Author

Victoria Antram

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

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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Nevada legislature refers minimum wage amendment to 2022 ballot

In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide on an amendment to increase the minimum wage for all employees to $12 by 2024. The state legislature voted on Friday to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would change the current minimum wage, which is set at two different rates depending on whether the employee receives health benefits or not. The amendment would also remove the existing annual inflation adjustments to the minimum wage, which are currently capped at 3% of the prior year’s rate, and allow the legislature to pass a minimum wage law setting the rate higher than the constitutionally mandated minimum.

In 2019, the Nevada State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 456 (AB 456), which enacted a minimum wage increase beginning in 2020 at a rate of $8.00 for employees that received health benefits and $9.00 for those who did not. The rate is set to increase incrementally until July 2024 when it reaches $11 and $12 for the respective employee tiers. 

As of January 2021, the minimum wage in Nevada was $8.75 for employees with health benefits and $9.75 for employees without health benefits.

Twenty-five states and D.C. increased or will increase their minimum wages in 2021. Across the country, the average state minimum wage in 2021 is about $9.59, up from $9.17 in 2020.

To refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot, a majority vote is required in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature in two successive sessions. The amendment was introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 10 (AJR 10) during the 2019 legislative session. The amendment passed in the Nevada State Legislature along party lines with Democrats in the majority and Republicans in the minority. The Assembly passed the amendment in a vote of 28-12 with one Republican member excused. The State Senate passed the amendment in a vote of 12-8 with one Democratic member excused.

During the 2021 legislative session, the State Assembly passed the amendment along party lines with a vote of 26 Democrats in favor and 16 Republicans opposed. The Senate passed the amendment largely along party lines with a vote of 13-8, with one Republican joining the Democratic majority.

The amendment is the fourth ballot measure to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The legislature also referred a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. Voters will also be deciding two indirect initiatives that would increase gaming and sales taxes and dedicate revenue to education and tourism.

Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3% (33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.

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Texas voters will decide amendment prohibiting restrictions on religious gatherings and organizations in November

The Texas State Legislature voted Tuesday to refer its first constitutional amendment to the November ballot. The amendment would add a section to the state constitution prohibiting the state or any political subdivision from issuing or enacting a statute, order, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services, including religious services conducted in churches.

The amendment was proposed in response to the restrictions put in place requiring religious institutions to refrain from meeting in person in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Texas cities and counties issued stay-at-home orders requiring religious gatherings to stream their services. On March 31, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order that included “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship” in the definition of “essential services.”

Rep. Scott Sanford (R), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in a time of crisis. Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution.”

Douglas Laycock, professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, opposes the measure and similar bills considered by the legislature: “There are very few occasions or reasons on which it would ever be necessary to shut down a place of worship, but COVID is one.”

As of May 10, Ballotpedia has identified 10 measures appearing on statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians will decide on two constitutional amendments on 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, which will be decided in 2022, concern changes to election procedures, convening state legislatures, and increasing appropriations limits during emergencies.

In Texas, 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 requirement amounts to 100 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate.

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 27 on January 25, 2021. On March 25, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 27 in a vote of 28-2 with one absent. All but two Democratic members voted in favor of the amendment. On May 11, 2021, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 108-33, with nine not voting or absent. In the House, 27 Democrats joined the Republican majority, and 33 Democrats were in the minority.

At the general election on November 3, 2020, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate. They maintained their 83-67 majority in the House and lost one seat in the Senate. The new majority in the Senate following the election was 18-13, which means support from at least three Democrats is needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the Senate.

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. The legislature has until May 31st when it adjourns to refer a measure to the ballot.

Since 1876 when the current 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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Tennessee voters will decide 2022 amendment to remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment

On May 4, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 general election ballot that would remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment and replace it with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.” The ballot measure would also state that the language does not prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.

In 2020, voters in Nebraska and Utah voted to remove language from their respective constitutions that allowed the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. Nebraska Amendment 1 was approved by a margin of 68.23% to 31.77%. Utah Constitutional Amendment C was approved by a margin of 80.48% to 19.52%.

As of 2021:

• Ten states had constitutions that included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments.

• Nine states had constitutions that included provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment.

• One state—Vermont—had a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.

The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, the constitution provides for two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.

During the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-29) introduced the constitutional amendment into the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 159 (SJR 159) on February 5, 2019.

On March 25, 2019, the state Senate approved SJR 159, in a vote of 32-0. On April 22, 2019, the state House approved SJR 159, in a vote of 97-0.

The amendment was introduced during the 2021 legislative session as Senate Joint Resolution 80 (SJR 80). The Senate approved SJR 80 on March 15, 2021, in a vote of 26-4. On May 4, 2021, the House approved SJR 80 in a vote of 81-2, with two present and not voting.

State Representatives Joe Towns (D) said, “Today is a historic day as this state has taken a definitive step forward in stripping all forms of slavery from the Tennessee State Constitution. Some Tennesseans may be prisoners, but, by God, they will not be slaves.  We are the first Southern State to embrace universal abolition. I am proud to have carried this joint resolution and now we need all Tennesseans to join us in correcting this wrong by voting for this constitutional amendment in November of 2022.”

The amendment is one of three set to appear on the 2022 statewide ballot. Tennessee voters will also be deciding a right to work amendment and an amendment that provides a process, along with a line of succession, for an acting governor when the governor is unable to perform the offices’ powers and duties.

Tennessee voters last decided on a constitutional amendment in 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.



Cincinnati voters defeat Issue 3, Affordable Housing Trust Fund Charter Amendment

Cincinnati voters defeated Issue 3 on Tuesday with 73% of voters opposing the measure and 27% of voters approving the measure. Issue 3 was a citizen initiative that would have established the Cincinnati Affordable Housing Trust Fund and created a board of private citizens to manage the fund. It would have also provided guidelines for what projects could be financed by the fund. The measure would have required a $50 million annual city contribution to the fund, and it suggested revenue sources for the fund. The measure defined housing as affordable when “costs associated with residing in the home require no more than thirty percent of the household’s income” and contained income level thresholds of 60% and 30% of Hamilton County’s median household income.

Issue 3 was put on the ballot through a successful citizen initiative petition drive which submitted 9,541 signatures. Cincinnati Action for Housing NOW led the effort to put Issue 3 on the ballot. On Tuesday night, the campaign said, “We are a movement of people who know every person in this city needs access to a home they can afford. … Issue 3 put our need for affordable housing at the top of community conversation.”

Cincinnati voters approved two other charter amendments, Issues 1 and 2. Issue 1 was approved by a margin of 77% to 23%. It amended the city charter to prohibit council members from revising their successor designation certificates after being indicted for a felony or after the filing of certain criminal charges against them. It also requires the City Solicitor to appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute an action to remove a member of Council where a member of the council has been indicted for a felony or a criminal complaint has been filed against a member for charges relating to official conduct.

Issue 2 was approved by a margin of 77% to 23%. Issue 2 made the following changes to the charter:

• provides for a pre-conviction suspension of council members indicted for state or federal felonies related to the council member’s duties, where the council member shall be suspended from official duties but shall receive a salary during the suspension that may be recovered by the city upon the member’s conviction; 

• provides for the removal of council members upon conviction of or guilty plea to said crime; 

• requires ethics training for council members within 60 days of taking the oath of office; 

• prohibits council members from revising their successor designation certificates after being indicted for a state or federal felony related to the council member’s conduct in council duties; 

• clarifies details regarding successor designation certificates.

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Tennessee legislature sends right-to-work amendment to voters in 2022

On April 29, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership as a condition for employment. This type of policy is known as right-to-work. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work statute in 1947.

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “The Tennessee right-to-work law states that workers cannot be hired or fired, or in any way discriminated against based on whether or not they are a member of a union. I think that this right is an important enough civil right that it belongs in our state constitution.”

Sen. Sara Kyle (D), who voted against the measure, said, “Right-to-work is a false slogan. The true effect of this legislation is to destroy the freedom and power of collective bargaining. Collective bargaining has lifted millions of workers out of poverty and provided families with health care and dignity in retirement. That gives big corporations the upper hand.”

The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. There are two different vote requirements for the first session and the second. During the first session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the legislature must approve a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.

The amendment was first introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 648 (SJR 648) during the 2020 legislative session. On February 10, 2020, the state Senate passed SJR 648 in a vote of 24-5. Of the 25 Republicans in the Senate, 24 voted in favor of SJR 648, and one voted against it. All four Democrats voted against it. On June 17, 2020, the state House passed SJR 648 in a vote of 68-22. The vote was along party lines with Republicans in the majority and Democrats in the minority.

During the 2021 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2). The state Senate passed the amendment on March 8, 2021, by a vote of 24-7. The vote was along party lines with one Republican joining the minority. On April 29, the state House passed the amendment in a vote of 67-24 with one present and not voting. One Republican joined the Democratic minority.

Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work statutes. In 2018, Missouri voters decided Proposition A, a referendum to repeal the state’s recently enacted right-to-work statute. The vote margin was 67.47% in favor of repealing the law and 32.53% in favor of upholding the law. Nine states have adopted right-to-work constitutional amendments. Virginia was the last state to vote on a right-to-work constitutional amendment in 2016. It was defeated with 53.62% opposing the measure.

The Tennessee amendment will be the first amendment certified for the ballot in the state since 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.

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Montana State Legislature sends ballot measure to change the state supreme court election process to 2022 ballot

Voters will decide in 2022 on a measure to change the election of state supreme court justices in Montana from nonpartisan statewide elections to by-district elections. The measure would not remove any sitting state supreme court justice. Associate justices would be assigned district numbers according to their seat number, and the chief justice would be assigned the seventh district. Associate justices could seek re-election in the district assigned to them or resign from their current district to file to run in another district under the proposed change to state law. The Montana State Legislature would be required to review the districts after the decennial census to ensure the districts contain approximately the same number of residents without dividing counties. The change would take effect after the 2024 general election.

In Montana, a simple majority is required in both chambers of the state legislature to place a legislatively referred state statute on the ballot.

This measure was introduced as House Bill 325 (HB 325) on February 4, 2021, by Rep. Barry Usher (R). The Montana House of Representatives approved HB 325 in a vote of 63-36 with one absent on February 19. It was introduced in the Montana State Senate on February 20, 2021. The Senate passed the measure with amendments on April 23 by a vote of 29-21. The House concurred on April 26 by a vote of 65-34 with one absent. The votes were largely along party lines with four Republican legislators joining the Democratic minority.

Currently, Montana Supreme Court justices serve eight-year terms following a statewide nonpartisan election. In the case of a mid-term vacancy, the governor may appoint an interim justice. If the governor does not select a nominee in time, the chief justice must make the appointment. The appointment must be confirmed by the Senate. If the Senate is not in session, the recess appointee serves until the next session. Once confirmed by the Senate, the judge holds office until the next general election.  Any incumbent judge who is running unopposed in a general election is subject to a retention election.

As of January 2021, four sitting judges were elected in nonpartisan elections, two judges were appointed by a Democratic governor, and one judge was appointed by a Republican governor.

Rep. Barry Usher (R), the sponsor of the measure, said that the change would mean that voters are better represented in the supreme court.

The 2022 measure is similar to a ballot measure that was removed from the ballot prior to the June 2012 primary election. Senate Bill 268 (SB 268), also known as LR-119, was placed on the ballot by the state legislature in largely partisan votes. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 30-20, and the House approved the bill by a vote of 59-40 with one absent. 

A group of voters filed a lawsuit against the measure arguing that the measure deprived Montana voters of the right to vote for all state supreme court justices. District Court Judge James Reynolds ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and removed the measure from the ballot. Judge Reynolds said that the measure, which required supreme court candidates to live inside proposed regional districts, would contradict the state constitution. The ruling was upheld in the state supreme court in a 6-1 ruling. The 2022 measure would not require candidates for the supreme court to live in the same district they wish to represent.

The ballot measure is the third to be sent to the 2022 ballot in Montana. Voters will also be deciding on a constitutional amendment that would require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications and a state statute that requires medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion by classifying them as a “legal person” with “the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment.”

Between 1996 and 2020, about 64.6% (42 of 65) of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 35.4% (23 of 65) were defeated.

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The 2020 election gave West Virginia Republican lawmakers the votes needed to place an amendment prohibiting the state judiciary from interfering with impeachments on the 2022 ballot

On April 9, the West Virginia State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would say that no state court has jurisdiction to intercede, intervene in, or interfere with impeachment proceedings of the West Virginia House of Delegates or the state Senate. Currently, the state constitution does not state a role for the state judiciary to participate or review impeachment proceedings, apart from the chief justice of the state supreme court presiding over the proceedings.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. The justices were accused of misusing over $1 million in state funds for courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. 

In June 2018, the House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the House Judiciary Committee to conduct an impeachment investigation into the justices. On September 21, 2018, Justice Margaret Workman, one of the impeached justices, filed a motion with the state supreme court arguing the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. On October 11, five circuit court judges temporarily assigned to the state supreme court blocked Justice Workman’s impeachment trial from proceeding.

The justices ruled the impeachment proceedings violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clause, arguing the state Senate did not have the authority to impeach Workman. The ruling was later applied to Justices Robin Davis and Allen Loughry.

Between July and November 2018, Justices Menis Ketchum, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry resigned from the supreme court. The Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. Workman served on the court until her retirement in December 2020.

In West Virginia, to put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate and the West Virginia House of Delegates, which equates to 23 votes in the state Senate and 67 votes in the state House. 

The state Senate first attempted to place the amendment to limit the state judiciary from intervening in impeachment proceedings on the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. It was defeated along party lines with 20 Republicans favoring the amendment and 13 Democrats opposing it.

In the 2020 general election, Republicans gained the votes they needed to meet the supermajority requirement in both chambers. Republicans gained three seats in the state Senate to increase their majority from 20-14 to 23-11. Republicans also increased their majority in the state House from 58-41 (with one vacancy) to 76-24. The Republican majority increased to 77-23 after Del. Jason Barrett switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in December 2020.

The 2021 amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2) on February 11, 2021. On March 2, the state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 with one Republican absent. The vote was largely along party lines with two Democrats joining the voting Republicans in support. On April 9, the state Senate approved the amendment along party lines with a vote of 23-11. West Virginia voters will decide the amendment and at least two others at the 2022 general election.

State Delegate Pat McGeehan (R) said, “[The amendment] has everything to do with restoring the separation of powers. We need to restore our own rightful powers as a legislative branch, because since [the 2018 Workman decision] … the legislative branch has essentially been reduced to a social club. The impeachment powers are the last line of defense that we have in the state constitution. We have to pass this and ensure that we take our place again, to be able to enforce this kind of power and the threat of it.”

Julie Archer, the coordinator of West Virginia Citizens for Clean Elections, which opposes the amendment, said, “This constitutional amendment would make it so that no state court could intervene to protect the right to a fair hearing of a public official facing impeachment, no matter how frivolous the charge or constitutionally flawed the process. In the hands of a partisan majority, this new power could be abused to oust political opponents without cause, thereby eroding existing checks and balances between the three branches of government and undercutting public trust in the political process.”

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Montana voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to require a search warrant to access electronic data in 2022

On April 22, the Montana State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications. The amendment would also state that electronic data and electronic communications would be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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

Senate Bill 203 (SB 203) was introduced on February 9, 2021, by Sen. Kenneth Bogner (R). The state Senate approved the bill on February 23, 2021, in a vote of 50 to 0. On April 22, the state House approved the bill in a vote of 76-23 with one absent. 

Sen. Kenneth Bogner (R) said, “Senate Bill 203 is about updating Montana’s Constitution to reflect life in the 21st Century and make it explicitly clear that our digital information is protected from unreasonable government searches and seizures. Today, so much of our private lives—financial information, communication with family and friends, medical information, and much, much more—is contained on and transferred electronically among many devices and computer systems.”

The amendment is similar to a 2020 Michigan ballot measure that was approved by voters with 88.75% of the vote. Missouri voters also approved a similar ballot measure in 2014 with 74.75% of the vote.

In 2022, Montana voters will also be voting on a law referred to the ballot by the state legislature that would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion. Healthcare providers that violate the requirement would be guilty of a felony with a maximum sentence of a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison under the measure.

Between 1996 and 2020, about 64.6% (42 of 65) of the total number of measures that appeared on Montana ballots were approved, and about 35.4% (23 of 65) were defeated.

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