CategoryBallot measures

2021 statewide ballot measures written at second-year graduate school reading level

The ballot language for the 39 ballot measures appearing on nine statewide ballots in 2021 is written at an average reading grade level of 18 (second-year graduate school), up from 15 in 2019. 

Ballotpedia’s annual readability analysis of ballot titles and summaries of ballot measures was conducted using two formulas, the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL). The FRE formula produces a score between a negative number and 100, with the highest score (100) representing a 5th-grade equivalent reading level and scores at or below zero representing college graduate-equivalent reading level. The FKGL formula produces a score equivalent to the estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand a text.

Here are some highlights from this year’s report:

  • On average in 2021, ballot titles or questions were written at a reading grade level of 18 (second-year graduate school).
  • The average ballot title or question grade level by state in 2021 ranged from seven in Washington to 32 in Colorado.
  • In 2019, the average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot titles or questions of statewide ballot measures was 15 years of formal U.S. education, and average state scores ranged from nine to 27.
  • Ballotpedia identified 15 measures with a ballot summary that was set to appear along with the ballot question on the ballot. The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot summaries was 14.
  • The average ballot summary grade by state ranged from nine in Louisiana to 17 in Pennsylvania.
  • The average ballot title or question grade was highest for ballot titles written by secretaries of state (25) and other state boards and offices (21).
  • The Washington Attorney General wrote the titles with the lowest average grade level of seven.
  • The average ballot title or question in 2021 contained about 53 words. In 2019, the average ballot title length was 41 words.
  • The 2021 ballot measure with the longest ballot title was Colorado Proposition 119, which concerns an out-of-school education program and marijuana sales tax increase. The ballot question is 142 words.
  • The states with the shortest ballot titles or questions on average were Texas, Washington, and Maine; none of the three states featured additional ballot summaries or explanations on the ballot.

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District judge rules against ballot initiative to replace Minneapolis Police Department; Supreme Court will hear appeal

Voters in Minneapolis will see a citizen-initiated charter amendment on their ballots to replace the Minneapolis Police Department. On Sept. 14, however, District Court Judge Jamie Anderson ruled that the ballot question for the proposal was unreasonable and misleading and enjoined election officials from counting votes on Nov. 2. On Sept. 15, the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would have final jurisdiction, agreed to hear an appeal.

Judge Anderson has ruled on the ballot language on three occasions. On Aug. 13, Anderson ruled against the Minneapolis City Council for including a statement summarizing the ballot measure that “[waded] into a grey area of explanation that is not allowed.” On Sept. 7, Anderson struck down a ballot question as “vague to the point of being misleading” and said that “ambiguities risk creating a ‘chaotic situation’ in Minneapolis.” The Minneapolis City Council approved a different, longer ballot question in response to the judge’s order. On Sept. 14, Anderson struck down the new council-approved ballot question. As ballots went to print on Sept. 7, the Minneapolis City Council cannot again change the question on the November ballot. The previous two cases were not appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

The ballot initiative followed the Minneapolis City Council’s attempt to craft an ordinance replacing the MPD following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, was charged and sentenced for murder and manslaughter. The Minneapolis City Council approved legislation for a ballot in 2020, but, on Aug. 5, 2020, the city’s charter commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal and not send the proposal back to the City Council, blocking the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2020. 

In 2021, the campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis launched a ballot initiative campaign to replace the MPD. Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, is the board chairperson of Yes 4 Minneapolis, and JaNaé Bates, a theologian and communications director of ISAIAH, is the campaign’s communications director. Through the most recent report filing deadline on July 27, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $1.48 million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center and $430,383 from MoveOn.

The ballot initiative has the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D). Opponents include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-2), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D). A campaign called All of Mpls is opposing the proposal. Through July 27, All of Mpls raised $109,465. 

The ballot initiative is one of three policing-related local measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021, that Ballotpedia is covering. The others are a ballot initiative in Austin, Texas, to require a minimum number of police officers; and a ballot initiative in Cleveland, Ohio, to create a commission to oversee police misconduct investigations and discipline.



Florida Realtors suspends initiative campaign after making compromise deal with state legislators

On Sept. 7, 2021, Floridians for Housing, a ballot initiative committee sponsored by the Florida Realtors, said they were suspending their campaign. The initiative would have created state and local government housing trust funds to “address affordable housing access and availability, including funding of programs addressing new construction, down payment and closing cost assistance, rehabilitation, and financing for affordable housing development.”

According to campaign finance reports covering information through Aug. 31, the Florida Realtors had contributed $13 million to the committee. The committee reported $2.75 million in expenditures. As of Sept. 8, the Florida Division of Elections website said the group had submitted 65,018 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, sponsors would have needed to submit 891,589 valid signatures by Feb. 1, 2022.

Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert said that the campaign would work with legislative leaders on laws to address affordable housing instead of the ballot initiative. Lambert said, “The legislative leadership has committed to working with us to find significant, immediate solutions to Florida’s workforce housing crisis. This crisis cannot wait. Every day, we hear about workers who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic who can’t afford a home. This approach will help bring homeownership within reach of Floridians much faster.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) said, “We commend the decision by the Florida Realtors to suspend their ballot initiative. As we have seen in recent months, the housing market is extremely fluid, and fluctuates based on a variety of factors, which are outside of the Legislature’s control. Constitutional amendments, while instrumental in defining the ideals of the framework of our state government, do not provide the flexibility needed to respond to the ever-changing housing situation in Florida. Legislative solutions derived from the input and expertise of the entire coalition of stakeholders and experts who work on housing-related issues remain the best way to address housing challenges that impact families across our state.”

Committee meetings ahead of the 2022 legislative session were set to begin on Sept. 20, 2021. The legislative session was set to begin on Jan. 11 and run through March 11, 2022.

Ballotpedia is tracking 24 potential initiatives targeting Florida’s 2022 ballot. As of Sept. 8, seven of the initiative campaigns had zero valid signatures submitted. For the other 17 campaigns, the number of valid signatures on file ranged from two at the least, to 9,347 at the most, collected by Florida Voters in Charge, sponsors of an initiative to expand casino gaming in Florida.

Proposed measures are reviewed by the state attorney general and state supreme court after proponents collect 25% of the required signatures across the state in each of one-half of the state’s congressional districts (222,898 signatures for 2022 ballot measures). After these preliminary signatures have been collected, the secretary of state must submit the proposal to the Florida Attorney General and the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC). The attorney general is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether or not the measure “is facially valid under the United States Constitution.” To qualify for the ballot, sponsors must submit 891,589 valid signatures, which must be verified by election officials by Feb. 1, 2022. Signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s congressional districts.

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Minneapolis City Council approves new ballot question for initiative to replace Minneapolis Police Department 

On Sept. 7, the Minneapolis City Council held an emergency meeting to adopt language for a citizen-initiated measure to replace the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) with a Department of Public Safety (DPS). The 12-1 vote came hours after District Court Judge Jamie Anderson struck down the then-existing language as “vague to the point of being misleading.” Sept. 7 was also the deadline for the ballot to be finalized for printing ahead of the election on Nov. 2, 2021. 

The language that Judge Anderson enjoined was a 47-word question. The new language includes a 110-word question and an additional 73-word statement addressing several topics not mentioned in the prior version, including:

  • the DPS employing a “comprehensive public health approach,” with functions determined via ordinance;
  • the mayor and council, rather than just the mayor, being involved in maintaining and commanding the department; and
  • the elimination of the police chief and police minimum funding requirement from the city’s charter.

The City Council also changed the phrase strike and replace the MPD with a DPS to remove and replace the MPD with a DPS. Both versions state that the DPS would include licensed police officers should officers be considered necessary.

Judge Anderson said that ambiguities in the prior ballot question “risk creating a ‘chaotic situation’ in Minneapolis.” There were three issues, in particular, that Judge Anderson said were ambiguous: (1) whether the Minneapolis Police Department will cease to exist as of Dec. 2, 2021; (2) whether the position of police chief would be eliminated; and (3) whether a funding mechanism would exist for the new Department of Public Safety.

The citizen-initiated ballot measure followed the Minneapolis City Council’s attempt to craft an ordinance replacing the MPD following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, was charged and sentenced for murder and manslaughter. The Minneapolis City Council approved legislation for a ballot in 2020, but, on Aug. 5, 2020, the city’s charter commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal and not send the proposal back to the City Council, blocking the measure from appearing on the ballot in 2020. 

In 2021, the campaign Yes 4 Minneapolis launched a ballot initiative to replace the MPD. Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions Collective, is the board chairperson of Yes 4 Minneapolis, and JaNaé Bates, a theologian and communications director of ISAIAH, is the campaign’s communications director. Through July 27, 2021, Yes 4 Minneapolis had received $1.48 million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center and $430,383 from MoveOn.

The ballot initiative has the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-5) and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D). Opponents include U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-2), Gov. Tim Walz (D), and Mayor Jacob Frey (D). A campaign called All of Mpls is opposing the proposal. Through July 27, All of Mpls raised $109,465. 

The ballot initiative is one of three policing-related local measures on the ballot for Nov. 2, 2021, that Ballotpedia is covering. The others include a ballot initiative in Austin, Texas, to require a minimum number of police officers; and a ballot initiative in Cleveland, Ohio, to create a commission to oversee police misconduct investigations and discipline.

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Texas Supreme Court orders city council to use Save Austin Now’s ballot language for police measure

Austin voters will decide a ballot measure related to police staffing, training requirements, and demographic representation in hiring on November 2, 2021. The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the city council had to use the caption drafted by the measure’s sponsor, Save Austin Now, rather than the language approved by the city council for the ballot.

The court ruled that the sponsor’s language which appeared on circulating petitions complied with state law and did not need to be rewritten by the city council. However, the court agreed with the council’s addition of a fiscal impact statement saying, “We agree with the City that the omission of any cost information can be misleading and we cannot say that including the City’s cost estimate in the ballot language affirmatively misrepresents the ordinance’s character and purpose or its chief features so as to make it potentially misleading.”

Save Austin Now filed a lawsuit on August 16 arguing that the ballot language adopted by the city council was selective because it did not describe the initiative’s provisions related to diversity hiring and inventive guidelines or the 40 additional training hours for officers required by the measure. They also argued that the five-year cost estimate was exaggerated. 

The city council adopted the following ballot language: “Shall an ordinance be approved that, at an estimated cost of $271.5 million – $598.8 million over five years, requires the City to employ at least 2 police officers per 1,000 residents at all times; requires at least 35% of patrol officer time be uncommitted time, otherwise known as community engagement time; requires additional financial incentives for certain officers; requires specific kinds of training for officers and certain public officials and their staffs; and requires there be at least three full-term cadet classes for the department until staffing levels reach a specific level?”

The following language will be on the ballot according to the supreme court’s ruling: “A petitioned ordinance to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency and accountability by adding a new chapter 2-16 to establish minimum standards for the police department to ensure effective public safety and protect residents and visitors to Austin, and prescribing minimal requirements for achieving the same at an estimated cost of $271.5 million – $598.8 million over five years.” This language, except the cost estimate, was circulated by Save Austin Now on signature petitions for the initiative.

The Austin City Charter states that ballot initiatives “shall state the caption of the ordinance” on the ballot.

The proposed ordinance would:

  1. establish minimum police staffing and require there to be at least 2 police officers for every 1,000 residents of Austin;
  2. add an additional 40 hours of police training each year on topics such as active shooter scenarios, critical thinking, and defensive tactics; and
  3. provide police with additional compensation for being proficient in non-English languages, enrolling in cadet mentoring programs, and being recognized for honorable conduct.

In Austin, initiative petitioners must gather 20,000 signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The requirement is based on five percent of the qualified voters in the city or 20,000, whichever is smaller. The deadline to collect signatures to qualify for the 2021 ballot was July 22, 2021. If petitioners collect enough signatures, their initiative is sent to the city council, which must either approve the initiative or put it on the ballot for the next allowable election date. 

On July 19, Save Austin Now submitted 27,778 signatures. On August 3, 2021, the Austin City Clerk announced that a sampling of a quarter of the submitted signatures projected 25,786 valid signatures, 5,786 more than the minimum requirement. On August 11, the city council voted unanimously to put the initiative on the ballot instead of passing it outright.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering a selection of local police-related measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, law enforcement staffing requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. Click here to read more.

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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey clears 17 ballot initiatives for signature gathering

On September 1, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) announced that 17 ballot initiatives of the 30 filed were cleared for signature gathering. The 17 initiatives included 16 initiated state statutes aiming for the 2022 ballot and one initiated constitutional amendment that would appear on the 2024 ballot.

The initiatives cleared for signature gathering address:

  1. Changes to alcohol retail licensing,
  2. Compensation of chief executive officers of hospitals,
  3. Hospital operating margin limits,
  4. App-based drivers’ employment classification,
  5. Voter identification,
  6. Hate crimes against first responders,
  7. Commercial retail of fireworks,
  8. Whale and sea turtle safe fishing gear,
  9. Gasoline supply,
  10. Sale of discounted alcoholic beverages,
  11. Corporate tax disclosures,
  12. Right to counsel in eviction proceedings, 
  13. Tax credits for individuals who buy zero-emission vehicles, home heating systems, and home solar-powered electricity, and
  14. No-excuse absentee voting.

Proponents of the initiatives that were not cleared for signature gathering can appeal the attorney general’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Court. In determining which initiatives to clear for circulation, the attorney general considers whether the initiative meets the requirements in the constitution, such as a single-subject rule, subject restrictions, format requirements, and a ban on repeating of a measure voters decided at either of the two preceding statewide elections.

In Massachusetts, the number of signatures required to qualify an indirect initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 3.5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. No more than one-quarter of the verified signatures on any petition can come from a single county. The process for initiated state statutes in Massachusetts is indirect, which means the legislature has a chance to approve initiatives for which enough signatures are collected without the measure going to the voters. In Massachusetts, signatures for initiated state statutes are collected in two rounds.

For the 2022 ballot, the first round is 80,239 signatures (3 percent of the votes cast for governor). If petitioners meet the first-round requirement, the initiative goes before the legislature. The second round is equal to 13,374 signatures (0.5 percent of the votes cast for governor. It is required to put the measure on the ballot if the legislature rejects or declines to act on a proposed initiated statute. 

The deadline to submit the first round of signatures to the secretary of state is December 1, 2021. Prior to submitting signatures to the secretary of state, the signatures need to be submitted to local registrars by November 17, 2021. If the legislature does not adopt the proposed law by May 4, 2022, petitioners then have until July 6, 2022 (eight weeks) to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of signatures.

Proposed constitutional amendments have just one round of signature gathering with the same requirement and deadline as the first round for statutes. If enough signatures are submitted by the deadline, the initiative goes to the legislature, where 25 percent of all legislators, with senators and representatives voting jointly, must approve the amendment in two successive sessions. If this requirement is met, the initiative goes on the ballot at the next general election. Because of this unique requirement, the earliest an initiated constitutional amendment can reach the ballot is two years following signature submission.

Between 1996 and 2020, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years. About 54% (22 of 41) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 46% (19 of 41) were defeated.

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Colorado voters to decide on three initiatives on November 2

The Colorado Secretary of State announced on August 31 that Initiative 19 concerning custodial funds qualified for the ballot, which means voters will decide three statewide initiatives on November 2, 2021.

Initiative 19 would transfer the power to appropriate custodial funds from the state treasurer to the state legislature. Custodial funds are state revenue not generated through taxes, such as pension funds and court-approved settlement funds. The measure defines custodial money as money received by the state that (1) originated from a source other than the State of Colorado, (b) was awarded or provided to the state for a particular purpose, and (c) that the state is acting as a custodian or trustee to carry out the purpose for which the funds were provided.

The initiative would create the Custodial Fund Transparency Account within the Department of the Treasury. The account would receive all custodial funds and the general assembly would be responsible for appropriating the funds for purposes as specified by law “on an equitable basis for the benefit of the state.” Funds appropriated from the account would be appropriated in a public hearing with opportunities for public comment. Custodial funds, including interest revenue on the funds, would be retained and spent as a voter-approved revenue change and would be exempt from revenue and spending limitations under TABOR.

The Committee for Spending Transparency is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. Michael Fields, Executive Director of Colorado Rising Action, is the initiative’s sponsor and the registered agent for the committee. The committee reported $1.275 million in contributions from Unite for Colorado.

Michael Fields said, “I think [Initiative 19 was] relevant this year because of all the COVID money the governor spent, the money he’s getting from companies to hire staff and the settlements coming into the AG’s office. The legislature should be deciding how to spend that. There is always extra money in there, and it sits in the bank for a very long time, gathering interest. Millions get spent how they want.”

The secretary of state used a random sampling to project that, of the 195,911 signatures submitted by proponents, 135,601 were valid. To qualify, 124,632 signatures needed to be valid. Since the measure proposes to amend the state constitution, signatures from two percent of the registered voters from each of the state’s 35 senate districts were also required.

Measures that can go on the ballot during odd years in Colorado are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (Section 20 of Article X of the Colorado Constitution). This requirement was added to state law in 1994.

Measures that can go on odd-year election ballots include

  1. measures proposing new taxes,
  2. tax increases,
  3. an extension of taxes,
  4. tax policy changes resulting in a net tax revenue gain,
  5. changes to revenue or fiscal obligations,
  6. delays in voting on ballot issues, and
  7. approval for the state to retain and spend state revenues that otherwise would be refunded for exceeding an estimate included in the ballot information booklet.

The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was in 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates.

The deadline to submit signatures for initiatives targeting the November 2021 ballot was Aug. 2. Campaigns for two other initiatives submitted signatures by that deadline. Both were certified for the ballot: the Creation of Out-of-School Education Program and Marijuana Sales Tax Increase Initiative (#25) and the Reduce Property Tax Rates and Retain $25 Million in TABOR Surplus Revenue Initiative (#27). Colorado Rising Action also sponsored Initiative 27.

According to campaign finance reports covering information through July 28, 2021, committees supporting the three measures raised a combined total of $3.31 million. Unite for Colorado gave 100% of the funds—a total of $2.15 million—raised by Cut Property Taxes (supporting Initiative 25) and The Committee for Spending Transparency (supporting Initiative 19). Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids (LEAP 4 Co), which is backing Initiative #25, raised $1.61 million from Gary Community Investment Company ($948,250) and Ready Colorado ($200,000). The deadline for the next scheduled reports is September 7, 2021

From 2016 through 2020, successful initiative petition drives in Colorado cost an average of about $850,000, ranging from volunteer efforts to $2.2 million.

In 2020, eight initiatives appeared on the ballot in Colorado. Campaigns supporting the measures received an average of $3.36 million in support contributions and $2.49 million in opposition contributions. Campaigns supporting and opposing the eight initiatives on the 2020 ballot reported a combined total of $46.8 million in contributions.



Texas legislature refers constitutional amendment to May 2022 ballot

Texas voters will decide on a constitutional amendment related to a property tax reduction for elderly and disabled residents on May 7, 2022. The amendment was passed during the second special legislative session, which convened on Aug. 7, 2021. The amendment would authorize the state legislature to reduce the property tax limit for school maintenance and operations taxes imposed on the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents to reflect any tax rate reduction enacted by law from the preceding tax year. 

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds vote is required in both the Texas state Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2) on Aug. 6, 2021. On Aug. 9, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 2 by a vote of 29-0 with two absent. On Aug. 26, 2021, the state House passed SJR 2 by a vote of 116-0 with 32 absent or not voting.

Senate Bill 12 (SB 12), the enabling legislation for the amendment, was also passed during the special session. SB 12 extends a property tax reduction enacted by House Bill 3 in 2019 to elderly and disabled residents whose property taxes are frozen either when they turn 65 or buy a new property if they are disabled. The Senate passed SB 12 by a vote of 31-0, and the House passed SB 12 by a vote of 121-0 with 27 absent or not voting. As of Aug. 30, the bill was awaiting the governor’s signature. If the amendment is passed, SB 12 would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The Legislative Budget Board estimated that the reduction would result in a $467.5 million reduction to revenue in the first two years of its implementation.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), who wrote the amendment, said, “I hope a unanimous vote from the Senate is a signal that this really is good bipartisan legislation. This isn’t just tax relief. This would be a tax cut, and over time it would continue for as long as (seniors and disabled Texans) own the home.”

The amendment and SB 12 were modeled after a 2007 constitutional amendment and 2006 property tax reduction. In 2007, voters approved Proposition 1, which reduced school property tax freeze amounts on homesteads of the elderly or disabled to provide a tax reduction similar to the reduction other taxpayers had received in 2006. It was passed by a margin of 87.7% to 12.3%.

The 2022 amendment is the first even-numbered year ballot measure to appear on Texas ballots since 2014. Between 1985 and 2020, 10 ballot measures have appeared on even-numbered year ballots in Texas compared to 251 ballot measures on odd-numbered year ballots during that same period.

The deadline for state legislators to refer an amendment to the November 2021 ballot was Aug. 16. In November, Texas voters will decide eight constitutional amendments related to taxes, the state judiciary, raffles at rodeo venues, county authorization to issue bonds for infrastructure, designated essential caregivers at nursing facilities, and limitations on religious services. 

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Colorado initiative to reduce property tax assessment rates and allow the state to retain $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR spending cap for five years qualifies for 2021 ballot

The initiative would reduce, beginning on January 1, 2022, the residential and non-residential property tax rates. The residential property tax assessment rate would be reduced from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate would be reduced from 29% to 26.4%. To offset the state’s reduced property tax revenue, the state would be authorized to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR spending cap for five years, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers. The retained revenue would be used to replace revenue lost due to the property tax assessment rate reduction and to reimburse local government entities for lost revenue due to homestead exemptions given to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans.

Sponsors submitted 192,562 signatures and 138,567 were projected to be valid based on a random sample check of 5% of the submitted signatures. To qualify, 124,632 signatures needed to be valid.

Cut Property Taxes registered as an issue committee to support the initiative. The committee reported $875,000 in contributions from Unite for Colorado. The committee reported expenditures totaling $868,950. The committee paid $868,728 to Victors Canvassing for signature gathering.

Michael Fields of Colorado Rising Action sponsored the measure. Fields said, “What’s been happening over the last few years is a huge rise in home values, the assessment rates that people got are a lot higher than they used to be. Our houses are worth more, but that doesn’t mean you have more money in your pocket to be able to pay for the property taxes. Seeing the strain this could put on seniors and people on fixed incomes, we wanted to make a move to lower property taxes. Most years, we fund that but some years we don’t. We wanted to give them an incentive. That whole thing is $150 million so this is only $25 million that the legislation could keep instead and spend on Homestead which would help those disabled veterans and seniors. The government will have more money next year than this year because of the high assessment rates. If values go up more than ten percent which might happen, nine percent means the government gets more but it slows the growth.”

Elliot Goldbaum of the Colorado Fiscal Institute opposes the measure. Goldbaum said, “The only people who are going to get a tax cut from this are those who own property which is about 40 percent of the state. It is not a significant number of people, but at the same time there are a lot of millionaires and billionaires who own very expensive property who are going to get a very large tax cut. The property tax benefit that is already in the constitution gets funded every year, regardless if this gets passed or not. I think it is deceptive that this was put into the ballot measure language, and we actually sued to get it taken out of the ballot measure language. We were unsuccessful, but we will be letting all of the voters know that voting for this doesn’t do anything to make sure older Coloradans and disabled veterans get that property tax benefit.”

The deadline to submit signatures for initiatives targeting the November 2021 ballot was Aug. 2. Campaigns for two other initiatives submitted signatures by that deadline: the Custodial Fund Appropriations Initiative (#19) and the Creation of Out-of-School Education Program and Marijuana Sales Tax Increase Initiative (#25). Initiative 25 was certified on Aug. 25.

From 2016 through 2020, successful initiative petition drives cost an average of about $850,000, ranging from volunteer efforts to $2.2 million.

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 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (Section 20 of Article X of the Colorado Constitution). This requirement was added to state law in 1994.

Measures that can go on odd-year election ballots include measures proposing new taxes, tax increases, an extension of taxes, tax policy changes resulting in a net tax revenue gain, changes to revenue or fiscal obligations, delays in voting on ballot issues, and approval for the state to retain and spend state revenues that otherwise would be refunded for exceeding an estimate included in the ballot information booklet.

The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was in 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates. At least $10.4 million was raised in support of the initiative.

In 2020, eight initiatives appeared on the ballot in Colorado. Campaigns supporting the measures received an average of $3.36 million in support contributions and $2.49 million in opposition contributions. Campaigns supporting and opposing the eight initiatives on the 2020 ballot reported a combined total of $46.8 million in contributions.

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Gaming compact between Florida and Seminole Tribe goes into effect; opponents file lawsuits in state and federal court

Florida entered into a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida in April 2021 that gave the Tribe the exclusive ability to conduct sports betting in the state. Under the compact, the tribe may conduct sports betting and is required to share revenue with the state of Florida for the next 30 years, until 2051. The revenue sharing guarantee was set to be $2.5 billion over the first five years, with expected revenue for the state totaling $6 billion by 2030. Under the compact, sports betting was set to be available online and at pari-mutuel facilities to anyone in the state and would be “deemed at all times to be exclusively conducted by the tribe at its facilities” where the sportsbooks and servers are located. The compact was deemed approved, and the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs published it in the Federal Register on August 11, 2021.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) passed by the United States Congress in 1988 allowed tribes to establish casino gambling on tribal land and permitted states to form compacts with tribes to regulate gaming. The IGRA requires that any gaming activities provided for through gaming compacts between Indian tribes and state governments occur only on Indian lands, defined as “all lands within the limits of any Indian reservation.” Florida’s 2021 compact with the Seminole Tribe contains a severability clause, providing that, “[i]f at any time the Tribe is not legally permitted to offer Sports Betting to Patrons physically located in the State but not on Indian lands,” then the rest of the compact would remain in effect, meaning sports betting would then be available only on tribal lands.

On July 2, 2021, West Flagler Associates (Magic City Casino) and Bonita Springs Poker Room filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida Tallahassee Division against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), alleging that the compact would illegally allow online sports betting from any location in the state. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs wrote, “‘Deeming’ the bet to have been placed on Indian lands because the servers are located there contradicts decades of well-established precedent interpreting applicable federal law. Contrary to the legal fiction created by the 2021 Compact and Implementing Law, a bet is placed both where the bettor and the casino are each located.”

Following the approval of the compact, the casinos filed a second lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the U.S. Department of the Interior. They alleged that approval of the compact violates federal laws including bank wire laws “by unlawfully permitting internet and bank wire transmission of transactions and payments relating to sports betting between the Tribe’s reservations and the rest of Florida, where sports betting is otherwise illegal.” They also argued that the compact violated the Fifth Amendment equal protection clause by allowing the Seminole Tribe to conduct online sports gambling in Florida although it would be illegal for anyone else to do so.

No Casinos, Inc., which supported Amendment 3 of 2018, also said it would file a lawsuit to block the compact from taking effect. Amendment 3, approved by a vote of 71.47% to 28.53%, made the citizen initiative process “the exclusive method of authorizing casino gambling,” meaning the Florida State Legislature is not permitted to authorize casino gambling through statute or through referring a constitutional amendment to the ballot. Amendment 3 included a provision stating that the amendment does not “limit the ability of the state or Native American tribes to negotiate gaming compacts pursuant to the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act for the conduct of casino gambling on tribal lands, or to affect any existing gambling on tribal lands pursuant to compacts executed by the state and Native American tribes pursuant to IGRA.” No Casinos President John Sowinski said, “This compact violates multiple Federal laws as well as the Florida Constitution. The 2018 constitutional mandate of 72% of Florida voters could not be clearer. Only Florida voters, not politicians in Tallahassee or Washington, have the power to expand gambling in Florida.”

Bryan Newland, principal deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior for Indian Affairs, said, “After thorough review under IGRA, we have taken no action to approve or disapprove the Compact … the Compact is considered to have been approved by operation of law to the extent that it complies with IGRA and existing Federal law.” Newland also said, “IGRA should not be an impediment to tribes that seek to modernize their gaming offerings, and this jurisdictional agreement aligns with the policy goals of IGRA to promote tribal economic development while ensuring regulatory control of Indian gaming. The Department will not read restrictions into IGRA that do not exist.”

Gov. DeSantis said, “The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida. This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians.” DeSantis also said he believes the compact is in compliance with constitutional requirements under Amendment 3 of 2018.

Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. said, “Today is a great day for the people of Florida, who will benefit not only from a $2.5 billion revenue sharing guarantee over five years, but also from statewide sports betting and new casino games that will roll out this fall and mean more jobs for Floridians and more money invested in this state.”

Florida Education Champions, sponsors of an initiative to allow other entities, aside from the Seminole Tribe, to conduct sports betting in Florida, have raised $20 million from DraftKings and FanDuel in an attempt to qualify the initiative for the November 2022 ballot. The measure would authorize sports betting at sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities, and online in Florida. The Florida State Legislature would need to pass legislation to implement the constitutional amendment such as providing for licensing, regulation, consumer protection, and taxation. Under the amendment, all online sports betting tax revenue would be dedicated to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund of the Department of Education. Online sports betting could be conducted by (a) Native American tribes and (b) entities that have existed for at least one year and that have conducted sports betting in at least 10 other states under the amendment. Such entities could begin conducting sports betting no later than eight months after the amendment is effective. Other entities or organizations could conduct sports betting no sooner than 20 months after the amendment is effective if authorized by state law. As of August 19, 2021, the Florida Division of Elections reported that 685 valid signatures had been submitted for Florida Education Champions’ initiative.

Seminole Gaming launched their own PAC, Voters in Control, and provided $10 million to it to support the compact and oppose the initiative sponsored by Florida Education Champions.

Additionally, Florida Voters in Charge sponsored an initiative concerning casino gaming expansion in Florida. The group filed two versions: #21-15 and #21-16. The initiative would expand casino gaming in Florida and define casino gaming. Version #21-15 would limit new casinos to 100 miles from a Seminole tribal casino and version #21-16 would limit new casinos to 130 miles from a Seminole tribal casino. A spokesperson for the committee said “both of these ballot initiatives are options we are exploring,” and the committee “will make a decision on which option we will begin gathering signatures for soon.” Currently, 110 valid signatures have been submitted for version #21-16. Gary Bitner, spokesperson for the Seminole Indian Tribe, said, “Unlike the proposed sports betting ballot initiative, neither of these initiatives would interfere with the new gaming compact, nor would they impact the $2.5 billion revenue-sharing guarantee for the state of Florida over the compact’s first five years.”

Ballotpedia identified four committees registered to support and/or oppose gambling-related initiatives (#21-13, #21-14, and #21-15) targeting the 2022 ballot in Florida. In total, the four committees reported receiving donations of $62,069,547.80.

Proposed measures are reviewed by the state attorney general and state supreme court after proponents collect 25% of the required signatures across the state in each of one-half of the state’s congressional districts (222,898 signatures for 2022 ballot measures). After these preliminary signatures have been collected, the secretary of state must submit the proposal to the Florida Attorney General and the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC). The attorney general is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether or not the measure “is facially valid under the United States Constitution.” To qualify for the ballot, sponsors must submit 891,589 valid signatures, which must be verified by election officials by February 1, 2022. Signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

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