Ryan Byrne

Ryan Byrne is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Texas voters approve Proposition 4, which bans a state income tax

Proposition 4 added language to the Texas Constitution banning a state income tax on individuals. The vote was 74% in favor to 26% against.
Before Proposition 4, the Texas State Constitution required the state legislature to put legislation enacting an income tax before voters as a statewide referendum, which voters could approve or reject. Placing a referendum before voters required a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each legislative chamber. Since Proposition 4’s ban on an income tax is a provision of the Texas Constitution, a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber and a statewide referendum is needed to repeal or amend the ban. Therefore, one of the practical effects of Proposition 4 is to increase the legislative vote requirement to authorize an income tax.
The Texas State Legislature placed Proposition 4 on the ballot in one of the narrowest votes between 1995 and 2019. In Texas, a two-thirds vote is required to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which is equal to 100 votes in the state House and 21 votes in the state Senate, assuming no vacancies. The constitutional amendment received 100 in the state House and 22 votes in the state Senate. Most legislative Democrats (65 percent) opposed Proposition 4. Legislative Republicans, along with 29 percent of legislative Democrats, supported the constitutional amendment.
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Voters had addressed 677 proposed amendments before 2019, approving 498 (73.6%) and rejecting 179 (26.4%). The rate of approval has been higher in recent years, with 91.2 percent being approved since 1995.

Texas Proposition 1 is the first constitutional amendment to be defeated in Texas since 2011

Voters rejected Texas Proposition 1, which would have allowed elected municipal judges to hold office in multiple municipalities at the same time. The vote was 65% against and 35% in favor. Proposition 1 is the first constitutional amendment to be rejected in Texas since 2011, when three measures were defeated. Proposition 1 was put on the ballot by the state legislature, where it received the unanimous support of Republicans and Democrats in both legislative chambers.
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Voters had addressed 677 proposed amendments before 2019, approving 498 (73.6%) and rejecting 179 (26.4%). The rate of approval has been higher in recent years, with 91.2 percent being approved since 1995.

Marsy’s Law will be on Pennsylvania’s ballot, but votes won’t be counted or certified, pending court ruling

On November 5, Pennsylvanians will consider a constitutional amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, on their ballots. However, voters shouldn’t expect to find out the amendment’s fate on election night. Judge Ellen Ceisler of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined Acting Secretary of State Boockvar (D) from counting and certifying votes on the constitutional amendment, pending a final ruling. According to Judge Ceisler, the action appears to be the first time that a state court has delayed certification of a constitutional amendment.
Marsy’s Law would add a section addressing crime victims’ rights to the Pennsylvania Constitution Declaration of Rights. Judge Ceisler said she issued the preliminary injunction because approval of the constitutional amendment would have “immediate, profound, and in some instances, irreversible, consequences on the constitutional rights of the accused and in the criminal justice system.” While Judge Ceisler enjoined certification of the amendment due to the possible consequences of the law, the case itself addresses a different question—Does the ballot measure for Marsy’s Law violate the state constitution’s requirement that separate amendments receive separate votes?
The League of Women Voters (LWV) and Lorraine Haw challenged Marsy’s Law as violating the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution says, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” LWV and Haw argued that the ballot measure proposes several amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution and, therefore, violates Article XI. Judge Ceisler said, ” Petitioners [LWV and Haw] have raised substantial questions as to the constitutionality of the Proposed Amendment in terms of both a violation of Article XI, Section 1’s separate vote requirement, and its facial impact on other articles and sections of the Constitution.”
Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which opposes Marsy’s Law, responded, “This ruling reaffirms the importance of following the constitution. Despite the heated rhetoric, rather than help crime victims, the Legislature failed them in this process. They did not hold a single hearing over two legislative sessions, and they ignored the law in proposing this massive constitutional amendment. They knew better, and they should have done better.” Jennifer Riley, state director for Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, also responded, “We are dismayed by the decision of the Commonwealth Court to grant the injunction request. We maintain our position that the proposed amendment for Marsy’s Law satisfies the single-subject rule, and remain confident that the court will ultimately rule in favor of certifying the election results.”
The outcome of Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law could be unknown until the question is appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which the plaintiffs or defendants will have the option to do after the state Commonwealth Court issues a ruling. In 2018, certification of the Kentucky Marsy’s Law Amendment was blocked, pending a court ruling, but votes were counted. The amendment was approved, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the votes could not be certified. In Pennsylvania, votes will not be counted or certified unless a court rules that the amendment is constitutional.

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash file California ballot initiative to define their drivers as independent contractors and enact labor policies

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash file California ballot initiative to define their drivers as independent contractors and enact labor policies
Type: News
Representatives of DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber filed a ballot initiative in California for the election on November 3, 2020, in response to the passage of Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5). The ballot measure would consider app-based drivers to be independent contractors and not employees or agents. Therefore, the ballot measure would override AB 5, signed in September 2019, on the question of whether workers are employees or independent contractors.
AB 5 established a three-factor test to decide a worker’s status as an independent contractor. The three-factor test requires that (a) the worker is free from the hiring company’s control and direction in the performance of work; (b) the worker is doing work that is outside the company’s usual course of business; and (c) the worker is engaged in an established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.
Responding to AB 5, Tony West, the chief legal officer for Uber, stated, “”Because we continue to believe drivers are properly classified as independent, and because we’ll continue to be responsive to what the vast majority of drivers tell us they want most—flexibility—drivers will not be automatically reclassified as employees … We expect we will continue to respond to claims of misclassification in arbitration and in court as necessary, just as we do now.”” On September 11, 2019, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Uber, which said, “”Uber has stated that it will not reclassify its drivers [as employees], even though the legislature has clearly intended for Uber to be covered by [AB 5].””
The ballot measure would also enact labor and wage policies specific to app-based drivers and companies, including a net earnings floor based on 120 percent of the state’s or municipality’s minimum wage and 30 cents per mile; a limitation on the hours a driver is permitted to work during a 24-hour period; healthcare subsidies; occupational accident insurance; and accidental death insurance. The proposal would require the companies to develop anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies. The proposed net earnings floor and healthcare subsidies would be based on a worker’s engaged time, which is defined as the time between accepting a request and completing the request. Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D-80), who authored AB 5, criticized the concept of engaged time, saying, “”Their wage floor suggests if If I’m a cashier, I’m only paid while there’s a customer in my line, not when I’m waiting for the next customer.”” She also said the benefits of being considered an employee outweigh what the initiative would provide to app-based drivers.
DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber have each placed $30 million into campaign accounts to fund the ballot initiative campaign. Brandon Castillo, a spokesperson for the campaign supporting the initiative, stated, “”We’re going to spend what it takes to win. It’s been widely reported that three of the companies already shifted $90 million, but we’re still in the early phases. The bottom line is: We’re committed to passing this.””
The next step for the campaign is to receive ballot language from Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D). He is expected to release language on January 2, 2020, which would allow the campaign to begin collecting the 623,212 valid signatures needed. The deadline for signature verification is June 25, 2020; however, the recommended deadline to file signature petitions for verification using a random sample is April 21.

Where do Texas’ largest newspapers stand on this year’s constitutional amendments?

There are no statewide offices on the ballot in Texas this November, but there are 10 state constitutional amendments. The editorial boards of the state’s five largest newspapers gave unanimous endorsements to five of the constitutional amendments and were divided on the remaining amendments. According to Statista, the state-based newspapers with the largest circulation in 2016 were (1) The Dallas Morning News, (2) Houston Chronicle, (3) San Antonio Express-News, (4) Forth Worth Star-Telegram, and (5) Austin American-Statesman.
The five constitutionals that received unanimous support from the five-largest newspapers were Propositions 2, 6, 7, 8, and 10. On Propositions 3 and 5, one newspaper editorial board opposed the measure. On Proposition 1, two newspaper editorial boards opposed the measure. Proposition 4 was the one measure on this year’s ballot to receive an endorsement from just one—Fort Worth Star-Telegram—of the five-largest newspapers. The other four newspapers—The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and Austin American-Statesman—each opposed Proposition 4.
Proposition 4 would add an amendment to prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals to the Texas Constitution, which requires a two-thirds legislative vote and a statewide referendum to amend. The current requirement to enact an income tax is a simple majority legislative vote and a statewide referendum. In other words, one of the practical effects of Proposition 4 is increasing the legislative vote requirement to enact an income tax.
The Texas State Legislature placed Proposition 4 on the ballot in one of the narrowest votes of the past 25 years. In Texas, a two-thirds vote is required to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which is equal to 100 votes in the state House and 21 votes in the state Senate, assuming no vacancies. The constitutional amendment received 100 in the state House and 22 votes in the state Senate. Most legislative Democrats (65 percent) opposed Proposition 4. Legislative Republicans, along with 29 percent of legislative Democrats, supported the constitutional amendment.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board wrote, “The bar to a major new tax should be high.” The Austin American-Statesman and Houston Chronicle opposed the measure’s wording, contending that the wording could lead to legal challenges against the state’s business franchise tax. The Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News both described the amendment as unnecessary.
Below is an image of the stances that Texas’ largest newspapers have taken on this year’s constitutional amendments, along with other editorials that Ballotpedia has identified.

Lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania to invalidate the Marsy’s Law ballot measure on the state’s November ballot

In November, Pennsylvania will be the 13th state to vote on Marsy’s Law, an amendment to add crime victims’ rights to the state constitution. The ballot measure would create 15 constitutional rights for crime victims.
Lorraine Haw, along with the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (LWV), filed litigation to invalidate the ballot measure on October 10, 2019. The lawsuit argues that the measure violates the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” The legal complaint said Haw, a registered voter of Pennsylvania, “cannot vote for the parts of the amendment she agrees with without voting for other things she disagrees with,” which violates her rights. Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) was named as the defendant.
Boockvar filed her response to the complaint on October 16, 2019. Boockvar said, “The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment pertains to a single subject matter — securing victims’ rights in the criminal case in which they suffered direct harm. Every single subpart of the amendment advances this one goal.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has scheduled a hearing for October 23, 2019, but a ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Courts have struck down Marsy’s Law in Kentucky and Montana. In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court ruled on June 12, 2019, that the ballot language did not provide enough information to communicate the amendment’s substance to voters. On November 1, 2017, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated the state’s separate-vote requirement.
The Pennsylvania State Legislature placed Marsy’s Law on the ballot after approving the proposal during two consecutive legislation sessions (2018 and 2019). The proposal received unanimous support in 2018. In 2019, the proposal received unanimous support in the state Senate, while seven Democrats and one Republican voted against the proposal in the 203-member state House. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced his support for Marsy’s Law in April 2018, saying, “Marsy’s Law will amend the state constitution to provide crime victims with equal protections and participation in the process. Victims and their families deserve equity.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is opposed to Marsy’s Law. Andy Hoover, communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said, “Contrast these [defendants’ rights] with victims’ rights, which arise out of a dispute between two private people. One person’s rights against another person are fundamentally different than a person’s rights against the awesome power of the government. This is why our Constitution, which lays out the restrictions on government power, includes defendants’ rights and why victims’ rights are primarily contained in statute.”
Through September 16, 2019, the campaign Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania has received $6 million from the national organization Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corp, founded Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Marsy’s Law is named after Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.

Maine will hold a statewide vote on a ballot measure addressing vaccination requirements at presidential primary

On October 17, 2019, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced that the campaign Mainers for Health and Parental Rights filed enough signatures for a veto referendum on whether religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements should be eliminated. The referendum will be on the ballot for the election on March 3, 2020, which will also feature the presidential primary.
Mainers for Health and Parental Rights needed to gather 63,067 valid signatures. The campaign filed 95,871 raw signatures, and Dunlap said that 79,056 signatures were valid. The campaign had raised $176,129 through September 30, 2019, and spent $154,982.
The veto referendum seeks to repeal Legislative Document 798 (2019), which would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions would go into effect on September 1, 2021. LD 798 would allow students with individualized education plans (IEPs) and who had a religious or philosophical exemption before September 1, 2021, to continue receiving the exemption while in school with a valid statement from a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
Maine was the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination for students to attend schools. LD 798, however, is now suspended until voters decide the bill’s fate. New York passed a similar law a few weeks after Maine to eliminate non-medical exemptions for students. The other three states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and California.
It’s been 97 years since voters across a state decided a vaccination-related ballot measure. In 1922, Washington voters repealed a law to remove vaccination requirements for school attendance. California, along with Maine, could also vote on vaccination requirements in 2020. In California, veto referendums were filed to overturn laws to create a system for reviewing and rejecting medical exemptions from vaccination.
The veto referendum is the first ballot measure certified in Maine for 2020. The deadline to file signatures for initiatives to appear on the November 2020 ballot is February 2. The legislature can also refer statutes, such as bond issues, and constitutional amendments to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on even-year statewide ballots in Maine.
Maine voters have decided 30 statewide veto referendums. In 18 cases, voters repealed the targeted legislation. In 12 cases, voters upheld the targeted legislation.

Californians to vote on $15 billion school and college facilities bond in March

On March 3, 2020, Californians will vote on a $15 billion bond proposition for school and college facilities. The bond measure is set to appear alongside primaries for president, U.S. House, and the state legislature.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that placed the bond measure on the ballot on Oct. 7. Newsom said, “We are back asking the voters yet again to do what they historically have always done, and that is to embrace our children and embrace their fate and future and do more to do justice to the cause of public education in the state of California.” The legislation received bipartisan support in the California State Legislature, with support from Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans.
Of the $15 billion in bonds, $9 billion would be for preschool and K-12 facilities, $2 billion would be for community college facilities, $2 billion would be for University of California facilities, and $2 billion would be for California State University facilities. Around 65 percent of the $9 billion for preschool and K-12 facilities would be allocated to modernization projects, while 35 percent would be allocated to construction projects. The state Department of General Services would consider several variables in determining which modernization and construction applications to prioritize, including projects to address earthquake risks; lead remediation; overcrowding; schools with low tax bases; and schools with higher percentages of English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and foster youth. The state would use the bond revenue to provide matching funds for school districts that cover 60 to 65 percent of modernization costs and 50 to 55 percent of construction costs.
The ballot measure would be the largest school-related bond in the state’s history and tie for the second largest in general. The largest was Proposition 1B (2006), which provided $19.9 billion for transportation infrastructure, and the second-largest was Proposition 57 (2004), which provided $15 billion to reduce the state’s deficit. Californians last voted on a school facilities bond measure in 2016, which passed with 55 percent of the vote. The bond measure, titled Proposition 51, issued $7 billion for K-12 education facilities and $2 billion for colleges. Between 1998 and 2019, voters approved five bond measures for school facilities—Proposition 1A (1998), Proposition 47 (2002), Proposition 55 (2004), Proposition 1D (2006), and Proposition 51 (2016).
The California State Legislature will consider adding additional ballot measures, including bonds, to the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020, when legislators reconvene in 2020. Campaigns also have until June 25, 2020, to have signatures verified for citizen-initiated ballot measures to appear on the general election ballot.

This decade featured the lowest number of California ballot propositions in the state’s history of direct democracy

Between 2010 and 2019, there were 69 statewide ballot measures in California, which means this decade featured the smallest number of measures since voters adopted the initiative process in 1911. The number of citizen-initiated measures, however, was 51—the third-highest number per decade of the previous 11 decades. Therefore, the decrease in measures on the ballot is due to the state legislature passing fewer constitutional amendments, referred statutes, and general obligation bonds. After peaking at 142 ballot measures in the 1970s, the number of ballot measures decreased each decade in California until reaching 69 in the 2010s. The average decade featured 116 ballot propositions, of which 39 were citizen-initiated.
In 1912, the first citizen-initiated measures were on the ballot in California. Since 1912, there have been 1,271 measures put before California voters. Of those 1,271 measures, 428—34 percent—were put on the ballot through citizen petitions; either through the initiative process or the veto referendum process.
Overall, the approval rate for citizen initiatives from 1912 through 2019 was 36 percent. The approval rate for all ballot measures, including citizen-initiated measures and legislative referrals, was 57 percent.
The next two elections, 2020 and 2022, will require the largest number of signatures for citizen-initiated measures in the state’s history. To get an initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot, 997,139 valid signatures are required. To get an initiated statute or veto referendum on the ballot, 623,212 valid signatures are required. Due to turnout at California’s 2018 gubernatorial election, which determines the number of signatures required for the two successive general elections, signature requirements increased by 70.3 percent. The percentage increase was the second-largest in the state’s 106 years of statewide direct democracy. The largest increase was 140.3 percent and resulted from turnout in the 1914 general election, which was the first gubernatorial election that followed women gaining the right to vote in California.
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Californians could vote on ballot initiative expanding consumer information law

Californians could vote on expanding the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and creating an agency to oversee the act’s implementation and enforcement in 2020. Proponents will have 180 days to collect at least 623,212 valid signatures after Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) writes the petition language, which is expected December 2, 2019. The recommended dates to file signatures in order for them to be verified before the deadline on June 25, 2020, is between March 3 and April 21.
Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco-based real estate developer, filed the ballot initiative. He was the proponent of a ballot initiative that qualified for the ballot in 2018 but was withdrawn after negotiations with the California State Legislature, which passed a revised version of the initiative called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). Mactaggart contributed $3 million to the initiative’s campaign, which spent $1.63 million to collect signatures ($4.46 per required signature).
With the ballot initiative for the election on November 3, 2020, Mactaggart said his intention “is to go to the ballot.” He described the CCPA of 2018 as a “great baseline. But I think there are additional rights that Californians deserve.” Unlike the CCPA, which the legislature passed, the ballot initiative couldn’t be amended without the approval of voters at the ballot box due to the state constitution’s limits on legislative alteration. “The only thing I want to make sure is they can’t undo the act,” said Mactaggart, “There is basically unlimited resources on one side of the fight. If you don’t do anything, they will win eventually.” Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-18) was involved in the negotiations with Mactaggart that resulted in the CCPA of 2018. Sen. Hertzberg said that “[t]here is no reason to negotiate” this time, adding, “What [Mactaggart] is doing is the right thing.”
Of the several changes that the proposal would make, the 2020 ballot initiative would (a) require that businesses provide consumers with the ability to opt-out of having their sensitive personal information, as defined in law, used or disclosed for advertising or marketing; (b) require that businesses obtain permission before collecting data from consumers younger than 16; (c) require that businesses obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting data from consumers younger than 13; (d) require that businesses disclose information regarding profiling algorithms used to determine a consumer’s eligibility for financial or lending services, housing, insurance, and other services; and (e) require that businesses collecting personal information for political purposes disclose the name of the candidates and committees for which the consumer’s information was used.
As of September 2019, a campaign had not formed to oppose the ballot initiative. In 2018, opponents of the Mactaggart-backed initiative raised $2.15 million before the initiative was withdrawn. Companies that provided funds to the opposition committee included Facebook, Google, Amazon, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Uber. The opposition campaign had argued that the initiative was “unworkable, requiring the internet and businesses in California to operate differently than the rest of the world — limiting our choices, hurting our businesses, and cutting our connection to the global economy.”
California is one of two states (Arizona being the other) that require voter approval for changes to or the repeal of citizen-initiated state statutes, thereby preventing legislative alteration of citizen initiatives. Eleven of the 21 states that feature the initiated state statute power have no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiated statutes. The other states restrict how soon the legislature can amend or repeal an initiative, require a supermajority vote of legislators, or a combination of the two.