powerful politicians don’t make idle complaints; they’re threatening new legislation to make signature gathering for a referendum, or what is often called a “People’s Veto,” much more difficult.

The governor argues that the petition process has “probably been made a little too easy.”

Micah Hurd, a 23-year-old college student living in Arlington, Texas, recently found himself the center of controversy.  After President Obama’s reelection in November, Hurd started a petition on the White House’s official petition website, “We the People,” proposing that the Lone Star State of Texas secede from the United States.  This normally would not cause a fuss, as many individuals in many states did the same after the President’s reelection.

Michigan’s Legislature enacted “Right-to-Work” legislation this week, sparking renewed debate about public policy regarding unions. Here’s a quick review of recent ballot measures having to do with organized labor.


Ohio “State Senate Bill 5” Veto Referendum, Issue 2 (2011)

The controversial Right-to-Work bills that today passed the Michigan Legislature cannot be put to a voter referendum or “people’s veto,” because legislators added a $1 million appropriation to the bills. Under Michigan law, appropriation bills are not subject to the citizens’ referendum powers. The appropriation goes to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for implementing the legislation and dissemination of information regarding the bills.

At the Fox & Hounds website, Joel Fox reports that “signatures calling for a referendum on the so-called Amazon tax law requiring out-of-state Internet companies to collect sales taxes from California buyers are piling up.”

If enough signatures are collected in the short 90-day window permitted for referendum petitions — and Fox is predicting that Amazon’s signature drive will, in fact, finish early — the tax would be stayed from going into effect until the voters get to decide the matter at the June 2012 primary election.

The Year of the Referendum?

Mon, Jul 25 2011 by Staff

It just might be the year of the referendum. After I blogged last week about referendum petitions going to the ballot in Maryland and Ohio I noticed a piece about several major referendum efforts in California. From Capital Notes:

The initiative may the most popular form of direct democracy in California, but 2012 has the potential for the spotlight to be recast on one of the lesser known of the powers created a century ago: the referendum.