CategoryBallot measures

Ballot measure law update: legislators in six states approve 16 proposals changing laws governing ballot measures out of 209 tracked

As of April 25, 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 209 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 31 states. Sixteen proposals had been approved in Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah. Four of them were constitutional amendments requiring voter ratification in 2020. Two bills were approved by the Idaho State Legislature, but the governor vetoed them. Five citizen-initiated measures directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota.
 
The following list contains some highlights from our reporting.
  • The Idaho State Legislature passed, but the governor vetoed, a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, reduce the allowed circulation period, enact a single-subject rule, and require a fiscal impact statement.
  • Arkansas legislators passed a bill to change the timeline for approval of the ballot title and popular name of citizen initiatives to after signatures are submitted and make other changes to the state’s initiative processes.
  • Arkansas legislators also sent an amendment to the 2020 ballot increasing the state’s distribution requirement, adding a supermajority vote requirement for the legislature to put amendments on the ballot, and making other changes to laws governing ballot measures.
  • Utah legislators approved five bills changing the initiative process. Changes included:
  • changing signature requirements,
  • requiring county clerks to post the names of those who sign an initiative petition on county websites,
  • requiring funding sources to be specified, and
  • establishing rolling signature submission deadlines.
  • Proposed laws concerning distribution requirements for signature gathering were introduced in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, and Montana.
  • Laws concerning total signature requirements for initiatives and veto referendums or recalls were introduced in six states; in Idaho, Missouri, and Utah, the bills were designed to increase the total number of signatures required for citizen initiatives.
  • In Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts pay-per-signature bans were introduced.
  • In Maine and Oregon, bills to restrict legislative alteration of future citizen initiatives was introduced.
  • Legislation to increase the supermajority requirement or impose additional vote requirements was introduced in Florida, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington.
  • In Missouri, a citizen initiative was filed to prevent state residency requirements, pay-per-signature restrictions, and initiative filing fees. It would also require voter approval for any changes to the initiative and referendum process and establish a system for electronic signatures. Two bills designed to enact initiative filing fees, among other provisions, were introduced in Missouri’s 2019 legislative session.
  • In South Dakota, an initiative to roll back some changes made in 2018 was filed.

Additional reading:



Washington Legislature approves affirmative action initiative and sends car tab initiative to the 2019 ballot before adjourning

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2019 session on Sunday, deciding the fate of two proposed Initiatives to the legislature: (a) I-1000, an initiative allowing affirmative action, and I-976, an initiative limiting vehicle license fees.
 
Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature. The legislature must take one of three actions:
  • The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  • The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  • The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
The state legislature approved I-1000 largely along party lines with all votes in favor coming from Democratic legislators. I-1000 was approved by a vote of 56-42 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate. In the House, one Democrat, Brian Blake of District 19b, joined all House Republicans in voting no. Two Senate Democrats, Mark Mullet of District 5 and Tim Sheldon of District 35, joined the 20 Senate Republicans in voting no. Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1) was excused from voting.
 
Initiative 1000 explicitly allows the state of Washington to implement affirmative action laws and policies while continuing to ban discrimination and preferential treatment. Washington Initiative 200, approved by voters in 1998, banned discrimination and preferential treatment based on certain characteristics, such as race, sex, and age. I-1000 would also allow the state to “remedy discrimination against, or under-representation of, disadvantaged groups as documented in a valid disparity study or proven in a court of law.”
 
The legislature adjourned without acting on Initiative 976, meaning that initiative will appear on the 2019 ballot for voter approval or rejection. Initiative 976 is the first citizen initiative to be certified for the ballot in 2019 in any of four states that allow citizen initiatives in odd-numbered years.
 
Initiative 976—sponsored by Tim Eyman and frequently referred to as the $30 Car Tabs Initiative—was designed to do the following:
  • Limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds to $30 except for voter-approved charges;
  • Base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price;
  • Limit certain taxes and fees related to transportation; and
  • Repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Eyman’s groups, Permanent Offense and Voters Want More Choices, are leading the campaign in support of I-976. Leading the opposition campaign is No on I-976, operated by the Permanent Defense PAC sponsored by the Northwest Progressive Institute.
 
Also on the 2019 ballot in Washington is a constitutional amendment that would authorize the Washington State Legislature to pass bills addressing the succession of powers and duties of public offices during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies.
 
Nine states out of the 21 with a process for initiated state statutes have an indirect process for them. In Utah and Washington, there are both direct and indirect initiatives. Initiative 1000 was the first indirect initiative to be approved by the legislature in 2019. In 2018, four indirect initiatives were approved by state legislatures in Alaska and Michigan.
 
Additional reading:


Louisiana House passes constitutional amendment on abortion; needs Senate approval to appear on 2019 ballot

On April 23, 2019, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 81-10 to pass a constitutional amendment stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” At least 70 votes were needed. State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-16) is the lead legislative sponsor of the amendment, and Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) also supports the amendment. House Republicans, along with half of House Democrats, voted to pass it.
 
The constitutional amendment will need to receive 26 votes in the 39-member Senate. Republicans hold 25 seats and Democrats hold 14 seats in the Senate. Approval in both the House and Senate would refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot for October 12, 2019—the same day as Louisiana’s top-two primary election for governor and other offices.
 
The Louisiana proposal follows two ballot measures in 2018—Alabama Amendment 2 and West Virginia Amendment 1—designed to ensure that the state’s constitution could not be used to allow abortions. In West Virginia, the measure received 51.7 percent of the vote. In Alabama, the measure received 59.0 percent of the vote.
 
Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session is expected to run through June 6, 2019, during which time the legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot. An average of five constitutional amendments appeared on odd-year ballots in Louisiana between 1995 and 2018.
 


Californians could address a second rent control initiative in 2020

In 2020, Californians could see an initiative to expand rent control on their ballots—two years after 59 percent of voters rejected Proposition 10. Unlike Proposition 10, which would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing, the 2020 proposal would make exceptions for housing units first occupied within the last 15 years and owners of one or two residential units.
 
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) co-sponsored Proposition 10, and an AHF division called Housing Is A Human Right is leading the campaign in support of the 2020 ballot initiative.
 
The campaigns surrounding Proposition 10 raised a combined $96.66 million. Opponents of Proposition 10 out-raised the support campaign by about 3-to-1. The Coalition for Affordable Housing led the campaign in support of the initiative. The coalition and allied committees raised $25.30 million, with AHF providing $22.52 million. The California Apartment Association (CAA) and the California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) each organized a PAC to oppose Proposition 10. An additional three PACs formed to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the five opposition committees raised a combined $71.37 million. The largest contributors included the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC ($8.00 million), Blackstone Property Partners, L.P. and affiliated holdings ($5.81 million), and Essex Property Trust, Inc. ($5.62 million).
 
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said the 2020 campaign wished to enter into negotiations with officials and real estate representatives to avoid a ballot initiative but was prepared to work to place the initiative on the ballot. René Moya, director of Housing Is A Human Right, stated, “rent control is still very much a popular policy” and that the amount of money opponents spent against Proposition 10 was one reason for its failure in 2018.
 
The campaign for the initiative needs to collect 623,212 valid signatures within 180 days. Signature gathering can begin when the attorney general prepares the petition language, which had not occurred as of April 22. In 2018, proponents of Proposition 10 spent about $5.42 per signature but fewer signatures—365,880—were required.
 


Washington legislature sends constitutional amendment relating to succession of powers during catastrophic incidents to 2019 ballot

The Washington State Legislature gave final approval for Senate Joint Resolution 8200 on April 17, 2019, sending it to the 2019 ballot. The constitutional amendment would authorize the legislature, during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies, to pass bills that address the succession of powers and duties of public offices when the offices’ incumbents and legal successors are unavailable for carrying out the office. In other words, the amendment would allow the legislature to pass laws temporarily filling certain vacant public offices in the event of a catastrophic incident.
 
It would allow the legislature to pass laws it determines are necessary to provide for “continuity of state and local governmental operations” even if those laws are at odds with the state constitution. As of 2019, the state legislature can pass bills that addressed the succession of powers and duties of public offices (such as filling vacancies) during periods of warfare against the United States causing substantial damage and injury in Washington.
 
On March 7, 2019, the Washington State Senate approved SJR 8200, with 37 senators supporting the amendment, 11 senators opposing the amendment, and one senator not voting. On April 17, 2019, the House approved the amendment in a vote of 91 to seven. Vote totals by party were not available as of April 19, 2019.
 
This is the first measure to qualify for the 2019 ballot in Washington. Two initiatives— I-976 concerning $30 car tabs and I-1000 concerning affirmative action— were certified to the legislature and are pending legislative action. The legislature can either approve them, reject them and send them to the ballot, or send them to the ballot alongside an alternative.
 
As of April 18, 2019, two other measures were certified to appear on state ballots in 2019. One measure in Colorado would authorize the state to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes (TRANs)—a specific type of bond debt—in the amount of $2.337 billion with no increase to any taxes. The other measure in Kansas would end the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature.
 
Around this time (mid-April) in 2017, six measures were certified for the 2017 ballot. In 2017, a seven-decade record for the lowest number of statewide ballot measure certifications was set—in total, 27 measures were certified to appear on state ballots in nine states. This continued a general trend toward fewer statewide measures. The last year in which there were fewer than 27 statewide measures was 1947. From 1987 through 2017, the average number of measures on the ballot in odd-numbered years was 50, with an average of 11 states in which measures appeared on the ballot. In odd-numbered years from 2007 to 2017, an average of between 32 and 33 measures appeared on the ballot in an average of eight states.


A preview of Texas May 4 local ballot measures

Ballotpedia covers local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Garland, and Plano, Texas. On May 4, we are covering a total of 15 local ballot measures in Texas.
 
Dallas County Community College District voters will decide on Proposition A, a $1.102 billion bond issue designed to fund school building construction and upgrades.
 
Garland voters in Dallas County will weigh in on eight bond measures totaling $423.7 million in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund a variety of projects, including street improvements, public safety facility construction and upgrades, and recreational facility construction and upgrades. Also on the ballot is Proposition A-1, which asks Garland voters whether or not to authorize the city to sell Bunker Hill Park, with funds dedicated to public parks.
 
Plano voters in Collin County will weigh in on three bond measures totaling $44,665,000 in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund improvements to streets, parks and recreational facilities, and municipal facilities.
 
Eanes Independent School District in Travis County has one $80 million bond measure on the ballot, and El Paso County voters will decide on a citizen initiative designed to prohibit private development and public roadways on land that includes the Lost Dog trail system.
 
Early voting for the May 4 elections begins on Monday, April 22.


Lawmakers and voters consider distribution requirements for initiative signature drives

Voters in at least two states, Arkansas and Montana, will decide ballot measures in 2020 concerning distribution requirements for future initiative signature petition drives. A distribution requirement is a rule requiring that petitions for a ballot measure or candidate must be signed by a minimum number or percent of voters from different political subdivisions in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.
 
In Arkansas, House Joint Resolution 1008 would amend the state constitution to require signature gathering to be spread out over at least 45 counties (three-fifths of the state’s 75) instead of the current requirement of 15 counties. HJR 1008 also proposes changes to many other aspects of direct democracy in Arkansas, such as increasing the majority required for the legislature to put an amendment on the ballot to three-fifths, eliminating a grace period for additional signature gathering, and moving the deadline for signature submission and legal challenges forward to earlier in an election year.  
 
In Montana, the two amendments on 2020 ballots would not change the currently enforced distribution requirement. Rather, they would codify in the state constitution the distribution requirement currently in effect because of a court ruling and an opinion by the state attorney general.
 
Going into 2019, 17 of the 26 states with an initiative or veto referendum process had a distribution requirement. Of the 17 with a distribution requirement, nine are Republican trifectas, five have divided government, and three are Democratic trifectas. Of the nine states with initiative or referendum processes but without a distribution requirement, four are Republican trifectas, and five are Democratic trifectas.  The most recent state to enact distribution requirements was Michigan in the state legislature’s 2018 lame duck session. The Idaho State Legislature passed a pair of bills earlier this month to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other restrictions. Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed the bills, however, citing a fear that they would draw a lawsuit. Lawmakers in Arizona, Maine, and Missouri also considered or are considering distribution requirements during 2019 sessions.
 
Colorado was the state to most recently begin enforcing a distribution requirement. In 2016, voters approved Amendment 71, which was a citizen initiative enacting a distribution requirement (as well as a supermajority vote requirement) for initiated constitutional amendments requiring signature gathering to be spread out over all of the state’s 35 state senate districts. Since no initiated constitutional amendments were circulated in 2017, 2018 was the first election year in which the requirement was enforced. Three initiated constitutional amendments qualified for the 2018 ballot: (1) Amendment 73, designed to increase income taxes for higher income brackets to fund education; (2) Amendment 74, designed to require that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations; and (3) Amendment 75, designed to increase campaign contribution limits if one candidate spends more than $1 million on his or her own campaign. None of the amendments were approved by voters. The average number of initiated constitutional amendments on the ballot in Colorado during even-numbered years since 2006 was four.
 
In the 17 states where there are distribution requirements for initiative petitions, the political jurisdiction upon which they are based varies. In seven states, the distribution requirement is spread out over a state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other five states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Washington, D.C., also has a distribution requirement based on city wards.
 
The 76 and 68 citizen-initiated measures across the country in 2016 and 2018, respectively, were well above the average of 49 per even-numbered year from 2008 through 2014. Moreover, new trends emerged such as elections policy and redistricting, Medicaid expansion, and renewable energy and were added to initiative staples such as marijuana, minimum wage, and taxes. With the increased initiative activity, state legislators have been giving the initiative process more attention, and one of the most common restrictions considered are distribution requirements.
 
Two factors go into determining how difficult a signature distribution requirement is to meet: (1) from what percentage of the jurisdictions must signatures be collected (i.e. from how much of the state must at least some signatures be collected) and (2) how large the requirement is in each jurisdiction (i.e. how evenly must the signature gathering be spread out across the state).
 
For an example of the first factor, Arkansas’ current requirement of 15 counties is 20 percent of the state’s total 75 counties, and HJR 1008 would increase that to 60 percent. Across the 17 states with initiative distribution requirement, the first factor ranges from 20 percent to 100 percent of the relevant jurisdictions. Michigan’s newly enacted distribution requirement features 50 percent distribution because it requires signatures to be collected from a minimum of seven out of 14 congressional districts.
 
The second factor concerning how evenly gathering must be spread out can be represented by how many of the total number of signatures required is needed to meet the distribution requirement. For example, to qualify for the Alaska 2020 ballot, a minimum of 14,963 signatures are required to just meet the distribution requirement in the state, which is 52.5 percent of the total signature requirement of 28,501. While in Arkansas, the current 2020 requirement mandates a rate of 10 percent for this second factor, and HJR 1008 would change that to 30 percent. This rate ranges from 10 percent to 100 percent among all 17 states with initiative distribution requirements.
 
Additional reading:


North Dakota voters will decide in 2020 whether the state legislature should get a second look at voter-approved constitutional amendments

The North Dakota state legislature referred a 2020 constitutional amendment to voters that would require future citizen-initiated constitutional amendments approved by voters to be submitted to the legislature at the next legislative session for the their approval or rejection. If the legislature approves an initiated constitutional amendment by a simple majority vote, it would be enacted. If the legislature rejects the constitutional amendment, it would be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election and would become effective if approved by voters a second time. Currently, citizen-initiated constitutional amendments become effective in North Dakota once they are approved by voters at a statewide election.
 
 
The amendment was sponsored by Senators David Hogue (R-38), Dick Dever (R-32), and Gary Lee (R-22); and Representatives Ben Koppelman (R-16), Mike Nathe (R-30), and Scott Louser (R-5). Chief sponsor David Hogue said, “This is an opportunity to let the people decide how they wish to govern themselves.” Democratic Senator Tim Mathern, who opposed the measure, said lawmakers shouldn’t “impede the rights of the people.”
 
The measure passed in the legislature with all Democrats voting in opposition. In the House, 63 Republicans voted yes and 15 Republicans joined all 15 Democrats in voting no. In the Senate, 31 Republicans voted yes and five Republicans joined all 10 Democrats in voting no.
 
Currently, Nevada is the only state requiring voter approval of initiated constitutional amendments at two statewide elections before it they are enacted. In Nevada, however, there is no legislative involvement in between the elections.
 
Also on North Dakota’s 2020 ballot is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would increase the membership of the State Board of Higher Education from eight to 15; increase members’ term length from four years to six; and prohibit state employees, officials, legislators, from being members. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years. Between 1996 and 2018, about 56 percent (40 of 71) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 44 percent (31 of 71) were defeated.
 
North Dakota allows citizen initiatives in the form of initiated state statutes, initiated constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. In North Dakota, petitioners may only circulate a petition for one year following the secretary of state’s initial approval. The completed petition must be submitted at least 120 days prior to the election. Supporters must submit 26,904 valid signatures by July 6, 2020, in order to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot, and 13,452 signatures are required to qualify initiated state statutes and veto referendums.
 
As of April 16, 2019, 22 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 11 states.
 


April’s edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly

This edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly covers certifications from March 16 through April 15 and takes a look at Ballotpedia’s analysis of states requiring legislative approval in two sessions to refer constitutional amendments.
 
Highlights:
  • Ballotpedia’s analysis shows that state legislatures in states with a two-session vote requirement refer fewer constitutional amendments to the ballot.
  • One statewide ballot measure was certified for the 2019 ballot in Kansas, bringing the 2019 total to two in two states.
  • Seven ballot measures were certified for the 2020 ballot in Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota, bringing the 2020 total to 21 in 11 states.
  • All of the new measures were legislative referrals. Seven are constitutional amendments, and one is a state statute in Montana concerning local control over concealed-carry laws designed to only go on the ballot if Governor Steve Bullock (D) vetoes an identical bill.
  • The seven amendments concern term limits, the census and redistricting, citizen initiative and legislative referral requirements, and the governance of higher education.


North Dakotans will vote on a constitutional amendment to change the State Board of Higher Education in 2020

The North Dakota legislature voted on April 8 to send the North Dakota Board of Higher Education Membership Amendment to the 2020 ballot.
 
The measure would amend the state constitution to do the following:
  • increase the number of members on the state’s board of higher education from eight to 15;
  • increase the length of board member terms from four years to six years;
  • require the board to have at minimum of one meeting per year with the directors of each of the education institutions overseen by the board;
  • restrict the membership of the board to exclude any state officials, legislators, and employees of the state; and
  • prohibit employees of an institution under control of the board from being members of the board for two years following the termination of such employment.
The amendment was introduced as Senate Concurrent Resolution 4016 on February 15, 2019. The state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 29-14, with four absent or not voting, on March 7, 2019. The state House passed the measure with amendments on April 2, 2019, by a vote of 50-41. On April 8, 2019, the Senate concurred with the House’s amendments, by a vote of 27-17.
 
As of April 11, 2019, six constitutional amendments that would go on the 2020 ballot were approved in one chamber of the legislature and are pending approval in the other. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years. Citizen initiatives can also be put on the North Dakota ballot in 2020. To qualify an initiative for the ballot, proponents must submit 26,904 valid signatures by July 6, 2020.
 
So far in 2019, 21 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2020 ballot in 11 states.
 
Aditional reading:


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