The State and Local Tap: Louisiana voters approve one constitutional amendment and defeat three

Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights Louisiana’s ballot measure results and a Texas state representative’s party switch from Democratic to Republican. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

We won’t publish the Tap next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Our next edition will be on Dec. 4.

Louisiana voters approve one constitutional amendment and defeat three

On Nov. 13, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2, which decreased the maximum allowable individual income tax rate from 6% to 4.75% for tax years beginning in 2022. Through House Bill 278, the legislature provided in statute that the tax bracket rates beginning in 2022 for an individual would be 1.75% on the first $12,500 of net income; 3.50% on the next net income up to $50,000; and 4.25% on income above $50,000.

Voters rejected Amendments 1, 3, and 4. Amendment 1 would have created the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission tasked to provide streamlined electronic filing and remittance of all sales and use taxes. Amendment 3 would have allowed Louisiana levee districts created after 2006 to levy an annual property tax of up to five mills ($5 per $1,000 of assessed value) without voter approval if those districts approved the 2021 constitutional amendment. Amendment 4 would have increased the amount of funds (from 5% to 10%) that could be redirected to a purpose other than what was originally provided for by law or as stated in the constitution during a projected budget deficit.

With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote totals were as follows:

Louisiana Amendment 1, Creation of the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission Measure (2021)

  • Yes: 199,291 (48%)
  • No: 214,432 (52%)

Louisiana Amendment 2, Reduction of the Maximum Individual Income Tax Rate Measure (2021)

  • Yes: 223,269 (54%)
  • No: 189,973 (46%)

Louisiana Amendment 3, Authorize Certain Levee Districts to Collect a Five-Mill Annual Property Tax Measure (2021)

  • Yes: 172,545 (42%)
  • No: 237,605 (58%)

Louisiana Amendment 4, Increase Limit on Funding Reductions and Redirections During Budget Deficits Measure (2021)

  • Yes: 112,930 (28%)
  • No: 294,375 (72%)

The Louisiana Constitution limits legislation and constitutional amendments in odd-numbered years to matters concerning the state’s budget, government finance, and taxation.

A total of 52 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana during odd-numbered years from 1999 through 2019. Of the 52 amendments, 36 (69.23%) were approved and 16 (30.77%) were defeated.

Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen switches to Republican Party

On Nov. 15, Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen (R) announced that he was leaving the Democratic party. “After much thought and much prayer with my family, today I am announcing that I’ll proudly be running as a Republican to represent house district 31,” Guillen said in a press conference held with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R).

Guillen most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Marian Knowlton (R) 58.4% to 41.6%.

He first assumed office in 2003, when he ran in the general election unopposed. 

As of November 2021, Ballotpedia has counted 146 state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Ballotpedia has counted 39 state senators who have switched parties and 107 state representatives. Fifty-three state representatives have switched parties from Democrat to Republican, and 75 state lawmakers have switched parties in total. 

Party control of mayor’s office in Columbia, South Carolina, flips from Democratic to Republican in runoff

Daniel Rickenmann defeated Tameika Isaac Devine in the runoff election for mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, on Nov. 16. Rickenmann received 52% of the vote to Devine’s 48%. Both Rickenmann and Devine are members of the Columbia City Council.

While mayoral elections in Columbia are nonpartisan, Rickenmann is affiliated with the Republican Party. Incumbent Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin, a Democrat, did not run for re-election. Benjamin endorsed Devine, also a Democrat, in the runoff.

Fifteen state capitals held mayoral elections in 2021. Before these elections, 14 officeholders were Democrats and one was nonpartisan. As a result of the 2021 elections, 12 mayoral offices will remain under Democratic control (Atlanta, Georgia, will hold a runoff election between two Democrats on Nov. 30). The election in Columbia flips one office from Democratic to Republican control. One office continues to be held by a nonpartisan mayor, and one newly-elected mayor has not responded to inquiries.

Four states enact legislative maps; authority over redistricting in Washington passes to state supreme court

Colorado: The Colorado Supreme Court approved the state’s legislative maps on Nov. 15. The new district boundaries had been approved by the Colorado Independent Legislative Commission in October. The state supreme court previously approved the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission’s congressional map on Nov. 1.

Colorado Politics’ Evan Wyloge observed that the new maps created nine House and eight Senate districts where previous election results fell within a five percentage point margin of victory. At the time of approval, Democrats held a 42-23 majority in the House and a 20-15 majority in the Senate.

This is the first redistricting cycle following the passage of Amendment Z by voters in 2018, which established a non-politician commission to handle state legislative redistricting. Under Colorado’s redistricting rules, once the commission approves its final versions, those maps are then sent to the state supreme court for approval. The plans redraw the state’s 35 Senate districts and 65 House districts and will take effect for the state’s 2022 state legislative elections. 

Nevada: Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed the state’s new congressional and legislative maps into law on Nov. 16, which will take effect during the 2022 election cycle.

The Nevada Senate approved the redistricting plans by a 12-9 vote on Nov. 14 followed by the state Assembly voting 25-17 on Nov. 16. The maps were passed largely along party lines, with Democrats voting to approve and Republicans voting against.

After signing the maps, Sisolak said, “After a thoughtful, efficient and productive session, I am proud to sign these bills into law today. These maps reflect Nevada’s diversity and reflect public feedback gathered throughout the legislative process.” State Assm. Melissa Hardy (R) criticized the maps, saying, “A process that affects every person living in the state … deserves to be thoroughly vetted and questioned by this body as a whole. Instead, there are a lack of answers to questions posed, an inability to ask questions of those who have the answers, and an overall lack of transparency throughout.”

Utah: Governor Spencer Cox (R) signed new state legislative districts for both chambers into law on Nov. 16. The state legislature had approved the House and Senate district maps on Nov. 10.

Both proposals differed from those presented to the legislature by Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Nov. 1. The commission presented 12 maps (three each for House, Senate, congressional, and school board districts) to the Legislative Redistricting Committee. Utah previously enacted its new congressional district map on Nov. 12.

Senator Scott Sandall (R), who along with Rep. Paul Ray (R) co-chaired the Legislative Redistricting Committee, said the new maps were drawn with citizens’ interests in mind. “After listening to Utahns and touring the state, Rep. Ray and I created maps that we believe incorporate the interests of all Utahns,” Sandall said. Summit County Democratic Party Chair Katy Owens said, “We would love to be able to have the opportunity to elect the representatives that we want but these maps have been deliberately drawn to prevent that.”

Connecticut: On Nov. 18, the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission voted 8-0 in favor of new maps for the state’s 151 House districts. The commission, made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, took over the redistricting process after the previous Reapportionment Committee failed to meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Census data was not delivered to the state until Sept. 16. Unlike the committee, the commission’s maps do not need to win two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, meaning the commission enacts its maps outright. Senate district maps have not yet been released.

Initial analyses indicated that no incumbent legislators seeking re-election were drawn out of their current districts. Commissioner and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R) said, “I think overall, we made a lot of difficult decisions trying to keep a lot of the core districts in tact, but recognizing the fact that with population changes so do come changes to various districts.”

The Connecticut House is the second-largest legislative chamber to have completed its redistricting process following the 2020 census, behind only Massachusetts’ 160-seat House.

Nationwide, 21 states have adopted legislative district maps for at least one chamber, and legislative redistricting has been completed for 687 of 1,972 state Senate seats (34.8%) and 1,931 of 5,411 state House seats (35.7%).

Washington: On Nov. 16, the Washington Redistricting Commission announced that it did not produce new congressional and legislative redistricting plans by its Nov. 15 deadline. According to state law, the authority to draw new maps now rests with the Washington Supreme Court, which has until April 30, 2022, to produce new maps. Although past the deadline, the commission ultimately agreed upon map plans on Nov. 16 and submitted them to the state supreme court for consideration.

In Washington, congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by a five-member non-politician commission that was established by a constitutional amendment in 1983. The majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and House each appoint one registered voter to the commission. These four commissioners then appoint a fifth, non-voting member to serve as chair.

After the 2010 census, the commission agreed upon new congressional and legislative district plans on Jan. 1, 2012, which was the deadline for them to approve maps before authority over redistricting would have passed to the state supreme court. 

Fifteen states move to authorize booster shots for all adults ahead of federal guidance 

Since Nov. 9, 15 states have moved to make COVID-19 booster shots available to adults age 18 and older, preempting official authorization from the federal government. On Nov. 19, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of Moderna’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines. As of Nov. 19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky had not yet signed off on booster shots, though a decision was expected over the weekend. California was the first state to open up booster shots to all adult residents, followed by Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas.

Generally, governors or health officials in states allowing all adults to get a COVID-19 booster have said that booster shots are reserved for those who got their last Moderna or Pfizer shot more than six months ago or their last Johnson & Johnson shot more than two months ago. 

The federal government authorized Pfizer booster shots on Sept. 22 and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots on Oct. 21. In both cases, however, boosters were reserved for adults 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions or jobs that would make them more vulnerable to catching the virus. 

The states that expanded booster shot eligibility without federal approval are California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Utah. 

Ballot Measures Update

Nov. 13 review

Voters in Louisiana approved one constitutional amendment and defeated three on Nov. 13.

2021 review

As of Nov. 13, voters in nine states decided 39 statewide ballot measures on four different election dates. Twenty-six were approved and 13 were defeated. Four of the measures were citizen initiatives, three were advisory questions about taxes in Washington, eight were bond issues, one was a legislatively referred statute, and the remaining 23 were legislatively referred constitutional amendments.

2022 ballot measures

Sixty-two statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 30 states so far. No new measures were certified for the ballot last week.

Local Ballot Measures: The Week in Review

In 2021, Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage of elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population and all state capitals. This encompasses every office on the ballot in these cities, including their municipal elections, trial court elections, school board elections, and local ballot measures. Ballotpedia also covers all local recall elections, as well as all local ballot measures in California and a selection of notable local ballot measures about elections and police-related policies. Recent and upcoming local ballot measure elections are listed below:

  • Nov. 13 – Louisiana: Voters in Baton Rouge approved a property tax measure to fund public transportation.
  • Nov. 9 – Arkansas: Voters in Little Rock approved a property tax increase for libraries.
  • Nov. 2 – Ballotpedia covered 156 local ballot measures on the Nov. 2 ballot in 18 states. At least 102 were approved, at least 43 were defeated, and the remaining 11 were too close to call as of Nov. 18.

Special Elections

Sixty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states so far this year. Sixty-one specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 31 of the seats and Republicans previously controlled 30. Three seats flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and two seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

  • In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
  • An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
  • An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).

Upcoming special elections include:

Nov. 23

Nov. 30

Dec. 7

Dec. 14

States in session

Seven state legislatures—Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.