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Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Massachusetts voters will decide measure in 2022 creating additional income tax on income above $1 million

On June 9, the Massachusetts General Court convened a joint session and passed Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) by a vote of 159-41, which sent an increase in the state’s income tax for top earners to state voters in 2022.

SB 5 is a constitutional amendment that would create an additional 4% income tax on income above $1 million, increasing the rate from 5% to 9%. The additional tax revenue would be dedicated “to provide the resources for quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.” Currently, Massachusetts is one of nine states with a flat income tax rate (5%).

The amendment would also authorize the $1 million threshold to be adjusted according to any changes in the cost of living in Massachusetts using the same method used to establish federal income tax brackets. The tax would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The amendment is identical to a 2018 citizen initiative that initially qualified for the ballot but was later removed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court following a lawsuit where they ruled that the measure violated a provision of the state constitution that requires an initiative “contains only subjects … which are related or which are mutually dependent.” The ballot initiative, according to the ruling, encompassed two subjects—a tax and a dedication of revenue, which were not mutually dependent in their judgment. The state’s single-subject rule does not apply to legislative referrals.

Representative James O’Day (D) introduced House Bill 86 (HB 86) during the 2019 legislative session. In Massachusetts, both chambers of the state General Court meet as a single convention to vote on amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. An amendment needs to receive the vote of 101 of 200 state legislators during two successive sessions to appear on the ballot. During the 2019 legislative session, the bill was approved by a vote of 147 to 48 with five Democratic members absent or not voting. During the joint session convened Wednesday, the bill was approved by a vote of 159-41. All but one Republican, Sen. Patrick O’Connor, voted against the amendment, and all but nine Democrats favored it. The sole Independent member, Rep. Susannah Whipps, voted in favor of it.

On the eve of the vote, Democratic Representatives James O’Day and Jason Lewis wrote, “The reason why the Fair Share Amendment is so popular is that most people recognize that our wealthiest residents can afford to pay a bit more in taxes to help fund investments that expand opportunity and make our Commonwealth more just and equitable for all. … In fact, investments in a stronger education system and improved transportation infrastructure will strengthen our economy, expand opportunity, and make Massachusetts an even more desirable place to live, work, raise a family, and build a business.”

Raise Up Massachusetts, the non-profit coalition that sponsored the 2018 amendment, tweeted after the vote Wednesday, “We applaud the state legislature for their vote and thank our many grassroots partners for making this possible.”

In opposition to the amendment, Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Massachusetts, said, “A millionaire’s tax could also send wealthy people fleeing the state and leave Massachusetts with less revenue, which would place a financial burden upon the remaining residents who would see taxes go up, small business owners included.” 

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to statewide ballots in Massachusetts. Between 1962 and 2020, Massachusetts voters decided on 11 ballot measures related to state income tax. Nine measures were defeated, and two were approved.

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Texas voters will decide in November whether to allow counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure in blighted areas

On May 28, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would add counties to the list of political subdivisions that may issue bonds to fund transportation and infrastructure projects in underdeveloped or blighted areas of the county. Currently, the Texas Constitution states that the legislature by general law may authorize incorporated cities and towns to issue such bonds. The proposed amendment would also prohibit counties from allocating more than 65% of property tax revenue increases annually to repay the bonds and prohibit counties from using the funds from the issuance of the bonds to build toll roads.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 99 (HJR 99) on February 24, 2021. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 99 in a vote of 127-15, with eight absent or not voting. On May 26, the Senate approved an amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 27-4. On May 28, the House voted to pass the amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 126-13 with 11 absent or not voting.

The amendment is the eighth referred to the ballot during the 2021 legislative session, which adjourned on May 31. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding on

  1. limitations on religious services;
  2. a right to a designated essential caregiver in a nursing facility;
  3. homestead tax limits and exemptions for surviving spouses of disabled individuals and military service members;
  4. eligibility requirements for state judicial office;
  5. the power of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over candidates seeking judicial office; and
  6. charitable raffles at rodeo venues.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline.

• Democrats filed 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments.

• Republicans filed 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments.

• In the state Senate, 58 (26.6%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• In the state House, 160 (73.4%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• Of the Democrats, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-42) filed the most constitutional amendments—eight.

• Of the Republicans, Rep. Cody Vasut (R-25) filed the most constitutional amendments—seven.

Eight proposed constitutional amendments that received a vote in at least one chamber died with the adjournment of the legislative session. The amendments related to extending emergency declarations, property tax exemptions for certain physicians, the issuance of bonds, the reliability of state utilities, denial of bail for certain crimes, and the state budget. 

Between 2009 and 2020, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2021, 8 of the 218 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 3.7%, down from 4.6% in 2019.

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Constitutional amendment establishing a right to a designated essential caregiver will be on the November ballot in Texas

On May 27, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would provide residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and state-supported living centers with a right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be prohibited from visiting the resident. It would also authorize the Texas State Legislature to pass guidelines for facilities to establish visitation policies and procedures for essential caregivers.

Senate Bill 25, the implementing legislation for the amendment, was approved in the last few days of the 2021 legislative session. SB 25 requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to develop guidelines for the visitation policy of designated essential caregivers. The guidelines are required to include a visitation schedule, a minimum duration for visitation, physical contact between caregiver and the resident, and rules on safety protocols including a signature that a caregiver will comply with all protocols. 

The bill would also allow the facility to revoke the designation of the caregiver if the caregiver does not follow the protocols. The resident would be allowed to immediately designate a new essential caregiver. SB 25 would also allow nursing facilities to petition the Health and Human Services Commission to suspend visitation for an initial seven days and up to 14 days in a year if there is a health risk. The commission would be allowed to deny the petition if they disagree with there being a health risk. The law was designed to take effect on September 1, 2021.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) said, “Visiting a loved one in a nursing home should be a right, not a privilege. If another health emergency occurs, our state’s caregivers will always have a way to safely go inside a facility for scheduled visits and ensure that their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19) on March 3. On March 17, the state Senate passed SJR 19 in a vote of 29-0 with two absent. The House passed an amended version of SJR 19 on May 24, by a vote of 142-1 with seven not voting or not present. On May 27, the Senate concurred with the House amendments.

The amendment is the second referred to the Texas ballot that is related to policies put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislature also voted to refer an amendment that would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

As of May 28, Ballotpedia has identified 11 ballot measures certified for statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians approved two constitutional amendments related to the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic. The other ballot measures will be decided in 2022 and concern changes to election procedures, convening legislative sessions, and increasing appropriations limits during emergencies.

Since 1876 when the Texas constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. Voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the constitutional amendments on ballots between 1995 and 2019.

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Connecticut voters to decide early voting amendment in 2022

On May 27, the Connecticut State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters in 2022 that would authorize the state legislature to provide by law for early voting. Currently, Connecticut does not permit early voting.

As of April 2021, 38 states and the District of Columbia permitted early voting. Early voting allows citizens to cast ballots in person at a polling place prior to an election. In states that permit early voting, a voter does not have to provide an excuse for being unable to vote on election day.

Cheri Quickmire, the Connecticut executive director of Common Cause, a progressive 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, said, “We trust Connecticut’s voters will embrace this additional option when it is on the ballot next year. In states that have Early Voting, people use it. In Georgia, for instance, more than two-thirds of November’s voters used in-person early voting to cast their ballots. In Florida, almost half of November’s voters cast their ballots early, in person.”

The Connecticut Constitution provides two paths for the Connecticut General Assembly to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot: (1) a 75 percent vote in each chamber of the legislature during one legislative session, or (2) a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each chamber of the legislature during two legislative sessions.

The constitutional amendment was introduced into the Connecticut General Assembly as House Joint Resolution 161 (HJR 161) during the 2019 legislative session. On April 24, 2019, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed HJR 161, meeting the three-fourths vote required to approve a constitutional amendment during one legislative session. As there was one vacant seat in the House, 113 votes were needed to approve the amendment during one session. The vote on HJR 161 was 125 to 24. On May 8, 2019, the Connecticut State Senate passed HJR 161 by less than the three-fourths vote required to approve an amendment during one session. The vote was 23 to 13. At least 27 votes were required to meet the three-fourths threshold.

As the constitutional amendment was approved during the 2019 legislative session by a simple majority vote in each chamber, legislators needed to approve the amendment again during the 2021–2022 legislative session by a simple majority vote. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution (HJR 59). It was approved by the House on May 6, 2021, by a vote of 115-26 with 10 absent or not voting. On May 27, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 59 by a vote of 26-9 with one absent.

This is the first amendment referred to the 2022 statewide ballot in Connecticut. Between 1996 and 2020, voters approved 71% (5 of 7) ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots in Connecticut.

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Texas voters will decide changes to the homestead tax exemption for surviving spouses of military service members

On May 23, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would authorize a total residence homestead property tax exemption for a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.” Currently, the constitution grants the exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed in action.” The amended language would include service members who are killed or fatally injured during military training or other military duties. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2022.

In 2013, Texas voters first authorized the state legislature to grant exemptions for the surviving spouse of a service member killed in action with the approval of Proposition 1. The amendment was passed with 86.98% of voters favoring it and 13.01% of voters opposing it. At the time of Proposition 1’s approval, Section 1-b, Article VIII of the Texas Constitution allowed for various property tax exemptions on the homes of disabled veterans and their surviving spouses but did not previously grant such exemptions for the surviving spouses of service members who were killed in action.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 35 (SJR 35) on February 8, 2021. On April 8, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 35 in a vote of 29-1, with one absent. On May 23, 2021, the House approved SJR 35 in a vote of 144-0 with six not present or not voting.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2019, 10 of the 216 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 4.6%.

The Texas State Legislature is set to adjourn on May 31.

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Texas State Legislature sends an amendment to expand the authority of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to 2021 ballot

On May 22, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would expand the authority of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to state judicial candidates. The amendment would authorize the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept complaints regarding the conduct of candidates seeking judicial office and discipline candidates, in the same manner, the commission is currently authorized to do so with judicial officeholders. Currently, the Texas Constitution authorizes the commission to discipline sitting judges through involuntary retirement, censure, unpaid suspension, or removal from office once indicted by a state or federal grand jury for a felony offense or charged with a misdemeanor involving official misconduct.

The commission is made up of 13 members: six judges, two lawyers, and five members of the public. The judges are appointed by the state supreme court, the lawyers are appointed by the State Bar of Texas, and the members of the public are appointed by the governor.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 165 (HJR 165) on April 27, 2021. Representative Jacey Jetton (R) requested permission to introduce the bill after the March 12 deadline to submit constitutional amendments. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 165 in a vote of 137-0 with 13 not present or not voting. On May 22, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 165 by a vote of 31-0.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. The 2021 legislative session began on January 12, 2021, and will adjourn on May 31, 2021.

The Texas Legislature has also referred five other ballot measures to the November ballot. One other measure relates to the state judiciary. It would change the eligibility requirements for the following judicial offices: a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge. The other amendments relate to taxes, raffles at rodeo venues, and religious services.

Between 1995 and 2020, Texas voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the constitutional amendments that appeared on statewide ballots.

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Texas voters to decide whether rodeo venues can host charitable raffles in November

On May 22, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would authorize professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues. The amendment would also include “an organization sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women ’s Professional Rodeo Association” when defining “professional sports team.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 143 (HJR 143) on March 11, 2021. On May 3, 2021, the state House passed HJR 143 in a vote of 123-17, with 10 absent or not voting. The Senate passed the amendment on May 22, 2021, by a vote of 28-2 with one absent.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2019, 10 of the 216 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 4.6%. The 2021 legislative session began on January 12, 2021, and will adjourn on May 31, 2021.

The Texas Legislature has also referred five other ballot measures to the November ballot.

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Texas legislature sends amendment to change eligibility requirements for certain judicial offices to voters in November

On May 18, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would change the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge. The changes include: 

• requiring candidates to be residents of Texas as well as citizens of the United States;

• requiring 10 years of experience in Texas as a practicing lawyer or judge of a state or county court for candidates of the supreme court;

• requiring 8 years of experience in Texas as a practicing lawyer or judge of a state or county court for candidates of a district court; and

• disqualifying candidates if their license to practice law was revoked or suspended during their experience requirement.

The changes would apply to judges elected or appointed to first terms on or after January 1, 2025. The amendment would also change gendered language used in the section of the state constitution to gender-neutral language.

Currently, the state constitution requires judges to be a citizen of the United States and Texas. The present constitution also requires that a judge has been either a practicing lawyer or a lawyer and judge of a court of record together for at least 10 years for a supreme court justice and four years for a district judge.

Across the state’s appellate and trial courts, there are nine supreme court justices, nine criminal appeals judges, 80 appeals court judges, and 448 district court judges.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was filed as Senate Joint Resolution 47 (SJR 47) on March 8, 2021. On April 27, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 47 in a vote of 30-1. On May 18, 2021, the House approved SJR 47 by a vote of 120-19 with 11 not present or not voting.

This was the third constitutional amendment to be referred to the November 2021 ballot in Texas. Voters will also be deciding amendments regarding restrictions on religious services and extending a homestead tax limit to the surviving spouses of disabled individuals.

Between 1995 and 2020 in Texas, ballots featured an average of 13 ballot measures. During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%.

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Oregon voters will decide on whether to add a right to affordable healthcare to the state constitution in 2022

On May 19, the Oregon State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would add a new section requiring the state to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The amendment would also add a provision requiring the right to affordable healthcare be “balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services.”

Rep. Rob Nosse (D), one of the chief sponsors of the amendment, said, “Burdensome medical bills, or medical conditions that go untreated because of a lack of financial resources, cause great strain to families and individuals all over this state. They hold people back, causing them to forego starting a business, getting an education, buying a home, or having children. This amendment is a practical and sober statement of what the people of this state need.”

Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod (R), who voted in opposition to the measure, said, “It’s going to either be an absolutely empty promise that we have no intention of keeping, or it’s going to be a right that’s going to bankrupt the state.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the Oregon State Senate and the Oregon House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 12 (SJR 12) on January 11, 2021. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 12 largely along party lines in a vote of 17-13. Independent Senator Brian Boquist and Democratic Senator Betsy Johnson joined the Republican minority. On May 19, 2021, the House approved SJR 12 along party lines by a vote of 34-23 with three excused. 

The amendment was proposed in the state legislature at least eight times in the last 16 years according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. During the 2020 legislative session, Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D) proposed the amendment. It was approved largely along party lines in the Oregon House of Representatives by a vote of 36-21 with three excused. One Democrat joined the Republican minority in the vote. 

The amendment did not receive a vote in the Oregon State Senate due to a legislative walkout. On February 24, 2020, 11 of the 12 Republican members of the Senate did not attend the regularly scheduled morning Senate floor session. Democrats held 18 seats, two short of the 20 members needed for a quorum. On March 5, Senate President Peter Courtney (D) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) adjourned their respective chambers early due to the lack of a quorum.

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to the Oregon 2022 ballot. From 1995 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 32, and the average number of measures was 14. Between 1995 and 2020, about 46.43% (78 of 168) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 53.57% (90 of 168) were defeated.

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The Texas legislature sends amendment on homestead tax limits for surviving spouses of disabled to November ballot

On May 14, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would allow the surviving spouse of a disabled individual to maintain a homestead property tax limit if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the death and remains at the homestead. The amendment would retroactively validate a 2019 law that extends the property tax ceiling to the surviving spouse. The amendment would also add a temporary provision that would refund taxes to spouses of a deceased disabled individual for the 2020 and 2021 tax years that exceeded the amount that should have been paid with the tax limit.

Representative Jake Ellzey (R), one of the authors of the amendment, said, “The surviving spouse of a disabled homeowner should not be saddled with an unexpected large increase in their tax bill. That only magnifies the tragedy of the loss of their spouse and if they are on a fixed income it even further compounds their difficulties. If a couple has a disability exemption for their homestead, when the disabled person passes away, the surviving spouse loses the exemption. HJR125 protects the surviving spouse from the loss of an important benefit.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before Texas voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 125 on March 8, 2021. On April 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 125 in a vote of 147-0, with three not voting. On May 14, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 125 in a vote of 30-0 with one excused.

Currently, disabled individuals may apply for a $10,000 homestead tax exemption and a limit on school district property taxes. In order to qualify for the disabled exemption and tax limit, the individual must also qualify to receive disability benefits under the Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program administered by the Social Security Administration. Property taxes on the residence of a disabled individual or their surviving spouse do not increase from the year the individual qualifies for the exemption and tax limit.

The amendment is the second ballot measure the Texas Legislature sent to the 2021 ballot. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding whether to add a provision to the Texas Constitution that prohibits the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services.

Since 1876 when the current constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. In November 2019, voters approved nine constitutional amendments. On average, the legislature referred 13 constitutional amendments to odd-year ballots from 1995 through 2019.

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