Author

Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Minneapolis City Council votes to certify Nov. 2 ballot language for initiative to replace police department

On July 23, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a ballot question and explanatory note for a citizen initiative that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The initiative would remove language on the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the police department. It would also create a department of public safety. The measure would allow the new department to include “licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate and the city council would appoint the commissioner of the public safety department.

Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted more than the required 11,906 valid signatures for the initiative on April 30. The city clerk certified the petition on May 14.

The city council’s vote was to (a) set the ballot language for the measure and (b) accept a city attorney report stating the measure concerned a proper subject matter for the city charter and is constitutional. The resolution now goes to the mayor’s desk; he has five days to sign or veto it. Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the initiative, but the resolution before him does not affect whether the measure will go on the ballot.

Frey’s office stated, “Mayor Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance. The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis stated, “It all started in Minneapolis. Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed a community movement against state-sanctioned violence — a movement to better protect Black lives. […] Our movement demands our city leaders move away from violent policing to create a department that addresses community safety holistically and with a public health approach. Our movement believes that the community should decide what safety looks like. To do so, we must amend the city charter that was written in 1961 and forces us to build on a broken system. We are proud to bring this issue to voters this November.”

The city council considered putting its own charter amendment to replace the police department on the Nov. 2 ballot. But sponsors withdrew the measure when Yes 4 Minneapolis’ initiative qualified for the ballot citing concerns over confusing voters. The city council passed a similar charter amendment in 2020, but the city’s charter commission effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot by taking the full time allotted to it for review.

Additional reading:



California superior court judge tentatively overturns Los Angeles County measure on law enforcement budget restrictions

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel announced a tentative decision on June 17 to overturn last year’s Measure J. Strobel said that Measure J unconstitutionally limits how the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors can decide revenue allocations. Strobel gave 15 days for both plaintiffs and defendants to submit more evidence. She said she expected to issue a final ruling within the following weeks. 

The Coalition of County Unions, which includes the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, filed the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

Measure J, among other provisions, was designed to require that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, such as health services and pre-trial non-custody services, and prohibit those funds from being allocated to law enforcement. It was approved last year by Los Angeles County voters, 57% to 43%.

Click here to read more about Los Angeles County Measure J.



California Public Employment Relations Board overturns parts of Sonoma County’s 2020 oversight measure

The California Public Employment Relations Board overturned portions of Measure P, a police oversight-related measure that Sonoma County voters approved last year, on June 23. The board ruled that certain provisions of Measure P violated the collective bargaining rights of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. The ruling overturned provisions allowing the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) to:

  • conduct its own investigations of deputies, 
  • publish camera footage, 
  • subpoena records, 
  • provide disciplinary recommendations, and 
  • observe interviews during investigations by internal affairs.

The California Public Employment Relations Board is a commission of four appointees that rule on government labor issues. The board said that the unions representing county sheriffs should have had the opportunity to negotiate these provisions before they were enacted. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors can appeal the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the California Public Employment Relations Board’s ruling:

  • Karlene Navarro, the director of the law enforcement oversight office, said that the ruling “appears to essentially delete IOLERO’s independent investigatory power in its entirety and voids IOLERO’s subpoena power.”
  • “Who is in charge of law enforcement oversight?” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said. “Is it the more than 166,000 people in Sonoma County who voted yes on Measure P or is it the four members of the [labor board]?”
  • Mike Vail, president of the county sheriff deputy union, said that the union should have been invited to negotiate before the measure was put on the ballot. Vail said, “The Board of Supervisors rejected the appropriate legal process and squandered an opportunity to accomplish a mutually agreeable set of reforms.”

Click here to read more about Sonoma County Measure P.

Note: An earlier edition of this article contained a typo that misquoted Karlene Navarro. This has been corrected. We apologize for this error and any confusion it caused.



Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments on Detroit charter proposal, which includes police policy changes

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments on July 7 over Detroit’s Proposal P that is scheduled to go before voters on Aug. 3. Proposal P would replace Detroit’s charter with a new charter. Among many topics addressed by the charter revision, Proposal P contains several provisions related to police policy in the city, including

  • qualifications and disqualifications for the board of police commissioners;
  • the selection process for the chief of police;
  • training requirements on use of nonlethal and lethal force, racial bias and cultural sensitivities, de-escalation, and interactions with those affected by police brutality;
  • prohibitions on certain practices in response to protests, such as rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas;
  • a ban on no-knock warrants;
  • limitations on certain surveillance technology; and
  • civilian rights to record interactions with police officers, to know the reason for a police stop or detention, to know the name or badge number of any officer, and to request the presence of a supervising officer during a stop or detention

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether Proposal P requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) approval to appear on the ballot. The charter commission that drafted the proposal submitted it to Gov. Whitmer, but she declined to approve it. On June 1, the state supreme court suspended previous circuit and appeals court rulings that blocked the measure from the ballot. 

Click here to read more about Detroit Proposal P.



Cleveland Community Police Commission and police oversight initiative faces signature deadline next week

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced on June 25 that proponents of an initiative to rewrite Cleveland’s charter on police oversight and discipline authority fell several hundred signatures short of the required number. Citizens for a Safer Cleveland has 15 additional days to collect enough valid signatures to make up the difference and qualify the measure for this year’s ballot. 

Citizens for a Safer Cleveland submitted about 13,000 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on June 16. The campaign needed 6,270 valid signatures to qualify its measure for the ballot. The board determined that 5,886 of the submitted signatures were valid.

The initiative would give certain duties and authority over police oversight, investigations, and discipline to a Civilian Police Review Board and a Community Police Commission.

Click here to read more about this initiative in Cleveland.



Reviewing news about police-related local ballot measures

So far this year, Ballotpedia has tracked six certified local ballot measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. We’re also tracking potential measures later this year in Minneapolis and Cleveland.

Of the six measures already certified, voters approved three and defeated two in elections this spring. One measure is certified for the August 3 ballot in Detroit pending a state supreme court ruling.

Last year, we identified 20 notable police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties that qualified for the ballot after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Voters approved all 20 measures.

Here’s a summary of recent developments related to those measures:

Cleveland Community Police Commission and police oversight initiative faces signature deadline next week

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced on June 25 that proponents of an initiative to rewrite Cleveland’s charter on police oversight and discipline authority fell several hundred signatures short of the required number. Citizens for a Safer Cleveland has 15 additional days to collect enough valid signatures to make up the difference and qualify the measure for this year’s ballot. 

Citizens for a Safer Cleveland submitted about 13,000 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on June 16. The campaign needed 6,270 valid signatures to qualify its measure for the ballot. The board determined that 5,886 of the submitted signatures were valid.

The initiative would give certain duties and authority over police oversight, investigations, and discipline to a Civilian Police Review Board and a Community Police Commission.

Click here to read more about this initiative in Cleveland.

Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments on Detroit charter proposal, which includes police policy changes

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments on July 7 over Detroit’s Proposal P that is scheduled to go before voters on Aug. 3. Proposal P would replace Detroit’s charter with a new charter. Among many topics addressed by the charter revision, Proposal P contains several provisions related to police policy in the city, including

  • qualifications and disqualifications for the board of police commissioners;
  • the selection process for the chief of police;
  • training requirements on use of nonlethal and lethal force, racial bias and cultural sensitivities, de-escalation, and interactions with those affected by police brutality;
  • prohibitions on certain practices in response to protests, such as rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas;
  • a ban on no-knock warrants;
  • limitations on certain surveillance technology; and
  • civilian rights to record interactions with police officers, to know the reason for a police stop or detention, to know the name or badge number of any officer, and to request the presence of a supervising officer during a stop or detention

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether Proposal P requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) approval to appear on the ballot. The charter commission that drafted the proposal submitted it to Gov. Whitmer, but she declined to approve it. On June 1, the state supreme court suspended previous circuit and appeals court rulings that blocked the measure from the ballot. 

Click here to read more about Detroit Proposal P.

California Public Employment Relations Board overturns parts of Sonoma County’s 2020 oversight measure 

On June 23, the California Public Employment Relations Board overturned portions of Measure P, a police oversight-related measure that Sonoma County voters approved last year. The board ruled that certain provisions of Measure P violated the collective bargaining rights of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. The ruling overturned provisions allowing the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) to:

  • conduct its own investigations of deputies, 
  • publish camera footage, 
  • subpoena records, 
  • provide disciplinary recommendations, and 
  • observe interviews during investigations by internal affairs.

The California Public Employment Relations Board is a commission of four appointees that rule on government labor issues. The board said that the unions representing county sheriffs should have had the opportunity to negotiate these provisions before they were enacted. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors can appeal the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the California Public Employment Relations Board’s ruling:

  • Karlene Navarro, the director of the law enforcement oversight office, said that the ruling “appears to essentially delete IOLERO’s independent investigatory power in its entirety and voids IOLERO’s subpoena power.”“Who is in charge of law enforcement oversight?” 
  • Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said. “Is it the more than 166,000 people in Sonoma County who voted yes on Measure P or is it the four members of the [labor board]?”
  • Mike Vail, president of the county sheriff deputy union, said that the union should have been invited to negotiate before the measure was put on the ballot. Vail said, “The Board of Supervisors rejected the appropriate legal process and squandered an opportunity to accomplish a mutually agreeable set of reforms.”

Click here to read more about Sonoma County Measure P.

California superior court judge tentatively overturns Los Angeles County measure on law enforcement budget restrictions

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel announced a tentative decision on June 17 to overturn last year’s Measure J. Strobel said that Measure J unconstitutionally limits how the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors can decide revenue allocations. Strobel gave 15 days for both plaintiffs and defendants to submit more evidence. She said she expected to issue a final ruling within the following weeks. 

The Coalition of County Unions, which includes the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, filed the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

Measure J, among other provisions, was designed to require that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, such as health services and pre-trial non-custody services, and prohibit those funds from being allocated to law enforcement. It was approved last year by Los Angeles County voters, 57% to 43%.

Click here to read more about Los Angeles County Measure J.



Maine governor vetoes bill prohibiting ballot measure contributions from foreign government-owned entities

On June 23, 2021, Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed Legislative Document 194, which was designed to prohibit contributions, expenditures, and participation to influence ballot measures by entities with 10% or more ownership by foreign governments.

Mills’ veto letter said, “Even more troubling is this bill’s potential impact on Maine voters. Government is rarely justified in restricting the kind of information to which the citizenry should have access in the context of an election, and particularly a ballot initiative.”

The House approved LD 194 by a vote of 87-54 (61.7%-38.3%), with 10 absent. The Senate approved it by a vote of 23-11 (67.6%-32.4%), with one excused. A two-thirds (66.67%) vote of all present in both chambers of the Maine Legislature is required to overturn a veto. Maine has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the Senate, 14 Democrats and nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and seven Democrats and four Republicans voted against LD 194. In the House, 74 Democrats and eight Republicans voted in favor of it, and four Democrats and 50 Republicans voted against it.

Context and background on electric transmission lines initiative:

The bill was passed as an emergency bill in order to ensure it would apply to the current election cycle. There is one ballot measure currently certified for the 2021 ballot in Maine. The measure is an initiative that would (a) prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), and (b) require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve certain electric transmission line projects. The NECEC is a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine.

Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs have raised $31.56 million, including:

• $22.14 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and 

• $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec. 

Hydro-Québec is owned by the Province of Québec, which means LD 194 would have applied to it.

No CMP Corridor is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC Mainers for Local Power is also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $7.75 million, including: 

  • $4.98 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine;
  • $1.26 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and 
  • $1.22 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Additional reading: Maine Legislative Approval of Certain Electric Transmission Lines Initiative (2021)

Context and background on changes to laws governing ballot measures in 2021:

Ballotpedia has tracked 198 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 39 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 24 have been approved. Of the total, 125 bills were designed to change laws governing statewide initiatives, veto referendums, and legislative referrals.

Legislators in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have passed restrictions on the initiative processes in their states in 2021. Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include:

• supermajority requirement increases,

• signature requirement and distribution requirement increases,

• single-subject rules,

• pay-per-signature bans,

• residency requirements and other circulator restrictions,

• fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and

• ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

Gov. Mills is not the first governor to veto a ballot initiative restriction in 2021. Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) vetoed a bill to require that initiative and referendum petitions must be circulated in Idaho and that petitions must be signed while the signer is physically located within the state. Gov. Little cited concerns over constitutionality.



Ballotpedia publishes June’s edition of State Ballot Measure Monthly

This edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly report covers certifications and a selection of notable ballot measure news from May 17 through June 17.

Here are the highlights:

• 10 statewide measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in Louisiana, Maine, New York, and Texas.

• One measure was removed from the 2021 ballot in Colorado.

• 12 statewide measures were certified for the 2022 ballot in six states.

• Texas’ 2021 constitutional amendments are finalized. Voters will decide eight measures, including two measures proposed in response to COVID-19 and related regulations.

• One amendment in Texas would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. Another would provide residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, or state-supported living centers with the right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be prohibited from visiting the resident.

• An initiative was certified for the 2022 ballot in California that would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks.

• Oregon voters will decide a measure in 2022 to make affordable healthcare a constitutional right.

• Connecticut voters will decide in 2022 on a constitutional amendment to allow early voting.

• The Massachusetts Legislature referred a measure to enact an additional tax on income above $1 million to fund education and transportation. The amendment is identical to a 2018 citizen initiative that initially qualified for the ballot but was later removed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

• A federal court judge blocked the enforcement of paid circulator registration requirements that the South Dakota Legislature passed in 2020.



Measures to ban solitary confinement, no-knock warrants approved in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit solitary confinement in the county jail. The ballot initiative received 70% of the vote. In Pittsburgh, which is also located in Allegheny County, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit the police from executing warrants without knocking or announcing themselves. It received 81% of the vote.

Ballotpedia has tracked five local ballot measures in 2021 concerning

  1. police oversight;
  2. the powers and structure of oversight commissions;
  3. police and incarceration practices;
  4. law enforcement department structure and administration;
  5. reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets;
  6. law enforcement training requirements; or
  7. body and dashboard camera footage.

Ballotpedia identified 20 local police-related ballot measures on the ballot for the election on November 3, 2020, that qualified following the death of George Floyd.

Additional reading:



Montana governor signs bill adding restrictions to the initiative process

On May 14, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed House Bill 651 into law. Both chambers of the legislature passed the bill along party lines in the last week of April. All Republicans but one were in favor and all Democrats were opposed. 

House Bill 651 changes the laws governing the initiative process in Montana

• to require the employees of paid signature gatherers to register with the state and pay a fee;

• to require the relevant legislative committee or the legislative council to review and vote whether to support or oppose adding any proposed initiative to the ballot and to require the results of that vote to be published on the initiative petition during circulation;

• to require the attorney general to determine whether a proposed initiative would “cause significant material harm to one or more business interests in Montana” and to require a statement on petition sheets if the attorney general finds that it would; and

• to define appropriations, which the state constitution prohibits initiatives from making, to include directly or indirectly creating a financial obligation or expanding the eligibility for a government program.

Legislators in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have passed restrictions on the initiative processes in their states in 2021.

As of May 14, 2021, Ballotpedia had tracked 197 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 39 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 21 had been approved, and 20 had been defeated or had died.

Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement and distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, pay-per-signature bans, residency requirements and other circulator restrictions, fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.