CategoryBallot measures

Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax

Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax

According to election night results, 76.7% of Wayne County, Michigan, voters were in favor of renewing a 0.2 mill property tax ($20 per $100,000 in assessed value) until 2031 to provide funding for the Wayne County Art Institute Authority. The tax will generate an estimated $8.5 million in revenue in 2022.

The tax was initially approved in 2012 and was set to expire in December 2021.

Georgia legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning dedication of tax and fee revenue

The Georgia Legislature voted on Monday to send House Joint Resolution 164 to the November 2020 ballot for voter consideration. The measure would authorize the Georgia Legislature to dedicate certain tax or fee revenue to the public purpose for which the taxes or fees were imposed.

For example, the measure would allow revenues resulting from taxes or fees regarding hazardous wastes to be dedicated to the “investigation, detoxification, removal, and disposal of any hazardous wastes, hazardous constituents, or hazardous substances at sites where corrective action is necessary to mitigate a present or future danger to human health or the environment.”

The Augusta Chronicle reported that dedicating state funds such as Georgia’s Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste trust funds to their intended use was a priority of the amendment’s sponsor, Jay Powell (R), who passed away in November 2019.

Rep. Andrew Welch (R) said, “It would bring a level of accountability to these fees and truth in taxation back to the dedication of these fees.”

This amendment was introduced as House Resolution 164 on February 7, 2019, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-171). On February 20, 2019, the state House passed HR 164 by a vote of 169-1 with ten Representatives excused or not voting. The single no vote came from Republican Representative Matt Gurtler. The amendment was passed in the Senate as a substitute on March 25, 2019, by a vote of 52-0 with four excused.

On March 3, 2020, the House amended and passed the measure by a vote of 164-4 with 12 not voting. The Senate agreed to the House’s amendments and passed the bill on March 9, 2020, certifying it for the November 2020 ballot.

From 1996 to 2018, 81 measures have been on the ballot in Georgia, of which, 84% (68 of 81) were approved and 16% (13 of 81) were defeated.

Additional Reading:
Georgia 2020 ballot measures

Signatures verified for top-four ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in Alaska

Alaskans could vote on a first-of-its-kind electoral system in November. On March 9, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer announced that the campaign Alaskans for Better Elections collected 36,006 valid signatures for its ballot initiative. The campaign filed 41,068 signatures, of which at least 28,501 needed to be valid.

Next, the Alaska State Legislature has the option to approve the proposal before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is expected to adjourn on May 20, 2020. Otherwise, the proposal will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020.

The ballot initiative would replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices. It would establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, in which voters would rank the four candidates that moved on from the primaries. The ballot initiative would also require persons and entities that make contributions that were themselves derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the sources of the contributions.

Alaskans for Better Elections has raised $761,381 through January 7, 2020. Two organizations that have backed ranked-choice voting efforts in other states—Unite America and Action Now Initiative—provided the largest donations, $600,000 and $100,000, respectively. No campaign has organized to oppose the ballot initiative as of March 10, 2020.

Currently, one state—Maine—uses ranked-choice voting for some state and federal elections. In 2020, voters in Maine could be asked to expand ranked-choice voting to presidential elections. A ranked-choice voting initiative could also appear on the ballot in Massachusetts.

The deadline to file signatures for Alaska ballot initiatives passed on January 21, 2020. Along with Alaskans for Better Elections’ ballot initiative, voters may decide one to increase taxes on three North Slope oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay. The legislature can also refer constitutional amendments and statutes to the ballot.

Additional Reading:
Alaska 2020 ballot measures
Top four primary
Ranked-choice voting

Garcia (R) and Smith (D) advance in two primaries for California’s 25th Congressional District

Mike Garcia (R) and Christy Smith (D) advanced from a special top-two primary election and from a regularly scheduled top-two primary election in California’s 25th Congressional District. Third place finisher Steve Knight (R) conceded the race on March 8 and said he would support Garcia. As of Knight’s concession, Smith led in the special primary with 35.2% of the vote, followed by Garcia with 25.9% and Knight with 17.6%. In the regular primary, Smith led with 31.0% of the vote to Garcia’s 24.9% and Knight’s 19.5%.

Garcia and Smith will run in a May 12, 2020, special general election to fill the vacancy left by Katie Hill (D), who resigned her seat on November 1, 2019, amid allegations of extramarital relationships with staffers. Then, on Nov. 3, 2020, Garcia and Smith will compete in the regular election for a full, two-year term starting Jan. 3, 2021.

Democrats have a 232-197 advantage over Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is one independent member, and there are five vacancies. The 25th District special election could change that balance ahead of November. Currently, if Republicans win 18 Democratic-controlled districts in the Nov. general, they will win control of the House. If Democrats hold as many districts, they will maintain their control of the chamber.

Approval rates of local bond and tax measures in California’s March 3 election lowest in at least a decade

On March 3, California voters decided 292 local ballot measures. According to results available Monday evening, at least 111 were approved, at least 146 were defeated, and the remaining measures were too close to call because of the number of ballots left to be processed.

Of the 292 total local measures, 236 (81%) were bond or tax measures:
• 121 local school bond measures (in total, $17.24 billion in local school bonds was proposed)
• 54 parcel tax measures
• 45 sales tax measures
• 7 hotel tax measures
• 5 city or county marijuana tax measures
• 4 city, county, or district bond measures

Other topics included the following:
• 10 measures on housing, zoning, land use, and development
• 10 measures on local elections and campaigns
• 5 measures on the regulation of marijuana

The 292 local measures on the ballot were the most at a primary election since at least 2010. From 2010 through 2018, primary elections were held in June rather than March. There were an average of 139 local measures on primary ballots from 2010 through 2018.

School bond measures

With Monday evening’s election results update, Ballotpedia called all but 19 of the 121 total school bond measures on the March 3 ballot:
• at least 32 (26%) were approved
• at least 70 (58%) were defeated
• 19 remain too close to call with certainty

From 2008 through 2019, the average approval rate for local school bond measures in California was 75%.

In terms of bond revenue, at least $5.511 billion (32%) was approved, at least $10.037 billion (58%) was defeated, and $1.788 billion (10%) could still go either way. In the November 2018 election, there were 151 total school bond measures proposing a total of $15.2 billion, and $14.3 billion (94%) was approved. In 2016, there were 231 local school bonds proposing a total of $31.8 billion, and $28.9 billion (91%) was approved.

Voters also appear to have rejected Proposition 13, a $15 billion statewide bond issue of general obligation bonds for school and college facilities—including $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges. As of Monday evening’s election results update, the measure was behind by 45.96% (3,250,570 votes) to 54.04% (3,822,718 votes), with about 2.9 million ballots left to be processed.

Local tax measures

Local parcel and sales tax measures were approved at a lower rate than the average over recent election cycles as well.

At least 16 (29.6%) of the local parcel tax measures were approved, at least 31 (57.4%) were defeated, and seven (13%) were too close to call. From 2003 through 2019, 57.5% of local parcel tax measures were approved.

At least 24 (53.3%) of the local sales taxes were approved, at least 19 (42.2%) were defeated, and two (4.4%) were too close to call. From 2014 through 2019, 76% of local sales tax measures were approved.

Additional reading:
California Proposition 13, School and College Facilities Bond (March 2020) 
School bond elections in California
Sales tax in California
Parcel tax elections in California
Hotel taxes in California 
Marijuana taxes in California

Virginians to decide constitutional amendment transferring redistricting powers from legislature to commission

On March 5, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 54-46 to approve a resolution placing a redistricting-related constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 3, 2020. The ballot measure would transfer the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a 16-member redistricting commission composed of eight state legislators and eight citizens.

In Virginia, a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment needs to be passed in two successive sessions of the Virginia General Assembly. In 2019, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a resolution. Democrats won control of both legislative chambers in November 2019. In 2020, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the resolution 38-2. The proposal received more opposition in the state House, where 46 Democrats opposed it. Nine House Democrats and all 45 Republicans voted to place the constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot. Before the final vote on March 5, Del. Marcus Simon (D-53) offered a substitute for SJR 18. The substitute resolution was rejected 47-53. Substitute SJR 18 would have created a redistricting commission composed of 11 commissioners “who are, as a whole, representative of the racial, gender, political, and geographic diversity of the Commonwealth.” Approval of Substitute SJR 18 would have restarted the process of amending the Virginia Constitution, meaning an amendment could appear on the 2022 ballot at the earliest.

Under the constitutional amendment that voters will decide in November, the commission would draw the maps, and the General Assembly would vote to pass or reject the maps. The General Assembly would be prohibited from amending the maps. If the General Assembly rejected a map, the redistricting commission would design a new map. If the map was rejected again, the Virginia Supreme Court would establish the districts.

Maps would also require approval by 12 of 16 (75 percent) commissioners, including six of eight legislators and six of eight citizens. Leaders of the legislature’s two-largest political parties would select members to serve on the commission. Therefore, based on the current membership, the commission’s legislative members would include two Senate Democrats, two Senate Republicans, two House Democrats, and two House Republicans. The commission’s eight citizen members would be recommended by legislative leaders and selected by a committee of five retired circuit court judges.

The constitutional amendment is the first ballot measure certified for 2020 that is related to redistricting. Measures could also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In 2018, five states—Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah—voted on initiatives to change redistricting procedures or establish redistricting commissions, and all of them were approved by voters.

With the Virginia General Assembly adjourning on March 8, no additional constitutional amendments can be referred to the 2020 general election ballot unless a special session is held. Besides the redistricting amendment, voters will also decide an amendment that would create a property tax exemption on vehicles for veterans.

Additional reading:

Washington Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the investment of Family Medical Leave and Long-Term Care Accounts

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow funds in the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account to be invested as provided by law. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Washington this November.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  1. public pension and retirements funds;
  2. industrial insurance trust funds; and
  3. funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

In Washington, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber of the Washington State Legislature during one legislative session.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 was sponsored by Republican Senators John Braun and Mark Schoesler and Democratic Senators Steve Conway and Mark Mullet. The resolution was introduced on January 13, 2020. It passed in the Senate on February 19, 2020, by a vote of 45-3 with one Senator excused. The measure passed in the House on March 6, 2020, by a vote of 96-1 with one Representative excused. The four no votes the amendment received in the state legislature came from Representative Frank Chopp (D) and Senators Bob Hasegawa (D), Doug Ericksen (R), and Mike Padden (R).

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments or state statutes to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session, which is set to run through March 12, 2020. Citizens may collect signatures to place proposed laws on the 2020 ballot as Initiatives to the People (ITPs), for which 259,622 valid signatures are required by July 2, 2020. Veto referendums targeting the repeal of bills passed in the 2020 legislature can also qualify for the ballot through signature petition drives.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years between 2000 and 2018, of which, 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Voters in South Dakota to decide on legalizing sports betting in Deadwood this fall

South Dakota legislators passed Senate Joint Resolution 501 on March 3, certifying it for the November 2020 ballot.

The amendment would legalize sports betting (wagering on the outcome of athletic sporting events) within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota. Currently, in Deadwood— a resort and gaming town— blackjack, craps, keno, poker, roulette, and slot machines are legalized. Like other authorized forms of gambling within the city, net municipal proceeds would be dedicated to the historic restoration and preservation of Deadwood.

Senate Joint Resolution 501 was passed in the Senate on February 11, 2020, in a vote of 24-10, with one excused. Of the 30 Republicans in the Senate, 20 voted in favor, nine voted against, and one was excused. Among the five Senate Democrats, four Democrats voted in favor and one voted against. It was sent to the state House where it passed on March 3, 2020, by a vote of 36-27 with seven representatives excused. Among Democrats, seven were in favor and three were against. Among Republicans, 29 were in favor and 24 were against.

Sports betting was banned at the federal level under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) until a 2018 United States Supreme Court decision, Murphy v. NCAA, overturned that federal ban and allowed states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 13 states had legalized sports betting. Voters in Arkansas approved legalizing sports betting through Issue 4 in 2018. Voters in Colorado approved sports betting through Proposition DD in 2019. In certain other states, legislative bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced.

Two other ballot measures are certified to appear on the November ballot in South Dakota. Initiated Measure 26 would provide for a medical marijuana program in South Dakota. Constitutional Amendment A would legalize recreational use of marijuana and require the legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

A total of 74 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota from 1996 through 2018, of which, about 39% (29 of 74) were approved and about 61% (45 of 74) were defeated.

Additional reading:

Signatures verified for Maine ballot initiative designed to void international hydroelectric transmission project

A citizen initiative to void a certificate needed for an international hydroelectric transmission project will go on the ballot unless the state legislature approves it.

The campaign No CMP Corridor filed 75,253 signatures on February 3. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D) reported that 69,714 signatures were valid. At least 63,067 signatures needed to be verified. As citizen-initiated statutes are indirect in Maine, the state legislature has the option to approve the proposal before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is expected to adjourn on April 15, 2020. Otherwise, the proposal will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020.

The ballot measure would require the Maine Public Utilities Commission to reverse an order made on May 3, 2019, that provided the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) transmission project with a certificate of public convenience and necessity. In Maine, a certificate of public convenience and necessity is required before constructing a transmission line capable of operating at 69 kilovolts or more. The NECEC transmission project was designed to cross about 145 miles in Maine, from the state’s border with Quebec to Lewiston, and transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts.

The State of Massachusetts proposed the NECEC transmission corridor, which is a joint project of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Quebec. Massachusetts sought renewable generation and transmission projects to help meet the state’s renewable standards portfolio (RPS). CMP and Hydro-Quebec agreed to an incentives and benefits package worth $258 million, which would include funds for low-income electric consumer projects, rural broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations, electric heat pumps, education grants, workforce development, and business retention.

The campaign No CMP Corridor, and allied PAC Mainers for Local Power, raised $198,912 through 2019. The largest contribution was $110,287 from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas plant in Westbrook, Maine. Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also funding an effort opposed to the measure. Together, the opposition committees raised $2.41 million, which came from Central Maine Power (CMP) and CMP’s parent firm Avangrid.

The citizen-initiated statute is the only one that may appear on the Maine ballot in 2020. The signature deadline for initiated statutes was February 3, 2020. The campaigns behind veto referendums, including one to overturn a law expanding ranked-choice voting to presidential elections, have until 90 days after the 2020 legislative session adjourns to file signatures. The legislature can also refer constitutional amendments and bond measures to the November ballot.

Additional reading:

Voters in Forsyth County, North Carolina, approve 0.25% sales tax

Voters approved a quarter-cent Forsyth County sales tax increase on Tuesday by a vote of 60% to 40% according to unofficial election night results. The measure will increase the total sales tax rate in the county from 6.75% to 7%.

North Carolina state law does not permit the purpose of a sales tax measure to be printed with the ballot language. The resolution approved by the Forsyth Board of Commissioners to put the measure on the ballot specifies that the revenue would help “fund the educational needs of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system.”

Forsyth County voters rejected a 0.25% sales tax in 2018.