There are no less than five citizen initiative proposals that Montanans are trying to get on the ballot though signature gathering campaigns. This is in addition to the five bad ideas that TEA Party Republicans sent to the ballot to be voted on in 2012.
While people have a general impression that ballot initiatives “are good for turnout,” that’s actually not the case. Studies have shown time again that while the ability to legislate from the ballot could impact turnout in midterm elections, but it has little or no effect during presidential elections like 2012.
The sheer number of initiatives on the ballot is what is interesting here. There are, so far, ten measures that could be on the ballot. Five were referred by the legislature, and five are proposed by citizens who must first the signatures necessary. The general rule of thumb is that the more measures on the ballot, the more likely people are to vote no. This is partly because people would rather vote for the status quo (vote no) then vote to support something they feel they don’t have enough information on to make a decision.
In this case, since the initiatives are mostly (but not all) bad, this could work in progressives’ favor. Take a look at what the TEA Party Republicans in the 2011 legislature put on the ballot.:
· Denying services to undocumented immigrants
· Gutting the right to medical privacy for women
· Prohibiting the federal government from enforcing the individual mandate of the ACA
· Politicizing the election of supreme court justices by district instead of statewide, and
· Dismantling state government by requiring that money not appropriated by the legislature not be available to future legislatures
This final one might be the worst of the lot. It would mean that even if there is a large budget surplus like the hundreds of millions we have now, and even if we vote to change the legislature to elect people that will use the surplus the fix the problems caused by the past legislature’s underfunding, our votes won’t matter. The funding will be sent back to Exxon-Mobil, et al. Your voice would be silenced.
Here’s an overview of what citizens are trying to get on the ballot–the entire list of proposed initiatives and legislative referenda can be found on the Secretary of State’s web site:
This is a proposal to allow juries to say, “the person is guilty, but we don’t like the law so we refuse to convict her.” If you believe that laws should be made under established, open and transparent and visible procedures (and in legislatures accountable to the electorate), you’re probably opposed to this idea.
It’s being pushed by Roger Roots, who the Montana Human Rights Network calls a “racist activist with Montana connections.” The Network became very familiar with Roots when he sued them for $3.7 million for libel in 1994. Roots lost. The Network reports that in 1996, Roger Roots held a rally with Rudy Stanko, a reverend for the racist World Church of the Creator. Roots is listed as a contributing writer for the racist publication known as “The Jubilee.”
This has already failed twice to garner enough support to get on the ballot. In fact, it’s never even come close. Still, there is no reasoning with fanatics. Despite the fact that according to the most recent polling, 78% of Americans want abortion to remain legal.
Medical Marijuana and Eminent Domain
Here’s where this gets interesting. These campaigns are both attempts to block two bills passed by the legislature from becoming law. The first is the unpopular Senate Bill 423, the Jeff Essmann medical marijuana disaster which passed with a veto-proof majority after the legislature voted down a slate of amendatory vetoes. The other is the new eminent domain bill, House Bill 198.
The medical marijuana campaign is expected to get enough signatures by the September 30th deadline. The eminent domain bill is still uncertain. Neither issue breaks down along traditional party lines lines. For example, those in favor of green energy and wind power may support the new eminent domain law because it allows transmission lines-the only way to get green energy to market.
On the other hand some environmentalists oppose it because they don’t want the line going through certain areas or because they see it as an increase in corporate power. Conservatives are also divided on the issue. TEA partiers like Art Wittich support the campaign to block the law, while other Republicans want to keep the new law in place. The web site of the campaign to block the new eminent domain law can be viewed here, and the site of the campaign to block the new medical marijuana law can be viewed here.
Legalization of Marijuana
Though this initiative has the odd title, “Constitutional right to alcohol and marijuana,” apparently it is an attempt to get the state to legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol.
Make it Harder for the Legislature to Change Initiatives
Finally, the initiative to “reserve to the people the power to amend or repeal laws passed by initiative” is a measure that the Billings Gazette reports would require the legislature to send changes or repeal of citizen’s initiatives back to the voters.