Friday, June 20, 2008

Petition Law Perplexity

So, I've been trying to follow the petition procedure of the REJECT HB545 group, who want to prevent the Payday Lending reform law from going into effect. When I wrote about it earlier this week, I briefly mentioned that the wording of the petition needed to be fixed by yesterday, which I followed up with "(?!?)" to indicate that that certainly sounded strange, but that's what it looked like Siegel was saying in the Dispatch.

Well, AG Rogers rejected the summary language for the referendum, and there were no ringing headlines about the campaign being over, so I started trying to figure out what in the heck this Thursday deadline had been referring to.

As near as I can tell, it was referring to the final deadline in a process that involves turning in signatures to the SOS, who is tasked with confirming both that the full text of the law on the initial petitions matches the text signed by the Governor, and that the initial set of signatures are valid. The petitioners must then provide the AG a copy of the full text and summary text of the law that will be used during the referendum campaign, by the end of the first business day following the receipt of the signatures by the SOS. The AG then has ten days to review these documents, and certify that the summary is a fair and accurate representation of the full text. This appears to be the deadline that came up yesterday.

Other deadlines involved in the process include a 90-day-from-date-law-filed-with-SOS-by-Governor window in which opponents can collect signatures, which, if successfully collected and filed, will prevent the law from going into effect unless it is approved as a result of the next regular or general election that occurs more than 60 days after the petitions are filed. It has also been widely reported that the deadline for ballot access is 90 days prior to the election (with current proposals being debated that would increase that to 125 days). 90 days post-law-filing is Aug. 31, 90 days prior to election is Aug. 4, and the first general election more than 60 days after Aug. 31 is November 4.

So now, if the Payday Lending Community revises their summary language today, where in the process are they? Do they have to refile with SOS Brunner, even though she has certified the signatures and the full text already? If not, how long does AG Rogers have to renew the revised language? Is it the same ten days that she had to review the first version? If so, there would be no incentive for her to render a decision prior to June 30. At which point the Payday Lenders would have a short time to collect 241k signatures. How short of a time? Well, if they had the signatures ready to file in 35 days, they would beat the August 4 deadline, and there is absolutely no question that they would have their referendum on the November ballot (assuming that they had the valid number and distribution of signatures). If they were to take 62 days to collect the signatures, they would temporarily stop the law from going into effect by beating the Aug. 31 deadline. At that point, however, I'm utterly confused. The law would not go into effect unless approved by voters in the next general or regular election occurring at least 60 days from the filing. In this case, that would seem to be November 4. Because the Aug. 4 deadline will have already passed, however, the measure cannot actually appear on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election, and will obviously, therefore, not be approved in that election. Meaning the law will never go into effect??? Is it a complete coincidence that HB545 was passed during the 30 day window in which this limbo state is possible??

Any help is much appreciated.

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