CategoryBallot measures

Texans approve property tax amendments; Austin voters decriminalize marijuana

Texans approved two statewide constitutional amendments reducing the property tax limit for school taxes on homesteads of the elderly and disabled and increasing the property tax exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 for all households.

According to unofficial results on election night, Proposition 1 was approved by a margin of 86.98% to 13.02%. Proposition 2 was approved by a margin of 85.11% to 14.89%.

The amendments were referred to the ballot during the second special legislative session in 2021 and were the first ballot measures to be featured on even-numbered year ballots since 2014.

Ballotpedia also covered local ballot measures for voters in Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth. In Austin, voters approved Proposition A by a margin of 85.37% to 14.63%. Proposition A added a new section to the city’s code to prohibit Austin police from issuing any citations or making any arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses and to prohibit the use of no-knock warrants.

San Antonio voters approved six bond measures totaling $1.2 billion. The revenue from the bonds would fund streets and sidewalk improvements, drainage and flood projects, parks and recreation, library and cultural facilities, public safety, and housing for households at certain income levels.

Voters in Fort Worth approved five bond issues totaling $560 million to fund roads and transportation projects, parks and recreation, library improvements, police and fire services, and open area improvements. Voters also decided on 13 charter amendments. According to unofficial election results, the amendment to increase the salaries of the mayor and city council was down by a margin of 47.45% to 52.55%. Three other amendments were too close to call, one was defeated, and eight were approved.

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Ballot initiative proponents turn in 1.5 million signatures for income tax to fund a new pandemic prevention institute in California

The proponents behind Californians Against Pandemics submitted 1.5 million signatures for a ballot initiative that would increase the income tax by 0.75% for individuals with income over $5 million for 10 years and dedicate 50% of funds to the California Institute for Pandemic Prevention, 25% to the Community Pandemic Response Fund, and 25% to the School Disease Spread Prevention Fund. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that the state revenues from the tax would range from $500 million to $1.5 billion annually.

The initiative was filed on Sept. 26, 2021, and had a circulation deadline of May 23. The required number of valid signatures is 997,139, or 8% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The submitted signatures will be subject to a random check by county election officials. ​​If the random sample estimates that more than 110% of the required number of signatures are valid, the initiative is eligible for the ballot. If the random sample estimates that between 95% and 110% of the required number of signatures are valid, a full check of signatures is done to determine the total number of valid signatures.

The institute would be tasked with awarding grants related to the development of pathogen-agnostic disease detection. The institute would be governed by the Independent Scientific Governing Board created by the proposed law.

The initiative would also create the Community Pandemic Response Fund to appropriate funds to the California Department of Public Health for state- and local-level disease prevention programs. The other proposed fund, the School Disease Spread Prevention Fund, would appropriate funds to local education agencies and prioritize agencies that experience high community spread of pathogens or are in geographical regions most impacted by the coronavirus.

Californians Against Pandemics has reported $18.5 million in contributions with top donations from the organization Guarding Against Pandemics ($12 million) and Open Philanthropy Action Fund ($6.5 million).

Dr. Robert E. Wailes, president of the California Medical Association, said, “The California Medical Association is in strong support of the California Pandemic Early Detection and Prevention Initiative because everyone deserves to live a long and healthy life. This initiative will modernize local public health departments across our state and invest in science and technology to detect, prevent and defeat diseases before they can cause a deadly and devastating pandemic.”

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposes the initiative. Jon Coupal, president of the association, said, “Why are we even talking about raising taxes when we have a nearly $50 billion state budget surplus. This is exactly why we’re seeing significant flight out of California and why wealthier individuals like Elon Musk are leaving for states like Texas and Florida.”

Ballotpedia has tracked several initiatives and legislative referrals related to government responses to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2022, six ballot measures have qualified for the November ballot. In Alabama, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months from the general election. In Arkansas, the state legislature referred two amendments that concern the state legislature’s authority to call itself into a special session and a constitutional prohibition against government burdening a person’s freedom of religion. Voters in Idaho and Kentucky will also decide on constitutional amendments related to the legislature’s power to call itself into a special session. Finally, in Utah, voters will decide on an amendment to authorize increases to the appropriation limit during emergencies.

For the 2022 election cycle, 53 initiatives were filed in California, which is the second-lowest amount filed between 2014 and 2022 in the state. The highest number of initiatives filed occurred in 2016 with 135, and the lowest number of initiatives were filed for the 2020 ballot with 46.

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Online sports betting initiative campaign in California submits 1.6 million signatures

On May 2, ​​Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support announced that proponents had submitted 1.6 million signatures to local election officials for verification to place an initiative that would legalize online sports betting in the state on the ballot. Sports betting in any form is currently illegal in California.

The initiative was filed on Aug. 31, 2021, and signatures were due on May 3, 2022. Since the measure is a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute, the required number of signatures is 997,139, or 8% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The deadline for signature verification is June 30.

The initiative would authorize a gaming tribe, an online sports betting platform with an operating agreement with a gaming tribe, or a qualified gaming company with a market access agreement with a gaming tribe to operate online sports betting for individuals 21 years of age or older in the state but outside of Indian lands. Qualified gaming companies would be required to be licensed to offer online sports betting in at least 10 states or territories or licensed to offer online sports betting in at least five states or territories and operate at least 12 casinos. After deducting regulatory costs, 85% of the revenue from licensing fees, renewals, and sports betting taxes would be allocated to the California Solutions to Homelessness to the Mental Health Support Account and 15% to the Tribal Economic Development Account. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The initiative also states that it is not in conflict with an initiative, which would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks, that has already qualified for the November ballot. However, the initiative would be in conflict with the other potential online sports betting initiative sponsored by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. If both online sports betting initiatives qualify for the ballot, the initiative with the highest majority approval rate would take effect.

Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support reported over $100 million in contributions according to its latest campaign finance filings. The top donors to the committee included BetMGM LLC ($16.7 million), FanDuel Sportsbook ($16.7 million), and DraftKings ($16.7 million).

There are two PACs registered in opposition to the initiative—Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming and Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming. The committees reported a combined total of $65.6 million in contributions. The top donors included the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians ($25 million), the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation California ($10 million), and the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation ($7.1 million).

The initiative has received support from the mayors of Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, and Sacramento. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (D) said, “I’m joining my fellow mayors in endorsing this important initiative because this is an all-hands on deck moment in our fight against homelessness. To solve California’s homelessness crisis over the long term, we need sustainable sources of funding to house those experiencing homelessness and provide them the medical and mental health services they need. That’s what this measure provides.”

Apart from opposition from the state’s Indian tribes, the initiative is opposed by smaller sports betting companies that do not meet the requirements to operate within the state under the proposed measure. Doug Terfher, vice president of marketing for MaximBet, said, “We want (California) to be as open and available to as many operators as possible with where we are in our growth journey.” 

Sports betting is legal and operational in 30 states and D.C. Since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA that overturned the federal ban on sports betting, five states have legalized sports betting through a ballot measure with an average approval rate of 58.99%.

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Signatures for marijuana and Medicaid initiatives submitted in South Dakota

In South Dakota, two separate campaigns submitted their petition signatures on May 3 to get their initiatives on the ballot in November. The signatures were submitted to the secretary of state’s office on Tuesday afternoon.

One initiative, sponsored by the Dakotans for Health campaign, aims to expand Medicaid in South Dakota to adults between 18 and 65 years old with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level, which is currently about $18,000 for an individual or $37,000 for a family of four. This statutory initiative is in addition to a constitutional amendment that is already on the ballot—Constitutional Amendment D, which also expands Medicaid but amends the constitution. The co-founder of Dakotans for Health argued that voters may be more supportive of an initiated law rather than a constitutional amendment.

The other initiative aims to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older. This measure joins a group of potential marijuana ballot measures in 2022—one marijuana ballot measure is already certified in Maryland, while 18 total marijuana ballot measures have been proposed in other states in 2022.

Both campaigns have reported submitted over the threshold of signature requirements. Campaign director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, Matthew Schweich, stated that circulators collected 19,250 signatures. Meanwhile, 23,000 signatures were filed for the Medicaid expansion measure. 

Each campaign must have at least 16,961 verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. In South Dakota, this number is equal to 5% of votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election.

In South Dakota, 47 initiatives appeared on the ballot between 1985 and 2020. Twenty (42.6%) of these initiatives were approved by voters, while 27 (57.5%) of them were defeated.

If both initiatives qualify for the ballot, they will join two other ballot measures already certified on the South Dakota ballot in November—Constitutional Amendment C, and Constitutional Amendment D. Constitutional Amendment C would require a three-fifths supermajority vote for initiatives that increase taxes or fees that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

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New Tennessee ballot measure to change constitutional language on clergy serving in the General Assembly

Tennessee’s 112th General Assembly adjourned and certified a new constitutional amendment to put onto the ballot on April 28. This amendment would remove a section of Tennessee’s Constitution that disqualifies religious ministers from being elected into the Tennessee General Assembly.

The newly certified amendment will join three others already certified to be on the ballot in Tennessee.

If voters approve it in November, the amendment would remove Section 1 of Article IX of Tennessee’s constitution, which bans ministers and priests from serving in the Tennessee General Assembly. The text of the amendment is written below:

Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.

During the 18th and 19th century, thirteen states, including Tennessee, had provisions in their constitution forbidding clergy from serving in the state legislature. Many of these bans were carried over from English law. Eleven states–Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia–have amended their constitutions and dropped these provisions during the late 1700’s and 1800’s. Maryland and Tennessee kept these provisions in their constitutions into the 20th century.

In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Tennessee law was unconstitutional in its McDaniel v. Paty ruling because it violated the first amendment. That same year, Maryland put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to remove the provision from their constitution, and voters approved to remove it. 

Tennessee is the only state left with this kind of provision left in their constitution.

To amend the constitution in Tennessee, state legislators must vote on a measure and approve it before putting it on the ballot. In Tennessee, this is done by both chambers of the General Assembly voting on the measure in two consecutive sessions with an election in between. For the first session, the measure must receive a simple majority vote of over 50%, and the second time around, the measure must receive a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

This constitutional amendment was introduced in February of 2019 as Senate Joint Resolution 178. Both chambers of Tennessee’s General Assembly then voted unanimously in favor of the amendment–the Senate voting in favor in 2019, and the House voting in favor in 2020. The amendment was then introduced to its second legislative session in 2021, where it was approved by both chambers. The Senate approved of the amendment on April 8, 2021, and on April 27, 2022, the House voted 89-1 to approve the amendment. The measure will now go to voters on election day in November.

This measure will join three other constitutional amendments already on the Tennessee ballot. All ballot measures are listed below:

  • A right-to-work amendment that mandates that no person can be required to pay dues to a labor union or join a labor union as a condition of employment.
  • An amendment to repeal language allowing slavery or indentured servitude as criminal punishments.
  • An amendment that provides a process and line of succession for the governor if they become disabled.
  • An amendment that removes the banning of clergy from serving in the General Assembly.

Voters approved each of the 11 constitutional amendments on the Tennessee ballot since 1995. Tennessee voters last decided on constitutional amendments in 2014.

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Signature deadline for Missouri ballot initiatives is May 8

The deadline to file signatures for citizen-initiated measures in Missouri is May 8 at 5 p.m. Campaigns could file signatures for at least two ballot initiatives – one to legalize marijuana and one to adopt top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting (RCV).

Both of the proposals are initiated constitutional amendments. The number of signatures required for initiated constitutional amendments is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. The smallest possible number of valid signatures required is 171,592; however, the actual requirement depends on which districts enough signatures were collected from.

The Better Elections PAC is leading the campaign behind the top-four RCV ballot initiative. The proposal would establish top-four open primaries for statewide offices, the Missouri General Assembly, and Congress. The top four vote recipients for each office would advance to the general election, where RCV would be used.

Better Elections received $4.30 million through March 31. Over 98% of the PAC’s funding came from Article IV, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Article IV is associated with John and Laura Arnold, whose organization Action Now Initiative contributed to RCV-related ballot initiatives in previous years. 

The campaign Legal Missouri is backing the marijuana legalization ballot measure. The ballot initiative would legalize the possession, consumption, and sale of marijuana for personal use. The ballot initiative would also enact a 6% tax on marijuana sales and allow individuals convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses to petition for release from incarceration and/or have their records expunged. Legal Missouri received $2.56 million through March 31. The largest contributors were the New Approach Advocacy Fund ($300,000), BD Health Ventures LLC ($250,000), and Good Day Farm Missouri LLC ($250,000). 

Individuals filed 91 citizen-initiated ballot measure petitions for 2022. Since 2016, the average number of initiatives filed in Missouri per election cycle is 248, and the average number of certified ballot initiatives is four. Between 1985 and 2020, voters approved 24 (60%) initiatives and rejected 16 (40%).

Campaign to place an income tax for education funding on Idaho ballot submits signatures

On May 2, Reclaim Idaho, the campaign behind an initiative to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and increase the corporate income tax rate, submitted over 95,269 signatures for verification. The required number of signatures is 64,945, which is equal to 6% of the registered voters at the state’s last general election. Idaho also has a distribution requirement that requires signatures equal to at least 6% of registered voters in 18 of the state’s 35 legislative districts to be included in petitions. Reclaim Idaho said it had met the distribution requirement in 20 legislative districts.

The initiative, referred to as the “The Quality Education Act” by the campaign, would increase the state income tax for individuals, trusts, and estates with incomes above $250,000 to $16,097 plus 10.925%. This is up from the existing rate of 6.5%. The initiative would require that the new tax income bracket be changed annually by an adjustment factor equal to the consumer price index for the calendar year of 2024 divided by the consumer price index for the calendar year preceding. The new tax brackets and tax rates would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The tax bracket would not be adjusted for inflation until 2025.

The initiative would also increase the corporate income tax from 6.5% to 8%. According to the Tax Foundation, 44 states levy a corporate income tax ranging from 2.5% in North Carolina to 11.5% in New Jersey.

The initiative would also establish the Quality Education Fund. Revenues from the increased income tax would be deposited into the fund. The initiative states that the funds should be appropriated by the state board of education. It would prohibit funds from being appropriated to pay the salaries of superintendents, principals, or other administrators. It would also give the state board of education the power to promulgate rules to implement the initiative.

Reclaim Idaho attempted to place the initiative on the ballot in 2020 but announced it was suspending its campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign filed a lawsuit against the state, which refused to allow the campaign to use DocuSign to electronically collect signatures. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state ordering an emergency stay on a lower court’s order that authorized the campaign to collect signatures electronically.

The initiative has won the endorsement of the Idaho Education Association, which unanimously endorsed it at its meeting last month. Luke Mayville, a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “Most people do not view education as political. They understand that quality education relies on government, and therefore relies on politicians to do their jobs and fund public schools, but they don’t view funding for education as a controversial political topic. They view it as a no-brainer.” As of March 2022, the campaign has raised over $579,000 in contributions.

State Sen. Steven Thayn (R), who is the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said, “I am not supportive. First of all, I think it’s based on a false assumption that money will improve education, and that is not necessarily the case. The No. 1 need in education is not more money.”

The statutory deadline to submit signatures was May 1, 2022, but the secretary of state allowed campaigns to submit signatures on May 2, since the official day fell on a Sunday.

Five other initiative campaigns were cleared for signature gathering, but Reclaim Idaho is the only campaign that has collected more than the required number of signatures. The other initiatives included medical marijuana legalization, recreational marijuana legalization, an increased minimum wage, changes to initiative signature requirements, and a referendum on signature distribution requirements.

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Texas May 7 ballot measure election preview

Texas voters are heading to the polls on May 7 to decide two statewide constitutional amendments and a variety of local ballot measures.

The constitutional amendments concern state property taxes. Proposition 1 would amend the state constitution to authorize the state legislature to reduce the property tax limit for school maintenance and operations taxes levied on the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents to reflect any tax rate reduction enacted by law from the preceding tax year. In 2019, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 3 (HB 3), which provided school maintenance and operations tax rate compression. However, the rate reduction did not apply to the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents. Proposition 1 would extend the reduction to include those homesteads.

Proposition 2 would increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. The increased exemption would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and applies only to a tax year beginning on or after that date. Voters last increased the exemption in 2015 with the passage of Proposition 1, which increased it from $15,000 to $25,000.

The amendments have both been endorsed by the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial Board, and the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board. The Austin Chronicle Editorial Board endorsed Proposition 1 but came out in opposition to Proposition 2, saying, “Prop 2 is much more straightforward but is also just straight-up pandering. It’s almost guaranteed to pass now that everyone’s seen their new tax appraisals, but increasing the school district homestead exemption (from $25,000 to $40,000) is the coward’s way out of broad-based tax relief: Schools really need that money, and in many cases, this simply shifts the burden to renters.”

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), the sponsor of both amendments, said, “People see the need for property tax relief, and Texans are going to cry out for that continuously. This is a great way to bring that home to all of the taxpayers of Texas.”

Ballotpedia is also covering 25 local ballot measures in Texas. Austin voters will decide on Proposition A, which would decriminalize marijuana and prohibit the use of no-knock warrants. The proposition is a ballot initiative that was sponsored by Ground Game Texas. Supporters include former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D), gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), former State Rep. Wendy Davis (D), and Austin Mayor Stephen Adler (D).

Voters in San Antonio will decide on six bond issues totaling $1.2 billion. The revenue from the bonds would fund streets and sidewalk improvements, drainage and flood projects, parks and recreation, library and cultural facilities, public safety, and housing for households at certain income levels.

Fort Worth voters will decide on five bond issues and 13 charter amendments. The five bond issues total $560 million for roads and transportation improvements, parks and recreation, library improvements, police and public safety, and natural area and open space projects. The 13 charter amendments relate to salary increases for the mayor and city council members; city redistricting standards; requirements for the removal of local officials; initiative petitions; annexation elections; the role of the city’s independent auditor; and other local government administration.

Early voting started on Monday, April 25, and runs through Tuesday, May 3. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

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Colorado legislature refers amendment to ballot to designate judges to newly created 23rd judicial district court

The Colorado State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot to designate judges to serve in a new 23rd Judicial District when the new district takes effect in 2025.

In 2020, the Colorado State Legislature passed and Governor Jared Polis (D) signed House Bill 1026, which was designed to remove Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties from the 18th judicial district and create a new 23rd judicial district for those counties, effective Jan. 7, 2025. Under the bill, the 23rd district was set to include eight judges, while the 18th district was set to have seven judges removed, meaning the total number of district court judges in the state was set to increase by one.

Colorado has had 22 judicial districts since 1964. District courts in Colorado are trial courts of general jurisdiction that handle civil, criminal, and probate cases. The 18th Judicial District court was established in 1964 to serve Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Twenty days after the district was established, Elbert County was added to the district. In 1969, Lincoln County was added to the district. As of 2022, the 18th judicial district was comprised of 24 judges and one chief judge.

The constitutional amendment would require the governor, by November 30, 2024, to designate judges from the 18th judicial district to serve in the newly created 23rd judicial district. Judges would be required to establish residence in the 23rd district by Jan. 7, 2025.

To refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot in Colorado, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote was required in both chambers of the state legislature.

The amendment was introduced as House Concurrent Resolution 22-1005. It was approved in the House on April 18, 2022, by a vote of 60-2. The amendment was passed unanimously by the Senate on April 26, 2022.

In 2022, Colorado voters will also decide an initiative to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%.

A total of 105 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during even-numbered election years during the 20-year period between 2000 through 2020. Of the 105 measures, 48 were approved (45.71%) and 57 were defeated (54.29%). From 2000 through 2020, the number of measures on the even-year ballot ranged from 3 to 14.

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Campaign for ranked-choice voting ballot initiative in Missouri has raised millions ahead of signature deadline

The campaign supporting a ranked-choice voting (RCV) ballot initiative in Missouri has received millions in contributions in the weeks ahead of its signature deadline. The initiative would change the state’s primary system to utilize open primaries in which the top four vote recipients, regardless of partisan affiliations, advance to the general election.

The Better Elections PAC is leading the campaign behind the top-four RCV ballot initiative. Better Elections received $4.30 million through March 31. Over 98% of the PAC’s funding came from the organization Article IV, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Article IV is associated with John and Laura Arnold, whose organization Action Now Initiative contributed to RCV-related ballot initiatives in previous years.

The signature deadline is May 8. The number of signatures required is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. The smallest number of valid signatures required is 160,199; however, the actual requirement depends on from which districts enough signatures were collected.

Statewide RCV ballot measures have gone before voters in three states. Should this initiative make the ballot, Missouri would be the fourth state to vote on RCV measures. Maine adopted RCV through Question 5 in 2016 and Alaska adopted RCV through Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. Massachusetts voters rejected RCV through the defeat of Question 2 in 2020.