Edited by Brittany Clingen
25 measures for 2013
Maine may become the first state to fight Common Core education standards via the ballot. Two groups, the Maine Equal Rights Center and No Common Core Maine, announced they are joining forces to craft a ballot measure that seeks to repeal the implementation of Common Core standards in state schools. Common Core is a set of relatively new, federally-condoned standards for Math and English curriculum supported by the United States Department of Education, which seek to align school curricula, goals and standards across the states. States can choose whether or not to implement the program in its schools. Common Core advocates believe that setting national benchmarks will improve student performance. Opponents are concerned that the standards give the federal government powers that once belonged to state and local governments. Opponents are also concerned that Common Core eliminates school choice and competitive advantages.
Maine is among the 45 states that chose to adopt the Common Core standards, though this fall marks the first time they will be used in the classroom. Erick Bennett, director of the Maine Equal Rights Center, said, “It doesn’t matter what your ideology is. (Common Core) totally eliminates your involvement in how the money is spent and how your kids learn.” Supporters must gather at least 57,277 valid signatures by February 3, 2014 in order to qualify the measure for the ballot.
The state of Colorado is in the midst of political turmoil stemming from gun laws passed by the general assembly and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) on March 20, 2013. Saying they are frustrated that legislators do not consider the concerns of rural Coloradans – particularly their feelings on gun rights and ownership – residents in Weld County of northern Colorado will decide on the November 5, 2013 ballot whether or not to secede from Colorado and form a 51st state. Two state senators – Angela Giron (D-3) and Senate President John Morse (D-11) – are battling recall efforts triggered by their support of House Bill 1224, which banned large capacity magazines and implemented broader background checks. Colorado resident, Tim LeVier, and a friend have also joined the fray, initiating an effort to land a constitutional amendment on the November 4, 2014 ballot. LeVier formed a group called “Put it to the People,” which is sponsoring the initiated constitutional amendment.
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The proposed amendment seeks to require a vote of the people before any restrictions or limits can be placed on the capacity of ammunition magazines. If approved by voters, it would render the ammunition restrictions in HB 1224 null and void. LaVier explained he wanted to push a constitutional amendment, as opposed to a campaign to repeal the law, because he does not what to give the general assembly additional opportunities to pass similar legislation. Supporters of the measure must collect at least 86,105 valid signatures by December 2013 to put it before voters. LaVier said, “It’s a tough road to be on when you’re doing a volunteer initiative like this. We don’t have any funds to pay for petitioning. … [The petitions are] in a lot of firearms-related stores throughout the state. That’s really our primary focus, being in as many accessible places as possible.”
Supporters of the Alternative Driver Licenses Referendum find interesting way to collect signatures: On Friday, August 23, members of Oregonians for Immigration Reform implemented a new method of gathering signatures that was not without a bit of irony. To facilitate ease of access for would be petition signers, the group set up a series of orange cones in a parking lot in Salem. Cars driving down the street could then pull in, sign the petition through their window and drive away; a process similar to a fast food drive-through. The group’s goal is 58,142 valid signatures delivered to the Oregon secretary of state’s office by October 4, 2013. If that is accomplished, Senate Bill 833, a bill that makes four-year driver’s licenses available to those who cannot prove legal presence in the United States, will go to a statewide vote in 2014. According to Jan Flowers, a compliance specialist with the state’s elections division, this instance is the first time she has ever heard of such a signature gathering method but added that it is a perfectly legal technique as long as there is a witness to the signing.
Funding for Washington GMO initiative lower than anticipated: In a sharp contrast to campaign funding for Proposition 37, Washington’s attempt at requiring genetically engineered food labeling shows supporters holding the bigger war chest. Reports from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission show Initiative 522 supporters as having totaled $4 million in campaign contributions, while opponents have amassed only $1 million. The numbers are notable because the fight contains many of the same parties that battled over Proposition 37, including agricultural giant Monsanto. For reference, supporters of the 2012 Proposition 37 campaign received $9 million in donations and opponents had a staggering $46 million to work with.
Local voters deciding the fate of a $50 million pier project, parcel taxes, a bond issue and an alternative expenditure measure in August 27 election:
A group called Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, objecting to the council’s decision to approve the $50 million dollar pier design of Michael Maltzan Architecture, gathered 20,000 signatures for a referendum to let the voters decide if the construction of the new pier is to continue. The election on August 27, 2013, will determine whether to terminate the Michael Maltzan Architecture contract for the new pier called “the Lens” or to let it continue as the council’s ordinance determines. A yes vote on this referendum cancels the contract to build the new Lens pier. A no vote supports the city council’s contract and allows the Lens pier construction to go forward.
Michael Maltzan Architecture is a Los Angeles based firm “committed to the creation of progressive, transformative experiences that chart new trajectories for architecture, urbanism, and the public realm.” The city council chose the lens design of Michael Maltzan Architecture over two other project finalist bidders: “The Wave” by Bjarke Ingels Group and “The People’s Pier” by West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. For images of the Lens project and the other two designs that were rejected, click here.
This question, along with several other measures across three states, including those addressing parcel taxes and a bond measure in California, an alternative expenditure question in Arizona and village annexation question in Florida, are being decided by local voters today.
For full coverage of the August 27, 2013 elections in Arizona, Florida and California visit this page. Election results will be reported as they are made available, beginning at approximately 8:00 pm.
Ballot Law Update
Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative submitted for supreme court review: Supporters of a measure that would legalize medical marijuana in Florida announced they are suspending petitioning efforts while the Florida Supreme Court reviews the proposed amendment. According to reports, supporters have gathered over 100,000 signatures so far, though only 68,314 are need to trigger a review by the state’s highest court. Ben Pollara, People United for Medical Marijuana’s treasurer and director, said that signature gathering was being put on hold because collecting names was costing about $150,000 a week. If the court approves the measure, supporters will still need to collect a minimum of 683,149 valid signatures by the petition drive deadline on February 1, 2014. The measure would then require a 60% vote of approval by voters in order to take effect.
Colorado school funding initiative hits delay: Despite the fact that supporters submitted 160,000 signatures, nearly twice the required 86,105, to the Colorado secretary of state’s office on August 5, it is not yet clear whether the measure will be on this year’s ballot. Upon review of the five percent random sample required by state law, the secretary of state determined that 4,645 were valid and the remaining 3,641 were invalid. In order for the initiative to be immediately placed on the ballot, a verification rate of 110 percent would be needed. The secretary of state announced the sample rate at 107.88 percent. Though this means the measure will likely qualify for the ballot, state law requires that a line-by-line review of the submitted signatures be performed. The state has until September 4 to complete its review.