California voters will decide two constitutional amendments related to changing supermajority requirements for ballot measures

The California State Legislature passed two constitutional amendments on Sept. 14, 2023, that would change voter approval thresholds for certain ballot measures. Both of the constitutional amendments will appear on the ballot in Nov. 2024.

The first constitutional amendment, ACA 1, would lower the voter approval threshold from two-thirds (66.67%) to 55% for local special taxes to fund housing projects and public infrastructure. As of 2023, the California Constitution requires a two-thirds vote for voters to approve special taxes and bonds, except for school bonds. The two-thirds vote requirement was set in 1978, with the approval of Proposition 13. The threshold was decreased for school bonds in 2000, when voters approved Proposition 39.

ACA 1 was introduced into the Legislature on Dec. 5, 2022. The state Assembly voted 55-12 to pass ACA 1. The state Senate voted 29-10 to pass the constitutional amendment. Legislative Democrats, except two, supported ACA 1, while Republicans, along with two Democrats, opposed ACA 1.

The second amendment, ACA 13, would require initiatives that change vote thresholds to supermajority votes to pass by the same vote requirement as is being proposed. For example, if an initiative requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote for new taxes, the initiative would also have to pass by a two-thirds vote. It would also authorize local government to place advisory questions on local ballots.

ACA 13 was introduced on July 13, 2023. Both legislative chambers approved ACA 13 on Sept. 14. In the Assembly, the vote was 55-19. In the Senate, the vote was 28-9. Like ACA 1, legislative Democrats, minus two, supported ACA 13, while Republicans, along with two Democrats, opposed the constitutional amendment.

Oregon has a vote threshold requirement similar to ACA 13. In 1998, voters approved an initiated constitutional amendment to require that any ballot measure proposing a supermajority must pass by that same supermajority.

Under ACA 13, California Proposition 13—which was passed by voters in 1978 by 64%-35%—would not have passed because it did not meet the supermajority requirement proposed, which was a two-thirds vote for local special taxes, among other changes.

Voters in Ohio recently rejected an amendment that would have changed supermajority requirements. Issue 1 would have increased the voter approval threshold for new constitutional amendments in Ohio to 60%. Voters rejected this amendment by 57%-42%.

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