(by Lynn Vincent, WorldMag.com) – By the time his fellow lawmakers elected John Andrews president of the Colorado state senate, the state had already imposed term limits on its legislators and its governor. But Andrews had long felt that judges needed limits, too. And a string of heavy-handed, left-leaning decisions by the state’s highest courts – including a 2002 case in which the Colorado Supreme Court invoked a 150-year-old Mexican land grant to give hundreds of local residents free access to 77,000 acres of a rancher’s private property – convinced Andrews to act. While serving in the state senate from 1998 to 2005, he tried twice to pass term limits for Supreme Court and appeals court judges.
“Those efforts were turned aside by the establishment,” Andrews, 62, of Centennial, Colo., told WORLD. Now, a year after terming out himself, Andrews is using his state’s ballot measure process to take the issue of judicial term limits directly to the people. If Colorado’s Amendment 40 passes, the state will be the first to enact term limits for Supreme Court judges. A recent Rocky Mountain News poll showed the measure leading by 54 percent to 37 percent.
Thirty-four states allow citizens to exercise “direct democracy” in one or more forms, including ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, referendum, and recall, according to the Direct Democracy League. This year more states are using that power than in any election in a decade. More than 200 measures will appear on ballots in 36 states. Many of them attempt to work change on hot-button issues like eminent domain, abortion, illegal immigration, and gay marriageâ€”and are direct indicators of voter dissatisfaction with legislatures and the courts.
In Arizona, for example, where illegal immigration is a hot button, voters are using the initiative process to try to limit certain public services to legal residents and, in a measure viewed as largely symbolic, make English the state’s official language.
Citizens in eight states continue the grassroots attempt to shield traditional marriage from liberal legislatures and courts.
And the issues of eminent domain and private property landed on the November ballot in 12 states as a direct result of outrage that followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision. That ruling broadened eminent domainâ€”the power of government jurisdictions to seize private propertyâ€”to include the power to seize property for profit, such as commercial development, rather than solely for civic improvement, such as highway expansion. Now, citizens in states from California to New Hampshire are seeking to trim state power foisted on them by the federal judiciary.
“Colorado and other states that have the initiative option are very fortunate to have a safety valve to bypass legislatures and the political establishment where special interests often have incumbents locked up,” said Andrews, now a fellow with the Claremont Institute (which is not affiliated with the term-limits measure). “Citizens and voters sometimes need a brake and sometimes an accelerator to reclaim control of a political system that is too much dominated by insiders.”
Direct democracy does have its drawbacks, Andrews noted, enabling moneyed special interests to hire paid signature gatherers and put narrowly tailored measures on the ballot.
In Missouri, for example, a coalition of business leaders, researchers, and patient advocates is attempting to amend the state’s constitution to legalize embryonic stem-cell research in the state.
Amendment 2, funded almost totally by 82-year-old Kansas billionaire James Stowers, founder of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, is a preemptive strike meant to ward off current legislative attempts to ban such research. Supporters paint the measure as one that protects the ability of researchers to seek cures for such conditions as Alzheimer’s and diabetes while banning human cloning. But those who oppose Amendment 2 say that the bill’s language is deceptive and actually authorizes human cloning so long as no babies are born Also, they say amendment backers are trying to turn Missouri into the “Show-Me the Money” state.
Missouri business leaders have in recent years been trying to establish the state as a biotech hub. But embryonic stem-cell researchers there, as elsewhere, are facing a dearth of dollars from private investors. Amendment 2 would allow them to tap into any future federal funding but might also pave the way to state funding.
In other states that have legalized such research, including California and New Jersey, the state quickly followed with generous grants to fund it. A failure to do so, state officials argued, might prompt biotech firms to move their jobs and tax revenues to greener pastures.
The Missouri money trail leads all the way to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The University of Missouri holds a patent involving embryonic stem-cell research and the Stowers Institute applied for at least one a year ago. If granted, the Stowers patent would require researchers to pay the institute each time they used its proprietary process to control stem-cell “self-renewal” and differentiation. The existence of the application raises a question: Is James Stowers’ motive altruistic or profit-seeking?
“Is there money to be made here? Absolutely,” said David Stevens, M.D., chief executive officer of the Christian Medical Society. Similar patents have been the subject of lawsuits because they “are actually stymieing embryonic stem-cell research since they require researchers to pay [patent holders] money to develop stem-cell lines.”
Meanwhile, in California, home to the ultra-liberal 9th Circuit Court and a legislature that leans so far left that it may soon fall off the coast, direct democracy may be pro-lifers’ only hope for protecting parents’ rights with respect to abortion. Pro-life activists for the second year in a row are taking the question of parental notification directly to voters.
Proposition 85, the Parents Right to Know initiative, is patterned closely after Prop 73, a 2005 initiative that fell to defeat in the special election Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called last November. The new measure would require doctors to notify a parent 48 hours before performing an abortion on a minor. It is up by 6 percentage points, according to a Sept. 18 Datamar poll.
“We are so much better organized” than in 2005, said San Diego Reader editor Jim Holman, Prop 85’s major financial backer. “Many [voters] seem to have been woken up by the Prop 73 defeat.”
But electoral abortion activism this year cuts both ways. In South Dakota, pro-abortion groups are attempting to invalidate a law passed in March by a bipartisan-but-conservative contingent of the state’s legislature. The law bans all abortions except those required to save the life of the mother. A coalition of national and out-of-state groups, including Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and Wisconsin-based Women’s Medical Fund, banded together to put the law before the people for a vote.
“Planned Parenthood for the first time is more afraid of the courts than they are of the people,” said Leslee Unruh, campaign coordinator for VoteYesForLife.com, a group that supports the state’s ban. A recent Zogby poll shows the measure’s passage too close to call. A majority “no” vote will overturn the ban; a “yes” vote will preserve it.
In South Dakota, pro-abortion activists are better funded than pro-lifers. That’s also the case in Virginia, where conservatives are trying to pass a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage. “We have a formidable opponent and expect to be outspent by as much as 10-to-1 by Election Day,” said Nick Timpe, state director for Students-4-Marriage, an affiliate of VA4Marriage, the amendment’s main sponsor. But Timpe, 20, a junior at Patrick Henry College, said the success of similar initiatives across the country seems to be creating in Virginia a measure of apathy born of overconfidence.
Forty-five states have either a law or a state constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. In June, 80 percent of Alabama voters passed an amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Though Virginia’s Question 1 is now leading, traditional marriage supporters remain concerned. “With other states passing traditional marriage laws by large margins, a lot of conservatives here aren’t getting as involved as we had hoped,” Timpe said. “I don’t think they realize how energetic the opposition is.”
-with reporting by Kristin Chapman
Copyright ©2006 WORLD Magazine, October 14th, 2006 issue. Reprinted here October 10th with permission from World Magazine. Visit the website at www.WorldMag.com.
DIRECT DEMOCRACY SCORECARD
Arizona’s Proposition 103 would amend the state constitution and make English the official language.
Arizona’s Proposition 300, Public Program Eligibility, would extend 2004’s Proposition 200 ban on welfare services for illegal immigrants. Subsidized child care, adult education programs, and in-state college tuition would also become off-limits for illegal immigrants.
Ballot measures in 12 states from California to Georgia will determine whether to limit the local government’s ability to seize private property for private redevelopment, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision, which arguably broadened the definition of “public use” in government land grabs. Several of the state measures, including Washington’s Initiative 933, also require just compensation if private property value is diminished as a result of government regulations.
California’s Proposition 85 and Oregon’s Measure 43 would require that a parent or legal guardian be notified 48 hours before a minor can get an abortion. Exceptions include a court order, and in California, a medical emergency or parental waiver.
South Dakota’s Referred Law 6 will decide the future of the landmark HB 1215, which would institute a state-wide ban on abortion except to save the life of the mother. Rape victims, however, would be allowed to take the morning-after pill.
Ballot measures in eight states will ask voters whether to amend their constitutions to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby banning same-sex marriages.
The Colorado Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act, Referendum I, would give same-sex domestic partnerships the benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted to heterosexual couples.
Arizona’s Proposition 200, the AZ Voter Reward Act, would try to encourage voter turnout by establishing a lottery that would reward one voter every two years with $1 million.
Arkansas’ Amendment 1 would allow nonprofit organizations to offer bingo games or raffles as long as the organization has been in existence for five years and the proceeds are used for charitable, religious, or philanthropic purposes.
Ohio’s Issue 3 would allow slot machines at seven horse racetracks and two casinos. Dubbed Learn and Earn, it would use 30 percent of the money raised to create college scholarships.
South Dakota’s Measure 7 would eliminate state-operated video lottery, which generated more than $100 million last year for the state’s general fund and has existed in South Dakota for 17 years. The past three times the issue was on the ballot, voters opted to keep video lottery.
Michigan’s Proposal B, the Civil Rights Initiative, would amend the constitution to ban affirmative-action programs that give preferential treatment based on race or gender for public employment, education, or contracting purposes.
Missouri’s Amendment 2 would guarantee that any federally allowed stem-cell researchâ€”including on human embryosâ€”can occur in Missouri.
Virginia’s Question 2 would amend the constitution to delete a provision prohibiting the incorporation of churches. The provision was earlier found to be unconstitutional.
Wisconsin’s Question 2 will ask voters whether they want the death penalty reinstated for first-degree intentional homicide cases with supporting DNA evidence. The death penalty was abolished in the state more than 150 years ago.
NOTE TO STUDENTS: There is a lot of information here. Don’t get discouraged. If you understand/remember half of what you read, you will be far ahead of most adults. It is our privilege as Americans to vote our leaders into office, and to have a say about the laws of our land. Take your time with the material here, and try to gain an overall understanding of the ballot measure process. The BACKGROUND below the questions has been provided to give you more of an understanding of the material.
1. a) Who is John Andrews?
b) What is he using the ballot measure process in Colorado to do?
c) What motivated Mr. Andrews to use the ballot measure process?
2. a) How many states allow citizens to exercise “direct democracy” in one or more forms?
b) What type of direct democracy does your state allow? (To find out what type of direct democracy your state allows, go to the Initiative & Referendum Institute website at IandRInstitute.org.)
c) How many (if any) ballot measures, initiatives or proposals are on your state’s ballot in the upcoming election? (To learn about ballot measures that might appear on upcoming statewide ballots select your state from the map at IandRInstitute.org (scroll down for the map). You will be transferred to your state’s web page – once there click on the button that says “Election Division” for the most up-to-date election information available.)
3. a) How many measures are up for a vote througout the U.S. this November?
b) List the issues mentioned in the article that will be voted on through the direct democracy process in this year’s elections.
c) Lynn Vincent (the reporter who wrote this article) says that the number of measures up for a vote “is a direct indicator of voter dissatisfaction with legislatures and the courts.” Do you agree? Explain your answer.
4. For what issue are Arizona voters using the initiative process this November?
5. Define eminent domain. How many states will be voting on the issue of eminent domain in the November elections? Why is this so?
6. Mr. Andrews points out a drawback of direct democracy in Paragraph 8. An example of this is described in para. 9-14. Do you think that in this case direct democracy will help or hurt the interests of the people in the state of Missouri? Explain your answer.
7. Re-read para. 15-17. Do you feel the same way about the attempt by pro-lifers in California to get Proposition 85 passed as you do about your answer to question #6? Explain.
8. What concern does Virginia college student Nick Timpe of Students-4-Marriage (an affiliate of VA4Marriage) have about the issue of traditional marriage? Do you agree with his concern? Explain your answer.
9. Discuss this article, as well as the questions and your answers with one or both parents or adult relatives. Ask if they know much about the “direct democracy” process and how important they think it is for voters to be aware of this process. (Refer to the Initiative & Referendum Institute website for the “direct democracy” information pertaining to your state.)
In the United States, the term “referendum” typically refers to a popular vote to overturn legislation already passed at the state or local levels (mainly in the western United States). By contrast, “initiatives” refers to newly drafted legislation submitted directly to a popular vote as an alternative to adoption by a legislature.
Collectively, referendums and initiatives in the United States are commonly referred to as ballot measures, initiatives or propositions. (wikipedia.org)
Read an explanation of “direct democracy” at Wikipedia.org.