The Daily Brew: State legislatures considering 123 proposals governing ballot measures

Welcome to the Friday, Feb. 26, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Here’s a look at this year’s proposed legislation regarding ballot measures
  2. Supreme Court accepts first five cases to be heard during 2021-2022 term
  3. Friday trivia: What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year?

Here’s a look at this year’s proposed legislation regarding ballot measures

At Ballotpedia, we focus a lot of attention on ballot measures to help voters have a clear understanding of what they’re voting on. How a measure gets on the ballot and who put it there are essential to that understanding, which is why we also track proposed legislation governing ballot measures. As of Feb. 25, Ballotpedia is tracking 123 legislative proposals regarding ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 state legislatures this year.

Here are five highlights about these legislative proposals:

  • Six states—Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota—are considering laws to enact or increase supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures. Legislators have proposed approval requirements of 60% and 66.67%. Some of these legislative proposals would apply only to certain types of measures, and some would apply to measures on specific topics, like tax increases or funding levels.
  • Legislators in Idaho and Missouri have introduced legislation that would increase initiative and referendum signature requirements or signature distribution requirements.
  • Lawmakers in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota have proposed bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives.
  • In eight states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee—legislators introduced measures that would establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes. Those eight states are all among the 24 states that don’t currently have a process allowing citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures.
  • Seven states are considering bills to change the rules for drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, or voter guide language.

Many changes—including most proposals to change signature requirements, add or change supermajority requirements, or establish a statewide process for initiative or referendum—are constitutional amendments. That means voters would have to approve the changes if the legislature adopts them.

As I was putting this story together, I asked our Ballot Measures editor, Josh Altic, for his take. Here’s what he said: “There was a ballot initiative resurgence in 2016. It seemed to trigger a renewed interest in the initiative process among state legislators as well. I’ve noticed the following trend: noteworthy or contentious measures may appear on the ballot—mostly in even-numbered years—and in the following legislative session, lawmakers will consider changes to the process in their states. More often than not, the legislative proposals add restrictions or tighten requirements, and legislators seem more likely to pass these changes in states where voters approved a notable ballot initiative in the last one or two cycles.”

In 2020, Ballotpedia tracked 164 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 33 states, with nine state legislatures approving 17 proposals. In 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 229 legislative proposals in 34 states. Sixteen state legislatures approved 38 of these proposals.

The chart below displays the number of legislative proposals relating to ballot measures and recalls by year. The number of legislative proposals in 2021 is not final as more bills may still be filed in current legislative sessions. 

Read on

Supreme Court accepts first five cases to be heard during 2021-2022 term 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Feb. 22 it had granted review in five cases for its upcoming 2021-2022 term. These cases are the first ones that the Court has accepted for its next term, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, 2021.

The Court has not yet determined the specific dates on which it will hear oral argument in these cases: 

  • American Medical Association v. Cochran, which was consolidated with Oregon v. Cochran and Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, concerns Trump administration regulations under Title X of the Public Health Services Act. These three cases have been combined, and a total of one hour will be allotted for oral argument.
  • Department of Homeland Security v. New York concerns the public charge rule of the Immigration and Nationality Act that details how federal agencies determine the inadmissibility of immigrants likely to become public charges.
  • Wooden v. United States concerns search and seizure protections under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and how predicate offenses are considered and classified under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). A predicate offense is a crime that may be or may be considered a component of a larger crime. 

In its current term, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear 63 cases. It is scheduled to hear three hours of oral argument next week and seven hours of oral argument from March 22 to 31. The Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments for 17 cases this term. Since April 13, 2020, the Court has heard oral arguments via teleconference and provided live audio of oral arguments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Read on 

Friday trivia: What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year?

Voters decided elections for 5,875 state legislators in 44 states last year. In more than a majority of those races, voters re-elected the incumbent senator or representative in their district.

There are three core reasons that keep an incumbent from being re-elected. 

  • Retiring, running for another office, or otherwise not seeking re-election
  • Losing a primary
  • Losing a general election 

Today’s trivia question asks, What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year? 

  1. 67%
  2. 78%
  3. 85%
  4. 91%

Yesterday, I hosted a briefing with our own Doug Kronaizl that analyzed turnover among incumbents in 2020’s state legislative elections and how last year’s figures compared to other even-numbered years this decade. If you didn’t catch it, or just want to watch it again, click here or on the link below to view the recording of that briefing.

Watch 




About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.