Supremes Have One Week to Decide on Ballot Proposals
On Thursday, the Supreme Court took simultaneous testimony on the questions of whether four different ballot proposals met the legal requirements to appear on the November general election ballot. The proposals in question would guarantee collective bargaining rights; create eight new private casinos; establish a two-third threshold for legislative tax increase votes; and require a public vote for an international bridge crossings. At issue in all four cases was: Did the petitions for these four proposals list enough information about the different sections of law they would change? The deadline for finalizing the November ballot is Friday, September 7, giving the Justices just one week to make a decision in the case.
Though it may seem a semantic argument, the central question in Thursday’s hearing was the definition of abrogate. A ballot initiative must list all sections of the constitution that it would "alter or abrogate" if it passed. However, if a section of the constitution is not rewritten and is not completely eliminated, does it need to be included on the petition?
Lawyers arguing against the proposals asserted a broader definition of abrogate that included any change in the meaning of a provision without changing the language. Supporters argued a much narrower interpretation, asserting that to abrogate meant to repeal or render a section of the constitution wholly inoperable.
Each of the four proposals before the court would have a partial impact on a section of the state constitution that was not included in the petition language. In the case of the collective bargaining proposal, it is question of the impact the change would have on the legislature and the Civil Service Commission's role in determining hours and working conditions appeared central in deciding which language needed to be included on that proposal.