Nicole Fisher

Nicole Fisher is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Voters in El Paso, Texas, to decide on a charter amendment to require the city to consider climate change

El Paso voters will vote on a charter amendment, titled Proposition K, to declare “[reducing] the city’s contribution to climate change” and “[advancing] the cause of climate justice” of paramount importance on May 6, 2023.

The charter amendment would also:

  • require El Paso to use energy generated by renewable sources (defined as “energy generated without burning carbon or releasing greenhouse gasses”), with a goal of 100% by 2045;
  • require El Paso to use available efforts to covert El Paso Electric to municipal ownership; 
  • prohibit the sale or transfer of water for fossil fuel-related activities outside of the city limits;
  • prohibit fees and fines “that limit the purchase, use, or generation of renewable energy;”
  • create the appointed position of Climate Director, who would be charged with fulfilling the amendment’s goals, creating an annual Solar Power Generation Plan, producing a climate impact statement for proposals before the El Paso City Council, and leading a new Climate Department;
  • have the City Manager and Climate Director collaborate on creating climate jobs, defined as jobs that help meet the amendment’s goals, and creating a Climate Disaster Mitigation and Preparedness Plan
  • create a five-member Climate Commission to make legislative recommendations to the El Paso City Council that would advance the amendment’s goals and investigate matters regarding the city’s implementation of the charter amendment.

In July 2022, organizers for Sunrise El Paso and Ground Game Texas submitted 36,360 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. El Paso city officials verified that more than 20,000 valid signatures were submitted on Nov. 11, 2022, and qualified the initiative for the ballot.

Sunrise El Paso said, “We are working to bring green jobs to El Paso, build solar power, conserve water and protect its quality, address pollution head-on in our communities, fight against environmental racism and inequity, encourage a municipalized electric utility, and so much more through this people-led initiative.”

Opponents to the amendment include the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, El Paso Electric, and Borderplex Alliance.

El Paso Electric said, “While we share the same goals of an environmentally sustainable future for our region, we are embedding and evaluating all possible technology and generation to achieve these goals. We believe the (climate charter) proposition is too limited and does not include the wide array of customer solutions and technology to affordably achieve the agreed upon goals.”

The El Paso Chamber said, “Climate change is real, and we are committed to common-sense reforms that push for a comprehensive approach to the matter. However, we must do so in a way that considers the cost to the region – especially to those whose livelihood is dependent upon jobs that would no longer exist under the passage of the proposed amendment.”

Miguel Escoto, an organizer with Sunrise El Paso, said that the amendment would create jobs. Escoto said, “By law, the municipal government will be legally mandated to find climate jobs. This would increase the amount of jobs. It would increase the amount of job security.”

Election day in El Paso is on May 6, 2023. Voters will also decide on 10 other charter amendments.

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Tempe voters to decide ballot measures for Coyotes arena and entertainment district

Voters in Tempe, Arizona, will decide on three ballot measures proposing an entertainment district on May 16, 2023. The entertainment district would house the Arizona Coyotes arena.

The three proposals will appear on the ballot as Proposition 301, Proposition 302, and Proposition 303.

  • Proposition 301 would approve the redevelopment by changing the classification of land from a city-owned commercially zoned property into a mixed-use project. The new classification would allow for the development of the proposed arena and entertainment district.
  • Proposition 302 would rezone the property as an official mixed-use district.
  • Proposition 303 would approve the construction of the arena and entertainment district from Bluebird Development LLC.

All three measures would need to pass for the construction and development of the arena and entertainment district to continue.

The plan for the entertainment district was first proposed in Sept. 2021. The $2.1 billion 46-acre project would include a 16,000-seat arena and practice facility, hotels, retail, apartments, and a theater. Officials representing the Arizona coyotes said that the district would create 6,900 permanent jobs and create about $200 million in new tax revenue for the city over the next 30 years.

According to the Tempe City Council, the developer would use largely private funding to build the 4 million-square-foot development and will pay Tempe $50.3 million for the land.

Xavier Gutierrez, CEO of the Arizona Coyotes, said: “Together, 301, 302 and 303 will authorize all the necessary components of the development agreement. We have full confidence that Tempe voters will embrace all three propositions and the economic, community and environmental benefits the project will bring to the City of Tempe.”

Former Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby (D), who opposes the measures, said, “We’re just creating bottlenecks and traffic congestion and neighborhoods in the southeast neighborhoods are really going to suffer from that.”

Tempe 1st is a campaign opposed to the ballot initiatives. “While our schools, public safety, roads and other services suffer from a lack of funding, Props 301, 302 & 303 will rob Maricopa County and Tempe Residents of half a billion dollars in tax revenues,” the campaign said.

Tempe voters will decide on the measures on May 16, 2023.

Measure related to death benefit for first responders certified for the 2024 ballot in Arizona

Arizona voters will decide on a ballot measure on Nov. 5, 2024, to establish a $20 fine on every conviction for a criminal offense. These fines would go towards paying benefits of $250,000 to the family of a first responder who is killed in the line of duty starting on June 30, 2025.

The measure first passed the Arizona State Senate on Feb. 28, 2023, by a 16-13 vote. It passed the Arizona House of Representatives by a 47-13 vote on March 7, 2023. In the Senate, all Republicans voted for the measure and all Democrats voted against it. In the House, all Republicans voted for it, while 16 Democrats voted for it and 13 Democrats voted against it.

Sen. David Gowan (R), who sponsored the measure, said, “That $250,000 can go a long way to helping our families of those victims of crime, certainly when there are police officers and first responders who have sworn to defend and protect us.”

The $250,000 benefit to the spouse or children of a first responder would be in addition to the federal or state benefits and pensions already provided to families.

Sen. Lela Alston (D), who opposed the measure, said that the benefit for the families of first responders should come from the general fund. “I have always supported death benefits for our workers,” she said,  “I do have a problem with this bill, and that is that it creates another fine that is disproportionate to certain members of our population. And it would be a preferable option to me if we were to pay that death benefit directly out of the general fund to the family of the firefighter or police officer who was killed and not do any more fines in our legal system.”

This measure is the first one certified for the 2024 statewide ballot in Arizona. There are 13 potential legislatively referred measures that have passed one chamber in the state legislature, and may also appear on the 2024 ballot if they pass the other chamber. For the state legislature to refer a measure to the ballot, it must pass both the House and the Senate by a simple majority of votes. In addition, there are two citizen-led campaigns working to put initiatives on the 2024 ballot.

Last year, Arizona had 10 statewide measures on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot—eight which were referred by the state legislature, and two which were placed on the ballot by successful citizen initiatives. Seven measures were approved by voters, and three were defeated.

Additional reading:

Right to Repair Act initiative certified to the legislature in Maine

On Feb. 21, 2023, the Maine secretary of state announced that enough valid signatures were submitted for the “Right to Repair Act” initiative, allowing it to be certified to the Maine State Legislature.

Out of the 83,252 signatures submitted by the Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee on Jan. 19, 2023, 74,686 of the signatures were found to be valid. This met the 67,682 minimum valid signature requirement to be certified to the legislature.

The initiative will now await action from the legislature. In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

The initiative would allow car owners and independent repair facilities to have the same access to onboard diagnostic systems and wireless data that manufacturers and approved repair facilities have access to. According to the Autocare Association, 50% of cars transmitted vehicle data wirelessly and directly only to vehicle manufacturers in 2021, while 95% of new vehicles sold globally will likely have this connectivity in 2030.

Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires and Service and one of the members of the initiative campaign, said, “Unfortunately, many of these newest vehicles, that wireless data is fed automatically back to the car manufacturers and is not available to independent shops like ourselves. So that’s all that we are asking for is a level playing field so that independent repair shops can have access to the same data as the car manufacturers and their network of dealerships has.”

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), an organization that has opposed the initiative, said that it was unnecessary.

“Mainers already can have their car repaired by any repair shop they choose,” AAI said, “And all the information needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle today is also already made available to all vehicle repair shops. But the ballot initiative does pose a real cybersecurity and privacy threat to Maine’s drivers.”

There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2021, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.

If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on the submitted initiatives, they will go to Maine voters at the election on Nov. 7, 2023.

Additional reading:

Gender-neutral language amendment certified for the ballot in South Dakota

In 2024, voters in South Dakota will decide on an amendment to make references to officeholders in the state constitution gender-neutral. The amendment would do so by changing male pronouns to specific titles.

The South Dakota House of Representatives voted 58-12 to approve the amendment on Feb. 28, 2023. The South Dakota State Senate voted unanimously 35-0 to approve the measure on Feb. 6.

If approved by voters, all references to offices within the constitution, such as the governor or lieutenant governor, would be amended to use either gender-neutral language or a specific title. For example, the phrase “his official duties” in the constitution would be amended to say “the justice’s official duties”.

There have been at least 10 measures to amend state constitutions to be gender-neutral. Of the ten proposed amendments, six were approved. The most recent state to approve an amendment to use gender-neutral language in the state constitution was Utah, where voters passed Amendment A by 58%-42% of the vote on November 3, 2020. The United States Constitution currently contains gender-specific language by referring to certain offices by using the pronouns he or his, for example.

Currently, this amendment is the only measure on the South Dakota ballot for Nov. 5, 2024.

Between 1985 and 2022, 53 constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature were on the ballot for South Dakota voters. Twenty-six (26) were approved and 27 were defeated.

Additional reading:

Amendment to repeal constitutional language regarding slavery as punishment for a crime certified for the 2024 Nevada ballot

An amendment that would repeal language from the Nevada Constitution regarding slavery as punishment for a crime was certified for the 2024 ballot. Voters in Nevada will decide on the amendment on Nov. 5, 2024.

On Feb. 23, 2023, the Nevada State Senate voted unanimously to pass the amendment, with all 21 senators voting for it. Previously, the amendment passed the State Assembly on Feb. 16, also by a unanimous vote of 42-0. For a constitutional amendment to be certified for the ballot in Nevada, it must pass both chambers of the state legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions. It was previously approved during the 2021 legislative session.

Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-15), who co-sponsored the amendment, said, “I believe that it’s time for us to move forward and make it clear and unequivocal that nobody will ever live through the horror of state-sanctioned slavery, or servitude ever again.”

Currently, Article 1, Section 17 of the Nevada Constitution says: “Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crimes shall ever be tolerated in this State. If approved by voters, the amendment would remove the phrase unless for the punishment of crimes from the Constitution.”

As of 2023, eight state constitutions include provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments. Another eight states have constitutions that include provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding slavery and involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment are Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

The states with constitutions that include provisions regarding involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as criminal punishment, are California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio.

On November 8, 2022, voters approved four constitutional amendments in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont to amend language in state constitutions regarding slavery as punishment for a crime. Voters in Louisiana rejected an amendment.

Currently, there are two constitutional amendments on the Nevada 2024 ballot in November. The other measure is a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment that would provide for open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections.

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Abortion may appear on the Ohio ballot in 2023, and other states expecting abortion-related constitutional ballot measures

Two campaigns in Ohio announced that they are joining efforts to put a statewide abortion-related initiative on the ballot in 2023.

On February 16, Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Protect Choice Ohio said that they would file an initiative that would be similar to a measure that voters approved in Michigan in November 2022. That measure provided a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, which was defined to include abortion, contraceptives, and pregnancy-related matters.

Kellie Copeland, the executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio and member of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, said, “This grassroots initiative – by and for the people of Ohio – is foundational to ensuring access to abortion and the right to bodily autonomy, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come.”

In order to qualify a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment for the November 2023 general election ballot, the campaigns must collect at least 413,488 valid signatures by the July 5, 2023, deadline. The requirement is equivalent to 10 percent of the votes cast for governor in 2022.

Dr. Lauren Beene, executive director of the Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, said, “The lives and health of Ohioans have been at risk since Roe was overturned. That is why we must seize the earliest possible opportunity to ensure that doctors and patients, rather than politicians and the government, are empowered to make decisions about pregnancy, contraception and abortion.”

In a statement on February 16, Beth Vanderkooi, the executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life, put out a statement opposing the effort. She said, “Far left special interests and highly partisan political operatives want to permanently place dangerous and confusing language into our Constitution. This is a disingenuous effort to force their extreme views under the guise of women’s health. Ohioans won’t be fooled by their radical and out of touch agenda.”

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, there were five statewide abortion-related constitutional amendments that were decided on by voters. In 2022, voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont were the first to approve ballot measures to establish state constitutional rights to abortion. Voters in both Kentucky and Kansas rejected measures to provide that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion.

Currently, there is one certified statewide constitutional amendment related to abortion on the ballot in 2024, and four proposed constitutional amendments that may appear on the ballot in either 2023 and 2024.

One certified constitutional amendment on the ballot:

  • The New York Equal Protection of Law Amendment, which is certified for the 2024 ballot. The amendment would add language to the New York Constitution to prohibit the denial of rights to individuals based on ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, or reproductive status.

Four proposed constitutional amendments for the ballot:

  • The Pennsylvania No State Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment, which is proposed in the state legislature for the 2023 or 2024 ballot. This amendment would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to say that the constitution grants no right to an abortion.
  • The Iowa No State Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment, which is proposed in the state legislature for the 2024 ballot. This amendment would state that the Iowa Constitution does not provide a right to abortion or require funding of abortion
  • The South Dakota Right to Abortion Amendment, which is an initiative filed for the 2024 ballot. This amendment would make abortion legal in South Dakota with regulations after the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. To qualify for the 2024 ballot, the initiative petitioners must file 35,017 valid signatures by November 5, 2023, a year before the election.
  • The Florida Right to Life of Preborn Individual Initiative, which is an initiative filed for the 2024 ballot. This amendment would amend the Florida Declaration of Rights to state that that “the right to life of the preborn individual is God-given, thus unalienable and recognized accordingly”. To qualify for the 2024 ballot, the initiative petitioners must file 891,589 valid signatures by February 1, 2024.

Historically, from 1970 to November 2022, there were 53 abortion-related ballot measures. Forty-three (81%) of these had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-life. Voters approved 11 (26%) and rejected 32 (74%) of these 43 ballot measures. The other 10 abortion-related ballot measures had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-choice or pro-reproductive rights. Voters approved seven (70%) and rejected three (30%).

Additional reading:

San Antonio charter amendment regarding abortion, marijuana, and police actions has enough signatures for the May 6 ballot

On May 6, 2023, San Antonio voters will decide on a charter amendment regarding abortion, marijuana, and police actions. City officials announced on Feb. 8 that the amendment has enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Last month, organizers for the amendment, including Act 4 SA and Ground Game Texas, submitted more than 37,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. They needed at least 20,000 valid signatures from city voters for the measure to be certified for the ballot. City officials determined 20,973 signatures were valid.

“We will be saving money, keeping families together, stopping the unnecessary overcrowding of jails — but most of all, we will be saving lives through these policies,” said Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA.

If approved by voters, the charter amendment would:

  • end enforcement of low-level marijuana possession (Class A or B misdemeanor offenses)
  • prohibit San Antonio police officers from investigating or making arrests for abortions, as well as prohibit them from enforcing any state law that criminalizes abortion
  • ban no-knock warrants by law enforcement
  • ban chokeholds by law enforcement
  • use citations instead of arrests for low-level nonviolent crimes

The measure would also provide for the City Council to appoint a Justice Director. The role of Justice Director would include reducing incarceration and mitigating law enforcement practices. The Justice Director, who would report directly to the city council, cannot have worked in law enforcement or have significant financial investments in the law enforcement industry.

Act 4 SA, the organization working alongside Ground Game Texas in support of the amendment, said that the proposed charter amendment would make the city safer. “[The amendment] reduces burden on officers, prevents unnecessary arrests for nonviolent low level crimes, reduces re-offender rate, pushes police accountability and transparency, fights mass incarceration and deportation,” the organization said on its webpage.

The San Antonio Police Officers Association opposes the amendment. Danny Diaz, president of the union, said in a statement that no-knock warrants and chokeholds are already prohibited unless a life is at serious risk, and the proposed charter amendment is in direct conflict with state law regarding abortion and marijuana cases.

“The decriminalization of marijuana and abortion are handled at the state and federal level of government,” he said in a statement, “This is not a decision that can be implemented at a local level.”

Article 11, Section 5 of the Texas Constitution has a provision that says: “The adoption or amendment of charters is subject to such limitations as may be prescribed by the Legislature, and no charter or any ordinance passed under said charter shall contain any provision inconsistent with the Constitution of the State, or of the general laws enacted by the Legislature of this State.”

Mike Siegel, the political director and co-founder of Ground Game Texas, told the San Antonio Report that the amendment is legal. He said, “Every day, police departments decide what they’re going to enforce and what they’re not going to enforce, and this represents the people of San Antonio saying: these are not our priorities for our scarce public dollars.” Siegel added, “The roots of the Texas Constitution are in local self-control [and] self-determination. So that’s why we have charter cities that have this authority to adopt their own charters and decide their own laws.”

Election day in San Antonio is on May 6, 2023.

Missouri House approves 60% vote requirement for constitutional amendments

On Feb. 2, 2023, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 108-50 for a constitutional amendment to require a 60% vote requirement for referred and citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The amendment is titled House Joint Resolution 43 (HJR 43). Of the 108 members who voted for HJR 43, 107 were Republicans and one was a Democrat. Fifty Democrats voted against the amendment.

If the Senate approves HJR 43, it will go on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide on Nov. 5, 2024.

HJR 43 also amends Article 3, Section 50 of the Missouri Constitution to include text that says: “For purposes of this article, only citizens of the United States of America who are residents of the State of Missouri and who are properly registered to vote in the State of Missouri shall be considered legal voters.”

The ballot question, as currently written, would read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Allow only citizens of the United States to qualify as legal voters; Require initiative petitions proposing to amend the constitution to be reviewed by the voters in each congressional district; and require amendments to the constitution be approved by a sixty percent vote?”

As of 2022, in Missouri, constitutional amendments need to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote at an election. This amendment would raise that vote requirement to 60%.

Rep. Mike Henderson (R), who sponsored the amendment, said: “I believe that the Missouri Constitution is a living document, not an ever-expanding document. And right now it has become an ever-expanding document.”

House Speaker Dean Plocher (R) also supports the amendment. “Our constitution is meant to be a sacred document, but is now one that has grown dramatically in size because of out-of-state interests that have spent millions of dollars here in Missouri to change our way of life,” he said.

Rep. David Tyson Smith (D) said that the language regarding citizen voting requirements would confuse voters. “We all know in this room that this is misleading language and is designed to confuse people,” he said. Travis Crum, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, said that “Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution limits the right to vote to U.S. citizens.”

Rep. Peter Merideth (D) opposes the amendment, saying, “We’re attacking that fundamental power that lies in the hands of the people. That’s a slap in the face to the people in Missouri.”

Currently, when it comes to the voter approval of constitutional amendments, 38 states require a simple majority vote, while 11 states have some other type of requirement in place. Delaware is the only state that does not require any voter approval for constitutional amendments.

In 2022, three states had questions on the ballot that proposed a supermajority requirement for certain ballot measures. Arkansas voters rejected Issue 2, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote requirement for all constitutional amendments and voter-initiated state statutes. South Dakota voters rejected Amendment C in June of 2022, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote for ballot measures that would increase taxes. Arizona voters approved Proposition 132, which created a supermajority requirement for ballot measures that approve taxes (other measures continue to require a simple majority vote).

Currently, there are no certified ballot measures in Missouri for 2024. Historically, there have been 79 legislatively referred constitutional amendments on the ballot in Missouri between 1985 and 2022. Fifty-four (68%) have been approved and 25 (32%) have been defeated.

Additional reading:

Citizen initiative related to government borrowing for state entities and electric cooperatives certified to the legislature in Maine

On Jan. 26, 2023, the Maine secretary of state announced that enough valid signatures were submitted for an initiative that would require voter approval of borrowing above $1 billion by state entities and electric cooperatives. The initiative is now certified to the Maine State Legislature. If the Legislature does not approve the initiative, it would appear on the Nov. 2023 ballot.

Out of the 93,000 signatures submitted by the No Blank Checks campaign, 68,807 signatures were found to be valid. In Maine, the signature requirement is currently 67,682 valid signatures. This number is calculated as 10% of the total votes cast at the previous gubernatorial election.

The No Blank Checks initiative could be on the ballot alongside an initiative to create a consumer-owned electric utility. In Oct. 2022, the Our Power campaign, which supports the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, submitted more than 80,000 signatures to the secretary of state, and 69,735 of those signatures were verified. The initiative would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company, which would replace Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant. Our Power Maine stated, “The company’s purposes are to provide for its customer-owners in this State reliable, affordable electric transmission and distribution services and to help the State meet its climate, energy and connectivity goals in the most rapid and affordable manner possible.” The campaign opposing the initiative, the Maine Affordable Energy Coalition, said that the initiative would result in higher electric bills. The coalition said, “A scheme to seize Maine’s electric grid by eminent domain would create a government-controlled utility — and we would all be on the hook for the cost.”

No Blank Checks campaign said, “A proposal is being circulated that would authorize seizing the state’s electric utilities, creating billions of dollars in debt we would all have to pay off through our electric bills. The people pushing this proposal can’t say exactly how much it would cost, and they are asking us to write a blank check. Voters should know the price tag and get a chance to vote on that debt first.”

In Maine, a citizen initiative can only appear on the ballot as an indirect initiative. The initiative only goes to the ballot if the legislature rejects the initiative or does not take action by the end of the session. If the legislature passes the initiative, and the governor signs it, the initiative becomes law.

There were no measures on the Maine ballot in 2022. The last indirect initiative to appear on the ballot was in 2021, when voters approved an initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region.

So far, there are no ballot questions on the 2023 Maine ballot. Besides the No Blank Checks initiative and the Pine Tree Power Company initiative, there are two other initiatives that have a chance of appearing on the ballot in 2023. One initiative would prohibit foreign spending in elections in Maine and is currently certified to the Legislature, and the other, which is awaiting signature verification from the secretary of state, would allow for vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.

If the state legislature rejects or does not take action on the submitted initiatives, they will go to Maine voters at the election on November 7, 2023.

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