Voters in Georgia will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to suspend compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office due to a felony indictment:
1. any member of the General Assembly;
3. Lieutenant Governor;
4. Secretary of State;
5. Attorney General;
6. State School Superintendent;
7. Commissioner of Insurance;
8. Commissioner of Agriculture; or
9. Commissioner of Labor
Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.
The constitutional amendment was passed in the Senate by a vote of 51-1 and in the House by a vote of 169-0. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.
The measure was proposed in the state legislature shortly after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in late January that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck has been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. The charges included stealing over $2 million from his former employer and using those funds to pay for his 2018 campaign. Beck was elected to the office on Nov. 6, 2018, and was suspended from the office by Governor Brian Kemp (R) on May 16, 2019.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Beck’s attorney said in June 2019 that “[Beck] acted legally and in good faith in his employment.” He also said Beck would fight the charges and planned to maintain his job as the state’s insurance commissioner. Beck said, “I am, in fact, innocent of these charges. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.” Because Beck was suspended and did not resign, the state has been compensating him, as well as John King, Kemp’s appointment to fill the position during Beck’s suspension.
Rep. Matthew Wilson (D) said Beck “is about to go a whole term without doing a job Georgians put their trust in him to do, but the taxpayers have been on the hook for his salary, health care and benefits the whole time.”
In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide whether to add the following language to Article 1 of the state Constitution:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.”
The amendment was referred to the ballot by the Nevada State Legislature. An amendment proposed by the legislature must be approved by a majority in both the state Assembly and state Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions.
The amendment was first introduced on May 30, 2019. It was approved on June 1, 2019, by the state Senate in a vote of 18-3 and approved on June 3 by the state Assembly in a vote of 33-8. During the 2021 legislative session, it was approved by the state Senate on March 23 in a vote of 18-3 and approved by the state Assembly on March 24 in a vote of 30-12.
In support of the amendment, Sen. Pat Spearman (D) said, “When you stop and you take a look at my lived experience through the lens of my life, you know exactly why I support the ERA. If you can comprehend what it means to have to fight every day of your life to be recognized as equal, if you understand that, you know why we should vote yes.”
This is the third ballot measure to be certified for the statewide ballot in 2022. The state Legislature did not vote on two indirect initiated state statutes by the March 12 deadline, which sent them to the 2022 ballot. On initiative would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. The other would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points with revenue dedicated to public schools and Tourism Improvement Districts.
In May 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide a similar amendment that would add language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race or ethnicity. It is also a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.
Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3%(33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.
On March 18, the New Mexico State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund. Revenue in the LGPF comes from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. It is currently valued at over $20 billion.
Of the total increased allocation, 60% would go towards early childhood education, and 40% would go toward the public school permanent fund. The amendment defines early childhood education as “nonsectarian and nondenominational education for children until they are eligible for kindergarten.” The amendment would also provide that the allocation would not occur if the balance of the Land Grant Permanent Fund drops below $17 billion. The measure will likely appear on the ballot in November 2022 unless a special election is called for an earlier date.
In New Mexico, both chambers of the New Mexico State Legislature need to approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority during one legislative session to refer the amendment to the ballot. This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) on January 19, 2021. On February 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 1 in a vote of 44-23 with three absent. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed it in a vote of 26-16. Both votes were largely along party lines. New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta.
The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Antonio Maestas, Javier Martínez, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, Georgene Louis, and Senator Pete Campos (D).
Sen. Leo Jaramillo (D), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Studies show that pre-kindergarten and other programs for kids 5 and under later pay off with higher high school graduation rates and fewer incarcerations.”
Sen. Bill Sharer (R), who opposes the amendment, said, “Each time we tap into it, we harm that compound interest,” he said of the endowment. “Each time we do that, sometime in the future we are somehow harming children.”
Similar amendments were introduced during the last six legislative sessions but did not pass both chambers of the state legislature.
Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.
The deadline for the Nevada State Legislature to act on two indirect initiated state statutes—the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative and the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative—was Friday, March 12. The legislature did not enact the measures by the deadline, which sent them to the ballot in November 2022. In Nevada, the legislature has 40 days from the start of the session to act on indirect initiatives.
Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes is sponsoring the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative, which would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. Currently, the Nevada Gaming Commission collects a tax on monthly gross revenue from licensed gaming facilities. The tax is imposed according to the following tiers:
• 3.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which does not exceed $50,000 per month,
• 4.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $50,000 but does not exceed $134,000 per month, and
• 6.75% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $134,000.
Fund Our Schools is sponsoring the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative, which would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points from 2.25% to 3.75% with revenue dedicated to public schools. An additional 0.35% sales and use tax with dedicated revenues for public education was imposed on June 30, 2015, which brings the total tax to 2.6%. The new total Local School Support Tax under the initiative would be 4.1%.
The initiatives were certified to the legislature in December 2020 after the campaigns submitted more than the 97,598 valid signatures required. Fund Our Schools submitted 190,192 raw signatures. County officials verified that 137,791 signatures, or 72.4%, were valid. Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes submitted 201,935 raw signatures. County officials verified the 148,605 signatures, or 73.6%, were valid.
The committees sponsoring the two tax initiatives have received all of their funding from the Clark County Education Association. According to the latest campaign finance filings submitted on January 15, Fund Our Schools reported $1.14 million in cash and in-kind contributions, and Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes reported $1.09 million in cash and in-kind contributions.
Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita said the union is open to other legislative alternatives to fund education. He said, “If there’s an alternative that emerges, and it satisfies what we think needs to be done, we’re going to buy into that alternative.”
Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada ballots have featured 29 initiatives with 21 (72.4%) approved and eight (27.6%) defeated.
On March 15, the Kentucky State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters in November 2022 that would authorize the legislature to change legislative session end dates through a three-fifths vote in each chamber. It would also authorize the House speaker and Senate president to jointly call a special legislative session for up to 12 days. Currently, the state legislature can only be called into a special session by the governor.
The amendment would remove specific legislative session end dates from the constitution and instead provide that odd-year sessions are limited to 30 legislative days and even-year sessions are limited to 60 legislative days. The amendment would also add that no law would take effect until July 1 in the year it was approved or 90 days after it is signed by the governor, whichever is later. Currently, the state constitution states that laws take effect 90 days after the legislative session in which it was passed adjourns.
This amendment was introduced as House Bill 4 (HB 4) on January 5, 2021. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60 percent vote is required in both the Kentucky State Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives. The House passed the bill by a vote of 77-16, with seven members not voting, on January 7, 2021. The state Senate passed a different version of the bill on March 1, 2021, in a vote of 31-4, with three members not voting. The House concurred on March 15, 2021.
Republican House Speaker David Osborne, the sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we’re going to be here, then let’s be as effective as we can possibly be. Let’s be as efficient as we can possibly be. … We don’t want to fall into that trap of becoming a full-time legislature. We need to honor the intent of our service as a part-time legislature.”
From 1995 to 2020, 12 measures appeared on the ballot in Kentucky, of which, 10 were approved and two were defeated.
The coronavirus pandemic has shaped the political landscape of the United States, including the powers of governors and state legislatures. Changes have been proposed in response to the pandemic or pandemic-related regulations and restrictions. Some of these changes, such as state constitutional amendments, require ballot measures for ratification. Others are citizen-initiated proposals, meaning campaigns collect signatures to put proposals on the ballot for voters to decide.
As of March 12, three constitutional amendments related to coronavirus events and conflicts have been certified for future ballots in two states—Pennsylvania and Utah. Voters in Pennsylvania will decide the ballot measures on May 18, 2021. Both of the ballot measures resulted from conflicts between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the governor’s emergency powers and the legislature’s role in emergency orders. One proposal would limit the governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes to extend the order. The other amendment would allow the legislature to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, to terminate the governor’s emergency declaration.
In Utah, voters will decide a constitutional amendment on appropriations limits at the general election in 2022. The ballot measure, which received bipartisan support in the Utah State Legislature, would increase the size of appropriations permitted during an emergency and exempt emergency federal funding from the appropriations limit.
There are also proposed constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives that could make the ballot in at least 5 additional states. In Arizona, the Senate passed an amendment to limit the governor’s emergency declarations to 30 days unless the legislature votes to extend them. The Arizona House voted to refer a ballot measure that would allow the legislature to modify or terminate the governor’s emergency order. Other citizen-initiated measures related to the governor’s emergency powers have been filed in California, Maine, and Michigan.
On May 1, Austin, Texas voters will decide eight ballot measures. All but one, Proposition C, were put on the ballot through initiative signature petition drives.
Proposition A was sponsored by the Austin Firefighters Association, Local 975. The measure would amend the city’s charter to require the city and firefighters association to participate in binding arbitration when an agreement cannot be reached through collective bargaining regarding working conditions. The union is set to begin the negotiation process with the city for a new contract in the spring of 2022.
Proposition B was sponsored by Save Austin Now, a bi-partisan PAC founded by Cleo Petricek (D) and Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County GOP. The measure would make it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibit the solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. The measure is in response to a 2019 unanimous vote by the Austin City Council to repeal an ordinance that prohibited sitting, lying, or panhandling in the downtown area. The city council also voted 9-2 to prohibit camping in public areas under certain circumstances.
Save Austin Now campaign said on their website, “Incompetent policy has encouraged aggressive public camping and panhandling that creates unsafe living conditions on the streets and unsafe streets for everyone else.” The measure is opposed by Homes Not Handcuffs. The Homes Not Handcuffs campaign said, “These laws also make the underlying problems that cause homelessness worse. People wrack up fines and fees that they cannot pay. They are saddled with criminal records, making it more difficult to get housing and employment.”
Proposition C was referred to the ballot in a 10-1 vote of the Austin City Council with Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly opposing the measure. Proposition C would amend the city’s charter to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed through a city ordinance. Currently, the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed by the city manager. Council Member Gregorio Casar, a sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we want police accountability, then we need our police oversight office to be as independent as possible. In other cities, the Office of Police Oversight is independently appointed or is overseen by a civilian board, but right now our options as a city are limited. By making this proposed charter change in May, the community and city council have the opportunity to create more transparency and accountability of our police department in the future.”
Austinites for Progressive Reform sponsored five initiatives related to elections and local governance:
Proposition D would align mayoral elections with presidential election years instead of gubernatorial elections years beginning in 2024.
Proposition E would enact ranked-choice voting provided state law allows it.
Proposition F would change city governance from a council-manager system to a mayor-council system.
Proposition G would add an additional city council district, thereby increasing the total number of city council members from 10 to 11.
Proposition H would adopt a public campaign finance program that provides $25 vouchers to registered voters to contribute to campaigns of qualifying candidates.
Austinites for Progressive Reform said, “Our goal is to amend Austin’s city charter to enact proven campaign finance reforms, election reforms, and governance reforms. By doing so, we will increase political participation, increase voter turnout, and make sure our city works for everybody.”
The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. Early voting begins on April 19 and runs through April 27. On election day, the polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
The Utah State Legislature adjourned its 2021 session on March 5, 2021, after approving a constitutional amendment that would increase the limit on appropriations the state legislature can make in an emergency session. It would increase the limit on appropriations from 1% to 5% of the total amount appropriated by the Legislature for the immediately preceding completed fiscal year. It would also eliminate the limit on how much spending the legislature could cut during a special session. The measure would also exempt federal funding from the appropriations limit. Voters will decide the amendment on November 8, 2022.
In Utah, both chambers of the state legislature need to pass a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds vote during one legislative session to refer it to the ballot.
The amendment was introduced into the legislature as House Joint Resolution 12 on February 9, 2021. The House approved the measure on February 25, 2021, by a vote of 68 to 5 with two members absent or not voting. The Senate passed the measure unanimously on March 5, 2021.
The amendment was proposed in response to special legislative sessions in 2020 convened to deal with the COVID-19 emergency declarations. Voters approved an amendment in 2018 to allow the legislature to call a special session. The 2018 amendment also put the 1% limit on appropriations and cuts. State Rep. Bradley G. Last, the measure’s sponsor, said, “What we learned in that process is that we didn’t give ourselves enough flexibility. […] As you will recall we had to call ourselves into special session several times in order to accomplish what we needed to accomplish last year. So we came to a little better understanding of the emergency situation that might present itself.”
Between 2000 and 2020, 39 constitutional amendments were referred to the ballot by the state legislature, of which 89.74% (35) were approved and 10.26% (4) were defeated.
On May 1, San Antonio voters will decide whether to repeal local authority for collective bargaining with the San Antonio Police Officers Association. Currently, under Chapter 174 of state law, cities are allowed to negotiate with police and firefighter unions through collective bargaining to determine compensation, hours, and other conditions of employment. Chapter 174 also contains a provision that prohibits strikes and lockouts and authorizes penalties for such activity. Proposition B would repeal city law adopting those provisions as well.
The measure was placed on the ballot through an initiative sponsored by Fix SAPD. In San Antonio, citizens can place a ballot measure on the ballot through an indirect initiative petition signed by at least 10% of the city’s qualified voters as of the last regular election. If enough signatures are submitted, the initiative is then voted on by the city council. The city council can enact the measure or put it on the ballot. The required number of signatures for 2021 was 20,282.
On January 8, supporters submitted over 28,000 signatures to the city clerk. On February 4, City Clerk Tina Flores announced that the campaign had submitted over 20,282 valid signatures and that the measure had qualified for the May ballot. On February 11, the San Antonio City Council voted to certify the initiative for the ballot.
James Dykman, a board member of Fix SAPD, said, “This is the first step to stronger police accountability in our community. The police association has had too much leverage in negotiations with the city for too long. Under a new system of Meet and Confer, police oversight could sit outside the purview of contract negotiations between the City and the local police association. We could have strong pay and benefits for officers, while protecting citizens and holding bad officers accountable.”
Concerning the certification of the measure for the ballot, the San Antonio Police Officers Association said in a press release, “[San Antonio Police Officers Association] plans on working hard between now and election day to inform voters about how important collective bargaining (Chapter 174) is to recruiting top-notch police officers who will keep our neighborhoods safe and to ensuring the Police Chief and the City continue to have flexibility in hiring, promotions, discipline, and boosting diversity within the Department.”
The last contract between the San Antonio City Council and the San Antonio Police Officers Association was agreed to on September 1, 2016. The council voted 9-2. Contract negotiations to replace the 2016 contract were set to begin on February 12, 2021. If the union and the city reach an agreement before the election, the repeal of Chapter 174 would take effect after the new contract expires.
An alternative to collective bargaining is meet and confer, where there is no requirement that a city and police union reach an agreement regarding wages, benefits, and other working conditions. San Antonio currently has a meet and confer agreement with the San Antonio Park Police Officers Association.
There are 13 top 100 cities by population in Texas. Of those 13 cities, four (Corpus Christi, El Paso, Laredo, and San Antonio) use collective bargaining in police negotiations, four (Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston) use meet and confer, and five (Lubbock, Garland, Arlington, Irving, and Plano) do not have contracts with police unions.
In 2020, Ballotpedia identified 20 police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties within seven states that appeared on local ballots. All 20 were approved. The measures concerned police oversight; the powers and structure of oversight commissions; police practices; law enforcement department structure and administration; reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets; law enforcement training requirements; and body and dashboard camera footage.
On May 1, voters in Austin will also decide a measure, Proposition C, that would establish the position of the Director of Police Oversight in the city charter with the “responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability as it relates to policing.” Details about the selection of the director and staff would be determined by the city council if the measure is approved.
On May 1, San Antonio voters will also decide Proposition A, a charter amendment to permit the city to issue bonds for public improvements, including housing programs for households with incomes below a certain threshold.
The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. Early in-person voting will begin on April 19 and run through April 27. On election day, the polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
South Dakota voters will decide June 7, 2022, on a constitutional amendment that would require three-fifths (60%) voter approval for any future ballot measures that would increase taxes or fees or that would require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years. The requirement would apply to constitutional amendments and state statutes that are placed on the ballot through citizen initiative petition drives or by a vote of the state legislature. Currently, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.
This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 5003 by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. The measure was passed in the House on February 16, 2021, in a vote of 56-12. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused.
On March 2, 2021, the South Dakota State Senate amended HJR 5003 to move the election date from November 2022 to June 2022. The amended version was passed by a vote of 18-17. All three Senate Democrats voted against the measure. Among Senate Republicans, 18 voted in favor and 14 voted against. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on March 4, 2021, in a vote of 51-17, certifying the measure for the June ballot.
Two states have supermajority requirements for ballot measures about certain topics:
Washington requires three-fifths (60 percent) supermajority approval from all voters casting a ballot on initiatives or referendums related to gambling. Other questions require simple majority approval to be enacted.
Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.
Legislation to enact or increase existing supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures was introduced in 2021 legislative sessions in six states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.