On Nov. 19, the office of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) announced that enough signatures were valid for a veto referendum to overturn an income tax bill that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed on June 30, 2021. Since the veto referendum was certified, the targeted legislation will not go into effect until voters decide the bill in 2022. At least 118,823 signatures of the more than 215,000 signatures submitted needed to be valid.
The veto referendum was designed to repeal Sections 13 and 15 of Senate Bill 1828 (SB 1828). Together, Sections 13 and 15 would reduce the state’s income tax brackets from four to two and further reduce the tax brackets to a flat rate when state revenue exceeds $12.976 billion ($12,976,300,000). As of 2021, the lowest income tax rate in Arizona was 2.59% on income below $26,501 (single filing) or $53,001 (joint filing) and the highest income tax rate was 4.50% on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Under SB 1828, the state’s four tax brackets would be reduced to two. The tax rates would be, for a single filer, 2.55% on income of $27,272 or less and 2.98% on income above $27,272. The two tax brackets would be reduced to a flat rate of 2.5% when state revenue exceeds $12.976 billion.
Invest in Arizona is leading the campaign for the veto referendum (a “no” vote on the legislation). The ballot measure committee was known as Invest in Education in 2020 and supported Proposition 208, which voters approved. Proposition 208 was designed to enact a 3.50% income tax surcharge and allocate the revenue to education and teacher-related programs. Senate Bill 1828, Sections 13 and 15, would not make a direct change to the income tax surcharge. Invest in Arizona collected signatures for a second veto referendum related to revenue generation from Proposition 208, but not enough signatures were found valid. David Lujan, CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, said the tax changes “are attempting to give huge tax cuts to the rich, which is just disastrous for our future.” State Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-17) responded to the referendum, saying, “[a]ll we’ve done … is make sure that we are not going to drive taxpayers out of the state and actually create a situation where you have less revenue going to our education system because less people are living here.”
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is challenging the veto referendum in court, arguing that the state constitution prohibits veto referendums against bills that provide for support and maintenance of state government and that tax bills fall under this umbrella. Lawyers for the campaign argue that tax decreases do not provide for support and maintenance of state government and therefore can be referred to voters through the veto referendum process.
The veto referendum is the 36th veto referendum in Arizona since the process was adopted in 1911. Voters last decided a veto referendum in 2018, when legislation to phase in an expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) program was repealed. The veto referendum is the fourth measure certified for the election on Nov. 8, 2022, in Arizona. The other three ballot measures are legislative referrals, including a measure to allow in-state tuition for residents without legal citizenship status and repeal related provisions of Proposition 300, passed in 2006. The veto referendum’s certification follows the certification of an income tax reduction initiative in Colorado on Nov. 18.
Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights Louisiana’s ballot measure results and a Texas state representative’s party switch from Democratic to Republican. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
We won’t publish the Tap next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Our next edition will be on Dec. 4.
Louisiana voters approve one constitutional amendment and defeat three
On Nov. 13, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2, which decreased the maximum allowable individual income tax rate from 6% to 4.75% for tax years beginning in 2022. Through House Bill 278, the legislature provided in statute that the tax bracket rates beginning in 2022 for an individual would be 1.75% on the first $12,500 of net income; 3.50% on the next net income up to $50,000; and 4.25% on income above $50,000.
Voters rejected Amendments 1, 3, and 4. Amendment 1 would have created the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission tasked to provide streamlined electronic filing and remittance of all sales and use taxes. Amendment 3 would have allowed Louisiana levee districts created after 2006 to levy an annual property tax of up to five mills ($5 per $1,000 of assessed value) without voter approval if those districts approved the 2021 constitutional amendment. Amendment 4 would have increased the amount of funds (from 5% to 10%) that could be redirected to a purpose other than what was originally provided for by law or as stated in the constitution during a projected budget deficit.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the vote totals were as follows:
Louisiana Amendment 1, Creation of the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission Measure (2021)
Yes: 199,291 (48%)
No: 214,432 (52%)
Louisiana Amendment 2, Reduction of the Maximum Individual Income Tax Rate Measure (2021)
Yes: 223,269 (54%)
No: 189,973 (46%)
Louisiana Amendment 3, Authorize Certain Levee Districts to Collect a Five-Mill Annual Property Tax Measure (2021)
Yes: 172,545 (42%)
No: 237,605 (58%)
Louisiana Amendment 4, Increase Limit on Funding Reductions and Redirections During Budget Deficits Measure (2021)
Yes: 112,930 (28%)
No: 294,375 (72%)
The Louisiana Constitution limits legislation and constitutional amendments in odd-numbered years to matters concerning the state’s budget, government finance, and taxation.
A total of 52 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana during odd-numbered years from 1999 through 2019. Of the 52 amendments, 36 (69.23%) were approved and 16 (30.77%) were defeated.
Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen switches to Republican Party
On Nov. 15, Texas state Rep. Ryan Guillen (R) announced that he was leaving the Democratic party. “After much thought and much prayer with my family, today I am announcing that I’ll proudly be running as a Republican to represent house district 31,” Guillen said in a press conference held with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R).
Guillen most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Marian Knowlton (R) 58.4% to 41.6%.
As of November 2021, Ballotpedia has counted 146 state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Ballotpedia has counted 39 state senators who have switched parties and 107 state representatives. Fifty-three state representatives have switched parties from Democrat to Republican, and 75 state lawmakers have switched parties in total.
Party control of mayor’s office in Columbia, South Carolina, flips from Democratic to Republican in runoff
While mayoral elections in Columbia are nonpartisan, Rickenmann is affiliated with the Republican Party. Incumbent Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin, a Democrat, did not run for re-election. Benjamin endorsed Devine, also a Democrat, in the runoff.
Fifteen state capitals held mayoral elections in 2021. Before these elections, 14 officeholders were Democrats and one was nonpartisan. As a result of the 2021 elections, 12 mayoral offices will remain under Democratic control (Atlanta, Georgia, will hold a runoff election between two Democrats on Nov. 30). The election in Columbia flips one office from Democratic to Republican control. One office continues to be held by a nonpartisan mayor, and one newly-elected mayor has not responded to inquiries.
Four states enact legislative maps; authority over redistricting in Washington passes to state supreme court
Colorado: The Colorado Supreme Court approved the state’s legislative maps on Nov. 15. The new district boundaries had been approved by the Colorado Independent Legislative Commission in October. The state supreme court previously approved the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission’s congressional map on Nov. 1.
Colorado Politics’ Evan Wyloge observed that the new maps created nine House and eight Senate districts where previous election results fell within a five percentage point margin of victory. At the time of approval, Democrats held a 42-23 majority in the House and a 20-15 majority in the Senate.
This is the first redistricting cycle following the passage of Amendment Z by voters in 2018, which established a non-politician commission to handle state legislative redistricting. Under Colorado’s redistricting rules, once the commission approves its final versions, those maps are then sent to the state supreme court for approval. The plans redraw the state’s 35 Senate districts and 65 House districts and will take effect for the state’s 2022 state legislative elections.
The Nevada Senate approved the redistricting plans by a 12-9 vote on Nov. 14 followed by the state Assembly voting 25-17 on Nov. 16. The maps were passed largely along party lines, with Democrats voting to approve and Republicans voting against.
After signing the maps, Sisolak said, “After a thoughtful, efficient and productive session, I am proud to sign these bills into law today. These maps reflect Nevada’s diversity and reflect public feedback gathered throughout the legislative process.” State Assm. Melissa Hardy (R) criticized the maps, saying, “A process that affects every person living in the state … deserves to be thoroughly vetted and questioned by this body as a whole. Instead, there are a lack of answers to questions posed, an inability to ask questions of those who have the answers, and an overall lack of transparency throughout.”
Utah: Governor Spencer Cox (R) signed new state legislative districts for both chambers into law on Nov. 16. The state legislature had approved the House and Senate district maps on Nov. 10.
Both proposals differed from those presented to the legislature by Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Nov. 1. The commission presented 12 maps (three each for House, Senate, congressional, and school board districts) to the Legislative Redistricting Committee. Utah previously enacted its new congressional district map on Nov. 12.
Senator Scott Sandall (R), who along with Rep. Paul Ray (R) co-chaired the Legislative Redistricting Committee, said the new maps were drawn with citizens’ interests in mind. “After listening to Utahns and touring the state, Rep. Ray and I created maps that we believe incorporate the interests of all Utahns,” Sandall said. Summit County Democratic Party Chair Katy Owens said, “We would love to be able to have the opportunity to elect the representatives that we want but these maps have been deliberately drawn to prevent that.”
Connecticut: On Nov. 18, the Connecticut Reapportionment Commission voted 8-0 in favor of new maps for the state’s 151 House districts. The commission, made up of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, took over the redistricting process after the previous Reapportionment Committee failed to meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Census data was not delivered to the state until Sept. 16. Unlike the committee, the commission’s maps do not need to win two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, meaning the commission enacts its maps outright. Senate district maps have not yet been released.
Initial analyses indicated that no incumbent legislators seeking re-election were drawn out of their current districts. Commissioner and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R) said, “I think overall, we made a lot of difficult decisions trying to keep a lot of the core districts in tact, but recognizing the fact that with population changes so do come changes to various districts.”
The Connecticut House is the second-largest legislative chamber to have completed its redistricting process following the 2020 census, behind only Massachusetts’ 160-seat House.
Nationwide, 21 states have adopted legislative district maps for at least one chamber, and legislative redistricting has been completed for 687 of 1,972 state Senate seats (34.8%) and 1,931 of 5,411 state House seats (35.7%).
Washington: On Nov. 16, the Washington Redistricting Commission announced that it did not produce new congressional and legislative redistricting plans by its Nov. 15 deadline. According to state law, the authority to draw new maps now rests with the Washington Supreme Court, which has until April 30, 2022, to produce new maps. Although past the deadline, the commission ultimately agreed upon map plans on Nov. 16 and submitted them to the state supreme court for consideration.
In Washington, congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by a five-member non-politician commission that was established by a constitutional amendment in 1983. The majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and House each appoint one registered voter to the commission. These four commissioners then appoint a fifth, non-voting member to serve as chair.
After the 2010 census, the commission agreed upon new congressional and legislative district plans on Jan. 1, 2012, which was the deadline for them to approve maps before authority over redistricting would have passed to the state supreme court.
Fifteen states move to authorize booster shots for all adults ahead of federal guidance
Since Nov. 9, 15 states have moved to make COVID-19 booster shots available to adults age 18 and older, preempting official authorization from the federal government. On Nov. 19, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of Moderna’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines. As of Nov. 19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky had not yet signed off on booster shots, though a decision was expected over the weekend. California was the first state to open up booster shots to all adult residents, followed by Colorado, New Mexico, and Arkansas.
Generally, governors or health officials in states allowing all adults to get a COVID-19 booster have said that booster shots are reserved for those who got their last Moderna or Pfizer shot more than six months ago or their last Johnson & Johnson shot more than two months ago.
The federal government authorized Pfizer booster shots on Sept. 22 and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots on Oct. 21. In both cases, however, boosters were reserved for adults 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions or jobs that would make them more vulnerable to catching the virus.
The states that expanded booster shot eligibility without federal approval are California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Utah.
Ballot Measures Update
Nov. 13 review
Voters in Louisiana approved one constitutional amendment and defeated three on Nov. 13.
As of Nov. 13, voters in nine states decided 39 statewide ballot measures on four different election dates. Twenty-six were approved and 13 were defeated. Four of the measures were citizen initiatives, three were advisory questions about taxes in Washington, eight were bond issues, one was a legislatively referred statute, and the remaining 23 were legislatively referred constitutional amendments.
2022 ballot measures
Sixty-two statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 30 states so far. No new measures were certified for the ballot last week.
Nov. 13 – Louisiana: Voters in Baton Rouge approved a property tax measure to fund public transportation.
Nov. 9 – Arkansas: Voters in Little Rock approved a property tax increase for libraries.
Nov. 2 – Ballotpedia covered 156 local ballot measures on the Nov. 2 ballot in 18 states. At least 102 were approved, at least 43 were defeated, and the remaining 11 were too close to call as of Nov. 18.
Sixty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states so far this year. Sixty-one specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 31 of the seats and Republicans previously controlled 30. Three seats flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and two seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.
In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).
Colorado voters will decide in 2022 whether to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%
The initiative would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40% for tax years commencing on or after January 1, 2022. The measure would also reduce the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.55% of Colorado net income to 4.40%.
Proponents submitted 215,365 signatures on October 29, 2021. On November 18, 2021, the Colorado Secretary of State found through a random-sample method that 148,189 signatures were projected to be valid. To qualify for the 2022 ballot, 124,632 needed to be valid.
Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg filed the initiative. The Independence Institute describes itself as a free-market think tank with a mission to “empower individuals and to educate citizens, legislators and opinion makers about public policies that enhance personal and economic freedom.” Colorado Character registered as an issue committee to support the initiative. According to campaign finance reports covering information through Oct. 27, 2021, the committee raised $500,000 ($250,000 each from Colorado Rising Action and Defend Colorado). The committee reported expenditures totaling $444,558, of which $444,515.95 was paid to Blitz Canvassing for signature collection.
In 2020, Colorado voters approved Proposition 116, also filed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R). The initiative decreased the state income tax rate for individuals, estates, and trusts from 4.63% of federal taxable income to 4.55% for tax years commencing on and after Jan. 1, 2020. The measure also reduced the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.63% of Colorado net income to 4.55%. It was approved by a vote of 57.86% to 42.14%. Two committees led the campaign in support of Proposition 116 in 2020: Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee. Together, the committees reported $1.55 million in contributions. The top three donors (which gave 99.64% of the total contributions) were Unite for Colorado, Independence Institute, and Colorado Rising State Action. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado registered to oppose the measure. The committees reported $3.19 million in contributions. The top donor was the North Fund, which provided $750,000.
Prior to 1987, the individual income tax rates in Colorado were graduated, meaning those with higher incomes paid higher tax rates and those with lower incomes paid lower rates. The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. According to the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, the rates were lowered to “reduce the TABOR surplus.”
From 2000 through 2018, an average of about nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during even-numbered years. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was about 41%. In 2020, a total of $7,351,906.29 was spent on signature collection for the eight initiatives that appeared on the ballot.
On Nov. 16, the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work announced that they had submitted a total of 260,000 signatures to local clerks in their bid to place a ballot initiative on the 2022 ballot that was modeled after 2020’s California Proposition 22. The total number of signatures is split between two different versions of the initiative. The initiative would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors,
In Massachusetts, citizen-initiated laws are indirect ballot initiatives meaning they can be enacted by the state legislature or be sent to the ballot. For the 2022 ballot, initiative campaigns are required to submit an initial round of signatures equal to 3% of the votes cast for governor (80,239 signatures) to local registrars on Nov. 17 before submitting the petition to the secretary of state on Dec. 1. If enough signatures are submitted in the first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by the first Wednesday of May. The measure goes on the ballot if the legislature does not pass it and if a second round of signatures is successfully collected. The second round of signatures equals 0.5% of the votes cast for governor (13,374 signatures) and is due July 6, 2022.
The ballot initiative would define app-based drivers as independent contractors if they meet the following criteria:
couriers of a delivery network company (DNC) or drivers of a transportation network company (TNC),
companies that do not prescribe the time and days worked by the courier or driver,
contractors with DNC or TNC that cannot be terminated for rejecting service or delivery requests, and
couriers and drivers that are not captive to any specific DNC or TNC and are not restricted from performing other work.
Examples of companies that hire app-based drivers include Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.
The initiative would also enact labor and wage policies that are specific to app-based drivers and companies. These policies would include a net earnings floor, healthcare subsidies, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick time. Version A of the initiative would also require paid occupational safety training that would include:
recognizing and preventing sexual assault or misconduct,
learning collision avoidance and defensive driving techniques, and
maintaining food safety for grocery or meal deliveries.
Supporters of the initiative include the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), DoorDash, InstaCart, Lyft, Massachusetts High Technology Council, Postmates, and Uber.
Prossie Namanda, a Massachusetts Instacart shopper, said, “It feels incredible to have this level of support from voters across the state. As a single mother doing this work, I’m so excited to see this progress and am grateful that people in Massachusetts recognize that drivers and shoppers should have the flexibility we want and need, with access to more benefits too.”
Opponents of the initiative include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), NAACP New England Area Conference, ACLU Massachusetts, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and SEIU-Massachusetts.
Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said, “Big Tech should follow the same laws as everyone else, pay their taxes, contribute to Social Security, and treat their workers with basic fairness.”
In 2020, California voters approved a similar initiative, Proposition 22, by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4%. It was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California’s history according to available records with the support campaign receiving over $200 million in contributions, including donations from Uber, Doordash, Lyft, InstaCart, and Postmates. On Aug. 20, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that two sections of Proposition 22 were unconstitutional and that the measure as a whole was unenforceable. Proponents announced that they would appeal the ruling.
In September, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) announced that 17 ballot initiatives of the 30 filed in 2021 were cleared for signature gathering. The 17 initiatives included 16 initiated state statutes for the 2022 ballot and one initiated constitutional amendment that would appear on the 2024 ballot.
South Dakotans Decide Healthcare submitted 47,000 signatures for their Medicaid expansion initiative on Nov. 8, 2021, the deadline for initiated constitutional amendment petitions in South Dakota. To qualify for the ballot, 33,921 valid signatures are required.
The measure would amend the constitution to require the state to provide Medicaid benefits to adults between 18 and 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level. Because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes a 5% income disregard, this measure would effectively expand Medicaid to those with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The ACA provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which amounted to $17,236 for individuals in 2019. The law was designed to provide 100% of funding to cover the new recipients for the first three years and to cut off federal Medicaid funding to states that chose not to expand coverage. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) that the federal government could not withhold Medicaid funds from states that chose not to expand eligibility. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, this ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states.
As of 2021, a total of 38 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 13 states had not. Six states have expanded Medicaid through citizen initiatives.
To qualify initiated measures that amend state law for the 2022 ballot,16,961 valid signatures are required by May 3, 2022.
Dakotans 4 Health also circulated a Medicaid expansion initiated amendment but did not submit signatures by the deadline. Dakotans 4 Health also filed a Medicaid expansion initiative to amend state law (rather than the state constitution), for which signatures are due on May 3, 2022. Since the deadlines for initiated measures that amend state law was extended to May 3, 2022, Dakotans 4 Health said they would collect signatures for that measure and would support South Dakotans Decide Healthcare’s amendment. Rick Weiland of Dakotans 4 Health said, “In the interest of the 42,500 hard working low-income South Dakotans who struggle every day just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, we have decided to unite behind one constitutional amendment, and we will continue to collect signatures to place our Medicaid initiated law on the November 2022 ballot. The last thing we need is to have two proposed constitutional amendments on the November 2022 ballot. We will continue petitioning for our initiated law giving voters the opportunity to pass both an amendment to the state’s constitution and a law next year.”
One other initiative measure facing the May 3, 2022, deadline was sponsored by Melissa Mentele of New Approach South Dakota. The measure would legalize marijuana use, possession, and distribution for individuals 21 years old and older. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and New Approach South Dakota supported Constitutional Amendment A on the 2020 ballot, which was approved in a vote of 54.18% to 45.82% but was overturned by a court ruling. Circuit Judge Christina Klinger ruled that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule and constituted a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws said they would appeal to the state supreme court.
On Nov. 2, Tucson voters approved Proposition 206, an initiative designed to incrementally increase the local minimum wage to $15 by 2025, and tie it to inflation thereafter. According to unofficial election results, 65% of voters approved Proposition 206. Currently, the minimum wage is $12.15.
The minimum wage will increase by the following increments:
$13 by April 1, 2022,
$13.50 by Jan. 1, 2023,
$14.25 by Jan. 1, 2024,
$15.00 by Jan. 1, 2025, and
increased by the rate of inflation rounded to the nearest multiple of $0.05 every January thereafter.
The initiative also requires the city to establish a Department of Labor Standards by April 1, 2022. The department was authorized to receive complaints from employees, investigate employers, and educate workers about their rights under the initiative.
Tucson Fight for $15 sponsored the initiative. They wrote on their Facebook page, “Last night workers won! Approximately 44,000 Tucsonans voted ‘YES’ on Prop 206. This proposition not only increases Tucson’s minimum wage, but also fights against wage theft and adopts fairer payment policies.”
Opponents of the measure included Tucson Business Owners, Arizona Restaurant Association, Tucson Metro Chamber, Southern Arizona Leadership Council, and Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities.
Tucson voters also decided on Proposition 410, which was designed to increase the compensation for the mayor from $42,000 to $54,000 and the compensation for city council members from $24,000 to $36,000 beginning on December 4, 2023, and tying the compensation to inflation for every following year. As of Thursday, the measure was ahead by 50.1% (33,893) to 49.9% (33,740) and is too close to call. Since 1999 when the existing compensation was set, Tucson voters have defeated eight measures to increase it.
Voters in Maine approved Question 1 on November 2. The citizen-initiated ballot measure received 59% of the vote with 97% of precincts reporting. Question 1 was designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. Construction of NECEC began after the project received a presidential permit on January 15, 2021. The ballot initiative prohibited the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to September 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of NECEC. Segment 1 was permitted to begin construction on May 13, 2021.
NECEC, LLC, along with parent firm Avangrid Networks, LLC, filed a lawsuit on November 3, stating that Question 1 was unconstitutional. NECEC and Avangrid argued that Question 1 violated the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; infringed upon the sanctity of contracts; and violated the company’s vested right to construct and complete the project in good faith. The lawsuit stated, “Any other conclusion would render any major development project in the State – in fact, any effort by any person or business in the State to build any project, no matter how big or how small – vulnerable to discriminatory and prejudicial efforts to kill the project by after-the-fact changes to the law. Such retroactive deprivation of vested rights is contrary to the fundamental principles of fairness and equity embodied in Maine law.”
Sandra Howard, director of No CMP Corridor, responded, “Despite an onslaught of money that CMP, Hydro Quebec and their assortment of front groups interjected into this campaign, the people of Maine strongly and clearly rejected the NECEC project at the ballot box. CMP should respect the vote of Maine citizens and immediately stop the continued destruction of our precious forest and its habitat.”
Question 1 was the most expensive ballot measure in Maine history. Between supporters and opponents, $98.41 million was raised. The PACs No CMP Corridor, Mainers for Local Power, and NRCM Yes on Question 1 registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $27.64 million, including
$20.20 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;
$3.61 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and
$3.26 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.
Clean Energy Matters, Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership, Vote No to Protect Maine, and Mainers for Fair Laws were registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $70.77 million, including
$48.45 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and
$19.94 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which was a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.
Three initiatives—Amendment 78, Proposition 119, and Proposition 120— were on the ballot on Nov. 2, and were rejected by voters.
Proposition 119 would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program, also known as the LEAP Program, and would have increased the marijuana retail sales tax incrementally from 15% to 20% to partially fund the program. The measure was rejected by a vote of 54.5% against to 45.5% in favor.
Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids led the Yes on Prop 119 campaign. The committee reported raising $2.58 million in contributions. The top two donors were Gary Community Investment Company, which gave $1.97 million, and Ready Colorado, which gave $625,000. Three committees registered to oppose the initiative: No on Prop 119, Coloradans Against School Vouchers, and Cannabis Community for Fairness and Safety. Together, the committees reported raising $73,530 in contributions.
Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, sponsored Amendment 78 and Proposition 120. Amendment 78 was rejected by a vote of 56.5% against to 43.5% in favor. It would have transferred the power to appropriate custodial funds from the state treasurer to the state legislature. Examples of such funds include pension funds and court-approved settlement funds. The committee supporting the initiative raised $1.275 million, all given by Unite for Colorado, which describes itself as an “issue advocacy organization that believes in a smaller, more accountable government.” No committees registered to oppose the measure.
Proposition 120 was rejected by a vote of 57% against to 43% in favor. It would have reduced the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate from 29% to 26.4%. It would also have authorized the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) spending cap for five years, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers, to fund reimbursements to local government entities for lost revenue due to homestead exemptions given to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans. The committee supporting the measure raised $1.53 million from Unite for Colorado ($875,000), Colorado Rising State Action ($347,000), the Apartment Association of Metro Denver ($241,900), and United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc. ($52,000). No committees registered to oppose the measure.
In total, $3,329,466.92 was spent by the initiative campaigns on signature gathering for the three 2021 Colorado initiatives. Campaigns needed to submit 124,632 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The average cost-per-required-signature was $8.42.
Measures that can go on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd years are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR. The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates.
Voters in New Jersey decided two constitutional amendments on Nov. 2, approving one and rejecting the other. Proposal 1 was rejected by 56.8% of voters. It would have allowed wagering on all college sports competitions. As of 2021, the state constitution permitted sports betting except on games held in New Jersey and on games featuring New Jersey-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would have expanded sports betting to include all college sports competitions.
Proposal 2 was approved by 64.1% of voters. The ballot measure allowed organizations that are permitted to hold raffles to keep the raffle proceeds to support themselves. As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations; civic and service clubs; senior citizen associations; and volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads. Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so.
Both of the constitutional amendments were put on the ballot by the New Jersey General Assembly. Legislative Democrats and most Republicans voted to put Proposal 1 on the ballot. Legislators unanimously voted to put Proposal 2 on the ballot.
Between 1995 and 2020, New Jersey voters decided 35 constitutional amendments, approving 32 (91.4%) of them. Before 2021, the last amendment to be rejected was Question 1 of 2016. It would have authorized two casinos in northern New Jersey.
Voters in Maine approved each of the three measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021. As of 8:30am EST on Wednesday, 89% of precincts had reported results. Question 1 received 59% of the vote. It was designed to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC). Question 2 received 72% of the vote. It authorized $100 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects. Question 3 received 61% of the vote. It established a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching, or abuses to private land, public land, or natural resources.
Question 1 prohibited the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to Sept. 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of NECEC. Segment 1 was permitted to begin construction on May 13, 2021. The NECEC is a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. The ballot initiative also required a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission lines.
Question 1 saw $98.41 million raised between supporters and opponents. According to the Bangor Daily News, Question 1 was the most expensive ballot measure in Maine history, and the second most expensive political election after the $200 million U.S. Senate race in 2020.
No CMP Corridor led the campaign in support of Question 1. The PACs Mainers for Local Power and NRCM Yes on Question 1 were also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $27.64 million, including $20.20 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $3.61 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $3.26 million from Calpine Corp., which owned a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.
Clean Energy Matters, Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership, Vote No to Protect Maine, and Mainers for Fair Laws were registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $70.77 million, including $48.45 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and $19.94 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which was a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.
Question 1 had the support of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Sierra Club Maine, along with Calpine Corp., NextEra Energy Resources, and Vistra Energy Corp. Question 1 was opposed by Gov. Janet Mills (D), former Gov. Paul LePage (R), U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and the supporting companies.