HELENA — With the June 20 deadline to submit signatures fast approaching, only a group backing an initiative by Charter Communications to reverse a Montana Supreme Court decision and lower its property taxes is confident it will qualify for the November ballot.
“We feel like we’re in really good shape,” said Chuck Denowh, spokesman for Big Sky Broadband Coalition for Lower Taxes, with supports Initiative 172. “We qualified to circulate signatures about six weeks prior to the deadline. It was a fairly short time frame. We’ll have people in the field through the deadline next week, and I think we’ll have enough signatures.”
Supporters of other proposals weren’t certain of their chances of obtaining enough signatures to place their measures on the November ballot. Backers of initiatives that would ban marijuana in the state and outlaw trapping in some instances are still hopeful but not certain whether they will qualify.
Several others have abandoned efforts this year.
To qualify a statutory initative for the ballot, backers must obtain the signatures of 24,175 registered Montana voters, including 5 percent of the voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts.
Steve Zabawa, who is part of a group called SafeMontana, said he isn’t sure about the chances of qualifying Initiative 174, which would make marijuana illegal in Montana, including medical marijuana, which is now legal.
“I can’t honestly tell you,” Zabawa said. “It’s too early to tell. We’re cautiously optimistic. It’s a big deal to get to the 24,000 signatures in less than three weeks. We’ve got a lot of people hitting it hard.”
K.C. York is spokeswoman for a group behind Initiative 169, which would ban trapping of fur-bearing animals, game animals, game birds, upland game birds, large predatory animals and certain nongame wildlife on public lands with some limited exemptions.
“We have over 300 signature gatherers,” York said. “It’s hard to tell yet. I wish I could say we had another three months…. The support is phenomenal. We don’t know, but we’re giving it our all.”
Here’s a summary of what’s happening with some other proposed initiatives:
--Initiative 168, which would require reporting and disclosure by all persons and entities engaging in political activity — the “ban dark money” initiative.
Sandy Welch, an organizer for I-168, said she doubts it will make the ballot.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of people interested in funding an organization to get our signatures,” she said. “There are a lot of people who typically fund political activities who don’t want to stop dark money.”
Welch said supporters of I-168 are satisfied that it helped lead to greater awareness this year of the use of “dark money” in politics. She also said its supporters aren’t going to give up on the issue, and may try to advance campaign finance bills at the 2015 Legislature.
--Initiative 167, which would prohibit trapping of certain animals by private individuals on any public lands within the state of Montana.
Timothy Provow said supporters decided to drop the effort this year and offer it in 2016.
--Initiative 173, which would require holding a special election to fill a vacancy for U.S. Senate, rather than having the governor make the appointment.
James Brown, a Helena attorney who wrote the measure, said he got a late start on it and won’t be able to get enough signatures to place it on the 2014 ballot. However, he said he expects to idea to be introduced at the 2015 Legislature, and if that fails, he’ll have it ready as an initiative that could qualify for the 2016 ballot.