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Josh Altic

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

Colorado legislature refers school meal program funded by tax deduction cap and ballot law measures to voters before adjourning

The Colorado Legislature put two statutory measures on the Nov. 8 ballot before adjourning on May 11.

One measure—House Bill 1414—would create a new Healthy School Meals for All Program and fund the program through (a) reducing income tax deduction caps from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers and (b) decreasing the income threshold at which the caps apply from $400,000 to $300,000. The program would reimburse participating schools for free meals provided to students and provide schools with local food purchasing grants and school food-related funding. State officials estimated these deduction cap changes would increase state revenue by $100.7 million per year.

The other measure—Senate Bill 222—would require the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for citizen initiatives that affect income taxes to include a table showing the changes the initiative would make in average income taxes owed for different income brackets.

Both measures were passed largely along partisan lines. Democrats in the Senate and House supported both measures. All voting Republicans opposed SB 222, and 34 of 39 Republicans opposed HB 1414. Any bills that the legislature refers to voters do not need to be signed by the governor and cannot be vetoed in Colorado.

These measures join three constitutional amendments the legislature referred to the ballot. The legislature must submit all constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter approval. Most changes to statute do not require voter approval.

House Bill 1414, however, requires voter approval because it would increase state tax revenue, and Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires voter approval of any increases to taxes or changes to tax policy that result in increased state revenue. The state’s TABOR law was approved by voters in 1992 through a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment.

The provisions of Senate Bill 222 do not require voter approval under the state constitution. Sponsors of Senate Bill 222 decided to refer it to the voters so that it would not require Gov. Jared Polis’ (D) signature. State Rep. Chris Kennedy (D) said, “There are a number of components (last year) where we reached agreement with the governor. But he expressed some concern about the idea of printing a table where it breaks down the value of the tax benefit or the tax increase to different income brackets … on the ballot itself. So, this year, what we’ve introduced is a bill that’s going to refer this question to the voters so that the governor doesn’t have to weigh in on it.”

Currently, under bills the legislature passed and Gov. Polis signed in 2020 and 2021, Colorado law requires fiscal impact statements for initiatives increasing or decreasing taxes to specify services that might be affected and requires a table showing the tax burden change to be included in the state’s ballot information booklet. This 2022 measure would require the table to be included within the ballot title of the initiative in addition to the information booklet and would specify that the table must show the amount owed by taxpayers in each bracket.

Kara Powell, a spokeswoman for Polis, said, “Gov. Polis believes that voters should decide how issues are presented on the people’s ballot because it is their ballot, not the state legislature’s ballot. That includes whether or not to approve requiring a table in the fiscal summary for any ballot initiative that would increase or decrease the tax rate.”

One citizen initiative to reduce income tax rates from 4.55% to 4.40% has also qualified so far. The signature submission deadline for citizen initiatives to qualify for the 2022 ballot is Aug. 8.

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Georgia voters to decide timber equipment tax exemption on Nov. 8

Georgia voters will decide whether to exempt timber equipment from property taxes on Nov. 8

The measure would exempt any equipment owned by a timber business and used in the production or harvest of timber from ad valorem property taxes. The House approved House Bill 997, which proposed the measure, on March 15 by a vote of 171-0. The Senate approved it on March 30 by a vote of 50-1. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed House Bill 997 on May 10, sending the measure to the ballot for voter approval.

The Georgia Constitution requires legislation exempting property from taxes to be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the legislature, signed by the governor, and approved by a majority of voters at a statewide election.

In addition to HB 997, Kemp signed multiple bills on May 10 concerning conservation, natural resources, hunting, and fishing. Kemp said, “The bills I signed into law will help us treat the forestry industry the same way that we do agriculture as well as protect hunting, fishing, and conservation land, and more.” Agriculture equipment is currently exempt from property taxes.

This measure was the fourth statewide measure certified for the Nov. 8 ballot. Voters will decide another legislatively referred state statute to expand the existing agriculture equipment tax exemption to include merged family farms and to extend the exemption to dairy products and eggs. Voters will also decide two constitutional amendments:

  • an amendment to suspend pay for certain public officials if they are suspended from office for being indicted for a felony and
  • an amendment to allow local governments to grant temporary tax relief to certain properties that are damaged or destroyed due to a disaster.

Georgia voters decided 84 statewide measures from 1996 through 2020, averaging seven per election and ranging from two to 12. Voters approved 71 (84.5%) and defeated 13 (15.5%).

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Colorado voters to decide constitutional amendment to remove certain restrictions on charitable gaming on Nov. 8

Colorado voters will decide a constitutional amendment on Nov. 8 that would lift some restrictions on charitable gaming activity.

If approved by 55% of voters, the amendment would:

  • repeal the existing ban on paying managers and operators of charitable gaming activities and limit compensation to the applicable minimum wage until July 1, 2024;
  • reduce from 5 years to 3 years the length of time an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license through Jan. 1, 2025; and
  • after Jan. 1, 2025, allow the legislature to determine in statute how long an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license.

Currently, the state constitution bans any payment of the managers and operators of charitable gaming activities and requires that an organization must exist continuously for five years before obtaining a charitable gaming license.

The House approved the amendment by a vote of 57-8 on May 2, and the Senate approved it by a vote of 33-1 on May 10. Legislatively referred constitutional amendments in Colorado require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the legislature.

A similar measure, Amendment C, was on the ballot in 2020. Amendment C was approved by 52.35% of voters. It did not meet the 55% majority threshold required to pass.

This amendment was the fourth statewide measure to be certified for the Nov. 8 ballot in Colorado. The legislature has referred two other constitutional amendments:

  • an amendment to provide for designating judges to the newly created 23rd judicial district and
  • an amendment that would extend an existing homestead tax exemption for qualifying seniors and disabled veterans to the surviving spouses of military personnel and certain veterans.

One citizen-initiated measure has also qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot so far. It would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%.

A total of 105 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during even-numbered election years from 2000 through 2020. Of the 105 measures, 48 were approved (45.71%) and 57 were defeated (54.29%). The even-year total ranged from three to 14.

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Colorado voters to decide property tax exemption for surviving spouses of military and certain veterans in November

Colorado voters will decide on Nov. 8 whether to extend a primary residence property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military personnel who died in the line of duty and the surviving spouses of certain veterans who died from a service-related injury or disease.

Currently, a primary residence property tax exemption of 50% of the first $200,000 of the actual home value exists for disabled veterans and certain seniors. This amendment would extend that exemption to the surviving spouses of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in the line of duty and the spouses of veterans who died from a service-related injury or disease if the surviving spouse receives dependency indemnity compensation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both chambers of the legislature. This amendment was approved by a vote of 63-0 in the House on April 25 and by a vote of 32-0 in the Senate on May 6.

It was the second constitutional amendment the legislature has referred to the Nov. 8 ballot so far. The other would require the governor, by Nov. 30, 2024, to designate judges to serve in the newly created 23rd judicial district. Both constitutional amendments will require approval by 55% of voters.

One citizen-initiated measure has also qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot so far. It would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%.

A total of 105 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during even-numbered election years from 2000 through 2020. Of the 105 measures, 48 were approved (45.71%) and 57 were defeated (54.29%). The even-year total ranged from three to 14.

So far, 88 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in 32 states for elections in 2022.

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Omaha voters to decide six bond measures totaling $260 million on May 10; May 2 is the early voting ballot request deadline

In Omaha, Nebraska, voters will decide six bond questions totaling $260.3 million on May 10. The questions include a $120 million continuation of the street preservation bond issue that voters approved in 2020. The other five bond questions total $140.3 million and concern:

In 2020, Omaha voters approved a $200 million bond issue for the creation of a street preservation program and an additional property tax of $35 per $100,000 in assessed property value to repay the bonds. City officials estimated that by the end of 2022 the city will have spent $120 million of the $200 million authorized by voters in 2020.

In May 2018, Omaha voters approved five bond measures totaling $227.465 million that mirrored the purposes of five of the 2022 bond questions:

Nebraska voters will also see primary races for governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and state auditor, as well as school board, county, and municipal races on May 10. The deadline to request an early voting ballot by mail for the May 10 elections is May 2.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures.

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St. Louis voters approve a capital improvements bond issue and an initiative on redistricting and elections on Tuesday

St. Louis voters approved both measures on their ballots on Tuesday. According to final election night results, 84% of voters approved Proposition 1, a $50 million bond issue, and 69% of voters approved Proposition R, a citizen initiative concerning election law, redistricting, and conflicts of interest. Proposition 1 required a two-thirds (66.67%) majority, and Proposition R required a three-fifths (60%) majority. 

Proposition 1 was referred to the ballot by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The measure authorized the city to issue $50 million in general obligation bonds for capital improvement projects, such as public safety facilities, correctional facilities, pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities, streets, buildings, and bridges, neighborhood recreation centers, and firehouses.

Proposition R was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition supported by the campaign Reform St. Louis. The initiative creates a redistricting commission for drawing ward boundaries. Currently, in St. Louis, the Board of Aldermen is responsible for approving the decennial redistricting maps. It also requires a public vote before a proposed change to voting methods can be adopted. The initiative also requires alderpersons to declare personal or financial conflicts of interest and abstain from voting when there are conflicts of interest.

Jami Cox, Policy Committee Chair of Reform St. Louis, said, “What’s at stake is making sure that the St Louis city government is operating in the most efficient and ethical way possible. If this proposition doesn’t pass, then we are looking at the redistricting process still being led by the people that are ultimately going to be running for the seats that they serve in and not having any hard outline processes in our city charter to reduce conflicts of interest.”

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said, “There is no need to have a special election costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars solely for a proposal that the Prop R group admits is untimely, would be challenged in court, would not put into effect what it states it will and would not take effect for 10 years.”

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, which include St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. In addition to St. Louis Proposition 1 and Proposition R, Kansas City voters approved three local measures, and Jefferson City voters approved one measure on April 5.

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Kansas City voters approve all three measures on their April 5 ballots

The Kansas City Council referred all three measures to the April 5 ballot. According to final election night results, voters approved all three measures by over 70%.

Voters approved Question 1 by 79.5% to 20.5%. Question 1 authorized the city to issue $750 million in revenue bonds for expanding, improving, and rehabilitating the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Voters approved Question 2 by 76.6% to 23.4%. Question 2 authorized the city to renew a property tax levy of $220 per $100,000 of assessed value to provide funds for emergency medical, ambulance, hospital, and public health services for 9 years.

Voters approved Question 3 by 73.8% 26.2%. Question 3 removed 6.82 acres of vacant land from the park system. The land is located on the west side of Searcy Creek Parkway between 210 Highway and Northeast 36th Street.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, which include St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. In addition to the three questions in Kansas City, St. Louis voters approved two measures, and Jefferson City voters approved one measure on April 5.

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Jefferson City voters approve $44 million in sewer bonds on April 5

Jefferson City voters approved the only question on their ballot by 85% to 15% on April 5. The measure authorized the city to issue $44 million in revenue bonds for sewer system improvements, maintenance, and operations. The Jefferson City Council referred a bond measure to the ballot.

A municipal revenue bond is debt security used by a city that must be repaid through a specific source of revenue—usually through a charge or fee for a service directly related to the capital improvements funded by the bond issue.

In 2022, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities and all statewide ballot measures

Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage in Missouri includes St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. St. Louis voters approved Proposition 1—a $50 million bond issue—and Proposition R—a citizen initiative concerning redistricting, elections, and conflicts of interest on April 5. Kansas City voters approved three local measures: a bond issue, a property tax renewal, and a measure concerning the removal of certain property from the city’s park system.

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West Virginia Legislature sends amendment giving itself authority over state board of education rules and policies to Nov. 8 ballot

The West Virginia House of Delegates approved a constitutional amendment on March 3 giving the legislature the power to approve, amend, or repeal rules put forward by the State Board of Education. It was the final vote required to certify the measure for the Nov. 8 ballot.

The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. Members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Not more than five members can belong to the same political party. The board sets rules and policies governing the public school education system and county boards of education.

The constitution states that “the general supervision of the free schools of the State shall be vested in the West Virginia board of education.” It also states that the board shall perform “such duties as may be prescribed by law.” This constitutional amendment would add that the board’s authority over general supervision of public education is subject to a requirement that its rules and policies must be submitted to the legislature for review and approval, amendment, or rejection.

Miller Hall, president of the State Board of Education, opposes the amendment. Hall said, “To add another layer of politics, I don’t think it’s good; I don’t think that’s a good move.”

Senator Patricia Rucker (R-16), chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “It’s actually making certain for those who elected us that we are overseeing and holding accountable, and that the laws that we do pass do get applied correctly.”

The West Virginia State Legislature can refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot by a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

The House passed House Joint Resolution 102 on Feb. 22, proposing the amendment in a vote of 80-18, with two absent. The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 23 to 11 on Feb. 28. The Senate made a technical amendment correcting a statute citation number, which sent HJR 102 back to the House for concurrence. The House concurred by a vote of 74-20 on March 3, 2022, with six absent.

The final votes in each chamber were largely along party lines. In the Senate, one Democrat joined 22 Republicans in support, and one Republican joined 10 Democrats in opposition. In the House, one Democrat joined all 73 voting Republicans in support, and the remaining 20 voting Democrats were opposed. West Virginia has a Republican trifecta. Republicans have had majority control of both the Senate and the House since 2014.

This measure was the fourth constitutional amendment certified for the 2022 ballot in West Virginia. The other three measures concern court authority over impeachment proceedings, incorporation of churches, and a business activity use property tax exemption.

A total of 72 statewide measures have been certified for 2022 ballots in 31 states so far. Four other education-related measures have been certified in four other states. Three relate to taxes or appropriations to fund education in Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Mexico. The other would allow in-state tuition for non-citizen students in Arizona.

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Arizona Legislature sends measure on voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots and in-person voting to Nov. 8 ballot

On Nov. 8, Arizona voters will decide a measure making multiple changes to Arizona’s voter identification and mail-in ballot policies.

The measure would require a voter to include their date of birth and voter identification number for mail-in ballots, in addition to the existing signature requirement. Election officials would check the dates of birth and identification numbers, which would be concealed within the vote-by-mail envelope, against voter registration records. Any of the following could be used as the voter identification number for mail-in ballots under the measure:

  • a driver’s license or non-operating identification license number,
  • the last four digits of a social security number, or
  • a unique identifying number provided by the secretary of state for voter registration purposes.

Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission estimated that 89% of voters cast 2020 ballots using early voting, mail-in ballots.

The measure would also eliminate the existing alternative to photo ID for in-person voting that allows a voter to present two documents with their name and address but no photograph.

The legislature must pass a legislatively referred statute such as SCR 1012 by a simple majority of all members in each chamber. On Feb. 24, the state Senate approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 1012 (SCR 1012) proposing this measure by a vote of 16-12, with two not voting. Sixteen votes were required in the Senate. On Feb. 28, the state House approved SCR 1012 by a vote of 31-26, with three not voting. Thirty-one votes were required in the House. Votes in both chambers were along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

The legislatively referred state statute is similar to a 2022 initiative filed by Arizonans for Voter ID, a group sponsored by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. The initiative was also backed by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, the sponsor of SCR 1012, and other Republicans in the legislature. Mesnard sponsored a similar bill in 2021, but it failed in the House by two votes, after which Arizonans for Voter ID filed the citizen initiative.

Rep. John Kavanagh (R) said, concerning the existing mail-in system that requires the voter’s signature, that examples of voters’ signatures are too readily available. Kavanagh stated, “This bill closes a weak link in the security chain of our election system.”

Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D) responded to the resolution, saying, “This is not about voter ID, because we all agree voter ID works in Arizona. Voter ID is fine. We respect and appreciate voter ID laws. But this, this is barrier after hoop after lava pit after problem after more barriers. This is voter suppression.”

SCR 1012 would amend certain provisions of Proposition 200, a citizen initiative Arizona voters approved in 2004. In Arizona, the legislature cannot amend or repeal a citizen initiative without putting the measure on the ballot for voter approval. California is the only other state besides Arizona that prohibits the legislature from amending or repealing citizen initiatives without voter approval.

SCR 1012 was the fifth statewide measure certified for Arizona’s 2022 ballot. The other four measures concern income taxes, in-state tuition for non-citizens, and changes to the state’s initiative process. One was put on the ballot through a veto referendum signature petition, and the legislature put the other three on the ballot.

The measure was the 70th statewide measure certified for 2022 ballots across 31 states. It is currently the only certified ballot measure that addresses voter identification laws. Additionally, voter ID-related initiatives have been approved for signature gathering in California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Nevada.

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