CategoryBallot measures

Washington Senate approves bill for year-round daylight saving time ballot measure

Voters in Washington could be asked to decide a ballot measure addressing year-round daylight saving time (DST). On March 12, the state Senate voted 46-3 to pass the bill for the ballot measure.

The ballot measure would provide for year-round DST if federal law is changed to allow states to adopt year-round DST. As of 2019, the federal Uniform Time Act allowed states to adopt one of two options: (a) adopt DST between the second Sunday of March or the first Sunday of November or (b) remain on standard time all year. The law did not allow for year-round DST. On March 12, President Donald Trump (R) tweeted, “Making Daylight Saving Time permanent is O.K. with me!”

The state House of Representatives needs to pass the bill for the measure to appear on the ballot in November. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) would also need to sign the bill. The state House passed its own year-round DST bill on March 9, but that bill did not include a provision for a ballot measure.

If the measure appears on the ballot, Washington would be the second state to vote on a ballot measure addressing permanent DST. In 2018, Californians approved Proposition 7, which authorized the state legislature to adopt permanent DST if federal law changes.

There were 21 ballot measures related to time standards on the ballot between 1924 and 1972, including three in Washington. After 1972, the first measure addressing time was California Proposition 7 in 2018.



Utah legislature refers four constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot

The Utah legislature, set to adjourn on March 14, 2019, has referred four constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot.
 
HJR 1, Municipal Water Resources Amendment:
This amendment would allow a municipality to commit water resources or supply water outside its boundary or exchange water resources and revise provisions surrounding municipal water rights.
 
HJR 4, Legislator Qualifications Amendment:
This amendment would specify that qualifications of a legislator—such as age and voter registration—must apply as of the time of election or appointment rather than the time a legislator assumes office.
 
HJR 8, Removal of Exception to Slavery Prohibition for Criminals Amendment:
This amendment would remove part of the Utah Constitution that says slavery and involuntary servitude are allowable for the punishment of a crime. A similar amendment was referred to the 2020 ballot by the Nebraska State Legislature.
 
SJR 7, Gender-Neutral Constitutional Language Amendment:
This amendment would remove gender-specific language in the state constitution and replace it with gender-neutral language. For example, the amendment would update constitutional language to say things like “all persons” rather than “all men.”
 
At the general election on November 3, 2020, the amendments must be approved by a majority of voters voting in the election (not just a majority of voters voting on the amendment). Citizen initiatives can also be put on the 2020 ballot through signature petitions in Utah.
 
From 1996 through 2018, the state legislature referred 42 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 38 and rejected four of the referred amendments. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was between three and four. The approval rate at the ballot box was 90.48 percent during the 22-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 9.52 percent.


Denver airport minimum wage initiative withdrawn from May ballot; Denver City Council approves minimum wage increase for city employees

On March 11, 2019, the Denver City Council voted unanimously in favor of Council Bill 19-0163, a minimum wage increase backed by Mayor Michael Hancock. The measure was designed to raise the minimum wage for city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties from $11.10 an hour to $13 in July 2019, $14 in July 2020, and $15 in July 2021.

Prior to the bill’s passage, the city was set to vote on an initiative to increase the minimum wage for employees at the Denver International Airport during the May 7 municipal election. Unite Here Local 23 began collecting signatures for the minimum wage citizen initiative in August 2018. The Denver Elections Division verified in November 2018 that the group had submitted a sufficient number of signatures to place the initiative on the May ballot. Approval of the citizen initiative would have enacted minimum wage increases following the same schedule as the mayor’s bill but with increases only for employees working at the airport.

Council Bill 19-0163 provides for the minimum wage increases for airport employees supported by Unite Here Local 23 while it also provides for the same increases for other city employees, city contractors, and employees working on city properties. Following the council’s vote to pass the bill, proponents withdrew the citizen initiative from the May ballot.



Second lawsuit filed against transportation sales tax initiative in Hillsborough County, Florida

Residents of Hillsborough County, Florida, approved a citizen initiative in November that implemented a 1 percent sales tax to fund road and transportation projects. Referendum 2, the initiative backed by local group All for Transportation, received 57 percent approval. Following its passage, County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit in December calling for the sales tax to be overturned. On March 8, 2019, a county resident, filed a second lawsuit calling for Referendum 2 to be overturned.

John Cimino filed a class-action lawsuit in Hillsborough County circuit court, echoing the argument in Stacy White’s complaint that the referendum violated state law. Both Cimino and White stated that Referendum 2 is unlawful because it prevents the county commission from voting on how funds from the new sales tax are allocated. Cimino’s suit is intended to represent other county residents who have paid the 1 percent sales tax on purchases in 2019. In the complaint, Cimino calls upon the court to issue an injunction to stop the collection of the tax and to refund taxpayers.



Filing window for Texas legislators to introduce proposed 2019 constitutional amendments ended on Friday

Members of the Texas State Legislature filed 213 constitutional amendments for the 2019 regular legislative session. Legislators were allowed to file constitutional amendments through March 8, 2019. The 2019 legislative session is expected to adjourn on May 27, 2019. Amendments approved by the legislature would appear on the ballot for voter consideration on November 5, 2019.

Republicans, who control 57 percent of state legislative seats in Texas, filed 111 (52.1 percent) of the constitutional amendments. Democrats filed 102 (47.9 percent) of the constitutional amendments.

Between 2009 and 2017, an average of 187 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7 percent. If the average is applied to the 213 constitutional amendments filed in 2019, 10 would be expected to make the ballot.

In Texas, citizens do not have the power to initiate statewide initiatives or referendums. Voters rejected a constitutional amendment to provide for the initiative and referendum process in 1914. The Texas State Legislature can refer statewide ballot measures, in the form of constitutional amendments, to the ballot. Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

Voters have approved 145 of 159 (91.2 percent) of constitutional amendments on the ballot between 1995 and 2018. Turnout at odd-year general elections in Texas averaged 11 percent —39 percentage points lower than the average turnout at general elections in even-numbered years.



Combined total raised by competing campaigns passes half a million for Colorado Springs collective bargaining initiative

Colorado Springs voters will decide Issue 1 on April 2, 2019. Issue 1 is a citizen initiative designed to allow collective bargaining for city fire employees. If approved, Issue 1 would allow uniformed city fire employees, aside from the fire chief and the fire chief’s direct reports, to select and remove a bargaining representative. The bargaining representative would negotiate agreements with the city regarding fire employees’ salaries, wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Ballot measure committee Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs registered in support of Issue 1. As of the March 1 campaign finance filing date, the committee had reported $320,154.04 in total contributions to the support campaign, #YESon1. The group reported $234,771.39 in expenditures.

The committee Citizens Against Public Employee Unions registered to oppose the initiative. As of March 1, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions had reported $245,119.18 in total contributions and $39,698.72 in expenditures for the opposition campaign, No on #1.

The Colorado Springs chapter of the International Association of Firefighters union— Local 5—leads among donors to the #YESon1 campaign with $219,509.05 total contributions. The group Colorado Springs Forward is the top donor to the No on #1 campaign, with $81,000.00 in contributions.



Phoenix Councilman DiCiccio and Responsible Budgets pension initiative sent to August ballot

Proponents of a citizen initiative designed to address Phoenix’s pension debt collected enough signatures to send the issue before voters.

In January, the group Responsible Budgets submitted close to 50,000 petition signatures to the city clerk’s office for an initiative it titled the “Responsible Budget Act.” On March 6, 2019, the city clerk verified that the group had met the required threshold of 20,510 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot for August 27, 2019.

Phoenix city council member Sal DiCiccio, who is backing the initiative, stated that Phoenix owes $4.4 billion in pension debt. If approved, the initiative would limit city spending in order to pay down pension debt, and it would require annual assessments of the debt. The initiative text states that priority would be given to paying down debt for police and firefighter pensions. Under the initiative, the city would be required to use revenue in excess of spending increases based on inflation and population growth for paying down pension debt, and retirement pensions and retirement healthcare benefits would be ended for elected city officials voted into office after the enactment of the initiative.

Phoenix voters have decided four pension-related measures since 2013.



Arkansas legislature asks voters to continue a 0.5 percent transportation sales tax currently set to expire in 2023

On March 7, 2019, the Arkansas State Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would make permanent a 0.5 percent sales tax. The tax was approved by voters in 2012 and set to expire in 2023 once certain transportation bond debt was repaid. As the state House approved the amendment on March 4, the Senate’s vote sent the proposal—House Joint Resolution 1018—to voters at the November 2020 election. The Department of Finance and Administration estimated that the continued 0.5 percent sales tax authorized by the amendment would generate $293.7 million per year in revenue. It would be allocated in the following way:
 
  1. 70 percent ($205.59 million) to state highways,
  2. 15 percent ($44.055 million) to county roads, bridges, and other transportation, and
  3. 15 percent to ($44.055 million) to city roads, bridges, and other transportation.
 
In the House, 45 Republicans and 22 Democrats voted in favor of HJR 1018; 29 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. John Walker, voted against HJR 1018. In the Senate, 17 Republicans and eight Democrats voted in favor of HJR 1018; seven Republicans and zero Democrats voted against it.
 
Voters authorized the temporary 0.5 percent sales tax that would be made permanent by this amendment in 2012 through approval of Issue 1 (2012), which is now Amendment 91 in the state constitution. Issue 1 of 2012 authorized the 0.5 percent sales tax to be levied until the general obligation bonds in the amount of $1.3 billion for the construction of a four-lane highway were repaid (estimated to be in 2023).
 
The legislature also passed Senate Bill 336 on March 4. SB 336 raises revenue for transportation through a gas tax, a casino tax, and hybrid/electric vehicle fees. On Thursday, Hutchinson said, “With the Senate’s passage of HJR 1018 this afternoon and the legislature’s passage of the $95 million highway-funding bill earlier this week, the 92nd General Assembly has approved the largest and most comprehensive long-term highway funding plan in state history. Because of the passage of HJR1018, Arkansas voters will have the final word on funding for the construction and repair of the roads they drive each and every day.”
 
This was the first statewide measure certified for the 2020 ballot in Arkansas. The Arkansas legislature is allowed to refer no more than three constitutional amendments to the voters at a general election. Citizen initiatives are also permitted in Arkansas. So far, three initiatives related to redistricting have been cleared for signature gathering with proponents targeting the 2020 Arkansas ballot. From 1996 through 2018, an average of four statewide measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Arkansas.


Arkansas legislators approve bill changing the state’s initiative process

The Arkansas state legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 346 and sent it to the governor on March 6, 2019. The bill was designed to do the following:
  • make the state board of election commissioners, rather than the attorney general, responsible for approving a filed initiative and its ballot title and popular name;
  • change the timeline for approval of the ballot title and popular name to after signatures are submitted;
  • establish that, once signatures are submitted, if the board of elections does not approve the ballot title and popular name, the initiative petition is insufficient and cannot be certified for the ballot even if enough signatures were submitted; and
  • enact other provisions related to signature verification, approval of the ballot title and popular name, and related petitions to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The state Senate approved Senate Bill 346 in a vote of 26-5 on February 25, 2019. All 26 Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of it, five Democrats voted against it and four did not vote. The state House approved SB 346 78-13 on March 5, 2019. Seventy-one Republicans voted in favor of the bill in the House, two voted against it, and three did not vote. Eleven House Democrats voted against the bill, seven voted in favor of it, and six did not vote. Arkansas is one of 22 Republican trifectas.
 
Senate Bill 346 was supported by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Rutledge said, “This streamlined process will increase transparency by ensuring a public and bipartisan debate for all ballot measures proposed by Arkansans.”
 
Opponents argued that the bill could make the initiative process harder because initiatives and ballot titles could be rejected by the board of elections after signatures were collected and verified, making it more risky to fund signature gathering for initiatives. Melissa Fults, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Education Group, is working on a marijuana legalization initiative in Arkansas. Fults said, “They’re [the election commissioners] going to be prejudice on the subject whether they’re a liberal group and you have a conservative message or if you’re a conservative group and you have a liberal message.”
 
Sen. Mathew Pitsch (R) said the bill realigns the state process with the existing constitutional provisions.
 
During the 2018 election cycle, Ballotpedia tracked 83 initiatives with ballot titles submitted to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R), many of which were revised versions of the same proposal. Prior to a supreme court ruling on May 23, 2018, Rutledge rejected all but one of these for circulation. The supreme court ruled that Rutledge had to either approve certain submitted ballot titles for circulation or provide a ballot title that could be circulated. In 2018, citizen initiatives to increase the minimum wage and authorize four casinos qualified for the ballot and were approved.
 
Ballotpedia is tracking 135 legislative proposals introduced into 2019 sessions concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 31 states. Two initiatives directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Missouri and South Dakota. Topics include ballot language, signature requirements, pay-per-signature, distribution requirements, circulation rules, subject restrictions, supermajority requirements, and election dates.


Utah constitutional amendment to remove gendered language certified for 2020 ballot

The Utah State Legislature voted Wednesday to send the Gender-Neutral Constitutional Language Amendment to the ballot for the election on November 3, 2020.
 
The amendment was designed to remove gender-specific language in the state constitution and replace it with gender-neutral language. For example, it would make the following changes among others:
  • “all men” to “all persons,”
  • “he” to “the person,”
  • “him” to “the accused,” and
  • “himself” to “himself or herself.”
The amendment was introduced into the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 7 on January 29, 2019. SJR 7 was sponsored by Republican Senator Deidre Henderson of Utah’s 7th Senate District. The Senate approved the measure unanimously on February 26, 2019, except that two Republican Senators—Allen Christensen and Jerry Stevenson—were absent or not voting. On March 6, 2019, the House passed SJR 7 unanimously except for the 10 Republicans and two Democrats who were absent or not voting.
 
From 1996 through 2018, the state legislature referred 42 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 38 and rejected four of the referred amendments. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was between three and four. The approval rate at the ballot box was 90.48 percent during the 20-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 9.52 percent.