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Published on Friday, January 23, 2015

Can voters get better information on the fiscal impacts of initiatives and referenda?

Following last fall’s close vote passing I-1351 (K-12 Class size), bi-partisan groups of legislators have begun to file a series of bills aimed at helping voters connect the dots between what they might like as ideas and how to pay for them. Under current law, after citizen initiatives or referenda are filed, there’s a specified amount of time for signatures to be collected to qualify for statewide consideration at the polls. The Office of Financial Management (OFM) must prepare a fiscal analysis of the impacts on state or local governments and that information is summarized in the voter pamphlet for measures that qualify.

Three bills with different approaches are up for hearing next week in the House State Government Committee. Both HB 1228 and HB 1229, scheduled for hearing on January 27, would expand requirements for information needed about fiscal impacts. On January 28, HB 1364 is being heard. That proposal creates a citizens’ initiative review oversight committee that, at a minimum, must consider the fiscal impact of up to two measures, the availability of funds to conduct the review, the significance of other impacts on the public, and other criteria established by the committee. This approach is modeled on a similar process in Oregon.

Similar measures have begun to emerge in the Senate. SB 5535 and a proposed Constitutional Amendment SJR 8201 have yet to be scheduled for hearing.

AWC has weighed in on initiative reform legislation in the past. The current AWC Statement of Policy (last reviewed and adopted at our Annual Meeting in June 2014) includes the following guidance staff will use in evaluating these emerging ideas: “Objective review of the impact of statewide ballot measures and initiatives on local governments, both before and after passage of such measures.”

For those interested, read this article from the Union Bulletin, Initiatives should include funding method. Stay tuned as this unfolds.

Categories: General government