Ballot Law Update: Ohio sees passage of stricter I&R laws

Mar 29 2013

By Eric Veram

Since the beginning of the year, we have tracked 125 proposed laws in 31 states affecting the initiative and referendum process. The Ballot Law Update is released on the last Wednesday of each month. Stay tuned to the Tuesday Count for weekly ballot law news.

Recent news

Initiatives in Arizona could see larger hurdles in the near future: Last week, the Arizona legislature began deliberation on constitutional amendments that would make it much more difficult to place citizen initiatives on the state ballot. One of the proposed measures would require petitioners to gather names from at least five different counties, and at least twenty-five percent of those names would need to come from outside Maricopa and Pima counties. The other amendment under consideration would bump up the deadline for turning in signed petitions from July to May on election years. Both changes will require approval from voters in 2014 before going into effect.[1]

Tax increase amendment fails to make the ballot in South Dakota: On March 5, 2013, the South Dakota House of Representatives voted 35-34 against placing the Two-Thirds Majority for Tax Increases Amendment on the ballot. Later that day, a motion to reconsider was voted down, effectively defeating the proposal. Had the state legislature approved the measure, voters would have been asked if any ballot measure raising existing taxes or creating new ones should be required to receive a two-thirds majority in order to be approved.[2] The measure was sponsored by Senator Corey Brown.[3]

Idaho one step closer to tougher initiative laws: On Monday, March 11, the Idaho Senate approved a bill that would require initiatives in the state have signatures from six percent of voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. The state’s current law has no geographical limitations on where petition signatures come from. Senator Curt McKenzie (R) is the bill’s lead sponsor and has stated that the current proposal has nothing to do with voters’ repeal of the controversial Students Come First education reforms.[4]

Missouri voters may decide in 2014 whether to give themselves the right to determine and approve all tobacco taxes: A petition for an amendment to the Missouri constitution is currently open for public discussion on the Missouri Secretary of State website. This proposed amendment would give Article X of the State Constitution an additional section, Section 26, which would require local voter approval of the imposition of any tobacco tax and the use of the revenue from such a tax. This amendment was proposed by Mark Reading of Jefferson City, Missouri and, if it meets all initiative requirements, voters will see it on the ballots in 2014.[5][6]

Court actions

Arizona Proposition 200 undergoes hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court: On Monday, March 18, the Supreme Court heard arguments both for and against Arizona’s controversial voter ID bill passed by voters in 2004 as Proposition 200. Opponents argue that the state’s law is trumped bye federal law called the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. The conflict is created by Proposition 200’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship when registering to vote in national elections, a requirement the federal law does not have. A ruling is expected in June of this year.

Oregon teachers’ union fighting mandatory tax warning: State law in Oregon currently requires that ballot envelopes contain a notice warning voters of a potential property tax increase in upcoming elections. The Oregon Education Association argues that the law unfairly singles out property tax, the revenue stream used to pay for education, and that it is not necessary because any such increase is clearly stated on the ballot itself. Supporters of the warning argue that the union is just trying to make passing tax increases easier. Bill Sizemore, a conservative tax activist, said, “They do not want voters to know there is a tax vote on the ballot because they know if they open it up and look at it, they’re more likely to vote no.” House Bill 3113 would abolish the required warning and is currently working its way through house committee hearings.[7]

SCOTUS weighs in on California’s Proposition 8: Proposition 8 has been in and out of court since the measure was approved by voters in 2008. The measure, before it was declared null and void in the federal courts, created a new amendment to the California Constitution which said, “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Read more about Proposition 8’s history here. This week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the proposition and is expected to release its decision later this year. According to reports, there are currently 39 states with constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage. [8][9]

[edit] Bills to watch

Number of states seek to strengthen recall powers: According to the NCSL database, there are at least seven states currently considering implementing some form of recall process for elected state officials. Those states include: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Many of these are proposed amendments to states’ constitutions, including HJRCA 12 in Illinois. Illinois already provides for the recall of state governor, but the proposed amendment would provide for the recall of all members of the executive branch and the Illinois General Assembly.

Approved legislation

Gov. Kasich alters referendum laws, initiates petition effort: Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation on March 22 that triggered a petition effort to repeal the approved bill. Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, would restrict the collection of signatures to introduce a proposed initiative or referendum to 100 days. The introduction is required before circulation petitions in an attempt to qualify for the ballot. Citizens will still have 90 days to circulate petitions and an additional 10 days should the secretary of state deem there are insufficient signatures to qualify. However, SB 47 does eliminate the possibility of collecting more signatures during the validation process and requires that proponents wait until the secretary of state reports if the initial submission is valid. According to reports, citizens previously had anywhere from 16 to 58 days. Read more about the initiative process prior to the approval of SB 47 here. According to a spokesperson for Gov. Kasich, “The General Assembly thought it was important that the law needed to be clarified and the governor agreed with them.”[10][11]

Arkansas outlaws contributions from public servants to ballot measure campaigns: On March 11 the Arkansas General Assembly passed HB 1187, now enrolled as Act 312. The bill declares that it is unlawful for a public servant or a governmental body to expend or permit the expenditure of public funds to support or oppose a ballot measure. The bill was sponsored by Representative Nate Bell (R).