House Bill 548 — Initiatives and signature gathering

House Bill 548 — Initiatives and signature gathering

by
Lindsay Atkinson
February 26, 2020
Lindsay Atkinson
February 26, 2020

Bill description: HB 548 would increase transparency for statewide and local ballot initiatives.

Rating: +3

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability? 

HB 548 adds several elements of transparency to both statewide and local initiative processes. For one, this bill establishes the effective date of initiatives.

According to this bill, if a statewide initiative is approved by a popular vote, it would not take effect earlier than July 1 of the following year. Additionally, this bill would establish effective dates for city and county initiatives. It would specifically limit any local initiative from having an effective date earlier than the day which a mayor (for a city initiative) or the county commissioners (for a county initiative) certify the results of the initiative election, which usually occurs within 30 days after the election. If either a statewide or local initiative does not have an effective date written into the petition, the bill would establish July 1 of the year following the election as the effective date. 

Having this set delay for the effective date of an initiative is good because it gives both the government and civic-minded observers of the initiative the chance to study its potential effects. And it gives the government the chance to prepare for the effect the initiative will have, such as its fiscal impact.

(+1)

HB 548 also requires that every signature page on a petition has language informing those who sign it that they have the right to later request that their signature be removed. Specifically, they can either physically or electronically write to the county clerk requesting that their signature be removed from the signature count on the petition at any time before the relevant authorities finish verifying all the signatures on the petition. This provision makes it more transparent to the public that signers of a petition have the ability to go back on their initial support if they so choose.

(+1)

Additionally, this bill requires any individual or entity that pays more than $100 for people to collect signatures for an initiative petition to file a statement with the Secretary of State. The statement would list how much money they spent and how many signature gatherers they had. This sort of requirement is similar to campaign finance requirements that exist for elected officials who, as part of their campaign, have to identify  both the sources and uses of their campaign funds.

(+1)

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