Nov/Dec 2009

State News: August 2009



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Ballot issues affecting legislators go before voters Nov. 4

By Kelley Arnold and Heather Perkins, CSG Elections Center
When voters go to the polls Nov. 4, they will not only be selecting legislators to serve in the state houses, they will also vote on measures that will impact the jobs of those same legislators. Issues such as marriage, energy and gaming tend to take center stage in the discussion of this year’s state ballot measures, but it is important to note that residents of many states will take to the polls to determine legislative pay, voter districts and session schedules. Below are a few of the issues affecting elected officials that are up for consideration on 2008 state ballots.
Arizona Proposition 300
Summary: Provides for an increase in the salaries of state legislators from $24,000 to $30,000 per year.
Supporters say …
… serving in the legislature has turned into a full-time job and legislators should be paid accordingly. They also point out that an increase in compensation may attract better-qualified legislators. Some even argue that a few legislators have had to resign because it was too costly to serve and keep another full-time job. Lastly, supporters point out that this will be the first legislative pay raise since 1998.
Opponents argue …
… that legislators receive a per diem in addition to their base salary, so the current $24,000 is a misleading number. Also, in light of the current financial crisis sweeping the nation and state, now is not a good political or economic climate in which to raise government salaries. Opponents also cite the proposition as movement toward a full-time state legislature, which would cost more for taxpayers.
Arkansas Proposed Amendment 2
Summary: Amendment providing that no legislative appropriation shall be for a period longer than one year, providing for a fiscal legislative session, requiring the General Assembly to meet every year with regular sessions continuing to be held in odd-numbered years and fiscal sessions held in even-numbered years, unless the General Assembly votes otherwise, and allowing the General Assembly to consider non-fiscal matters during a fiscal session upon approval of two-thirds of both houses. View full text
Supporters say …
… that Arkansas is one of only six states that do not participate in annual legislative sessions. Proponents argue that under the current biennial session schedule, the legislature ends up having to call numerous special sessions and would benefit from an increase in scheduled session days. Annual sessions would also allow legislatures to have more control of fiscal regulation since budgets would move from two-year cycles to one-year cycles.
Opponents argue …
… that the amendment would overburden legislators who carry full-time jobs outside the legislature. Like opponents of Arizona’s Proposition 300, many worry that increased legislative cycles will lead to the creation of a full-time legislature.
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment I
Summary: Would set all regular legislative sessions at a maximum of 40 days. Currently, the maximum is set at 40 days for odd-numbered years and 35 days for even-numbered years.
Supporters say…
… the sessions need to be longer to accommodate the amount of business the legislature currently needs to conduct. Supporters argue that since the budget of South Dakota is considerably larger than when the 35-day fiscal sessions were originally enacted, it is only logical that the session should be extended in order to have proper time to deal with the increased work that accompanies an increased budget.
Opponents argue…
… the extension will needlessly cost the taxpayers more money in per diems for legislators working the extra five days. Opponents also believe the time now allotted is enough time to get business completed. The lengthened session in combination with extra per diems days is a movement toward full time legislators.
California Proposition 11
Summary: Changes the authority for establishing district boundaries from elected representatives to a 14-member commission. The commission is to be selected from an initial applicant pool of registered voters and will consist of five Democrats, five Republicans and four of neither party. View full text
Supporters say…
…the 14-member commission would remove legislative influence entirely and would, instead, place the responsibility of drawing legislative lines to interested Californians. Using a bipartisan commission would also allow districts to become more competitive between parties and would make it harder for incumbents to continually hold seats year after year.
Opponents argue …
… that the political composition of the committee does not adequately reflect the political composition of registered voters. Many minority groups also worry that the commission will completely leave their constituents out of the political process altogether and cause further disenfranchisement. Other opponents see the commission as creating more bureaucracy in an already heated climate.
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment J
Summary: Would repeal legislative term limits, which currently allow a maximum of four consecutive terms or a total of eight consecutive years. View full text
Supporters say …
… voters should have freedom to decide whom they want—even if that means electing an incumbent candidate. Some legislators have admitted that they have seen a decrease in the amount of experience coming into the legislative session and feel that the inexperience allows for greater susceptibility to lobbyists’ influence.
Opponents argue …
… term limits prevent special interests from having long-term hold over incumbents. While the legislature may lose several experienced members, it will also flourish under an influx of fresh perspectives. Lastly, opponents say that as long as the executive branch remains without term limits, the legislature should operate under the same parameters.
Other ballot measures affecting legislatures:
Colorado Referendum L: Would change the qualifying age for serving in the legislature to 21. Currently, the Colorado Constitution sets the age at 25.
Louisiana Amendment 2: Would require the proclamation calling the legislature into extraordinary session to be issued at least seven days prior to the convening of the session.
Louisiana Amendment 3: Requires the legislature to promptly move on the temporary succession of legislators ordered to active duty in the military.
Oregon Measure 55: Would prevent redistricting plans from going into effect until the first day of the next regular session after the plan has been developed.
South Dakota Constitutional Amendment G: Would repeal the current limit on the mileage reimbursement rate for legislators, which is currently set at 5 cents per mile.
Utah Constitutional Amendment C: Would change the start date of the annual general session from the third Monday in January to the fourth Monday of January and exclude federal holidays from the calculation of the 45-day maximum.
Utah Constitutional Amendment D: Would amend the constitution to clarify that the time when the legislature is required to divide the state into congressional, legislative and other districts is no later than the annual general session following the legislature’s receipt of the federal census results.
For more information regarding ballot initiatives, state races and comparative election data, visit the CSG Election Center.


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