Ryan Byrne

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Initiative to repeal Michigan law granting governor emergency powers heads to state legislature

The Michigan State Legislature approved the indirect initiative that repealed the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. On July 15, 2021, the Michigan State Senate voted 20-15 to approve the initiated measure. Senate Republicans voted to pass the initiated measure, and Senate Democrats voted against the proposal. On July 21, 2021, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 60-48 to approve the initiated measure. House Republicans, along with four House Democrats, supported the proposal. The remaining 48 House Democrats opposed the initiated measure. The governor cannot veto the legislature’s approval of an indirect citizen-initiated measure.

California initiative requiring state to adopt regulations on plastic waste certified for 2022 ballot

California initiative requiring state to adopt regulations on plastic waste certified for 2022 ballot


On July 19, a citizen-initiated measure to require California to adopt regulations designed to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging was certified for the ballot on November 8, 2022. The ballot initiative would also enact a maximum one-cent per item fee on single-use plastic packaging and foodware, with revenue from the fee distributed to CalRecycle, the California Natural Resources Agency, and local governments. 

The California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle) would be responsible for implementing the regulations, including:

  1. requiring producers to ensure that single-use plastic packaging and foodware is recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030;
  2. requiring producers to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic packaging or foodware that CalRecycle determines is unnecessary for product or food item delivery;
  3. requiring producers to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging and foodware sold in California by at least 25 percent by 2030; and
  4. prohibiting food vendors from distributing expanded polystyrene food service containers.

Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets, also known as Plastics Free California, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. Through March 31, 2021, the campaign has raised $4.19 million. Recology, Inc. was the largest contributor, providing $3.76 million. Recology, Inc. is a business that provides commercial and residential waste, recycling, and composting services. Linda Escalante, action fund advisor for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Plastics Free California is an opportunity to increase pressure on the plastics industry to rein in the harmful environmental impacts of their single-use products, and to rebuild and support California’s recycling system.” As of July 20, Ballotpedia has not identified a campaign opposing the ballot initiative.

The campaign filed the ballot initiative in November 2019 and originally intended to place the proposal on the 2020 ballot. Eric Potashner, vice president of Recology, said the campaign had collected more than 800,000 signatures for the ballot initiative before the suggested deadline of April 21, 2020, but wanted to collect between 900,000 to 950,000. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Potashner said, “Even if I had a million signatures, I don’t know if we’d be submitting this thing till after June anyway. I don’t know if this is the right climate for this measure right now.” Potashner also noted that the ballot initiative’s provisions would not take effect until 2030, “so pushing this issue… to 2022 doesn’t have any practical implications in what we’re trying to do.” 

On August 11, 2020, the campaign filed 871,940 signatures. Counties were not required to report the number of valid signatures according to the random sample until March 9, 2021, due to a coronavirus-related executive order. On March 9, the random sample of signatures did not project that 110% or more of the signatures were valid. Therefore, a full check of the signatures was required. The deadline for completing the full check was set as April 22, 2021, but was later extended to July 19, 2021. The full count of signatures showed that 666,664 signatures were valid, exceeding the requirement of 623,212.

The ballot initiative is the fourth citizen-initiated measure certified for the ballot in California for 2022. Others include an initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California; an initiative to increase the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits; and a veto referendum to repeal the ban on flavored tobacco sales. The signature verification deadline for the 2022 ballot is 131 days before the general election, which is around June 30, 2022.

Additional Reading:

California 2022 ballot propositions

Contributions exceed $46 million to campaigns surrounding Maine electric transmission lines initiative

In November, voters in Maine will decide a ballot initiative designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project. NECEC would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine.

Since 2010, Ballotpedia has tracked campaign finance for ballot measures in Maine, and the transmission lines ballot initiative is the most expensive since then. Supporters and opponents of the initiative have raised more than $46 million raised June 30, 2021.

The second most expensive initiative was Question 1 (2017), an initiative to authorize slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine, which saw $10.16 million in contributions through the entire election cycle. In June 2017, the combined campaign contributions surrounding Question 1 were at $4.41 million—less than half of the final aggregate contributions. The next campaign finance deadline for the campaigns surrounding the transmission lines initiative is October 5, 2021.

The NECEC was proposed in response to Massachusetts soliciting for 9.45 million hydropower-derived megawatts in 2016. Hydro-Québec, a government-owned firm in Quebec, and Central Maine Power (CMP) submitted a joint proposal to deliver hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts through Maine. Segment 1 of the NECEC required a new 53-mile corridor from the border with Quebec to The Forks, Maine, which began construction on May 13, 2021. Other segments were planned to use existing transmission line corridors. 

Maine, in exchange for entering into a stipulation agreement for the project, was set to receive a benefits package worth $258 million, which included funds for low-income electric consumer projects, rural broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations, electric heat pumps, education grants, workforce development, and business retention. Maine also secured 500 megawatt (MWh) hours per year from hydroelectric plants via NECEC. 

Former Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-17), a member of the campaign No CMP Corridor, filed the ballot initiative in October 2020. He said, “Mainers know they’re being lied to by these two foreign corporations, and they know that this project will forever change our state’s character, environment and economy in ways that will not benefit us.” Besides aiming to halt the NECEC, the ballot initiative would prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, such as the NECEC, and require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission line projects. The ballot initiative would define high-impact electric transmission lines as those that are (a) 50 miles in length or more, (b) outside of a statutory corridor or petitioned corridor, (c) not a generator interconnection transmission facility, or (d) not constructed to primarily provide electric reliability.

No CMP Corridor, together with the Mainers for Local Power PAC, raised $9.46 million, including $6.67 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; $1.27 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $1.23 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. Jon Breed, executive director of Clean Energy Matters, stated, “It’s bad public policy and sets a bad precedent for our state if we take a project that has cleared every major regulatory milestone at the state and federal level, and then turn around and pull permits.” The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $36.99 million, including $27.12 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and $8.58 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

The Maine State Legislature passed a bill in June 2021 that could have impacted Hydro-Québec’s abilities to make contributions. LD 194 was designed to prohibit corporations and other entities that are at least 10% owned by a foreign government from making contributions or expenditures for or against a citizen-initiated ballot measure. Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed the legislation, saying, “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.”


Initiative to repeal Michigan law granting governor emergency powers heads to state legislature

The Michigan State Legislature will have 40 days to approve an initiated measure to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act (EPGA), also known as Public Act 302 (PA 302) of 1945. The EPGA was designed to empower the governor to issue rules and regulations to bring emergencies under control and protect life and allow violations of these rules and regulations to be punished as misdemeanors. The initiated measure is an indirect initiative, meaning the legislature can approve the initiative, without the governor’s signature needed, or have the initiative go before voters at the election on November 8, 2022. Republicans control both chambers of the Michigan State Legislature, and simple majorities are needed in each chamber to pass the initiative.

In June 2020, about three months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued the first coronavirus-related disaster declaration, the campaign Unlock Michigan filed the proposal. On October 2, 2020, the campaign reported submitting 539,000 signatures. Also on October 2, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, struck down the EPGA as violating the state constitution. While the Supreme Court rendered the EPGA moot, Unlock Michigan continued to advocate for the law’s repeal to prevent the court from issuing a different opinion on the law in the future. On April 19, 2021, elections staff reported that, based on a random sample, a projected 460,358 signatures were valid. The minimum number of required signatures was 340,047.

On April 22, 2021, the Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 on certifying the petition as sufficient. The divided vote meant that the motion failed. The Board’s two Republicans voted in favor, and the Board’s two Democrats voted in opposition. On June 11, 2021, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Board “has a clear legal duty to certify the petition,” which the Board did on July 13, 2021.

Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for Unlock Michigan, responded to the initiative’s certification, saying, “We’re looking forward to the next and final step on this long road: passage by the Michigan House and Senate of our initiative to repeal this law so abused by Gov. Whitmer.” Mark Fisk, spokesperson for the opposition campaign Keep Michigan Safe, also responded, “Unlock Michigan’s brazen partisan power grab will further reduce our state’s ability to save lives during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic and handcuff future generations of leaders from acting decisively in times of crises.”

The campaign Unlock Michigan received $2.81 million through April 20, 2021. Donors included the nonprofits Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility ($1.78 million) and Michigan! My Michigan! ($450,000), as well as University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser ($100,000). Opponents of the proposal organized Keep Michigan Safe, which received $843,180, including $750,000 from the nonprofit organization Road To Michigan’s Future.

On July 13, the Board of State Canvassers also approved language for Unlock Michigan’s second ballot initiative, allowing the campaign to begin a signature drive. After the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the EPGA, Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health were able to continue emergency regulations under Public Health Code. Unlock Michigan’s new proposal would limit state and local epidemic emergency orders to 28 days unless the jurisdiction’s legislative body approves a resolution to continue the emergency order. 

In May, Pennsylvania became the first state to vote on a governor’s emergency powers following coronavirus-related regulations. Voters approved two constitutional amendments allowing the legislature to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration by a simple majority vote and limiting the governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days. 

Additional reading:

Ballot measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations

Michigan Limits on Epidemic Emergency Orders Initiative (2022)

Michigan 2022 ballot measures

Maine voters to decide $100 million transportation bond at November 2021 election

On July 6, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation placing a $100-million bond issue on the ballot for November 2, 2021. The bond issue is the third ballot measure set to go before voters in November. It’s the only bond issue certified for the ballot so far. 

The ballot measure divides the bond revenue into two categories:

  • (1) $85 million for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 highways, as well as bridges, and
  • (2) $15 million for facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports and harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects.

The bond issue would leverage an estimated $253 million in federal and other funding. 

Since 2007, voters have approved 97.6 percent (40 of 41) of statewide bond issues in Maine. The last bond measure to be rejected was Question 2 (2012), which would have authorized $11 million in bonds to expand the state’s community college system. In 2020, voters approved two bond issues, one that issued $105 million for transportation projects and one that issued $15 million for high-speed internet infrastructure.

As of June 30, 2020, Maine had $572.70 million in debt from general obligation bonds. About $64.63 million of voter-approved bonds from prior elections had not yet been issued for projects. The debt from general obligation bonds was the highest since at least 2005 (not accounting for inflation). In 2019, the general obligation bond debt was $543.40 million.

Besides the bond issue, voters will also decide a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, and a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food. Also before Gov. Mills, as of July 7, is a bill that would refer to voters a measure that would create a state-established, consumer-owned electric utility company called the Pine Tree Power Company. The legislature will return to session on July 19 and could consider an additional two constitutional amendments.

Additional reading:

Maine legislature sends right-to-food constitutional amendment to 2021 ballot

Maine voters will decide a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food, as well as saving and exchanging seeds, at the election on November 2, 2021. People would have this right as long as an individual does not commit trespassing; theft; poaching; or abuses to private land, public land, or natural resources in the process of acquiring food. 

The Maine Senate approved the constitutional amendment, which required a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers, on July 2. The House approved the amendment on June 10. Of House Democrats, 75 voted “Yes” and 2 voted “No.” Of House Republicans, 26 voted “Yes” and 29 voted “No.” The constitutional amendment also received the support of the House’s four independent and third-party members. As a constitutional amendment, the governor’s signature is not required for the proposal to go before voters.

State Rep. William Faulkingham (R-136) introduced the constitutional amendment. He said the proposal was needed to “protect our food rights for future generations.” He added, “Will Monsanto own all the seeds, and will we have gotten so far from our roots that we won’t even have natural seeds anymore? Will people even be allowed to grow gardens?”

House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham (R-72), who voted against the amendment, said, “I think most of us here agree we have every right to grow, raise, harvest and choose our own food, on our own property. But this isn’t limited to just that.” She also stated, “This language is so broad we will be placing these challenges in the hands of the courts to interpret intent.”

The constitutional amendment is the first legislative referral certified for Maine’s November 2021 ballot. A citizen-initiated measure to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, will also be on the ballot. As of July 2, the state Legislature had also approved a referred statute and a bond issue, which require the governor’s signature before being certified for the ballot.

The Maine State Legislature is also considering a constitutional amendment to create a state “right to a clean and healthy environment.” Between 1995 and 2020, the average number of measures on an odd-year ballot in Maine was between five and six. On average, there were one initiative, one amendment, and three bond measures.

Additional reading:

Arizona voters to decide single-subject rule amendment for citizen-initiated ballot measures

At the 2022 general election, Arizona voters will decide a constitutional amendment to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject. The ballot measure would also require the initiative’s subject to be expressed in the ballot title, or else the missing subject would be considered void. 

Known as the single-subject rule, 16 states (of 26 with an initiative or veto referendum process) require that ballot initiatives address a single subject. Courts are often responsible for determining whether an initiative meets a single-subject rule if someone contests the initiative as violating the rule. 

The single-subject issue came up in a 2017 court case in which the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there was no single-subject rule for ballot initiatives. The case involved voter-approved Proposition 206, which enacted statutes related to minimum wage and paid sick time. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry argued that the initiative was two subjects in violation of a provision in the state constitution (Section 13 of Article 4) requiring that “every act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.” The Arizona Supreme Court held that the single-subject rule found in Section 13 of Article 4 applied to bills passed by the legislature but not citizen-initiated statutes.

State Rep. John Kavanagh (R-23) introduced the constitutional amendment into the Arizona State Legislature. He said, “It’s unfair to the people who you ask to vote to have more than one subject matter.” Joel Edman, director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, criticized the proposal, saying, “The trick is that what qualifies as a single subject is in the eye of the beholder.”

On March 4, 2021, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 31-28 to pass the constitutional amendment. On June 29, 2021, the Arizona State Senate voted 16-14 to approve the proposal. In both chambers, votes were along party lines, with Republicans voting to send the amendment to the ballot and Democrats voting against it. Since Republicans hold a one-member majority in each chamber, the amendment passed by the minimum number of required votes in the House and Senate.

The amendment is the second put on the 2022 Arizona ballot related to ballot initiative procedures. On June 25, the legislature referred an amendment to change the state’s laws on legislative alteration. It would allow the legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.

The legislature can refer additional measures during the remainder of this year’s legislative session and the 2022 legislative session. Arizonans also have the power to initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment or repeal legislation via veto referendum. Signatures for 2022 ballot initiatives are due July 8, 2022.

Additional reading:

Arizona voters to decide a 2022 amendment that would change legislature’s ability to repeal initiatives

In 2022, voters in Arizona will decide a ballot measure to allow the state legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives in cases where the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court declare that a portion of the ballot initiative is unconstitutional or illegal. In Arizona, the legislature must propose a ballot measure to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives. Initiatives often include severability clauses, meaning that if the courts declare a provision to be unconstitutional, other provisions can remain valid. 

Arizona is one of two states—the other being California—that prohibits the legislature from repealing or amending a ballot initiative unless voters approve the changes through a new ballot measure. Arizona has an exception for changes that further an initiative’s purpose. Arizona adopted this restriction on legislative alterations in 1996 with the approval of Proposition 105, also known as the Voter Protection Act. 

An example of an Arizona ballot initiative that has been partially, but not entirely, struck down is Proposition 200 (1998). It established the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC) and a public campaign finance system. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of Proposition 200 that triggered matching funds to candidates based on their opponent’s spending. The remainder of the law stayed in effect. 

The constitutional amendment was approved along party lines in the Senate and House. Republicans hold one-member majorities in each chamber. The amendment needed 16 votes in the state Senate, and it received the support of the 16 Senate Republicans. It needed 31 votes in the state House, and it received the support of the 31 House Republicans. No Democrats voted for the proposal. State Rep. Athena Salman (D) said the 2022 amendment is “a very sneaky way to undermine the Voter Protection Act without actually having to repeal the Voter Protection Act.” Rep. Mark Finchem (R) stated, “It’s true that we have certain things in law that were referred to the voters or that the voters established. I have a real struggle with believing that that pre-empts any future ask to the voters for clarity and precision.”

Arizona voters approved 60% (44 of 73) of the amendments that the legislature put on the ballot since 1985. The legislature referred an average of 4 amendments to the ballot between 1985 and 2020, although legislators put no amendments on the ballot in 2020. As of June 25, legislators had referred one constitutional and one statutory change to the 2022 ballot. They can refer additional measures during the remainder of this year’s legislative session and the 2022 legislative session. Arizonans also have the power to initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment or repeal legislation via veto referendum. Signatures for 2022 ballot initiatives are due July 8, 2022.

Additional reading:

New Jersey voters will decide amendment to allow college sports betting on in-state games, New Jersey-based teams

On November 2, N.J. voters will decide at least two constitutional amendments, including an amendment to expand college sports betting. The ballot measure would allow wagering on postseason college sports competitions held in N.J. and competitions in which an N.J.-based college team participates. Currently, the state constitution permits sports betting except on games held in N.J. and on games featuring N.J.-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would expand sports betting to include all postseason college sports competitions, as long as a nonprofit collegiate athletic association sanctions the game.

The state Assembly approved the constitutional amendment on June 24, 2021. The state Senate approved the constitutional amendment 21 days earlier on June 3. Democrats and most (36 of 43) Republicans supported referring the constitutional amendment to the ballot.

In 2011, voters passed a constitutional amendment to allow sports betting in New Jersey, except on college sporting events involving an N.J. team or taking place in N.J. Betting is permitted in-person, through telephone, or through the internet at racetracks throughout the state and casinos in Atlantic City. The constitutional amendment, however, was blocked after the NCAA, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB sued then-Gov. Chris Christie (R) to stop the implementation of sports betting. The NCAA argued that the Sports Wagering Act violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibited states from being involved in sports betting. On May 14, 2018, the case surrounding sports betting went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 7-2 that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting. In June 2018, sports betting was authorized in New Jersey. 

Since Christie v. NCAA, 30 states and D.C. have passed laws to legalize sports betting. In Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, and South Dakota, sports betting was legalized through ballot measures. Voters in California will decide a ballot initiative on November 8, 2022, on whether sports betting show be legalized at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks.

Between 1995 and 2020, N.J. ballots featured 35 constitutional amendments, and 91% of them were approved by voters. An average of one constitutional amendment appeared on odd-year general election ballots in New Jersey during this period. As of June 24, 2021, the legislature had referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot. The legislature can also refer general obligation bond issues. Legislation for ballot measures must be passed by August 2, 2021, for measures to appear on the ballot for November 2. Legislature passed after that date would place measures on the ballot for 2022. 

Additional reading:

New Jersey voters will decide constitutional amendment this year on use of raffle and bingo proceeds

At the election on Nov. 2, 2021, New Jersey voters will decide a constitutional amendment related to raffle and bingo proceeds. The constitutional amendment, known as Senate Concurrent Resolution 91 in the state Legislature, received unanimous approval in both the Senate and Assembly. It is the first measure referred to the statewide ballot for New Jersey’s 2021 general election. 

As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including

  1. veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations;
  2. civic and service clubs;
  3. senior citizen associations; and
  4. volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads.

Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so. The ballot measure would allow all of the organizations that are otherwise permitted to hold bingo or raffles to use proceeds to support their groups. If approved by voters, the amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022. 

Between 1995 and 2020, the New Jersey ballot featured 35 constitutional amendments, and 91% of them were approved by voters. An average of one constitutional amendment appeared on odd-year general election ballots in New Jersey during this period.

The legislature is currently considering a second constitutional amendment, which would expand sports betting at horse racetracks to college athletics. It also has the option to refer bond issues to the ballot. The legislature can refer measures to the 2021 ballot until Aug. 2. Measures passed after Aug. 2, which is three months before the general election, would be placed on the 2022 ballot.

Additional reading: