Marijuana, abortion, Obamacare and election finance still on the ballot
Montana voters will have a say on five ballot issues this November. That’s down from the 15 total submitted to the Montana Secretary of State’s office by the Montana Legislature and by citizen initiative.
“None of the other issues appear to have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said following the July 20 deadline for constitutional and statutory initiatives. The deadline for initiative referenda was Oct. 28, 2011.
I-166, which charges state and federal officials in Montana with implementing a policy stating that corporations are not persons, will be on the November ballot. Supporters gathered 31,870 of the 24,337 signatures needed and at least 5 percent of the needed signatures in 61 of the 34 required House districts.
The statutory initiative is aimed at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions by corporations. I-166 directs the state’s Congressional delegation to seek an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would reverse the Citizens United precedent.
Opponents went to court to block I-166, claiming it is legally insufficient to be on the ballot. The Montana Supreme Court, however, rejected the challenge on Aug. 10 in a 5-1 ruling, and the initiative will be on the November ballot.
IR-124, which will give Montana voters a chance to repeal Senate Bill 423, last year’s medical marijuana reform bill, will be on the November ballot. IR-124 was sponsored by John Masterson and the Montana Cannabis Industry Association.
Repeal of the stricter measures approved by the Legislature in 2011 would mean returning to the original language of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by voters in 2004. Federal court rulings, however, could affect how medical marijuana growers and providers return to business.
IR-124 supporters gathered 36,374 of the 24,337 signatures needed and at least 5 percent of the needed signatures in 72 of the 34 required House districts. They were not successful in getting enough signatures to outright repeal SB-243.
A constitutional initiative aimed at creating a right for adults to use marijuana for medical purposes, CI-109, will not be on the November ballot. Supporters gathered only 652 signatures of the 48,674 needed and failed to gather 10 percent of the needed signatures in any of the 40 required House districts.
“We just ran out of time. We just got going too late,” sponsor Barb Trego, of East Helena, said, adding that supporters will try again.
Another constitutional initiative, CI-108, an anti-abortion measure, will not appear on the ballot. CI-108 would amend the state constitution to define a “person” to include all human beings, at every stage of development, including fertilization and conception.
Supporters of CI-108 gathered only 23,512 signatures of the 48,674 needed and 10 percent of the needed signatures in only 12 of the 40 required House districts. Dr. Annie Bukacek, of Kalispell, sponsor of CI-108 and president of the Montana ProLife Coalition, said her group will continue to pursue personhood for the unborn.
“Personhood is the only type of prolife legislation that seeks to protect all innocent human life,” she said. “It is uncompromising, based on a concept every sensible person grasps — equal protection under the law.”
One of four legislative referenda approved by the Montana Legislature last year, which do not require signature-gathering to appear on the November ballot, also deals with abortion. LR-120, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Bennett, R-Libby, would require parental notification prior to an abortion procedure for a minor.
LR-123 was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court on Aug. 10. The referendum called for refunding all state surplus money to taxpayers through an income tax credit. Erik Burke, executive director of MEA-MFT, a plaintiff in the suit to block LR-123, said Montana had “weathered the recession better than most states because we saved during the good times.”
Opponents have filed legal action against LR-122, claiming it’s legally insufficient to be on the November ballot. Sponsored by Sen. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, LR-122 is intended to block President Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by prohibiting the state or federal governments from requiring people to purchase health insurance.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled in June that the personal health insurance mandate in Obamacare is a legally-enforceable tax. A Montana district court earlier ruled that LR-122 could stay on the November ballot pending a decision by the Montana Supreme Court.
LR-121, the third legislative referendum still on the ballot, calls for denying certain state services to illegal aliens.