CategoryBallot measures

Marijuana legalization initiative qualifies for the South Dakota ballot

On Wednesday, South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett (R) announced that a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana was certified for the ballot. The measure will be titled Initiated Measure 27, and will appear on the general election ballot in November.

South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws led the campaign to place the measure on the ballot, submitting their signature petition on May 3rd, 2022. A random sample found 25,023 signatures to be valid, surpassing the 16,961 signature requirement.

“We are confident that we can achieve victory for the second consecutive election, pass Initiated Measure 27 by a strong margin, and restore the will of the people,” Matthew Schweich, campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, stated in a press release.

If voters approve Initiated Measure 27 in November, the measure will legalize the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana for people aged 21 and over. In South Dakota, the medical use of marijuana was made legal in 2021 after voters passed Initiated Measure 26 in 2020.

Marijuana was previously on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in South Dakota in 2020, referred to as Amendment A. Voters approved of the measure with 54% of the vote, but the measure was overturned by a circuit court ruling in February 2021. Circuit Judge Christina Klinger found the measure unconstitutional, stating that it violated South Dakota’s single subject rule, and was a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment. Melissa Mentele, executive director of New Approach South Dakota, filed the new marijuana initiative in 2021 as a state statute rather than a constitutional amendment. Unlike Amendment A, Initiated Measure 27 does not establish a framework for marijuana taxation or commercial cannabis cultivation, instead leaving these details up to the state.

In South Dakota, 32 citizen-initiated measures appeared on ballots in the 20-year period between 2000 and 2020. Out of these 32 measures, 12 (37.5%) of the measures were voters, while 20 (62.5%) of them were defeated. There is currently one other measure certified for the November general election ballot, referred to as Constitutional Amendment D, which will require South Dakota to provide Medicaid benefits to adults between 18 and 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.

Nationwide, there are 15 potential or certified ballot measures in seven states related to marijuana. Maryland is currently the only other state with a certified marijuana measure on the ballot in November. Voters in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Oklahoma may also see the issue on their ballots.

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Montana voters in Lewis and Clark County will decide on two local-option marijuana taxes on June 7

On June 7, voters in Lewis and Clark County, Montana, will decide on two local-option excise taxes on medical and recreational marijuana sales. The first ballot measure would impose a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales and related products. The second ballot measure would also impose a 3% tax on medical marijuana sales and related products. The taxes would take effect on October 1, 2022.

The Lewis and Clark County Commission voted to refer the measures to the ballot on Feb. 8, 2022.

In the 2020 election, Montana voters approved I-190 by a vote of 56.90% to 43.10%. The initiative legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, imposed a 20% tax on marijuana sales, required the Department of Revenue to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses, and allowed for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.

On March 29, 2021, the Montana House of Representatives introduced House Bill 701 (HB 701). It passed both chambers and was signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) in May 2021. HB 701 authorized counties to impose a local-option excise tax of up to 3% on medical and recreational marijuana sales. The revenue from the tax would be distributed as follows:

  • 50% to the authorizing county;
  • 45% to municipalities according to share of county population; and
  • 5% to the Montana Department of Revenue for administration costs.

According to the state’s Department of Revenue, in February 2022, non-medical and medical marijuana sales totaled nearly $1.7 million. With a 3% tax rate, the estimated tax revenue would be $50,643.09.

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Iowa State Legislature adjourns 2022 session; three constitutional amendments could appear on 2024 ballot

The Iowa State Legislature adjourned its 2022 legislative session at 12:16am on May 25, 2022.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, the General Assembly passed three constitutional amendments, which may appear on the 2024 ballot if they are passed a second time by the General Assembly during its 2023-2024 legislative session.

One amendment would provide that if the governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor would assume the office of governor for the remainder of the term, thereby creating a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor. Currently, in Iowa, if the governor leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes responsible for fulfilling the duties and assumes the powers of the governor, but does not have the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor.

Another amendment would provide that only a citizen of the U.S., rather than every citizen of the U.S., can vote in Iowa. It would also provide that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election may vote in primary elections. In 2018 and 2020, constitutional amendments to state that only a citizen (rather than every citizen) can vote were approved in four states: Florida, Alabama, Colorado, and North Dakota. Similar amendments were proposed for the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The third amendment passed by the Legislature during the 2021-2022 legislative session would add a section to the state constitution that says, “To defend and protect unborn children, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution does not recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or require the public funding of abortion.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on the ballot for voter ratification, a simple majority vote is required in both the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives in two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. Every two years, half of the state senators and all of the members of the state House are up for election. Iowa has had a Republican trifecta since 2017, meaning the Republican Party controls the office of governor and both chambers of the state legislature.

When a constitutional amendment has passed the General Assembly in the first session and thus been referred to the succeeding legislature, the General Assembly is required by Article X of the Iowa Constitution to publish the amendment in two newspapers in each of Iowa’s congressional districts and on the legislature’s website once per month for three months.

Once an amendment is on the ballot, it must be approved by a simple majority of voters in order to become part of the constitution.

A constitutional amendment to add a right to firearms in the constitution was certified for the 2022 ballot after the measure was passed by the legislature during the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 legislative sessions.

During the 20-year period from 2000 and 2020, five measures appeared on the ballot in Iowa. Of the five measures, two were approved and three were defeated. The measures appeared on the ballot in 2000 (one), 2008 (one), 2010 (two), and 2020 (one).

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Louisiana legislature refers two constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot concerning property taxes

On May 24, the Louisiana State Legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the Nov. 8 general election ballot, bringing the total number of measures currently certified for the ballot to seven.

One amendment would remove the requirement to annually re-certify income for homeowners that are permanently and totally disabled in order to keep their special assessment level for property taxes.

The Louisiana Constitution provides for a special assessment level that limits the total assessment of a property from increasing above the assessment level in the first year that a property owner receives the special assessment level. The special assessment level is available for property owners receiving a homestead exemption and who are:

  • 65 years old or older;
  • veterans with a service-connected disability rating of 50% or more;
  • members of the U.S. or Louisiana National Guard who were killed or missing in action or are a prisoner of war for 90 days or more; or
  • determined by a court or state or federal agency as being permanently and totally disabled.

A person receiving the special assessment level may not have an adjusted gross income over $100,000. The $100,000 income limit was set to be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index beginning in 2026. For those who are married filing separately, the adjusted gross income is determined by both individuals’ incomes. Property owners receiving the special assessment level, except those who are 65 years old and older, must annually certify their income from the prior tax year with the parish assessor.

The other amendment would expand property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. In Louisiana, properties are assessed at 10% of fair market value. The homestead exemption in Louisiana exempts the first $7,500 of assessed value from property taxes. Disabled veterans with a 100% disability rating may receive an additional $7,500 exemption, meaning the first $15,000 of their property’s assessed value is exempt from property taxes.

Under the amendment, veterans with a service-related disability rating of 50% or more (but below 70%) would receive an additional property tax exemption of $2,500 of assessed value after the first $7,500 homestead property tax exemption, bringing their total exemption to $10,000. Veterans with a service-related disability rating of 70% or more (but below 100%) would receive an additional exemption of $4,500, bringing their total exemption to $12,000. The total assessed value of a property owned by a veteran that is totally disabled or that is rated as 100% unemployable by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would be exempt from property taxes.

The property tax exemptions would be extended to the surviving spouse of a deceased disabled veteran whether or not the exemption was claimed on the property prior to the veteran’s death.

The amendment would provide that tax revenue lost due to increased property tax exemptions would be absorbed by the local taxing authority and would not create any additional taxes for other taxpayers during any future reappraisals or millage adjustments.

The Louisiana State Legislature may refer additional constitutional amendments to the ballot during its 2022 legislative session, which is set to end on June 6. The Legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the ballot during its 2021 legislative session. The measures would do the following:

  • provide for the adjustment of ad valorem tax rates by a taxing authority up to the maximum rate approved by the constitution until the authorized rate expires;
  • allow local governments to waive water charges for customers if damages are not caused by the customer;
  • limit the increase in assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year;
  • increase the maximum amount of certain state funds authorized to be invested in equities to 65%; and
  • allow classified service/civil service employees to publicly support the election campaigns of individuals in their immediate family when off duty.

During the 20-year period between 2000 and 2020, the statewide ballot in Louisiana featured 104 constitutional amendments. An average of 10 amendments appeared on the ballot, and the number of amendments on the ballot ranged from four to 21. Voters approved 71.15% (74 of 104) and rejected 28.85% percent (30 of 104) of the constitutional amendments.

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Initiative to increase medical malpractice lawsuit caps in California withdrawn after legislative compromise reached

On May 19, the sponsors of an initiative to increase California’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits withdrew the ballot measure from the 2022 ballot after reaching a legislative compromise with legislators.

 In 1975, the cap was set at $250,000. The ballot initiative would have required an annual adjustment of the cap based on inflation. The ballot initiative would have also allowed judges and juries to award damages above the cap for catastrophic injuries, defined as death, permanent physical impairment, permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, or permanent loss of consortium.

The initiative had qualified for the ballot in July 2020 after filing 910,667 signatures, of which 688,142 were valid.

On April 27, 2022, the sponsors of the initiative announced that a legislative compromise was going to be introduced that would raise the legal cap on pain and suffering awards to $350,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The proposed law would also increase the cap over 10 years to a maximum of $750,000. The cap for cases involving a patient’s death would increase to $500,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and increase up to $1 million over 10 years. Following the decade increase, the cap would be adjusted by 2% annually. Assembly Bill 35 was amended on April 27 to include the changes. On May 5, the state Senate passed AB 35 in a vote of 37-1 with two absent. On May 12, the state Assembly passed the bill in a vote of 66-0 with 12 absent. The bill is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature.

Nick Rowley, one of the sponsors of the initiative, said, “After nearly 50 years of inaction on a law that capped the value of human life and losing my own son to medical negligence, I wrote and funded the Fairness for Injured Patients Act to effectuate much-needed change. I never envisioned a legislative compromise, but I’m very proud that our work has led us to this point. When this becomes law, we will have changed history for the better.”

In California, the proponents of a ballot initiative can withdraw their proposal after signatures are verified, as long as the proposal is withdrawn at least 131 days before the general election. For the 2022 general election, the deadline is June 30. This process was adopted in 2014 with the enactment of Senate Bill 1253 (SB 1253). Since the adoption of the law, the proponents of seven citizen-initiated ballot measures have withdrawn their proposals after qualifying for the ballot.

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Amendment to remove register of probate office on New Hampshire ballot

Last week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted in agreement with the New Hampshire State Senate to approve a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the register of probate office. This measure will appear on the ballot in November for New Hampshire voters.

The ballot measure was introduced to the New Hampshire General Court in November of 2021. In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 294-43 to approve the amendment. In April 21, the Senate voted 21-3 on an amended resolution. On May 13, 2022, the House adopted the revised amendment by voice vote.

To get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in New Hampshire, it must receive 60% of the vote in one legislative session of the New Hampshire state legislature, which amounts to 201 votes in the House of Representatives. Because this measure met that requirement in the House of Representatives and was approved by a voice vote in the New Hampshire state senate, the measure will appear on the ballot. To be ratified, a two-thirds vote is needed at the election.

In the past, New Hampshire’s Register of Probate office handled issues such as simple wills. But in 2011, due to a reorganization of New Hampshire’s court system, most of the duties of this office were eliminated. Currently, the primary responsibility of the office is to the preservation of files that have the potential for historical significance.

This is the second ballot measure to appear on New Hampshire’s statewide ballot for the Nov. 8, 2022 general election. The other ballot measure asks voters on whether or not to hold a state constitutional convention, which appears on New Hampshire’s ballot automatically every 10 years.

In New Hampshire, 13 statewide ballot measures went to voters between 1996 and 2018. Five of these measures were approved, while 8 were defeated.

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Alabama bond question, Atlanta and Little Rock local measures on Tuesday ballot

On May 24, Alabama voters will decide Amendment 1. The measure would amend the state constitution to issue up to $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks.

Of the bonds, $80 million would be used for state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and $5 million would be used for historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC). The ACDNR manages 21 state parks spanning a total of approximately 45,300 acres of land and water. The AHC owns and manages 15 historic sites in Alabama including forts, battlefields, and archaeological sites, historic houses, and museums. The commission’s mission statement is to “protect, preserve, and interpret Alabama’s historic places.”

Under the amendment, bond proceeds could not be used for improvement, acquisition, provision, construction, equipping, or maintenance of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. If bond proceeds exceed $85 million for any reason, additional proceeds would be allocated to the Alabama Forestry Commission for capital improvements and maintenance of state forests.

Under the amendment, no bond proceeds could be expended for maintenance or improvements to the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. The home that exists at the park was constructed in 1902 as a care facility for Confederate veterans in Alabama. The last Confederate veteran living on the site died in 1934. The Alabama State Legislature created the Confederate Memorial Park in 1964 as “a shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.” The Confederate Memorial Park has been managed by the Alabama Historical Commission since 1971.

The amendment is supported by Governor Kay Ivey (R), who said, “It’s just real important that we all vote ‘Yes’ on that amendment on the ballot. We have so much natural beauty here, and it’s important that we offer our citizens and tourists the great opportunities to experience and enjoy them. With your support of the State Parks bond issue on May 24th, we will soon have ribbon-cuttings on several renovated campgrounds, cabins and improved day-use areas in our 21 State Parks.”

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Christopher Blankenship said, “As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health. We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” Blankenship also said attendance to state parks was up by about 1.2 million visitors in 2020 and the amendment would bring the state parks “up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campground.”

In Alabama, a constitutional amendment must be passed by a 60 percent vote in each house of the state legislature during one legislative session.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R) as House Bill 565. On April 13, 2021, the House approved it in a vote of 97-1, with five absent or not voting. On April 29, the Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0, with five absent or not voting. The House concurred with the amendments on the same day in a vote of 98-0, with five absent or not voting.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered election years in Alabama from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.51%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15.

Voters of Alabama cast ballots on five bond issues, totaling $535.2 million in value, since 1998. All were approved. The most recent bond issue decided by voters was on the ballot in 2000.

Also on May 24, voters in Little Rock Arkansas will decide a question reducing the existing capital-improvement millage from 1.8 to 1.3 mills, equal to $130 per $100,000 of assessed property value, and dedicating funds to a future issuance of bonds not to exceed $42 million for capital improvements to the Central Arkansas Library System.

Voters in Atlanta will decide two bond measures and a sales tax increase measure on May 24. The bond issues would authorize $213.01 million in general obligation bonds for constructing, improving, and repairing public safety facilities and parks and recreational facilities and $192.99 million in general obligation bonds for acquiring, planning, constructing, and maintaining roads, bicycle and transit lanes, sidewalks, pathways and trails, parks and playgrounds, and other related projects. The sales tax increase measure proposes to enact a sales tax of 0.4 percent for no more than five years to provide funding for transportation and congestion reduction projects.

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Missouri Legislature passes constitutional amendment allowing increase in funding to Kansas City police

A constitutional amendment that would allow the state Legislature to increase the minimum required funding for Kansas City’s police department passed Missouri’s state Legislature on Friday. The measure passed in Missouri’s House of Representatives before they ended the legislative session, with 103 votes supporting the measure and 44 votes opposing the measure. 

Because the amendment was already passed in the Missouri State Senate in March, the measure will appear on the ballot before voters in November.

The measure, as written, would allow the Missouri General Assembly to increase minimum required funding for a police force established by a state board of police commissioners. Kansas City is the only city that does not have local jurisdiction over its department, and therefore the only city that this measure would currently impact. 

This amendment was passed along with another bill that would increase the minimum funding requirement for Kansas City’s police department. Currently, Missouri law mandates that Kansas City devote 20% of its general revenue to the police department. That bill would increase that funding to 25%. 

On KCUR, Celisa Calacal and Brian Ellison reported that some Democratic legislators argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it violates the Hancock Amendment of Missouri’s state constitution that prohibits unfunded state mandates on local actions. However, if voters approve of the constitutional amendment on the ballot this November, Missouri’s constitution will be amended to make an exception.

The support and opposition for the measure was mostly drawn between party lines. On Friday’s vote in Missouri’s House of Representatives, 100 Republicans supported the measure while 3 Democrats supported it. Forty-one Democrats opposed the measure while 3 Republicans opposed it. In the March Senate vote, 22 Republicans and 1 Democrat supported the measure, while 9 Democrats and 1 Republican opposed it.

This is the fourth ballot measure certified to appear on Missouri’s ballot this November. The other measures include:

  • A constitutional amendment that authorizes the state treasurer to invest in highly rated municipal securities.
  • A constitutional amendment that gives the Missouri National Guard its own department within the state government.
  • A constitutional convention question, which automatically appears on Missouri’s ballot every ten years, asking voters whether or not they agree with holding a constitutional convention.

A total of 85 measures have appeared on Missouri’s statewide ballots between 1996 and 2020. Out of those 85, 54 were approved by voters, while 31 were defeated.

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Colorado legislature refers school meal program funded by tax deduction cap and ballot law measures to voters before adjourning

The Colorado Legislature put two statutory measures on the Nov. 8 ballot before adjourning on May 11.

One measure—House Bill 1414—would create a new Healthy School Meals for All Program and fund the program through (a) reducing income tax deduction caps from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers and (b) decreasing the income threshold at which the caps apply from $400,000 to $300,000. The program would reimburse participating schools for free meals provided to students and provide schools with local food purchasing grants and school food-related funding. State officials estimated these deduction cap changes would increase state revenue by $100.7 million per year.

The other measure—Senate Bill 222—would require the ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for citizen initiatives that affect income taxes to include a table showing the changes the initiative would make in average income taxes owed for different income brackets.

Both measures were passed largely along partisan lines. Democrats in the Senate and House supported both measures. All voting Republicans opposed SB 222, and 34 of 39 Republicans opposed HB 1414. Any bills that the legislature refers to voters do not need to be signed by the governor and cannot be vetoed in Colorado.

These measures join three constitutional amendments the legislature referred to the ballot. The legislature must submit all constitutional amendments to the ballot for voter approval. Most changes to statute do not require voter approval.

House Bill 1414, however, requires voter approval because it would increase state tax revenue, and Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires voter approval of any increases to taxes or changes to tax policy that result in increased state revenue. The state’s TABOR law was approved by voters in 1992 through a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment.

The provisions of Senate Bill 222 do not require voter approval under the state constitution. Sponsors of Senate Bill 222 decided to refer it to the voters so that it would not require Gov. Jared Polis’ (D) signature. State Rep. Chris Kennedy (D) said, “There are a number of components (last year) where we reached agreement with the governor. But he expressed some concern about the idea of printing a table where it breaks down the value of the tax benefit or the tax increase to different income brackets … on the ballot itself. So, this year, what we’ve introduced is a bill that’s going to refer this question to the voters so that the governor doesn’t have to weigh in on it.”

Currently, under bills the legislature passed and Gov. Polis signed in 2020 and 2021, Colorado law requires fiscal impact statements for initiatives increasing or decreasing taxes to specify services that might be affected and requires a table showing the tax burden change to be included in the state’s ballot information booklet. This 2022 measure would require the table to be included within the ballot title of the initiative in addition to the information booklet and would specify that the table must show the amount owed by taxpayers in each bracket.

Kara Powell, a spokeswoman for Polis, said, “Gov. Polis believes that voters should decide how issues are presented on the people’s ballot because it is their ballot, not the state legislature’s ballot. That includes whether or not to approve requiring a table in the fiscal summary for any ballot initiative that would increase or decrease the tax rate.”

One citizen initiative to reduce income tax rates from 4.55% to 4.40% has also qualified so far. The signature submission deadline for citizen initiatives to qualify for the 2022 ballot is Aug. 8.

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Georgia voters to decide timber equipment tax exemption on Nov. 8

Georgia voters will decide whether to exempt timber equipment from property taxes on Nov. 8

The measure would exempt any equipment owned by a timber business and used in the production or harvest of timber from ad valorem property taxes. The House approved House Bill 997, which proposed the measure, on March 15 by a vote of 171-0. The Senate approved it on March 30 by a vote of 50-1. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed House Bill 997 on May 10, sending the measure to the ballot for voter approval.

The Georgia Constitution requires legislation exempting property from taxes to be approved by a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the legislature, signed by the governor, and approved by a majority of voters at a statewide election.

In addition to HB 997, Kemp signed multiple bills on May 10 concerning conservation, natural resources, hunting, and fishing. Kemp said, “The bills I signed into law will help us treat the forestry industry the same way that we do agriculture as well as protect hunting, fishing, and conservation land, and more.” Agriculture equipment is currently exempt from property taxes.

This measure was the fourth statewide measure certified for the Nov. 8 ballot. Voters will decide another legislatively referred state statute to expand the existing agriculture equipment tax exemption to include merged family farms and to extend the exemption to dairy products and eggs. Voters will also decide two constitutional amendments:

  • an amendment to suspend pay for certain public officials if they are suspended from office for being indicted for a felony and
  • an amendment to allow local governments to grant temporary tax relief to certain properties that are damaged or destroyed due to a disaster.

Georgia voters decided 84 statewide measures from 1996 through 2020, averaging seven per election and ranging from two to 12. Voters approved 71 (84.5%) and defeated 13 (15.5%).

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