Author

Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at victoria.antram@ballotpedia.org.

New Mexico voters to decide whether to allow changes to the election dates of non-statewide offices

New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment (HJR8) was certified for the November 3 ballot on February 20. The measure would amend section 3 of Article XX of the New Mexico Constitution, which relates to the date elected officials assume office. The amendment would allow the state legislature to pass laws adjusting the election dates of state or county officeholders and adjust office terms according to those date changes. Laws proposing adjustments to election dates of non-statewide officeholders would have to be supported by a legislative finding that such a change would promote consistency for the elections of particular offices or more evenly distribute the number of offices appearing on the ballot.

The amendment, House Joint Resolution 8, was introduced on January 29, 2020. The state House approved HJR8 on February 15, with a vote of 59 to 10, with one member absent. The state Senate approved the amendment on February 20, with a vote of 29 to 13. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the New Mexico State Senate and the New Mexico House of Representatives. A simple majority vote of the statewide electorate is required to ratify the amendment.

The amendment was a response to the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that certain provisions of the Election Code and the Nonpartisan Judicial Retention Act (2019) were unconstitutional. The court argued that the 2019 act, which lengthened the terms of certain non-statewide officeholders by shifting the offices to different election cycles, was unconstitutional. In a report to the legislature, the Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D), wrote, “HJR8 is the Legislature’s attempt to properly extend the terms of these officers to align them on the same ballot on the same election year, which would help the SOS and voters by providing consistency and clarity of the ballot.” The 2019 act primarily affects the terms of district attorneys and judicial officers.

The amendment is the second constitutional amendment referred to the 2020 ballot in New Mexico. The New Mexico Appointed Public Regulation Commission Amendment would change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.

Additional reading:
New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment (2020) 
New Mexico 2020 ballot measures



Missouri Senate approves amendment that would make changes to Missouri Amendment 1 passed in 2018

On Monday, the Missouri Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) that would amend Article III of the Missouri Constitution to change certain provisions of Missouri Amendment 1 passed in 2018. SJR 38 was approved in a vote of 22-9. The amendment would enact the following changes:

• eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer and revert back to a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor;
• alter the criteria used to draft district maps;
• change the threshold of lobbyist gifts from $5 to $0; and
• lower the contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
The measure must receive a simple majority vote (82 votes) in the state House to appear before voters.

Missouri Amendment 1 (2018) was an initiated constitutional amendment approved with 62% of the vote. The amendment created a position called the non-partisan state demographer, which was tasked with drawing state legislative districts. Amendment 1 required the state demographer and redistricting commissions to consider specific criteria, including what the initiative calls partisan fairness and competitiveness, contiguousness, compactness, and the boundaries of political subdivisions. SJR 38 would require that population size, adherence to voting rights laws, compactness, and boundaries of political subdivisions have a higher priority than partisan fairness and competitiveness in the criteria used for redistricting.

Amendment 1 also prohibited the Missouri State Legislature from passing laws allowing for unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature. Amendment 1 established campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and their committees for a single election cycle to $2,500 per person to a state Senate candidate and $2,000 per person to a state House candidate.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Clean Missouri. On February 10, the committee reported receiving a $100,000 contribution from the Action Now Initiative after SJR 38 passed the state Senate. In 2018, Clean Missouri and an allied committee, Fight for Reform – Missouri, raised a total of $5.63 million, including $1.01 million from the Action Now Initiative and $1.00 million from the National Education Association. The Missourians First and Advance Missouri PACs, which registered to oppose Amendment 1, raised $343,201.

SJR 38 was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on February 11.

Additional Reading:



Petitioners of opposing forest initiatives in Oregon sign agreement to work together on regulation

On Monday, petitioners of opposing ballot initiatives designed to change forest regulations in Oregon announced that they had signed an agreement to work together via the legislature rather than the initiative process. Twenty-six groups signed the cooperative memorandum. One side of the debate included groups like Oregon Wild, the Audubon Society of Portland, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. The other side included timber companies like Stimson Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, and Weyerhaeuser. Both groups had filed citizen initiatives targeting the 2020 ballot.

The meetings over the past month between the two sides were facilitated by Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office. The agreement focuses on passing changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act of 1971 with the goal of enacting new legislation by the February 2022 legislative session. The agreement sets up an 18-month process to establish a federally approved habitat conservation plan, which would take into account the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts and the interests of the timber industry. Additionally, the two sides agreed to support a bill that would limit aerial pesticide treatments and allow regulations that would restrict logging near streams in southern Oregon’s Siskiyou region.

At the press conference announcing the agreement, Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director for the Wild Salmon Center, said, “Today we’re starting a new approach … It’s a path of collaboration toward stronger conservation measures and more certainty for the timber industry.”

Conservation proponents were behind the Oregon Forest Water Protection from Pesticides and Logging Initiatives (Initiatives #45-47) and filed the petitions on October 2, 2019. Earlier versions of the initiatives (#34-36) were rejected by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno based on Oregon’s single-subject rule for petitions. The initiatives were designed to regulate the use of aerial pesticide treatments and logging near forest water bodies.

Proponents of the Oregon Scientific Standards for Forest Regulation Initiative, the State Board of Forestry Oversight Changes Initiative, and the Compensation for Loss of Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative (Initiatives #53-56) filed the petitions on November 5, 2019. The measures were designed to add a review process for the State Board of Forestry to determine if forest regulation complies with current science; increase the number of members on the State Board of Forestry and supply rules for filling vacancies and term limits; and amend Oregon’s Constitution to add that landowners must be compensated if they lose all economic value of their property due to state laws that go into effect after January 1, 2020.

Neither side of the agreement has formally withdrawn their petitions from the Oregon Secretary of State.

Read more about the ballot initiatives below:


Abortion right amendment defeated in the Kansas House of Representatives Friday

On Friday, the Kansas House of Representatives did not approve the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment by the two-thirds supermajority required to place the measure on the primary ballot in August. The number of “yes” votes required was 84. The final vote was 80-43.

The amendment would have added a new section to the end of the Kansas Bill of Rights that states there is no right to an abortion or to public funding for abortions. The amendment is the legislative response to the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court case, Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, which concluded that there is a right to an abortion in the Kansas Bill of Rights.

In response to the House vote, Senate President Susan Wagle (R), said, “This vote just completely changed the course of the 2020 legislative session. I will work with the pro-life community and will persevere to ensure its passage.”

The current partisan composition in the House is 84 Republicans to 41 Democrats. Four Republicans voted against the amendment.

The Kansas Senate passed the amendment last Wednesday with the required two-thirds majority in a vote of 28-12. All but one Senate Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. All Senate Democrats voted against the amendment.

From 1995 through 2019, the Kansas State Legislature referred ten constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved eight and rejected two of the referred amendments. Most of the amendments (7 of 10) were referred to ballots in even-numbered election years.

Click here to learn more.



Abortion right amendment approved by Kansas Senate introduced in the state House

The Kansas Senate voted on Wednesday to approve the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment (Senate Concurrent Resolution 1613), with a 28 to 12 margin. This is one vote above the two-thirds requirement needed in both chambers to move the amendment to the ballot. All Senate Republicans, except for Representative John Skubal from District 11, voted in favor of the amendment. All Senate Democrats voted against it.

The amendment would add a new section to the end of the Kansas Bill of Rights that states there is no right in the state constitution to an abortion or to public funding for abortions. It would also add the following language: “To the extent permitted by the constitution of the United States, the people, through their elected state representatives and state senators, may pass laws regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, in circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The amendment was sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is referred to as the “Value Them Both Amendment” by proponents. It was introduced in the state House on Thursday. In order to meet the two-thirds threshold in the House, 84 of the 125 members must approve the measure. The current partisan composition in the House is 84 Republicans and 25 Democrats.

If the amendment is approved by the state House, the measure will appear on Kansas primary ballots on August 4, 2020.

Following the Senate vote, state representative Susan Humphries, a Republican from Wichita, said, “Do you want to keep these regulations that we had in place in March of 2019? If you do, then vote ‘yes’ on this amendment because it will put the decision back on the people of Kansas through their elected officials to be able to regulate this industry.”

In response to the Senate vote, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) said, “I fear for a future in which the Legislature chooses to stand between a woman and her doctor. This would throw the state back into the Dark Ages.”

The amendment is the legislative response to the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court case, Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt, which concluded that there is a right to an abortion in the Kansas Bill of Rights.

As of 2019, three states had constitutional amendments declaring that their constitutions do not secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion. The first state to pass a constitutional amendment was Tennessee in 2014. In 2018, Alabama and West Virginia passed constitutional amendments. Voters in Louisiana will also decide a constitutional amendment concerning abortion in 2020. It would state that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Additional Reading:
Kansas No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment (2020)
Lousiana No Right to Abortion in Constitutional Amendment (2020)



Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Amendment received over $500,000 from the national organization, Marsy’s Law for All

In its January campaign finance filing, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, which is leading the campaign in support of Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment, reported receiving over $500,000 in loans from Marsy’s Law for All, the national foundation that has funded 12 statewide Marsy’s Law ballot measure campaigns. It was founded in 2009 by Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. Nicholas was the sponsor of the first Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in California as Proposition 9 in 2008. All 12 campaigns received majority voter approval; however, two of those amendments were overturned in Montana and Kentucky.

Ballotpedia tracked the campaign finance data for all 12 campaigns. Contributions in support of Marsy’s Law amendments totaled $102.3 million. The average amount contributed per measure was $8.5 million. Ohio’s efforts in 2017 received the highest amount in contributions with $10.6 million. These numbers exclude the $6.6 million spent in 2019 on Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment. A majority of electors voted to approve the ballot measure. However, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined the secretary of state from certifying election results, pending a court ruling on the amendment’s constitutionality.

Wisconsin voters will decide on the amendment on April 7, 2020. The amendment would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including a right to privacy; a right to the protection of information; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to reasonable protection from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of the release, escape, or death of the alleged criminal in a timely manner; a right to speak in any hearing related to the rights of the victim; a right to submit information about the case to authorities; a right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the alleged criminal; and a right to be informed of all rights and protections granted by the constitutional amendment and related laws.

See below for additional reading:


The signature deadline for Ohio indirect initiated state statutes was Friday

No initiative campaigns submitted signatures in Ohio on Friday’s deadline. In Ohio, initiated statutes begin as indirect initiatives, requiring 132,887 signatures in 2020 to go before the Ohio State Legislature. If enough signatures are submitted, the legislature has the option to approve an initiative without a vote of electors. If the state legislature does not adopt an indirect initiative, the initiated statute becomes direct, requiring an additional 132,887 signatures (for a grand total of 265,774) to go before voters in 2020.

The only initiated state statute campaign that was approved by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to gather signatures was Ohioans for Gun Safety, which is sponsoring the Ohio Background Checks for Firearm Purchases Initiative. The campaign announced in early December that it is going to target the 2021 ballot instead of the 2020 ballot. Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for Ohioans for Gun Safety, said, “We think that 2021 gives us the best opportunity to have a clear and simple and straight forward conversation with Ohio voters that background checks for gun safety will save lives and reduce gun violence.”

Additional reading:
Ohio 2020 ballot measures


Massachusetts income tax rate decrease takes effect on January 1

In the general election of 2000, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 with 59 percent of the vote. The initiative enacted a law that would lower the state’s personal income tax from 5.9% in 2000 to 5% by 2003.

In 2002, the Massachusetts General Court passed House No. H.5250, which replaced the schedule adopted by Question 4 with a more gradual decrease tied to revenue milestones. The act decreased the state’s personal income tax rate by 0.05% every fiscal year that revenue benchmarks were met. On January 1, 2020, the rate will decrease to 5%—the target rate of Question 4.

The rate decrease is expected to lower tax revenue by $88 million in fiscal year 2020, which ends June 30, 2020. Massachusetts is one of nine states with a flat income tax rate. In 2019, the average income tax rate among those states was 4.49 percent.

From 2010 through 2018, Massachusetts voters approved 8 citizen initiatives. Of those, two were altered by the state legislature; one was amended and one

Click here to learn more.

Additional Reading:
Legislative alteration

 



State signature deadline for Massachusetts 2020 initiatives was Wednesday

The Massachusetts secretary of state reported receiving signatures from eight initiative campaigns on Wednesday, December 4. Wednesday was the deadline for 2020 ballot measure sponsors to submit signatures to state officials. November 20 was the preliminary deadline to submit signatures for verification to local registrars before submitting them to the secretary of state.
The number of verified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot is 80,239, which equals 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Four campaigns reported submitting more than the required amount:
  • Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition reported submitting 102,000 signatures in support of an initiative that would broaden access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system.
  • Massachusetts Senior Coalition reported submitting 87,000 signatures in support of an initiative that would change the formula for Medicaid ratemaking for nursing homes.
  • Voters Choice for Massachusetts, which is sponsoring a ranked-choice voting measure, reported submitting 110,584 signatures.
  • The sponsors of an initiative backed by Cumberland Farms that would allow food stores to sell beer and wine reported submitting 130,000 signatures.
The sponsors of two initiatives regarding the treatment of the disabled reported submitting signatures to the secretary of state, but it was not clear as of December 5 if they submitted at least the minimum required number of signatures.
Proponents of two initiated constitutional amendments reported submitting an insufficient number of signatures. These initiatives were the Massachusetts No Right to Public Funding for Abortion Initiative and the Massachusetts Voting Rights Restoration for Incarcerated Felons Initiative.
If enough signatures are submitted in this first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by May 6, 2020. If the legislature fails to adopt the proposed law, petitioners then have until July 1, to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of 13,374 signatures. If successful in that second round, the initiative will be placed on the 2020 ballot.
Click here to learn more.


Wednesday was a signature deadline for 2020 Massachusetts ballot initiatives

Ballot initiative campaigns hoping to land a spot on the 2020 Massachusetts ballot had to submit 80,239 signatures to local registrars by Wednesday, November 20. After signatures are verified by local authorities, petitioners must submit those signatures to the secretary of the commonwealth by December 4.
 
On September 4, the attorney general cleared 10 initiatives for circulation. As of Thursday, Voter Choice for Massachusetts, Right to Repair Coalition, and the Massachusetts Senior Coalition reported submitting signatures. It is unclear whether the seven other campaigns met the deadline.
 
Voters Choice for Massachusetts is sponsoring the Massachusetts Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative that would enact ranked-choice voting for all elections in Massachusetts, excluding presidential electors, county commissioners, and regional district school committees, as well as elections in caucuses. Right to Repair Coalition is sponsoring Massachusetts Right to Repair Initiative which concerns access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics system. Massachusetts Senior Coalition is sponsoring the Massachusetts Nursing Homes Medicaid Ratemaking Initiative, which would change the formula that state healthcare programs, such as MassHealth (Medicaid), use to determine payments to nursing homes and rest homes.
 
The Wednesday deadline required at least 80,239 signatures, which equals 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. If enough signatures are submitted in the first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by May 6, 2020. If the legislature fails to adopt the proposed law, petitioners then have until July 1, to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of 13,374 signatures. If successful, the initiative will be placed on the 2020 ballot.
 


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