Controversial Measures Fail to Make Ballot

By Beacon Staff

Two proposed constitutional initiatives launched in Northwest Montana failed to receive enough signatures by the state’s June 20 deadline to qualify for the ballot.

John McMenamin of Kalispell sponsored CI-99, which sought to limit increases in property taxes by allowing the state to appraise the value of a home only when it was sold, a reappraisal system known as “acquisition-value.” The second initiative, CI-100, was sponsored by Ronan Rep. Rick Jore, of the Constitution Party, and would have amended the state Constitution to define a person as “a human being at all stages of human development or life, including the state of fertilization.” The language change would have effectively forced the Legislature to outlaw abortion and give the unborn due process rights.

Opponents of Jore’s measure said it gathered only 21,280 signatures of registered voters, according to their research, coming up well short of the 44,615 necessary to make the ballot. Any proposed initiative must also gather at least 10 percent of the vote in at least 40 of Montana’s 100 house districts.

Opponents of CI-100 said it would undermine medical decision-making for pregnant women and infringe on their privacy. According to a statement by a coalition opposing Jore’s measure, 300 volunteers at 160 polling locations across the state campaigned against CI-100 on the day of Montana’s June 3 primary election.

“This victory proves what we’ve said all along: Montanans value the right to make private medical decisions and do not want politicians making those decisions for them,” said Allyson Hagen, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana.

Reached last week, Jore said he hoped a lawmaker would introduce a bill similar to his initiative in the 2009 Legislature, since he is not running for re-election.

“If the Legislature doesn’t act, I suspect we’ll make an effort again in two years,” Jore said.

McMenamin’s tax initiative, CI-99, also came up more than 20,000 signatures short, according to a June 20 e-mail he sent to supporters. Under CI-99, property tax increases would have been limited to no more than 1.5 percent a year, and homes could only be reappraised when sold, instead of every seven years. While gathering thousands of signatures with no operating budget or advertising was a big achievement, the measure failed to gain any traction in eastern Montana or gain signatures in the required number of districts, McMenamin wrote.

While opposition to CI-99 was not as sharp as Jore’s measure, critics said CI-99 also would have complicated local mill levies and set up inequitable areas where neighbors were paying different amount of taxes for the same government services. Lawmakers will take up property tax reappraisal in the next session, in what is usually a contentious issue.

“Should our state government fail to agree on some form of substantial property tax relief during the ’09 session (as promised), this measure can be resurrected,” McMenamin wrote. “It’s a small victory, just not the one we were hoping for.”

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