HELENA — Only two of Montana’s proposed ballot measures appear to have qualified for the November ballot, while the fate of several others was up in the air as the signature-gathering deadline ended Friday.
Montanans won’t know for sure until after county election administrators have verified the signatures and the local totals for each initiative and turned them into to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office. That deadline is July 16.
Backers of Initiative 164 and Constitutional 105 said in separate interviews that they are confident they have obtained enough signatures to make the fall ballot.
I-164 would cap at 36 percent the annual interest fees and charges that “payday,” title and retail installment lenders may charge in loans. It needed the signatures of at least 5 percent of the registered voters, or 24,377 signatures, including 5 percent of the voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts.
“We exceeded our goals, and we definitely set our goals to exceed the requirements,” said Matt Leow of Missoula, who organized the signature-gathering effort for I-164. “We should qualify.”
Backers include AARP Montana, Montana Catholic Council, Montana Community Foundation, Montana Women Vote and SEIU Health Care Local 775.
CI-105 would amend the Montana Constitution to forbid state and local governments from imposing any taxes on real estate sales, purchases and trades. To qualify, it needs the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters, 48,674 signatures, including 10 percent of the voters in 40 of the state House districts.
“We’re feeling really confident,” said Chuck Denowh of Helena, who organized the signature gathering effort. “We don’t have a count. It came so fast and furious. We have every confidence that it’s going to qualify.”
The Montana Association of Realtors is the main group pushing the measure, which also enjoys the backing of a number of other organizations, including the Montana Stockgrowers, Bankers, Contractors and Taxpayers associations.
Supporter of some other initiative efforts say they may have a chance of getting enough signature to qualify them for the ballot, but they don’t know yet if they made it. Among those in this “maybe, maybe not” category are:
n Initiative 160, which would prohibit recreational and commercial trapping of wild mammals and birds in public lands in Montana.
Connie Poten of Missoula, a volunteer for Montanans for Trap-Free Public Lands, said Friday that she didn’t know if the group had secured enough signatures. Supporters were still gathering signatures on Friday.
“I think we’re right on the edge,” she said. “If we didn’t make it, it’s just practice because we’ll be doing it again.”
• Initiative 161, which would abolish outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game and deer combination licenses.
“We’re still out gathering signatures,” said the measure’s author, Kurt Kephart of Billings. “We’re being positive and think we’ve got a good chance. It’s coming down to the wire.”
• Constitutional Initiative 102, which would amend the constitution to define “person” to include every human being from the beginning of a human being’s biological development, effectively outlawing abortion.
Ann Bukacek, a Kalispell physician, said she’s hopeful that the Montana ProLife Coalition volunteers have obtained enough signatures but wasn’t certain.
“It’s pretty hard to tell,” Bukacek said. “If we don’t get it this time, we’ll for sure get it next time around.”
• Initiative 165, which would repeal the voter-passed 2006 law to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state.
“I don’t know,” said Cherrie Brady of Billings, one of the leaders of Safe Community Safe Kids. “I think we have a good chance.”
The group launched an eleventh-hour initiative effort and has been able to gather signatures only since June 12. Because it asked people to download petitions from its website, backers have no real way of knowing how many people have done so. Still, Brady said she’s “totally amazed” at the level of support.
Other initiative efforts have failed for a lack of signatures, a decision by sponsors to drop the idea or what appears to be inactivity. These include:
• Constitutional Initiative 103, which would redirect $11 million a year in oil and gas revenues to a trust fund to provide services for elderly Montanans.
“We won’t make it,” said Pat Ludwig of Chester, representing the Montana Silver Haired Legislature. “We can’t withdraw it. We’ll propose legislation instead.”
• Constitutional Initiative 104, sponsored by Frank Kucera of Darby, which would amend the constitution to allow lawyers in criminal cases to inform the jury that it might disregard the judge’s legal instructions and determine the law as well as the facts.
Kucera said backers started too late on the effort.
“We’ll get it next time, or, depending on the election, we’ll try to get one of the legislators to sponsor it,” he said.
• Constitutional Initiative 106, by Duane Sipe of Stevensville, which would amend the constitution to allow citizens to summon a grand jury to investigate and prosecute any crime.
Sipe could not be reached for comment, but people supporting other ballot measures said they didn’t run across CI-106 supporters gathering signatures. He could not be reached for comment.