Six legislatively-referred ballot measures received unanimous support from both parties, more than previous years

Welcome to the Wednesday, June 21, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Six legislatively-referred ballot measures received unanimous support from both parties, up from recent years
  2. Alabama enacts law prohibiting ESG investing among companies receiving state contracts
  3. Arkansas Attorney General certifies ballot language for veto referendum of omnibus education bill

Six legislatively-referred ballot measures received unanimous support from both parties, up from recent years

Sometimes, members of both parties can work together and vote unanimously! 

This year, legislators have referred 29 measures to statewide ballots Six of them received unanimous support from both parties, two in Louisiana, one in New York, and three in Texas.

Lawmakers introduce legislatively-referred ballot measures as bills and vote on whether to place them on the ballot. This is in contrast to citizen initiatives, where supporters must gather signatures to put a proposal on the ballot.

In 2019 and 2021, five and four measures, respectively, received unanimous support from both parties.

The number of legislatively-referred ballot measures that have received unanimous support from at least one party is also up this year, accounting for 22 of the 29. 

This includes the six measures that received unanimous support from both parties, plus 10 with unanimous support from Democrats and six with unanimous support from Republicans.

Most legislatively-referred ballot measures are constitutional amendments. Every state except for Delaware requires voter approval for changes to its constitution.

State constitutions are typically longer than the U.S. Constitution and govern more detailed government activities. That’s the case with each of these six measures that received unanimous support from both parties.

Here’s a look at this year’s six unanimously-supported proposals:

  • Louisiana HB 166: provides that the Legislature may consider vetoed bills during a regular or extraordinary session rather than convening a separate veto session; clarifies that the governor’s deadline to act on a bill is based on the legislative session during which the bill passed;
  • Louisiana HB 254: repeals constitutional provisions establishing various state funds that are now inactive;
  • New York SB 8931: excludes indebtedness for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities contracted before 2034;
  • Texas HJR 126: establishes a right to framing, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management in the state constitution;
  • Texas HJR 2: authorizes the Legislature to make cost-of-living adjustments or other benefit enhancements to the teacher retirement system; and,
  • Texas SJR 75: creates the Texas Water Fund to finance water projects.

In contrast with these unanimously-supported proposals, there are also upcoming measures that received very little, if any, support from one of the two major parties.

The measure with the least amount of Democratic support is Ohio Issue 1, which would require that voters approve future constitutional amendments with at least 60% of the vote rather than the current simple majority and make other changes to the ballot measure process. No Democrats supported this proposal.

The measure with the least amount of Republican support is Colorado Proposition II, which would allow the state to keep revenue that exceeds official projections of taxes on nicotine products and spend this revenue on preschool programs. One Republican supported this proposal.

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Alabama enacts law prohibiting ESG investing among companies receiving state contracts

On June 6, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) into law, prohibiting state contracts with companies that make investments or other business decisions based on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria.

Under this law, if a company receives more than $15,000 from state contracts, it may not refuse to do business with any other company for the purpose of “furthering social, political, or ideological interests.” It also prohibits companies from “taking any commercial action that is intended to penalize or inflict economic harm on a company” for reasons unrelated to an ordinary business purpose.

ESG, in the context of public policy, refers to the consideration of non-financial factors in the management of public funds and contracts. The Alabama law is among several recent examples of state policy opposing this type of investing.

To learn more about ESG, click here. For more information on areas of disagreement and inquiry related to ESG, click here. And for more information on state responses to ESG investing, click here.

And subscribe to Ballotpedia’s Economy and Society newsletter, which brings you developments in the world of ESG every Tuesday!

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Arkansas Attorney General certifies ballot language for veto referendum of omnibus education bill

Here’s a really peculiar story about a ballot measure that made me do a double-take when I was reading it in one of our internal team channels. No, this is not a typo – a current ballot measure in Arkansas has a title and summary that is more than 8,000 words. Here’s how we got there:

On June 5, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin (R) certified the ballot language for a proposed veto referendum of a recently-enacted omnibus education bill. At 8,154 words long, the certified language—which consists of the referendum’s title and summary—is the longest in state history.

Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students (CAPES) is sponsoring the veto referendum in an effort to repeal the LEARNS Act, a 145-page education bill Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed into law earlier this year. This bill changed multiple aspects of the state’s education system, including:

  • Creating a state account to distribute funds for parents who opt their children out of public schools. Parents could spend those funds on private school tuition or other education expenses;
  • Increasing the minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000;
  • Prohibiting sexual education before fifth grade; and,
  • Requiring the Department of Education to review materials the bill defines as prohibited indoctrination.

The attorney general’s certification does not guarantee that the veto referendum will appear on the November 2024 ballot. Proponents now need to gather 54,422 valid signatures by July 30 of this year for that to happen. This process could only begin once the language was certified, leaving 55 of the 90 allotted days for signature gathering.

In Arkansas, ballot measure sponsors must submit their ballot language to the attorney general, who ensures it complies with state law. The attorney general can reject the proposed language if they determine the proposed language is misleading.

CAPES submitted two ballot language proposals to Griffin before he certified the most recent submission.

The group submitted their first proposal before the legislative session ended on May 1. Griffin rejected that proposal on April 24, saying, “While I understand that it is challenging to summarize a 145-page act, your proposed summaries are more like descriptive labels for some of the act’s component parts.”

Griffin rejected the second proposal on May 11, saying, “[Y]our attempted summary continues to be more of a descriptive label rather than a summary.”

In the final 8,154-word-long proposal, CAPES effectively submitted the language of the act itself. In certifying this proposal, Griffin said, “[Y]our ballot title essentially cuts and pastes from nearly every section of the LEARNS Act. Therefore, I cannot conclude that it is misleading.”

Griffin added that the length of the certified ballot language could result in legal challenges. The state supreme court has previously ruled that ballot language ranging from 500 to 727 words long was too complex or lengthy to appear on the ballot. The ballot title for the CAPES’ referendum is about 1,022% longer.

Since 1934, 10 veto referendums have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. Voters approved nine, which repealed the targeted laws.

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