Welcome to the Thursday, June 15, Brew.
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Texas legislators file 297 constitutional amendments
- All candidates for Virginia House of Delegates District 7 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey
- Braver Angels’ Elizabeth Doll talks about tackling political polarization in the latest episode of On the Ballot
Texas legislators file 297 constitutional amendments
Let’s start with an update from Texas, where state legislators filed more constitutional amendments this year than in the previous two legislative sessions and pushed the yearly total of filed amendments above the 15-year average.
Back in April, we told you Texas legislators had filed 295 constitutional amendments by that point in the current legislative session. At the time, 14 of the 295 filed amendments had passed one chamber and could appear on the 2023 ballot if the second chamber approved. No amendments had qualified for the ballot yet.
In the end, Texas legislators filed a total of 297 amendments during the 2023 regular session—the most since 2000. That’s up from 218 in 2021 and 216 in 2019. An average of 208 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions between 2009 and this year.
- Thirteen of the amendments filed this year passed both chambers and were certified for the November ballot. That’s the most since 2007, when 17 measures appeared on the ballot.
- The 13 certified amendments represent 4.4% of the total filed this year. That’s fewer than the 2009-2021 average of nine (4.7%) amendments.
- Of the 297 constitutional amendments filed during this year’s regular session, Republican legislators filed 184 (62%) and Democratic legislators filed 113 (38%). Compared to the 2021 regular legislative session, Republicans filed 58 more amendments in 2023, and Democrats filed an additional 21.
The House filed 204 amendments (69%), and the Senate filed 93 (31%). In the 2021 regular legislative session, the House filed 160 amendments and the Senate filed 58.
Texas is one of a handful of states that frequently vote on constitutional amendments in odd-numbered years. Both legislative chambers must approve an amendment with a two-thirds vote for it to appear on the ballot: 21 votes in the Senate and 100 in the House. Republicans currently represent 19 Senate districts and 86 House districts, meaning the amendments needed support from at least two Senate Democrats and 14 House Democrats to appear before the voters.
Amendments on the November ballot include a wealth tax preemption, a constitutional right to farm, judicial retirement ages, and tax exemptions and government funds.
Since 1995, voters have decided 175 measures in odd-numbered years, approving 160 (91%) and defeating 15 (9%).
All candidates for Virginia House of Delegates District 7 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey
On April 3, we previewed Virginia’s upcoming state legislative primaries on June 20. Let’s take a deeper dive into one district in particular—Virginia House of Delegates District 7.
All four candidates running in the June 20 Democratic primary for District 7—Mary Barthelson, Paul Berry, Shyamali Hauth, and Karen Keys-Gamarra—completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey.
We ask all congressional, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete this survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about why they are running for office.
There is no incumbent running in the 7th District. The Virginia Public Access Project rates House District 7 as Strong Democratic. The site estimated that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) won the district over Glenn Youngkin 69.2% to 30.1%.
Elections Daily‘s Joe Szymanski described the district as “one of the bluer seats in an already deep blue Fairfax County … [A]s is the case in these districts, all candidates are trying to prove they are the most left wing.”
Szymanski wrote, “Barthelson … is behind the rest of the pack in terms of fundraising and local support,” adding that among the other three candidates, “Keys-Gamarra seems to be running closest to the center, with Hauth and Berry both highlighting endorsements from individuals who would be considered more to the left wing of the Democratic party.”
Let’s take a look at the candidates’ responses to the question: What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
“I am passionate about technology and human rights. That is why I chose to go into systems engineering as a profession and spend so much time in the community working to improve the lives of those in need.”
“Education, the environment, and workforce development. … better salaries for staff, new buildings instead of trailers for students, and environmentally forward curricula that gives young minds a vision for a sustainable future. … Sustainable and forward-thinking environmental policy that champions renewable energy, reduces waterway and ocean contamination, and shrinks the carbon footprint across industries and households with green technology will guarantee the safety and success of future generations.”
“Safeguarding reproductive freedom … Increasing mental health services and facilities … Maintaining and strengthening our world-class public education system. … Standing up for LGBTQ+ families like mine … Addressing housing affordability … Working to pass common sense gun control measures. … Standing with our Unions … Improving our transportation system.”
“I will advocate for a world-class public education system that attracts business and builds a thriving economy for all. I will use my leadership skills and strong voice to champion our reproductive rights, climate change issues, affordable housing, gun safety which prioritizes an assault weapon ban, DEI policies, LGBTQIA+ rights, workforce development, justice system reform, and transportation concerns.”
Click on the candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.
Virginia is holding primary elections for the House of Delegates and the state Senate next Tuesday. Ballotpedia has identified eight battleground primaries for the state Senate and six for the House of Delegates, including the Democratic primary for Virginia’s District 7.
Virginia, along with Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey, is one of four states holding state legislative elections this year. This is Virginia’s first state legislative elections using district boundaries adopted after the 2020 census.
Virginia has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship and the House of Delegates in 2021. Republicans currently have a 50-46 majority in the House with four vacancies. Democrats hold a 22-18 majority in the Senate.
Braver Angels’ Elizabeth Doll talks about tackling political polarization in the latest episode of On the Ballot
What happens if you get Democrats and Republicans to sit down and talk civilly to one another? One organization works to cut through political disagreements by organizing workshops and debates where folks who disagree with each other can come together and exchange their views. In this week’s episode of On the Ballot, Editor-in-Chief Geoff Pallay chats with Elizabeth Doll, the Director of the Braver Politics Program with Braver Angels, a group that aims to reduce political polarization in the country by organizing encounters between people from opposite political leanings.
In their conversation, Elizabeth dives into what the Braver Politics program is and goes over some of the initiatives she has been involved in. She also discusses some of the challenges of getting elected officials and political actors who disagree with one another to connect and have meaningful conversations.
Interested? Tune in! Episodes of On the Ballot come out Thursday afternoons, so if you’re reading this on the morning of June 15, you’ve still got time to subscribe to On the Ballot on your favorite podcast app before this week’s episode comes out!
Don’t miss out on the latest content! Click below to listen to older episodes and find links to where you can subscribe.