Legislatures enacted 45 bills related to direct democracy in 2023 — exceeding the previous 5-year average of 32

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 3, Brew. 

By: Mercedes Yanora 

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

  1. Legislatures enacted 45 bills related to direct democracy in 2023 — exceeding the previous 5-year average of 32
  2. The next Republican presidential primary debate is Jan. 10
  3. 13 state legislatures are in session

Legislatures enacted 45 bills related to direct democracy in 2023 — exceeding the previous 5-year average of 32

State legislatures enacted 45 bills and resolutions on ballot initiatives, referendums, and recalls in 2023. The 45 bills exceed the previous 5-year (2018-2022) average of 32 bills. While more bills were passed, fewer made the initiative process more difficult. In 2023, legislatures enacted five such pieces of legislation, which is less than the six-year average of seven. Republican majorities passed the five bills.

Lawmakers did approve more bills that made the initiative process less difficult. In 2023, legislatures enacted four such pieces of legislation, which is higher than the six-year average of two. Three of the four bills were passed with bipartisan support, while a Democratic majority passed the other. In Maine and South Dakota, two of last year’s changes to make the initiative process less difficult were in response to court rulings.

Of the 45 enacted bills, lawmakers passed 24 with bipartisan support (53.3%), Republican majorities passed 13 (28.9%), and Democratic majorities passed eight (17.8%). 

  • California enacted the most bills with seven, followed by Maine with six and Arkansas and Montana with five each. 
  • Before 2023, the largest number of bills enacted was 44 in 2019.

Seven of the 45 enacted bills were constitutional amendments needing voter approval. Three appeared on ballots in 2023, while four are scheduled for 2024. Seven is the highest number of constitutional amendments referred to the ballot during a single year since at least 2018. The annual average is three. 

Looking back at 2023, legislators introduced 385 bills and resolutions on ballot initiatives, referendums, and recall petitions. This number marks an increase from the annual average of 286 proposals for years 2018 to 2022. Lawmakers approved 45 (11.7%) of the 385 pieces of legislation introduced in 2023. 

  • Legislatures introduced 234 (60.8%) in the 26 states with a statewide citizen initiative process.
  • Half of the bills (195) were introduced in the 22 states with Republican trifectas, 139 (36.1%) in the 17 states with Democratic trifectas, and 51 (13.2%) in the 11 states with divided governments.
  • Missouri, which has an initiative and referendum process, saw the most introduced bills at 42. None were approved.

In 2024, Ballotpedia will provide comprehensive coverage of ballot measure legislation here. Typically, more bills are proposed and approved during odd-numbered years, like 2023, than even-numbered years, like 2024. 

You can learn more about our ballot measure legislation coverage here:

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The next Republican presidential primary debate is Jan. 10 

One week today, Republican presidential candidates will gather in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 10 for their fifth debate. CNN will host the debate, and it will take place five days before the Iowa Republican caucus

This will be the first debate of the Republican presidential primary held after the Republican National Committee lifted its ban on debates it did not sanction.

First, let’s quickly recap the previous debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Dec. 6, 2023. Four presidential candidates met to debate at the Frank M. Moody Music Building at the University of Alabama: Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy

Ramaswamy spoke the most, with 22.6 minutes, followed by DeSantis with 21.1 minutes, Haley with 17.5 minutes, and Christie with 16.9 minutes. To learn more about this debate, click here

Here’s what to know about the upcoming, fifth debate.

Where is the debate being held?  

Candidates will meet at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. 

What are the criteria for qualifying? 

The debate qualifying deadline was Jan. 2. To qualify, candidates must have: 

  • Received at least 10% support or more in three separate national and/or Iowa polls. Recognized polls had to begin their surveys no earlier than Oct. 15, 2023, and no later than Jan. 2, 2024, at 12:05 p.m. Recognized polls must have met CNN’s standards for reporting; 
  • Agreed to accept the rules and format of the debate; and 
  • Met the constitutional requirements to be eligible, declared their candidacy, and had active statements of candidacy and organization filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Which candidates have qualified?

The following candidates appeared in the fourth debate but did not qualify for the fifth: 

  • Chris Christie 
  • Vivek Ramaswamy  

Will Trump debate?

Trump will not participate in the debate. He will attend a Fox News town hall in Iowa on Jan. 10. 

What are commentators saying? 

Maggie Astor of The New York Times said of the one-on-one debate between DeSantis and Haley, “Both Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida, and Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, are long shots to win the caucuses, given that they are trailing Mr. Trump in polls of Iowans by more than 30 points on average. But if either one is to have even a small chance of claiming the nomination, that person needs to drive the other out of the race, which they could do — or at least take a first step toward doing — by beating them for second place in Iowa.”

Where can I watch the debate? 

CNN will broadcast the debate live on CNN Max, and for pay TV subscribers via CNN.com, CNN connected TV, and mobile apps. 

Click below to read more about the fifth Republican presidential primary debate. 

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13 state legislatures are in session

The new year means state legislatures across the country will head back into session. As of Jan. 3, 13 state legislatures are in regular session for 2024: California, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Another 24 legislatures go into session later in January.

Forty-six states will hold regular sessions this year, with the latest — in North Carolina — beginning on April 24. The other four states — Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas — only meet in odd-numbered years.

Wyoming is currently scheduled to have the shortest regular session — 25 days — starting on Feb. 12 and ending on March 8. Ten states have full-time legislators. While these states typically schedule a regular session, legislators could meet at any point during the year.

The average session length scheduled in 2024 is around 125 days, less than the average of 150 days scheduled in 2023. Click below to learn more about state legislative sessions, including any potential special sessions.

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