connect, grow & thrive.

The upcoming referendum topics

On September 24, the people of Lucerne have a no less then 7 issues to vote on in the upcoming referendum.

  • On a national level there are 3 initiatives being voted on.

Bundesbeschluss über die Ernährungssicherheit

The Swiss farming union put forward an initiative in 2014 asking for better control of edible goods and the better promotion of local products. The government applauded the idea but thought that the initiative was too vague, in particular as to what the farmers were expecting the government to do; so they refused the initiative and have now created their own counter-proposal.

This proposal is a comprehensive plan to make sure that consumers are protected from the moment food is grown/produced through to what lands on to their plates. The supply should be both national and imported goods. The government is asking people to vote in favour of their proposal to make sure that the supply chain remains sustainable and of good quality.


Zusatsfinanzierung der AHV durch eine Erhöhung der Mehrwertsteuer & Bundesgesetzt über die Reform der Altersvorsorge 2020.

The old age pension fund is Switzerland’s biggest social institution. Its financial stability is in danger as people live longer. The planned reform in 2020 is aimed at making sure the pension fund remains secure and that the pension scheme is relevant in today’s society. Under this planned reform women will now be required to work until the age of 65 as of 2018 ensuring that men and women both work the same amount of time. The VAT will be hiked from 8% up to  8.3% as of 2021 (this could go up to 8.6% max if the pension fund should be in the red). Regarding the second pillar the minimum conversion rate for pension funds will be reduced from 6.8% to 6% meaning a loss of revenue but this will be compensated bythe retirement credit contribution being upped by 1% for certain segements of the population.

This reform is also aimed to help people who only work part time or do not earn a lot. it also allows people to take advantage of their pension from the age of 62 or work until 70 if they so chose to.

Those against are arguing that this reform doesn’t address any current pensioner issues, that women should not have to work a year longer, and that none of these reforms will improve any future pensioners financial situation.

The government says that this reform is necessary for the sustainable of the pension system. It has spent 5 years working on it and feels that it is both fair and guaranteeing that there will still be a financial sound pension system in the future.

They are asking people to vote twice yes on this issue.


  • On a cantonal level there is one motion entitled:

Ein Fremdsprache auf der Primarschule

This initiative calls for only one foreign language to be taught in primary school and the second one only in secondary school. The argument is that, currently, none of the languages are being taught properly and that, by pushing two foreign languages, the teaching of German is suffering and boys and foreign children, in particular, are having a harder time at school. The aim would still remain that by the 9th year of obligatory school, children should be able to speak 3 languages. Whether the language being taught should be English or another national language is up to each canton to decide. Currently 14 cantons offer English as the first foreign language and 12 cantons another national language.

The canton is arguing that this initiative would cost millions does not fit in the Lehrplan 21 programme and the arguments that teachers or students can’t cope are grossly exaggerated. The initiative was originally rejected in parliament by 72 to 42 votes. The canton is asking people to vote against this initiative.


  • The city of Lucerne has 4 topics.

Lebendiges Inseli statt Blechlawine.

The first one is an initiative to change the Inseli coach area into a new green zone. The town council is suggesting moving the 26 parking spots for coaches and turning this whole area into a green zone. Those against the initiative are arguing that there are not a lot of parking spots and that the much beloved Chilbi would need a new home, this fear has been refuted by the city. The renovation would cost CHF 600 000.- With the usual Swiss long term planning timetable should the vote be put through, the project would only see the day in 2023.


Zweckverband Grosse Kultur-betriebe Kanton Luzern: Baurechtsvertrag und Subvention Verkehrshaus.

The Association for culture finances 6 of the biggest cultural institutions of the canton: the Lucerne Theater, the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival, the Art Museum, the Swiss Museum of Transport and, as of 2018, the Rosengart collection. The canton and the city share the costs. This initiative is to give the Swiss Museum of Transport money from the state as well. The whole town council and parliament are asking citizen to vote in favour of this initiative.


Erweiterung Cheerstrasse

In 2010 Littau merged with the city of Lucerne and the Cheerstrasse (formerly Bahnofstrasse) is in much need of refurbishing. Although the refurbishment budget was originally agreed on in 2009 to the tune of 13,843 million francs, there is a need for an extra 8, 949 million francs to adapt the project to today’s costs as well as the need to make more refurbishments. This project is dividing the various parties with some arguing the project is getting bigger than what was originally agreed on, others are arguing that this street is only a side street now and therefore does not need such a huge investment, so the city is turning to its citizens to make the call on whether they should go ahead with the extra cost or not.


Reglement über die Abgabe von stadteigenen Grundstücken.

Last year there was an initiative to prevent the city from selling its own plot of lands and only hand them over on leases, or if a plot be sold then another of similar size should be acquired and any money earned go into a fund to improve the life quality of Lucerne. The city agreed with most of the points, except the part about buying a similar piece of land (as they feel this is too hard to put into practice). They put forward a counter proposal without the clause to buy land of equal size to parliament. The motion lost in parliament by 2 votes, and so it is being put to the public for voting. Do not be confused you are being asked to vote in favour of the city’s plan of embracing a more sustainable selling off land philosophy not the initial project.

Another day seeing direct democracy at work. We will be sharing the results with you as soon as we can.

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Living in Luzern organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.