Author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Sponsors of South Dakota medical marijuana initiative propose alternative implementation schedule after Gov. Noem proposed a 1-year delay

In November, South Dakota became the first state to vote on recreational and medical marijuana at the same election. Voters approved Initiated Measure 26 by a vote of 70% to 30% and Constitutional Amendment A by a vote of 54% to 46%.

IM 26 was designed to establish a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals who have a debilitating medical condition as certified by a physician. The initiative was set to take effect on July 1, 2021, with deadlines for certain implementation steps to take place in the fall. The state House is considering a bill to change the effective date from July 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022, and to delay the deadlines for certain provisions from Fall 2021 (under IM 26) to Spring 2022. The delays are supported by Governor Kristi Noem, who announced plans for delaying implementation of the program by one year. Sponsors of IM 26 proposed an alternative implementation schedule to shorten the delays.

Under the IM 26, patients will be allowed to possess a maximum of three ounces of marijuana. Limits on the cannabis products a person may possess would be set by the Department of Health. According to the measure, patients registered to cultivate marijuana at home could grow three plants at minimum, or another amount as prescribed by a physician.

Constitutional Amendment A was designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and require the South Dakota State Legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. Amendment A was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court. Sponsors appealed to the state supreme court.

On February 10, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) announced a plan to delay the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program until July 1, 2022, a year later than the dates set forth under the IM 26. Noem said, “We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly. The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time.”

House Bill 1100 was introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives on January 27, 2021, and was passed by the state affairs committee on February 17, 2021. The bill would amend IM 26 to change the effective dates from 2021 to 2022. The bill stated that “Due to the pending litigation [surrounding Constitutional Amendment A], the Department of Health’s continued efforts against COVID-19, and the complexity of marijuana’s status under federal law, the State needs more time to establish a medical marijuana program with integrity and prudency than its current effective date of July 1, 2021.”

On February 22, 2021, New Approach South Dakota and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced their proposal for an alternative implementation schedule in response to House Bill 1100. Matthew Schweich, director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws said, “A delay to implementation is partly justified due to the Department of Health’s important role in managing South Dakota’s pandemic response. That is one of the reasons why we are proposing this compromise. However, the primary motivation is the prospect of enactment of HB 1100A, which defies the will of the people, harshly re-criminalizes medical marijuana patients, and provides a vehicle for repealing and replacing the law.”

The proposed compromise legislation would extend the deadlines for certain parts of the medical marijuana program’s implementation to January 2022 in order to give the state more time to implement the measure. The proposed compromise bill would require legal protections for potential medical marijuana patients prior to registry ID cards being issued to take effect on July 1, 2021 (the date set forth under IM 26). HB 1100 initially proposed enacting the legal protections for potential medical marijuana patients starting on July 1, 2022, but it was amended to move that date up to January 1, 2022.

South Dakota is one of eleven states (out of 21 with a process for initiated state statutes) with no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiated statutes.

As of November 2020, 35 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 15 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 states and D.C. through ballot initiatives, one state through a legislatively referred ballot measure, and two through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors.

The federal government has classified marijuana as an illegal controlled substance since 1970. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of 2020, the possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana were illegal under federal law.

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South Dakota state House advances constitutional amendment requiring three-fifths approval for measures increasing taxes, fees or appropriating more than $10 million

The South Dakota House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 5003 on February 16 in a vote of 56-12.

The measure would amend the state constitution to require a three-fifths (60%) vote for approval of any ballot measures (whether citizen-initiated or legislatively referred) that imposes or increases taxes or fees or appropriates $10 million or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.

South Dakota residents may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. The South Dakota State Legislature may place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes with a simple majority vote of each chamber. As of 2021, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.

HJR 5003 was introduced into the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused. To be placed on the 2022 ballot, the amendment must receive 18 affirmative votes in the South Dakota State Senate, in which Republicans hold a 32-3 supermajority. To become a part of the state constitution, a simple majority of voters must approve the change.

The South Dakota State Senate has passed three other bills this month concerning citizen initiative requirements:

  • Senate Bill 77, which was designed to require initiative petitions to print the full text in 14-point font;
  • Senate Bill 86, which was designed to require the South Dakota Secretary of State and Attorney General to issue an opinion to sponsors of initiative constitutional amendments concerning whether or not the amendment comprises a single subject and whether or not the proposed change is considered a constitutional amendment or a revision of the state constitution; and
  • Senate Bill 123, which was designed to create a 10-day comment period for ballot language of citizen initiatives, requiring the attorney general to review all comments and amend the ballot language as deemed necessary.

These bills would take effect if approved in the state House, where Republicans hold a 62-8 supermajority and do not require voter approval.

Republican sponsors of the bills pointed to the legal challenges to Amendment A, a constitutional initiative approved by voters in 2020 to legalize marijuana, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court and appealed to the state supreme court.

Senator Reynold Nesiba, one of three Democratic Senators in South Dakota, said, “This is a systematic attack by the Republican party to stifle direct democracy in South Dakota.”

Vote requirements for ballot measures vary from state to state and based on different ballot measure types and topics.

As of 2021, South Dakota was one of 37 states that required a simple majority vote (50%+1) for a proposed constitutional amendment to be adopted. Below are some of the other requirements that ballot measures face across the country.

In Nevada, a simple majority vote is required for all constitutional amendments, however, initiated constitutional amendments must be approved by voters at two successive general elections.

Constitutional amendments in Colorado require a 55% supermajority vote for approval, except for amendments that repeal language and do not amend or add language, which require a simple majority. This supermajority requirement was adopted in 2016 through a citizen initiative.

Constitutional amendments in Florida (citizen-initiated and legislatively referred) must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question, according to Section 5 of Article XI. This change was made via a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in 2006.

In Illinois, legislatively referred constitutional amendments must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.

In New Hampshire, a proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds (66.67%) of those voting in order to become part of the state’s constitution.

In seven other states, there are requirements based on turnout at the election or for a particular office, such as governor.

In Washington, a 60 percent supermajority vote for any measure concerning gambling. Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.

A total of 67 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota during the 20-year from 2000 through 2020 in South Dakota, of which, 43% (29 of 67) were approved by voters and 57% (38 of 67) were defeated.

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State court judge rules last year’s SD marijuana measure unconstitutional

On February 8, 2021, Hughes County Circuit Judge Christina Klinger overturned South Dakota’s 2020 marijuana legalization initiative. Klinger ruled that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule. Klinger also ruled that the measure constituted a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment.

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A by 54% to 46% on November 3. The measure was designed to

  • legalize the recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 years old and older, allowing individuals to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana;
  • require the legislature to create a medical marijuana program pass laws allowing the sale of hemp;
  • tax marijuana sales at 15%;
  • allocate tax revenue to public schools and the state’s general fund; and
  • enact other regulations, including over home grow, marijuana business licenses, local control, and civil penalties for violations.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller filed a lawsuit in Hughes County Circuit Court seeking to block Amendment A from taking effect. Plaintiffs alleged that the measure comprises more than one subject and that the measure does not simply amend the constitution but, rather, revises the constitution and could only be put before voters by a constitutional convention.

Plaintiffs alleged that the measure concerns five subjects: legalizing marijuana; regulating, licensing, and taxing marijuana; licensing and regulating marijuana by political subdivisions; regulating medical marijuana; and regulation of hemp.

Miller said, “Our constitutional amendment procedure is very straightforward. In this case, the group bringing Amendment A unconstitutionally abused the initiative process.”

Defendants argued that all the provisions were essentially related. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which backed Amendment A, said, “We are prepared to defend Amendment A against this lawsuit. Our opponents should accept defeat instead of trying to overturn the will of the people. Amendment A was carefully drafted, fully vetted, and approved by a strong majority of South Dakota voters this year.” The group said they would file an appeal with the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Governor Kristi Noem (R) said, “Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution. I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.” Noem said in January, “I directed [petitioners] to commence the Amendment A litigation on my behalf.” This is the first time a state’s governor led an effort to overturn a voter-approved marijuana legalization measure.

In South Dakota, all citizen initiatives—both initiated constitutional amendments and initiated state statutes—must concern only one subject. South Dakota did not have a single-subject rule for ballot measures until 2018. Voters approved Constitutional Amendment Z on November 6, 2018. It enacted a single-subject rule for initiated constitutional amendments and legislatively referred constitutional amendments and required that constitutional amendments be presented so that multiple proposed amendments to the constitution be voted on separately. The state legislature also passed a bill in 2018—House Bill 1007—that enacted a single-subject rule for initiated state statutes.

Sixteen of the 26 states with a statewide initiative or veto referendum process have a single-subject rule.

Article XXIII of the South Dakota Constitution provides that a constitutional amendment “may amend one or more articles and related subject matter in other articles as necessary to accomplish the objectives of the amendment; however, no proposed amendment may embrace more than one subject.”

Article XXIII of the state constitution also establishes a process for constitutional conventions to propose revisions. It allows the state legislature through a three-fourths vote in both chambers or a citizen initiative approved by voters to call a convention. Convention members are then elected and can refer amendments or revisions to the voters through a majority vote.

South Dakota voters also approved a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2020 ballot. South Dakota was the first state to vote on both a recreational marijuana initiative and a medical marijuana initiative at the same election.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 states and D.C. through ballot initiatives, one state through a legislatively referred ballot measure, and two through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors.

The federal government has classified marijuana as an illegal controlled substance since 1970. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of 2020, the possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana were illegal under federal law.

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Iowa to vote in 2022 on adding right to own and bear arms to state constitution

Voters in Iowa will decide in 2022 whether to add a right to own and bear firearms to the Iowa Constitution and require strict scrutiny for any alleged violations of the right brought before a court.

The amendment was certified for the ballot on January 28, 2021, after having passed both chambers of the legislature. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives in two legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. Every two years, half of the state senators and all of the members of the state House are up for election.

This amendment was approved as Senate Joint Resolution 18 during the 2019-2020 legislative session and required approval by both chambers of the legislature again in the 2021-2022 session.

SJR 18 was introduced on February 21, 2019. On March 13, 2019, it was approved by the Senate in a vote of 33 to 16, passing along party lines (with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed) except for one Democratic senator, Rich Taylor (D-42), who voted yes. The House approved the measure on the same day along party lines.

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 7 in the 2021-2022 legislative session and was approved on January 28, 2021, along party lines with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed.

Amendment sponsors originally intended to pass the bill during the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 sessions to place the question on the 2020 ballot, but a bureaucratic oversight resulted in the amendment process needing to start over again, meaning the bill needed to be passed in the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 legislative sessions to appear on the 2022 ballot.

The Iowa Constitution requires notifications of any proposed constitutional amendments passed in one legislative session to be published at least three months before the general election for the next legislature—November 2018 in this case. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said that his office failed to report constitutional amendments that the 86th Iowa General Assembly (2017-2018) approved in 2018. Because of the oversight that resulted in the amendments not being published, the amendment process had to be started over again.

Republican Iowa legislators argued that the amendment was necessary because Iowa is one of six states without a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Amendment sponsor Rep. Steven Holt said, “The right to someone’s own life and the pursuit of their own happiness, their own destiny — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — cannot be separated from the right to defend their life, hence the fundamental right to keep and bear arms in our Second Amendment.” Regarding the strict scrutiny provision, Holt said, “If current or future laws are narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest regarding this fundamental individual right, they will be safe. If they do not fit that category, they will not be safe and they should not be on the books.”

Democratic Iowa legislators argued that the amendment could negate state laws such as permit-to-carry requirements and the ban of firearm ownership for felons. Sen. Kinney (D) said, “Not many of you have ever had to sit and look down the barrel of a gun. I have, on a number of occasions. When you are placing strict scrutiny into the Constitution, you’re going to be diminishing our laws that are on the books. To me, this is going to make law enforcement more dangerous.” 

Forty-four states have a right to bear arms in their constitutions. Six states— California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York—do not.

The House also passed House Joint Resolution 5 in a vote of 59-41 on January 27, 2021. HJR 5 would amend the constitution to state that Iowa does not “recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.” All 41 House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 59 House Republicans, 55 voted in favor, three voted against, and one was absent or not voting. The measure could appear on the 2024 ballot if it is approved by the Senate (where Republicans hold a 32-18 majority) during the current session and passed by both chambers of the legislature again in 2023 or 2024.

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What ballot measures will voters decide in 2021?

As of January 21, 2021, nine statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in three states. Seven bond questions are certified for the March 2 ballot in Rhode Island. One bond issue is certified for the Nov. 2 ballot in Colorado. A constitutional amendment concerning redistricting is certified for the Nov. 2 ballot in New York.

Four of the 26 states with a process for citizen-initiated measures allow for ballot initiatives or veto referendums on ballots for elections in odd-numbered years: Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington. Legislatively referred measures can also go on the ballot in these states in 2021. Other states that frequently feature statewide measures referred to the ballot by the legislature in odd-numbered years include Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The signature deadline for Maine ballot measures was January 21, 2021. Signatures were filed for an initiative to require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines. On January 21, 2021, the campaign No CMP Corridor reported filing more than 100,000 signatures. At least 63,067 of the signatures need to be deemed valid for certification.

The signature deadline for Ohio initiated constitutional amendments is June 30, 2021. The deadline for Washington Initiatives to the People is July 2, 2021. The deadline for Colorado ballot measures is August 2, 2021. Citizens in these states may circulate petitions for a veto referendum, for which signatures are due 90 days after the state legislature’s adjournment.

From 2011 through 2019, the average number of statewide measures certified for odd-year ballots was 31. On average, three measures had been certified for the odd-year ballots by the end of January from 2011 through 2019.

In 2019, 36 statewide ballot measures were certified for the ballot in eight states. In 2017, there were 27 total statewide measures certified for the ballot. In 2015, there were 28 total statewide measures certified for the ballot.

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Washington initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) was December 31, 2020. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents needed to submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

A total of 216 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors, of which, 135 were withdrawn. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

If campaigns submit enough valid signatures for an ITL, the initiative goes before the Washington Legislature at the next regular legislative session in January. The legislature must take one of three actions.

1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.

2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916; 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure directly on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.



Voters approved 62 constitutional amendments in 29 states in 2020

Every state but Delaware requires voters to ratify proposed changes to a state’s constitution.

There are four ways that proposed constitutional amendments can be proposed and put on the ballot:

  • Through legislatively referred constitutional amendments.
  • Through citizen-initiated constitutional amendments put on the ballot through signature petition drives. Eighteen states allow this method of amendment.
  • Through referral by constitutional conventions. In some states, automatic ballot referrals allow voters to decide at regular intervals whether or not to hold a convention.
  • In Florida, there is a commission-referred amendment process through the Constitution Revision Commission that meets every 20 years. It last met in 2018.

From 2006 through 2020 a total of 1,016 constitutional amendments were proposed and put before voters. This data only includes constitutional amendments put on the ballot for a statewide vote. It does not include certain state constitutional amendments that only apply to local jurisdictions and were voted on only by residents of particular local jurisdictions. It also does not include constitutional amendments in Delaware that weren’t subject to voter ratification. Of this total, voters approved 733 proposed changes to state constitutions.

In 2020, voters in 29 states decided a total of 84 constitutional amendments. Of the 84 proposed amendments, state legislatures referred 69 to the ballot, and signature petition drives were used to initiate the other 15. Of the 84 amendments, 62 (73.8%) were approved.

Since 2006, the even-numbered year with the most proposed amendments on the ballot was 2006 with 148, and the year with the least amount of proposals was 2020, which had 84 proposals. The average in even-numbered years since 2006 was 109.

Among states with a process for initiated constitutional amendments, Florida and Colorado featured the most proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot from 2006 through 2020, with a total of 56 and 52, respectively. Of that total, Florida voters approved 37, and Colorado voters approved 21. Among all 50 states, Louisiana featured the most proposed constitutional amendments and the most approved amendments.

States featured an average of 20 constitutional amendments on the ballot from 2006 through 2020. Across all states, an average of 15 amendments were approved. Statistically, from 2006 through 2020, off-year election cycles featured a higher approval rate for proposed constitutional amendments than even years. In 2007, 28 of the 31 proposed amendments were approved, for a rate of 90%. In 2013, amendments passed at a rate of 89%. In 2017, all 17 amendments on the ballot were approved, for the highest approval rate since 1947. In contrast, 2006 and 2020 had the highest approval rates of even-numbered years since 2006 at 74.5%and 73.8%, respectively.



Signature deadline for 2021 Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington is Dec. 31

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) is December 31, 2020. Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. For an ITL to be taken up by the Washington State Legislature and potentially put on the ballot in 2021, proponents must submit 259,622 valid signatures to the Secretary of State by December 31.

Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature at the regular session set to begin on January 11, 2021. The legislature must take one of three actions.

  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  3. The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916, of which, 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme court.

As of December 4, 2020, 183 ITLs had been filed by 13 sponsors, of which 117 had been withdrawn. The proposed initiatives concern topics including taxes, sex education, sports betting, and affirmative action.

Besides Initiatives to the Legislature, Washington citizens may initiate Initiatives to the People. These initiatives are direct initiatives, meaning that groups collect signatures and once enough valid signatures are collected, election officials place the measure on the next general election ballot for a vote. Initiatives to the People (ITP) may be filed targeting the 2021 ballot beginning on January 4, 2021.

In Washington, the signature requirement for citizen initiatives is based on the total number of votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election. Initiatives to the People and Initiatives to the Legislature require signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last election. Veto referendum petitions require signatures equal to 4% of the votes cast for the office of governor.

The signature requirement for Initiatives to the Legislature lags behind by one year. For example, based on the gubernatorial election of 2020, the signature requirement for Initiatives to the People and veto referendums will change in 2021 while the requirements for Initiatives to the Legislature will remain unchanged until 2022.

Ballotpedia projects that the signature requirements for 2021 ITPs and 2022 ITLs will increase from 259,622 valid signatures to 324,516 and signature requirements for veto referendums will increase from 129,811 to 162,258 based on votes cast for the office of governor in the 2020 election (4,056,454).

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved and 44% (27) were defeated.



Voters in four states decided five measures concerning direct democracy Nov. 3

Voters in Florida and North Dakota rejected measures that would have required approval at two consecutive elections for constitutional amendments to be ratified.

Florida Amendment 4 was designed to require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at two successive general elections to become effective. Going into the election, in Florida, if voters approve an amendment at one general election, it becomes part of the constitution. In Florida, constitutional amendments require a supermajority vote to become effective. This requirement was added to the constitution in 2006. The supermajority requirement would have applied to both elections if Amendment 4 was approved. The measure was rejected by a vote of 47.5% in favor to 52.5% against.

North Dakota Constitutional Measure 2 would have required initiated constitutional amendments passed by voters to be submitted to the legislature for approval. If the legislature did not approve the amendment, Measure 2 would have required amendments to be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election to become effective if approved by the voters a second time. Measure 2 was rejected by a vote of 38% in favor to 62% against.

Nevada is the only state where initiated constitutional amendments must be approved at two consecutive elections. This does not apply to legislatively referred constitutional amendments, which must be approved twice by the legislature (with a majority vote) but only once by the state’s voters. Since the pass-it-twice requirement was created in 1962, there have been 14 citizen-initiated constitutional amendments that passed at the first election and appeared on the ballot again at the next election. Of the 14 measures, 12 were passed at their second elections (85.7%) and two failed (14.3%).

A legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the ballot in Arkansas would have changed many aspects of the state’s initiative process including:

  1. increasing the signature distribution requirement,
  2. shortening the signature deadline, and
  3. eliminating the current opportunity proponents have to collect additional signatures if they fall short.

The amendment would also have changed the size of the vote required of the state legislature to refer constitutional amendments to voters from a simple majority to a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote requirement. The measure was defeated by a vote of 44% in favor to 56% against.

Two direct democracy measures on the ballot in Montana that were referred by the state legislature were approved. They did not change the state’s initiative distribution requirements but rather amended the state constitution’s language to match the distribution requirements that were already enforced.

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Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois decide ballot measures regarding state income taxes

Voters in 12 states voted on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies on Nov. 3. Ten of the measures addressed taxes on properties, three were related to income tax rates, two addressed tobacco taxes, one addressed business-related taxes, one addressed sales tax rates, one addressed fees and surcharges, and one was related to tax-increment financing (TIF).

The three measures concerning state income taxes were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois. Arizona voters approved a measure to add a surtax for income above a certain level to fund education. Colorado voters approved an income tax decrease. Illinois voters defeated a measure to allow for a graduated income tax.

Arizona Proposition 208 was approved by a vote of 51.75% to 48.25%. The measure enacted a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax, on taxable income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). As of 2020, the highest income tax in Arizona was 4.50%, which was levied on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Based on the existing income tax rates, the ballot initiative has the effect of increasing the tax rate from 4.50% to 8.00% on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). The Invest in Education PAC was registered in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC received $21.6 million in contributions. The Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and No on 208 PACs were registered in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PACs received $5.7 million in contributions.

Colorado Proposition 116 was designed to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado. It was approved by a vote of 57.88% to 42.12%.

The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee raised $1.55 million in contributions to support the measure. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado reported $3.19 million in contributions to oppose the measure.

An amendment to authorize the state to enact legislation providing for a graduated income tax was on the ballot in Illinois where it was defeated by a vote of 45.46% to 54.54%. The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. In Illinois, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95%.

The Vote Yes For Fairness, Vote Yes for Fair Tax, and Yes to a Financially Responsible Illinois PACs were registered to support the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.33 million. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed 94 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

The Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment, Coalition To Stop The Proposed Tax Hike, and Chambers Against Progressive Income Tax PACs were registered to oppose the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.86 million. Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, contributed 88 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

Going into the 2020 election, 43 states levied a tax on personal income. Of these 43 states, 11 states had a flat income tax rate, meaning there is a constant rate across income before deductions and exemptions. The flat income tax rates ranged from 2.00% in Tennessee to 5.25% in North Carolina. Tennessee’s income tax was scheduled to be reduced to 1.00% in 2020 and to be repealed entirely in 2021. Most (32 of 50) states had a graduated income tax, with different rates applied to different levels of income.

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