Author

Ryan Byrne

Ryan Byrne is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Arizona to vote on in-state tuition for non-citizen residents in 2022

In 2022, Arizonans will vote on a ballot measure to expand in-state tuition to some residents without legal citizenship status. The ballot measure would make in-state tuition available to non-citizen residents who (a) attended school in Arizona for at least two years and (b) graduated from a public school, private school, or homeschool in Arizona. Individuals who are considered nonresident aliens under federal law, such as the children of foreign diplomats and foreign government employees, would not be eligible.

The ballot measure would repeal provisions of Proposition 300, which 71% of voters approved in 2006. Proposition 300 provided that non-citizens could not receive certain state-subsidized services, benefits, or financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

State Sen. Paul Boyer (R-20) filed the ballot measure as Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 (SCR 1044). On March 4, 2021, the Arizona State Senate voted 17-13 to approve the proposal, with Democrats and three Republicans supporting SCR 1044. On May 10, 2021, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 33-27 to refer the ballot measure to the ballot, with Democrats and four Republicans supporting the resolution. According to the Associated Press, House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-25) did not want a vote on the bill unless a majority of House Republicans supported it. However, State Reps. Michelle Udall (R-25) and Joel John (R-4) motioned for a vote and were joined by Democrats and two other Republicans.

Republicans hold 31 House seats and Democrats hold 29 House seats. Rep. Udall said, “We need more college educated teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations. The youth this bill seeks to help shouldn’t be blamed or judged based on others’ actions. They were brought here as minors, as children.” State Rep. John Fillmore (R-16), who voted against the measure, stated, “Americans should not have to pay for non-American citizens, illegals, giving them favored status for their trespass and invasion into America.” 

The ballot measure is the first certified for the ballot in Arizona for 2022. Since 1985, the state legislature referred an average of five proposals to the ballot during each election cycle. As of May 10, ten legislative referrals have passed at least one chamber of the Arizona State Legislature. A simple majority is required in each legislative chamber to refer a measure to the ballot. This applies to both statutes and constitutional amendments. The 2021 legislative session is expected to adjourn on May 31. 

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Missouri legislature passes 2022 constitutional amendment to expand treasurer’s investment options

On May 4, 2021, the Missouri State Senate voted 32-0 to pass a constitutional amendment expanding the types of securities and financial instruments the state treasurer can invest state funds into. It will appear on the ballot for the election on Nov. 8, 2022. The constitutional amendment would add municipal securities that receive one of the five highest ratings from a nationally recognized rating agency to the list of securities into which state funds can be invested. The constitutional amendment would also allow the legislature to pass laws allowing the treasurer to invest in other financial instruments and securities that are deemed reasonable and prudent.

The Missouri House of Representatives previously passed the amendment on March 11, 2021, by a vote of 156-1. State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer (R-61) was the amendment’s lead sponsor. 

In Missouri, the state treasurer is responsible for determining how much state revenue is not needed for operating expenses and invests those remaining funds with the goal of accumulating interest income for the state. The current state treasurer is Scott Fitzpatrick (R), who was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike Parson and elected to his first full term in 2020. 

Since 1985, Missouri voters have approved 69% (51 of 74) of legislatively referred constitutional amendments. The state legislature is expected to adjourn its 2021 session on May 14 and could refer additional amendments to the 2022 ballot during next year’s legislative session.

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Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot will feature four ballot measures, the most since 1981

At the primary election on May 18, 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide four ballot measures alongside legislative special elections, municipal and school district elections, and judicial elections. It is the most measures on a Pennsylvania ballot since 1981. During the last two decades, the average number of measures on the ballot in Pennsylvania per year was less than one. Additional measures could appear on the November general election ballot this year. Four constitutional amendments are pending in the legislature.

Question 1 and Question 2 on the May ballot address the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. Question 1 would allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which would not require the governor’s signature, to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration. Question 2 would limit the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order.

In June 2020, the General Assembly passed a concurrent resolution to terminate Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) coronavirus emergency declaration. On July 1, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution, which would have required a legislative two-thirds vote to overturn. 

Question 3 would add the following section to the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual.” The state Senate voted to add Question 3 to the same bill that referred Question 1 and Question 2 to the ballot.

Unlike the other three ballot measures, Question 4 changes state statute, not the state constitution. It would expand the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to also include municipal fire companies and EMS services. The loan program is funded by general obligation bonds. Question 4 would not issue new bonds. Voters have approved a total of $100 million in general obligation bonds between 1975 and 2002 to fund the loan program. Loans can be used for establishing or modernizing facilities, equipment, and vehicles.

Between 1995 and 2020, the state legislature referred 10 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All 10 of the constitutional amendments were approved. As of 2020, voters last rejected a constitutional amendment in 1981.

May 3 is the deadline to register to vote in the election. May 11 is the last day to request a mail-in ballot.

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Ballot measures proposed in response to coronavirus and emergency powers

The coronavirus pandemic has shaped the political landscape of the United States, including the powers of governors and state legislatures. Changes have been proposed in response to the pandemic or pandemic-related regulations and restrictions. Some of these changes, such as state constitutional amendments, require ballot measures for ratification. Others are citizen-initiated proposals, meaning campaigns collect signatures to put proposals on the ballot for voters to decide.

As of March 12, three constitutional amendments related to coronavirus events and conflicts have been certified for future ballots in two states—Pennsylvania and Utah. Voters in Pennsylvania will decide the ballot measures on May 18, 2021. Both of the ballot measures resulted from conflicts between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the governor’s emergency powers and the legislature’s role in emergency orders. One proposal would limit the governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes to extend the order. The other amendment would allow the legislature to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, to terminate the governor’s emergency declaration.

In Utah, voters will decide a constitutional amendment on appropriations limits at the general election in 2022. The ballot measure, which received bipartisan support in the Utah State Legislature, would increase the size of appropriations permitted during an emergency and exempt emergency federal funding from the appropriations limit. 

There are also proposed constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives that could make the ballot in at least 5 additional states. In Arizona, the Senate passed an amendment to limit the governor’s emergency declarations to 30 days unless the legislature votes to extend them. The Arizona House voted to refer a ballot measure that would allow the legislature to modify or terminate the governor’s emergency order. Other citizen-initiated measures related to the governor’s emergency powers have been filed in California, Maine, and Michigan.

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Maine secretary of state verifies sufficient signatures for ballot initiative to prohibit electric transmission corridors in state’s Upper Kennebec Region

Voters in Maine could decide a ballot initiative designed to stop a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission project, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), that would transmit hydroelectric power from Quebec to utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. The ballot initiative would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve future high-impact (defined) electric transmission corridors and prohibit new transmission corridors in the Upper Kennebec Region.

On February 22, 2021, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced that the initiative’s proponents had collected 80,506 valid signatures—17,439 more than the minimum needed for the initiative to go before voters on November 2, 2021. Proponents filed 95,622 unverified signatures on January 21. As ballot initiatives are indirect in Maine, the state legislature has the option to approve the initiative rather than having the issue placed on the November 2021 ballot.

The ballot initiative is the second attempt by NECEC opponents to stop the project at the ballot box. In 2020, the No CMP Corridor PAC, which is also behind this year’s effort, qualified a ballot initiative to require the state’s public utilities commission to reverse an order granting the project with a needed permit. On August 13, 2020, the Maine Supreme Court issued an opinion that the ballot initiative was not a legislative action and therefore exceeded “the scope of the people’s legislative power.” Ten weeks later, No CMP Corridor’s Thomas Saviello, a former Republican state senator, filed the new proposal.

NECEC was proposed by Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Québec, a Quebec state-owned enterprise. NECEC received its final federal or state permit from the U.S. Department of Energy on January 15, 2021. However, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction to prevent the construction of Segment 1 of NECEC, a 54-mile stretch of new corridor in northern Maine, pending a future court decision. Construction was permitted to begin on other segments, which will utilize existing corridors. 

No CMP Corridor, along with the Mainers for Local Power PAC, raised $6.29 million in contributions through December 31, 2021. Most—$6.05 million—was received by Mainers for Local Power. Contributions included $3.78 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; $1.15 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $1.12 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Two PACs—Clean Energy Matters and Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership—registered to oppose the ballot measure. Together, the committees have raised $25.68 million, including $16.28 million from Central Maine Power (CMP) and CMP’s parent firm Avangrid and $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

No CMP Corridor was the only campaign to filed signatures to get an initiative on the ballot for November 2, 2021. The general election could also feature legislatively referred constitutional amendments and bond issues, as well as citizen-initiated veto referendums proposed after a bill is passed.

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Who funded the campaigns for and against ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020?

Voters in Alaska and Massachusetts decided statewide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020. Alaskans approved an initiated statute to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election. Voters in Massachusetts rejected an initiative to adopt ranked-choice voting statewide.  

The top-two donors to the campaigns behind the ballot initiatives were the non-profit organizations Action Now Initiative and Unite America. Action Now Initiative was a top donor to ranked-choice voting measures in previous years, such as Maine Question 5 (2016) and New York City Question 1 (2019). Unite America also contributed to campaigns in prior years but did not break into the lists of top-five largest donors. In 2020, Unite America was the largest donor to Alaskans for Better Elections and the third-largest donor to Voter Choice Massachusetts.

The Action Now Initiative provided $6.59 million to the statewide ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, including $2.93 million in Alaska and $3.66 million in Massachusetts. John and Laura Arnold founded the Action Now Initiative as a 501(c)(4) organization in Huston, Texas, in 2011. Besides ranked-choice voting ballot measures, the Action Now Initiative has supported ballot initiatives related to redistricting commissions and criminal justice changes.

Unite America contributed $3.84 million to the ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, $3.40 million of which was donated to Alaskans for Better Actions. While Unite America provided $445,000 to Voters Choice Massachusetts, the organization’s board co-chair, Kathryn Murdoch, donated $2.50 million and board member Katherine Gehl contributed $250,000. Unite America, founded in 2014 as the Centrist Project, is based in Denver, Colorado, and has the stated purpose of electing officials and enacting electoral laws that reduce partisanship and achieve better governing outcomes. Unite America has a federal hybrid political action committee (PAC) and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Opponents of the two ballot measures did not have overlapping donors. In Massachusetts, an opposition PAC raised $8,475. In Alaska, opponents received $579,426, including $150,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization that seeks to elect down-ballot, state-level Republicans, and $50,000 from the Alaska Republican Party. 

In 2020, voters in five cities—two in California, two in Minnesota, and one in Colorado—also decided ranked-choice voting ballot measures. All five measures were approved.

The next scheduled vote on a ranked-choice voting ballot measure is March 2 in Burlington, Vermont. Former Gov. Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party) are co-chairing the support campaign Better Ballot Burlington.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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New York voters to decide constitutional amendment about environmental rights in November

Voters in New York will decide a ballot measure to add a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The ballot measure would make New York the third state, after Pennsylvania and Montana, to adopt an environmental rights amendment. Pennsylvania and Montana both adopted their amendments in the 1970s.

In New York, a constitutional amendment requires approval in two successive legislation sessions to go on the ballot. Legislators approved the proposal in 2019 and 2021. On January 12, 2021, the state Senate voted 48 to 14 to approve the amendment. Senate Democrats supported the proposal, and Senate Republicans were divided 6 to 14. On February 8, the state Assembly voted 124 to 25, with support from all Democrats, 17 Republicans, and the chamber’s one Independence Party member.

The 15-word constitutional amendment reads: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”

State Sen. Robert Jackson (D-31) sponsored the proposal in the Senate. He said, “This language will finally put in place safeguards that require the government to consider the environment and our relationship to the Earth in decision making. If the government fails in that responsibility, New Yorkers will finally have the right to take legal action for a clean environment because it will be in the State Constitution.”

State Sen. Dan Stec (R-45), who voted against the constitutional amendment, stated, “I’m all for clean air and clean water. Who isn’t? But in the face of ambiguity you will have distrust, you will have lawsuits, you will have costs, and I’m trying to avoid that.”

The election on November 2, 2021, could feature as many as six amendments to the New York Constitution. The Environmental Rights Amendment is the second approved for the ballot after legislators referred a redistricting measure on January 20, 2021. Since 1995, New Yorkers have approved 76.0% (19 of 25) of the constitutional amendments that have appeared on their ballots.

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Pennsylvania General Assembly refers constitutional changes to governor’s emergency powers to May primary ballot

Voters in Pennsylvania will decide at least three constitutional amendments on May 18, 2021, including two ballot measures to alter the governor’s emergency powers. One ballot measure would limit an emergency declaration by the governor to 21 days unless the legislature passes a resolution to extend the order. Another proposal would allow the legislature to pass a resolution—without the governor’s signature—to extend or terminate an emergency declaration by the governor.

The constitutional amendments were proposed by legislative Republicans in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 6, 2020, Gov. Wolf signed an emergency disaster declaration following presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

In June 2020, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a concurrent resolution to terminate the governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration. Mike Straub, a spokesperson for House Republicans, said that the resolution did not need the governor’s signature. “This will not go to Wolf. The declaration is over, and it will be published in the Pennsylvania bulletin,” said Straub. Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Gov. Wolf, said, “The disaster proclamation has not been terminated by the House or Senate’s actions. Only the governor can terminate the disaster emergency.”

On July 1, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the state constitution requires all concurrent resolutions to be presented to the governor for approval or veto except for resolutions on legislative adjournment, internal affairs of the legislature, and constitutional amendment ballot measures. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution. The state House voted on the governor’s veto on Sept. 2, 2020, but the vote fell short of the two-thirds requirement to overturn a veto.

State Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102) proposed the constitutional changes. He said, “If the General Assembly — a co-equal branch of government — does not believe that the governor is acting properly, then the General Assembly should have a right to override that governor’s disaster emergency order.”

Gov. Wolf responded, “[The amendment] would hinder our ability to respond quickly, comprehensively and effectively to a disaster emergency by requiring any declaration to be affirmed by concurrent resolution of the legislature every three weeks. This would force partisan politics into the commonwealth’s disaster response efforts and could slow down or halt emergency response when aid is most needed.”

The third constitutional amendment certified for the May 18 ballot would add language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race or ethnicity. It was included in the same bill as the two constitutional amendments addressing the governor’s emergency powers. It wasn’t originally part of the bill. Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-7) proposed adding the amendment to the bill, and the full Senate voted unanimously to include it. 

Between 1995 and 2020, the state legislature referred 10 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All 10 of the constitutional amendments were approved. Pennsylvania voters last rejected a constitutional amendment in 1981.

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Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth to resign after error in constitutional amendment process

Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) is expected to resign on February 5, 2021, after her office failed to advertise a constitutional amendment as the state constitution requires. Voters could have decided the constitutional amendment at the election on May 18, 2021, but the two-session process will need to restart. The earliest the amendment could be referred to the ballot is now May 16, 2023. 

The constitutional amendment would have created a two-year period in which persons can file civil suits arising from childhood sexual abuse that would otherwise be considered outside the statute of limitations. A 2018 grand jury report that investigated child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church recommended the two-year litigation window.

A constitutional amendment must be approved at two successive sessions of the Pennsylvania Legislature. During the 2019-2020 legislative session, both legislative chambers approved the amendment. It was reintroduced during the 2021-2022 session, and the state House re-approved it on January 27. 

The Pennsylvania Constitution (Section 1 of Article XI) required Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) to publish the constitutional amendment in at least two newspapers in each of the state’s 67 counties during each of the three months before the general election following approval in the first legislative session (November 3, 2020). On February 1, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced that officials did not advertise the constitutional amendment as required. The department’s press released said, “While the department will take every step possible to expedite efforts to move this initiative forward, the failure to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment means the process to amend the constitution must now start from the beginning.” 

Gov. Tom Wolf (D), in announcing Boockvar’s resignation, said, “The delay caused by this human error will be heartbreaking for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault, advocates, and legislators, and I join the Department of State in apologizing to you. I share your anger and frustration that this happened, and I stand with you in your fight for justice.” State Rep. Jim Gregory (R-80), one of the amendment’s legislative cosponsors in 2019, responded, “The gravity of this ‘error’ is of the magnitude that the secretary’s resignation will not be enough for the victims. I do not want to believe that this is willful misconduct on the part of someone, but I will need to be shown that is not the case.”

Pennsylvania is not the only state to miss a constitutionally required advertisement period for a constitutional amendment in recent years. In 2019, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said that his office failed to report two constitutional amendments that the 86th Iowa General Assembly (2017-2018) approved in 2018. This meant those amendments couldn’t go on the 2020 ballot and the process had to start over. One of those amendments, a measure to add a right to firearms to the state constitution, was certified for the 2022 ballot on January 28.

Like the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Iowa Constitution required notifications of the constitutional amendments to be published at least three months before the general election following approval in the first legislative session. Unlike Pennsylvania, the Iowa Constitution doesn’t specify who needs to publish the amendment. Rather, it is set in statute. In response to the error, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill to make the state legislature, rather than the secretary of state, responsible for publishing proposed constitutional amendments passed in one legislative session.

Since the Pennsylvania Constitution specifically requires the secretary of the commonwealth to publish amendments, a constitutional amendment would be needed to pursue a similar policy change as Iowa.

Thirty-six state constitutions have a publication requirement for proposed constitutional amendments. Most require public notice prior to the election at which voters are to decide a constitutional amendment.

In six states (out of 13) with a two-session process for legislatively referred constitutional amendments, there are constitutionally mandated publication requirements in between approval in the first legislative session and the second legislative session. Those states are Iowa, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

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Californians to vote on flavored tobacco ban referendum in 2022

In 2022, Californians will vote on a veto referendum to uphold or repeal a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. On January 22, 2020, the secretary of state’s office confirmed that referendum petitioners submitted more signatures than the minimum requirement of 623,212. SB 793 was written to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but with the veto referendum pending signature verification, the effective date was suspended. As the signatures for the veto referendum were certified, the law is suspended until voters decide the issue at the election on November 8, 2022.

The California Coalition for Fairness is campaigning for the veto referendum to repeal SB 793. Through January 1, 2021, the campaign had reported $21.2 million, including $10.4 million from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and $9.8 million from Philip Morris USA.

The contested legislation, Senate Bill 793 (SB 793), was passed in August 2020, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the bill on August 28. SB 793 was designed to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, with exceptions for hookah tobacco, loose-leaf tobacco, and premium cigars. Retailers would be fined $250 for each sale violating the law.

In the state Legislature, SB 793 received support from most Democrats (84 of 89) and a quarter of Republicans (8 of 30). One legislator voted against the bill, and the remaining legislators were absent or abstained. State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-13), the sponsor of SB 793, said, “Using candy, fruit and other alluring flavors, the tobacco industry weaponized its tactics to beguile a new generation into nicotine addiction while keeping longtime users hooked. SB 793 breaks Big Tobacco’s death grip.” The California Fuels & Convenience Alliance, which opposed SB 793, described the flavored tobacco ban as “misguided policy that will do more harm than good” and “hurt small businesses, eliminate necessary tax revenue, and perpetuate dangerous and avoidable police interactions in our communities.”

If SB 793 had gone into effect on January 1, California would have been the second state, after Massachusetts, to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. California would have been the fifth state to ban flavored e-cigarettes. 

The ballot measure is not the first flavored tobacco ban veto referendum in California. In 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that banned the sale of flavored tobacco. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched a veto referendum campaign to repeal the ordinance. The signature drive was successful, placing the ordinance on the ballot as Proposition E. Voters approved Proposition E, thus upholding the board’s ordinance; 68.4% voted to adopt the ordinance. R.J. Reynolds provided $12.9 million to the campaign to overturn the ban. The campaign to uphold the ban received $3.2 million, including $2.3 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The ballot measure is the 50th veto referendum in California since the veto referendum process was adopted in 1911. Of the 49 veto referendums that Californians have voted on, voters upheld 20 (41%) of the laws and repealed 29 (59%) of the laws. Voters last decided a veto referendum in 2020, when they repealed a law to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects. 

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