Tag Archives: ballot initiative

Arizona joins four other states voting on recreational marijuana in November

A voter initiative to legalize recreational marijuana will be on the November ballot in Arizona. The state’s Supreme Court last week rejected a final legal challenge to the measure.

A lower court judge had thrown out the challenge, saying the group called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy didn’t have a right to sue.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry’s ruling went on to reject all of the reasons opponents laid out for keeping the initiative off the ballot.

The opponents said initiative backers used illegal and unconstitutional “bait-and-switch tactics” and that the initiative violates Arizona’s statutes in three ways. They include a misleading 100-word summary that leaves out important provisions, an “incoherent” text and title that obscures the extent of its impact on other laws, and a failure to provide a legal funding mechanism.

The high court sidestepped the right-to-sue argument, with Chief Justice Scott Bales calling Gentry’s reliance on a 2015 rewrite of a law “murky at best, and rather than wade into those waters, we turn to the merits.”

Bales went on to affirm Gentry’s ruling rejecting the merits of the opponents’ lawsuit, saying the summary substantially complied with the law’s requirements for initiatives.

The ruling means that Proposition 205 is on November’s general election ballot.

Four other states will also have recreational marijuana initiatives on their ballots, including California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada.

Voters in Florida, Montana, North Dakota and Arkansas will vote on medical marijuana.

Under the measure, adults 21 and older could carry up to one ounce of marijuana and consume it privately. Adults could also cultivate up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed space and possess the marijuana produced by the plants. No more than a dozen plants would be allowed in a single residence.

The system would regulate pot in a way proponents say is similar to alcohol, with a 15 percent tax on all retail marijuana sales. Most of the new state revenue would go to Arizona public schools and education programs.

Barrett Marson, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said it was “a good day for voters who want to end marijuana prohibition in Arizona.”

“Voters will get the opportunity that they requested — more than 258,000 people signed a petition to put this before the voters,” Marson said. “The Supreme Court agreed voters should have the final say on whether adults should have the right to legally purchase marijuana.

The Secretary of State confirmed that about 177,000 of those signatures were valid, more than the approximately 151,000 need to qualify for the ballot.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which includes two prominent county attorneys and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said they will now turn to urging voters to reject the measure.

“Our goal now is to make sure that every Arizonan enters the voting booth in November with a full understanding of both the intended and the unintended impacts of the 20 pages of new laws in Prop 205,” Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said in a statement. “We hope all citizens will read the lengthy legalese before voting and will learn how devastating Proposition 205 would be to our state if passed.”

Opponents say backers have not told voters about changes to DUI laws, child custody issues, employment law and many other laws.

In another development, a Maricopa County judge ordered one change to the ballot description voters will see but rejected other revisions sought by the backers.

Judge James Blomo agreed with the measure’s backers that the description crafted by Secretary of State Michele Reagan wrongly said marijuana will be legal for people over 21, when it should be 21 and older, and ordered it changed.

Blomo rejected efforts to insert language showing that a 15 percent marijuana tax would mainly funds schools and enforcement efforts and another minor change. Blomo said omitting the descriptions aren’t misleading and Reagan has the discretion to leave them off.


Washington voters approve comprehensive measure against wildlife trafficking

Washington voters on Nov. 3 approved a measure to severely restrict the trade in parts of 10 species of animals threatened with extinction.

Initiated by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and backed by The Humane Society of the United States, the ballot measure bans the trade in the parts of elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, pangolins, leopards, cheetahs, sharks, rays and marine turtles and is the nation’s most comprehensive anti-wildlife-trafficking law enacted in any state.

The ballot measure passed in all 39 counties.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said in a news release, “This is an enormous momentum-builder for the movement in the United States to shut down the commerce in trinkets, powders and pelts that are driving some of the world’s most iconic creatures to the precipice of extinction. The animals need their tusks, horns, heads and hides more than we do, and Washington voters have given our movement a shot in the arm with this resounding vote.”

The political committee known as Save Endangered Animals Oregon, also led by The Humane Society of the United States, is seeking to qualify a similar initiative in Oregon and to pass it in 2016.

Volunteers have gathered a preliminary round of more than 1,500 signatures, which have been submitted to the Oregon Secretary of State.

A second, much larger, round of signature gathering could begin by the end of the year, with the goal of placing the Save Endangered Animals Oregon measure on the November 2016 ballot.

The Humane Society of the United States and its partners are working across the country to shut down the market for parts of these rare and threatened species. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that prohibits the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn, and in 2014, New Jersey and New York passed similar laws at our urging.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is working to adopt a final federal rule to stem the illegal ivory trade in the United States.

The U.S. is the second largest market for ivory products in the world after China. Last month, the president of China announced his country would replicate a U.S. ban on the commercial trade in ivory.

“With the efforts at the state and federal level in the United States and the decision by China to join our movement, we have an incredible opportunity to put a stop to the mass slaughter of elephants and other creatures around the world,” said Pacelle.

Lawmakers changing California initiative process in response to kill-gays campaign

The California Assembly has approved changing the process for qualifying ballot initiatives in response to a proposal advocating the slayings of gay and lesbian people.

A pair of bills advanced this week to make it tougher for Californians to propose clearly unconstitutional ballot measures.

AB1100 by Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell would increase initiative filing fees from $200 to $8,000.

AB884 by Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood would allow the attorney general to include disclaimers on documents that proposed measures are likely unconstitutional.

Both bills head to the Senate after passing on largely party-line votes. Republican lawmakers said they were an overreaction to a reprehensible measure that makes it harder for citizens to participate in government.

Attorney General Kamala Harris is asking a court to reject the anti-gay measure.

Labor assists marijuana legalization effort in California

Organized labor is assisting efforts to frame a California ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, sensing an opportunity to expand its presence in the workplace.

The United Food and Commercial Workers’ Western States Council commissioned a series of focus groups, where likely voters across the state filed into rooms with one-way mirrors to share opinions, The Sacramento Bee reported. The research is aimed at shaping a legalization initiative for the 2016 ballot.

The labor council, an umbrella group for 160,000 grocery and other workers across the state, already has a foothold in the marijuana industry, representing about 1,000 workers in medical cannabis jobs. Jim Araby, its executive director, said it wants to be involved early in the ballot effort and ensure that a proposal contains strong labor protections.

“If you look at the legalization efforts in other parts of the country, questions about creating real training standards for the workforce weren’t a piece of the conversation and dialogue,” Araby said.

California voters, which made the state the first in that nation to decriminalize marijuana use for medical purposes, rejected a broader legalization measure in 2010, a failure that analysts attributed to overreaching language. Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have legalized the drug in recent years.

A recent statewide survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that likely voter support for legalizing recreational marijuana use has grown to 55 percent, up six points since 2010.

Proponents of successful ballot measures must get everything right: from the timing, concept and policy details to the messages, messengers and money, said Ned Wigglesworth, an initiative strategist and partner at Redwood Pacific Public Affairs.

“If it comes off as a sensible, well-considered change in drug policy supported by credible groups, they’ve got a shot,” he said. “If it comes off as a scheme cooked up by potheads, voters will treat it accordingly.”

The union-commissioned surveys, held in February by David Binder Research, asked 48 likely voters were where they stood on the issue. Participants who were paid about $75 each were provided sample ballots, which varied but were consistent in allowing production, processing, delivery, possession and sale of marijuana to adults.

Araby said the proposal should not “try to solve every little problem and overcomplicate” things for voters. He envisions enlisting thousands of campaigners from organized labor who could advertise the effort, hold phone banks and invest in television ads.

“The biggest challenge now,” Araby said, “is to make sure the groups that have the resources to put something on the ballot and pass it all work together.”

California attorney general seeks to end ‘sodomite suppression’ ballot initiative

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked a state court for permission to reject a proposed ballot initiative stipulating that anyone who engages in same-sex sexual activity be killed.

Harris issued a statement saying she was making the unusual request to stop the measure filed by a Southern California lawyer late last month. The initiative seeks to amend the California penal code to make sex with a person of the same gender an offense punishable by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.” The distribution of gay “propaganda” would be punishable by a $1 million fine or banishment from the state.

“This proposal not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society,” Harris said.

Matthew McLaughlin, the Orange County lawyer who paid $200 to submit the initiative, did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment. A Democratic state senator, Ricardo Lara, has asked the California bar to investigate whether McLaughlin’s actions make him unfit to practice law. 

The measure puts Harris in a difficult position. Although the bill has no discernible momentum or likely chance of success, she said unless a judge rules otherwise, she will have no choice but to give McLaughlin the go-ahead to seek the nearly 366,000 votes needed to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot.

California is one of 21 states where citizens can petition to have laws put on the ballot through the gathering of voter signatures. Under California’s initiative process, state officials do not have authority to refuse to administer initiatives they find objectionable, the California Supreme Court has ruled. Although few of the dozens submitted to the attorney general each year make it on the ballot, the ease with which a resident with a pet peeve can gain clearance to circulate their proposals while seeking signatures has prompted calls for reform. 

University of California, Davis law professor Floyd Feeney, an expert on California’s initiative process, said Harris alone cannot impede the proposed initiative. And despite the numerous legal problems with McLaughlin’s proposal, Feeney said he was not convinced a court would agree to halt it at this stage.

“The courts, rightly or wrongly, treat the initiative as sort of the citizen right and they are reluctant to get involved in trying to get rid of it, at least in advance, by using the law to keep something from being presented to the electorate,” he said.

A Southern California real estate agent, Charlotte Laws, countered the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act” with an initiative of her own. Titled the Intolerant Jackass Act, it would require anyone who proposes an initiative calling for the killing of gays and lesbians to attend sensitivity training and make a $5,000 donation to a pro-LGBT group.

Experts: California cannot stop ballot initiative ordering the shooting of gays

A California ballot initiative requiring citizens to kill all gays by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method” cannot be stopped by the state’s attorney general, according to legal experts.

“The Sodomite Suppression Act,” created by Orange County attorney Matt McLaughlin, would also outlaw preaching gay rights to minors.

The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed to several legal experts, including a former state attorney general, who said that Attorney General Kamala Harris has no choice but to allow McLaughlin to collect signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.

“Once the sponsor has paid the required fee, state law directs the attorney general to prepare a title and a maximum 100-word summary of the initiative and forward it to the secretary of state for a 90-day period of public signature-gathering,” the Chronicle reported.

But experts said the California Supreme Court would most likely prevent the unconstitutional proposal from appearing on the ballot.

Push to repeal law protecting transgender students fails in California

Opponents of a new California law that provides transgender students certain rights in public schools failed to gather enough voter signatures to place a referendum to repeal the law on the November ballot.

At least 504,760 signatures were required to force a public vote on the statute approved by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. The law’s opponents submitted 619,387, but county election officers determined that just 487,484 of them were valid, according to a final count posted on the secretary of state’s website on Feb. 24.

The law took effect Jan. 1. It guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use the school restrooms and to participate in the sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their school records.

The coalition of religious conservative groups behind the repeal effort said it violates the privacy of youngsters who may be uncomfortable sharing facilities with classmates of the opposite biological sex. The law’s supporters said it is needed to provide statewide consistency and to improve the school experiences of young people who decide to live by a gender different from the one they had at birth.

If the referendum had made the ballot, the law would have been put on hold until after the election as its supporters and opponents mounted a campaign that promised to be as bitterly fought as the one over Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California until last year.

Karen England of the Privacy for All Students coalition said the proposed referendum’s backers are not conceding defeat. They plan to review the disqualified signatures and, depending what they find, go to court to try to get enough of them added to the final tally so the measure would have to go before voters.

“We are preparing for the next stage of the battle,” England said in a statement. “After months of waiting, we now get to see why so many signatures were thrown out. Certainly some signers were not registered to vote or had moved without changing their address. But it is also certain that many of those signatures were rejected based on reasons that will not survive a legal challenge.”

California is the first state to detail the rights of transgender students in schools by statute.

Some school districts around California, as well as the education departments in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have implemented similar policies by regulation.

Although the law’s opponents have focused on potential abuses and awkward encounters in bathrooms and locker rooms, school districts have taken it as a mandate to evaluate yearbook photo dress codes, sleeping arrangements for overnight field trips and activities such as choirs and recreational sports where girls and boys are often separated.

Some have also given students who object to using restrooms or locker rooms with transgender classmates the option of using staff restrooms.

“This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn. We need to focus on creating an environment where every student is able to do well and graduate. This law is about doing what’s best for all students,” said Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland.

Marriage equality activists to wait until 2016 election in Arizona

Organizers of an initiative campaign for a 2014 ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Arizona are dropping that effort in favor of waiting until 2016.

The Equal Marriage Campaign says it had broad support but that key national advocacy groups withheld backing that was needed to make a 2014.

Those groups favor waiting until 2016 to put a gay marriage measure on Arizona’s ballot and Equal Marriage Arizona says it now also supports doing that.

The advocacy groups had said 2014 didn’t provide enough time to rally support for a state constitutional amendment and that the larger voter turnout in 2016, a presidential election year, would help.

Equal Marriage Arizona is telling its supporters they can return completed petitions to the campaign for destruction.

Same-sex couples can marry in the neighboring state of California by law and in some counties in the neighboring state of New Mexico, by lack of clarification in the law.

Nevada Senate votes to repeal anti-gay marriage ban

The Nevada Senate voted late on April 22 for a resolution calling for a repeal of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The vote, which came after an hour of debate, is the first step in what all sides agree would be a long process toward legalizing gay marriage.

During the debate, one senator, Democrat Kelvin Atkinson of North Las Vegas, announced, “I’m black. I’m gay.”

The resolution – SJR13 – calls for the repeal of a constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2002. That provision defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman; the resolution says Nevada recognizes all marriages, regardless of gender, according to a report from The Associated Press. 

One Republican, Ben Kieckehefer of Reno, sided with a Democratic majority in the 12-9 vote on the resolution, which is now headed to the state Assembly.

If lawmakers approved the resolution this year and again in 2015, voters would get their say in 2016.

Encouraging lawmakers to support the measure, openly gay Sen. David Parks of Las Vegas, said, “There is no threat; no threat to one’s marriage or their own personal views. Passage of SJR13 will begin the positive process toward fairness and equality.”

Iowa senator seeks to repeal gay marriage

A Republican state senator began the lengthy process this week of forcing a statewide vote on gay marriage, proposing a constitutional ban that would require approval twice in the Iowa Assembly before it heads to voters.

Gay marriage has been legal in Iowa since a unanimous 2009 state Supreme Court ruling, which found that a law limiting marriage to between a man and woman violated the state constitution’s equal-protection clause.

But Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, said voters should get to decide whether gay marriage is permitted.

“I think the way that it was done did not allow the people any input. The people of Iowa need to have their voice heard,” said Guth, whose resolution has 17 co-sponsors.

The measure would need to be approved by the current Assembly and then one elected in 2014 before it could go to voters.

The effort has little chance of advancing since Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, has repeatedly blocked any debate of such an amendment since the court ruling.

Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, the state’s largest gay advocacy group, said she doubted the legislation would go anywhere.

“I’ve talked to a number of Republicans who really want to get past this. We’re going to celebrate four years of equality here in Iowa next month. The sky hasn’t fallen. It seems like a waste of the Senate’s time,” Red Wing said.

The court’s ruling made Iowa the nation’s third state – and the only one in the Midwest – to legalize same-sex unions. Nine states and Washington, D.C., now have legalized gay marriage.

Between 2009 and 2011, there were 4,600 gay marriages in Iowa, according to the state’s public health department.