Initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Ohio submitted to state legislature

On Jan. 4, 2022, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) sent a letter to legislative leaders announcing that he is resubmitting to the Ohio General Assembly an indirect citizen-initiated measure to legalize the use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. 

The initiative was originally filed in 2021 by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, and signatures were submitted at the end of 2021. Due to disagreements about the timeline for submitting signatures and legislative consideration, the campaign filed a lawsuit against legislative leaders in 2022. A settlement allowed for the signatures to be submitted at the start of the 2023 legislative session.

“The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pleased that our proposal was re-transmitted to the Ohio General Assembly and that the secretary of state clarified that the General Assembly’s four-month clock to consider our proposal has begun,” said Tom Haren, a spokesperson for the campaign.

In Ohio, the state legislature will now have four months to consider the proposal. If the measure does not pass the legislature, it may appear on the ballot for Ohio voters on November 7, 2023.

Haren stated, “As we have always said, we intend to work with legislative leadership in good faith to legalize marijuana for all adults through the legislative process. If the General Assembly fails to act, however, we will place our proposal before Ohio voters this November and it will pass.”

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in 21 states. Marijuana was most recently legalized statewide in Maryland and Missouri in 2022 by ballot measures in those states (measures in South Dakota, Arkansas, and North Dakota failed to pass in 2022). Petitions are also currently circulating in Florida and Nebraska to put the question to voters on the 2024 ballot.

Ohio voters may see the issue on their ballots in 2023, depending on whether or not the General Assembly passes the measure and the campaign collects a second round of signatures after the legislative period.

Initially, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol filed 206,943 signatures to the secretary of state in December 2021. Of these signatures, 119,825 were found valid by Secretary LaRose on Jan. 3, 2022, but 13,062 more were needed. In Ohio, campaigns are given an additional week to collect more signatures. The campaign submitted 29,918 additional signatures on January 13, 2022, and the state legislature did not decide on the measure within the four-month window. Additionally, the committee became aware of conversations among legislative officials and the attorney general’s office pertaining to whether or not it submitted signatures in time, due to the interpretation of the Ohio Constitution regarding the signature deadline. This prompted the committee to file a lawsuit, and the settlement allowed for the submission of their collected signatures at the start of the 2023 legislative session rather than starting the process over again.

The Ohio General Assembly will have four months to vote on the measure. If they vote to reject the measure or take no action on it, an additional number of signatures will be required to place the initiative on the ballot for Ohio voters in 2023. An additional number of signatures that is equal to 3% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election are required to place the initiative on the ballot.

The last citizen initiative on the Ohio ballot was in 2018, a measure relating to drug offenses that was defeated by voters. From 1985 to 2022, 24 citizen initiatives appeared on the ballot in Ohio. Eight of those measures were approved and 16 were defeated.

Additional reading:

Two veto referendum campaigns and California executive departments disagree on when referendums suspend fast food workers and oil and gas laws

The campaign Save Local Restaurants filed 1 million signatures for a veto referendum to overturn California Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257), also known as the FAST Act, on Dec. 5, 2022. At least 623,212 signatures must be valid. Counties have until Jan. 25, 2023, to check a random sample of signatures. In California, a veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law. There are 23 states with a process for veto referendums.

The FAST Act was designed to establish a fast food council, which would be authorized to increase the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $22 per hour and establish working hours and conditions. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the legislation on Sept. 5.

The FAST Act was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The Save Local Restaurants PAC and California Industrial Relations Department disagree on whether the Fast ACT was suspended when the campaign filed signatures on Dec. 5. While both the campaign and state agree the bill would be suspended ahead of the election on Nov. 5, 2024, the campaign says the bill was suspended upon signature submission and the state says the bill wouldn’t be suspended until and unless enough signatures are verified.

Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Gov. Newsom, said the bill would be enforced on Jan. 1. Mellon said, “Although industry is backing a referendum measure, the secretary of state has not certified that it has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The state has an obligation to implement this important law unless and until that occurs. We will, of course, abide by any court order.” According to Mellon, the FAST Act would not be suspended until and unless signatures are verified, which could come on Jan. 25.

The Save Local Restaurants PAC stated that AB 257 became “ineffective and unenforceable in its entirety” when signatures were submitted on Dec. 5. Kurt Oneto, a lawyer representing Save Local Restaurants, said that of the 50 veto referendums that have made the ballot since 1912, “not in a single one of those prior instances did the state ever attempt to temporarily enforce the referred statute while the signature review process was underway.”

Katrina Hagen, director of the California Industrial Relations Department, said there is an “absence of clear authority providing that AB 257 is suspended merely upon submission of unverified signatures.”

The Save Local Restaurants PAC filed a lawsuit to prevent the implementation of the FAST Act. Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang placed an injunction on the bill ahead of a hearing on Jan. 13, 2023. Lawyers for the PAC cited the constitutional amendment from 1911, which created the referendum process, as saying “… no such act or section or part of such act shall go into effect until and unless approved by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon.” This constitutional language was repealed and replaced in 1966, when voters approved Proposition 1A.

The California Constitution now says, “If a referendum petition is filed against a part of a statute, the remainder of the statute shall not be delayed from going into effect.” The lawsuit stated that a logical extension of this requirement is that when referendum petitions are filed against an entire statute, the entire statute is delayed from going into effect, and “referendum petition is filed” refers to filing signatures. The lawsuit cites a 2020 stipulated agreement between Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and petitioners behind a flavored tobacco ban referendum. That agreement said the flavored tobacco ban legislation would not take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, while signatures were being verified.

Besides the veto referendum on the FAST Act, signatures are also being verified for a veto referendum on Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137), which would prohibit new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals and require companies to monitor leaks and emissions and install alarms. Like the FAST Act, SB 1137 was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) is leading the campaign, Stop the Energy Shutdown, for the veto referendum. Rock Zierman, the CEO of CIPA, said the law should be suspended pending signature verification, but that CIPA decided not to sue as the group expects the law to be suspended when signatures are verified on or before Feb. 7.

In California, voters have voted on 50 veto referendums, upholding laws 21 times (42%) and repealing laws 29 times (58%). The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Nov. 2022, when voters upheld a bill to ban flavored tobacco products.

Additional reading:

Total partisan composition of state legislatures changed by less than half a percentage point in 2022

The partisan composition of all 7,386 state legislative seats in the country remained effectively unchanged as a result of the 2022 elections.

After the Nov. 8 elections, Democrats lost a net six seats nationwide compared to the pre-election totals. Republicans gained a net 28 seats and independent or minor party officeholders lost a net of 20 seats.

Overall, the total partisan composition of state legislative seats changed by less than half a percentage point in any direction, the smallest overall change ever recorded by Ballotpedia.

Democrats had net gains in 16 states that held elections on Nov. 8, including five where Republicans controlled both chambers. This resulted in Democrats winning a majority of seats in the Michigan House and Senate, and the Pennsylvania House. Democrats also had a net gain in Minnesota, which had a split legislature, with the party retaining the House and gaining the Senate.

Democrats’ largest gains were in Vermont, where the party picked up 17 seats, representing 9.4% of the legislature. This maintained the party’s existing veto-proof majority in the Senate and created a new veto-proof majority in the House. Vermont’s governor, Phil Scott, is a Republican.

Republicans had net gains in 21 states, including five where Democrats controlled both chambers, but the party did not gain majorities in any chambers in 2022.

Republicans’ largest gains were in West Virginia, where the party picked up 17 seats, representing 12.7% of the legislature. This solidified the party’s trifecta in the state. Democrats now control 11.2% of all seats in the legislature, the party’s lowest point in state history.

Independent or minor party candidates had net gains in two states: Alaska and Rhode Island. In Alaska, independents had a net gain of two seats in the House, where Republicans won a numerical majority, but talks are ongoing regarding the creation of a multipartisan governing coalition.

The partisan composition of seven state legislatures did not change in 2022.

Click here to view an interactive version of this map.

The chart below shows each state where either or neither major party gained a percentage of the legislature.

Use the link below to view more data from this analysis, including chamber-specific figures.

Election results, 2022: State legislative seats that changed party control

Sixty-eight legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated after the 2020 census

As state legislatures nationwide convene for their first sessions after the 2022 elections, 68 legislative districts in five states were either renamed or eliminated and no longer exist.

Forty-six of the 68 renamed or eliminated districts are in Vermont, one of three New England states—along with Massachusetts and New Hampshire—that include the town as part of the legislative district name. Those three states use district names that refer to both the town and a number, such as “New Hampshire House of Representatives Rockingham 17.” Population shifts in these states may result in one town or area needing more or fewer districts than after the last census, resulting in renamed or eliminated districts.

Here is a list of states and the number of renamed or eliminated legislative districts in each:

  1. Maryland (11)
  2. Massachusetts (1)
  3. North Dakota (2)
  4. New Hampshire (8)
  5. Vermont (46)

Maryland, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Vermont are among nine states that use multi-member districts in their legislatures. This may also result in renaming during redistricting if legislators change a district from single member to multi-member, or vice versa. For example, when North Dakota redistricted after the 2020 census, it converted North Dakota House of Representatives District 4 from a multi-member district that elected two members into a District 4A and 4B that elected one member each. The same thing happened with House of Representatives District 9. The state’s other 45 multi-member House districts remained the same.

The total number of state legislators nationwide changed slightly, from 7,383 before the 2022 elections to 7,386, and the overall number of legislators remained the same in 49 states. Wyoming was the only state to change the size of its legislature after the 2020 census, creating one new Senate seat and two new House seats during redistricting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wyoming changed its number of legislators five times between 1964 and 1992.

It is relatively uncommon for states to change their numbers of legislators during redistricting. New York increased its number of state Senators by one after both the 2010 and 2000 censuses. Also, after 2000, two states—North Dakota and Rhode Island—reduced their number of legislators in both chambers.

After the 2020 census, West Virginia adopted a redistricting plan that changed the state House from having 47 single-member and 20 multi-member districts to having, instead, 100 single-member districts. While the number of districts changed, the number of seats remained the same at 100.

Ohio governor signs bill creating office to watch for potential federal government overreach

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed a law January 3, 2023, that contains a provision establishing a Tenth Amendment Center in the Ohio Solicitor General’s Office. According to the bill’s text, “The center shall actively monitor federal executive orders, federal statutes, and federal regulations for potential abuse or overreach, including assertion of power inconsistent with the United States Constitution.”

The center will report federal actions that the staff think encroaches on the rights of the state to the solicitor general, who will advise the attorney general on further action.

The bill started as House Bill 506 but was amended into Senate Bill 288—a criminal justice omnibus package—after the House approved the measure. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) said he supported the legislation and that he believed the law would allow the state to better check federal action and preserve the principle of federalism.

Additional reading:

Kentucky unemployment insurance indexing bill takes effect

An unemployment insurance indexing law in Kentucky took effect January 1, 2023, establishing a 12-week maximum benefit period during periods of low unemployment and a 24-week maximum benefit period during times of high unemployment. The Kentucky House and Senate both voted on March 21, 2022, to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of House Bill 4 and pass the indexing law.

Indexing unemployment insurance program benefits is an approach that ties benefit lengths to economic conditions with the goal of moving benefit recipients back into the workforce during times of low unemployment. State unemployment programs that index their benefits provide shorter periods of benefits during times of low unemployment and longer periods of benefits during times of high unemployment.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

Additional reading:

South Carolina Supreme Court rules 3-2 that the state’s abortion ban is unconstitutional

On Jan. 5, 2023, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that the state’s six-week abortion ban, known as the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, was unconstitutional. Signed in February 2021, the law banned abortion once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. The bill was blocked from taking effect in March 2021 but became effective after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not grant the right to an abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade, in June 2022.

The court found that the law violated Section 10 of Article I of the state constitution, which provides a right against unreasonable invasions of privacy. Justice Kaye Hearn wrote that “few decisions in life are more private than the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Our privacy right must be implicated by restrictions on that decision.” Hearn wrote that the ban on abortion at six weeks was an unreasonable restriction and that six weeks was not a reasonable time period for a woman to find out she is pregnant and decide to get an abortion.

Justice George C. James dissented, writing, “The scope of the privacy right included in Article I, Section 10 is of doubtful import. Therefore, we must consider the intent of the framers and the voters. It is clear the framers did not intend to create a full panoply of privacy rights, much less the right to bodily autonomy or the right to have an abortion.”

In 2020, Ballotpedia published a report examining the partisan affiliation of state supreme court justices as of June 15, 2020, and found that South Carolina had a Republican-controlled state supreme court. In 2020, eight cases before the South Carolina Supreme Court were decided 4-1. Justices Few and Hearn dissented alone three times each. In this ruling, Hearn, Few, and Beatty formed the majority with Justices James and Kittredge dissenting. In the study, all Justices were recorded as having Mild Republican Confidence Scores while Justice Beatty was indeterminate.

The right to privacy was added to the state constitution through Amendment 1 of 1970, which was approved by voters in a vote of 77% to 23%. The amendment transposed sections from some articles of the Constitution to Article I and created a new Declaration of Rights (Article I), including a right to privacy.

Section 10 of Article 1 added the following right to the state constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, the person or thing to be seized, and the information to be obtained.”

The amendment was proposed by the Committee to Make a Study of the South Carolina Constitution of 1895, also known as the West Committee, which was responsible for proposing amendments to revise the South Carolina Constitution of 1895. The committee’s final report was published in 1969 and proposed 17 new articles. To be placed on the statewide ballot, a two-thirds vote of the South Carolina State Legislature was required.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) said, “Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution which was never intended by the people of South Carolina. With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority. The people have spoken through their elected representatives multiple times on this issue. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to correct this error.”

The South Carolina State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot in 2024 by a two-thirds (66.66%) supermajority vote in each chamber.

In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record.

Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont were the first to approve ballot measures to establish state constitutional rights to abortion. Votes on these ballot measures followed Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which held that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. These measures were also the first abortion-related ballot measures since 1992 to have the support of organizations that describe themselves as pro-choice/pro-reproductive rights.

Voters in Kansas rejected a measure to provide that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. On November 8, voters in Kentucky rejected a similar amendment. These types of amendments were designed to address previous and future state court rulings on abortion that have prevented or could prevent legislatures from passing certain abortion laws.

Additional reading:

No signatures submitted for Washington Initiatives to the Legislature by Dec. 30 deadline

The deadline to submit signatures for Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington (ITL) was Dec. 30, 2022. Initiatives to the Legislature is the name of indirect ballot initiatives in Washington. The Washington Secretary of State’s office confirmed to Ballotpedia on January 3 that signatures were not submitted for any of the 179 filed initiatives. If proponents of any of the initiatives had submitted 324,516 valid signatures by Dec. 30, those initiatives would have been sent to the Washington State Legislature during its 2023 session, set to begin on Jan. 9.

The legislature would have then taken one of three actions:

  1. The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 last ITL to appear on the ballot was Initiative 976 sponsored by Tim Eyman to limit car tab renewal fees to $30 in 2019. During the 20-year period from 1999 to 2019, 12 Initiatives to the Legislature were on the ballot, of which, six were approved and six were defeated.

The first day to file Initiatives to the People (ITP) in Washington is Jan. 9. For Initiatives to the People—which are direct initiatives in Washington—a total of 324,516 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot. The last day to submit signatures for ITPs is July 7, 2023. As of Jan. 4, 2023, no Initiatives to the People had been filed. ITPs do not have to go before the legislature, and if enough valid signatures are submitted, ITPs are placed on the next general election ballot for a vote of the people.

The last time an ITP was on the ballot was in 2018 when voters decided on three initiatives concerning a carbon fee, firearm restrictions, and taxes on groceries. From 1999 to 2018, 49 Initiatives to the People were on the ballot, of which, 32 were approved and 17 were defeated.

A total of 61 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Washington during odd years between 1999 and 2021. Thirty-four measures (56%) were approved, and 27 measures (44%) were defeated.

Additional reading:

Following the 2022 elections, more Americans now live in a Democratic trifecta than a Republican trifecta

As a result of the 2022 elections, a greater percentage of Americans now live in a Democratic state government trifecta than in a Republican trifecta. Once all newly elected officials take office, 41.7% of Americans will live in a state with a Democratic trifecta, 39.6% in a state with a Republican trifecta, and 18.8% in a state with divided government.

This will be the lowest percentage of Americans living in a Republican trifecta and the highest percentage of Americans living in a Democratic trifecta since at least 2018.

State government trifecta is a term to describe single-party government, when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The 2022 elections resulted in 22 Republican trifectas, 17 Democratic trifectas, and 11 states with divided government. The 17 Democratic trifectas are the most since 1993 and the 11 divided governments are the fewest since at least 1992.

Before the election, 41.8% of Americans lived in a state with a Republican trifecta, 33.9% with a Democratic trifecta, and 24.3% in a state with no trifecta.

The table below shows the percentage of Americans living in each type of state going back to before the 2018 elections.

Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission submits final legislative district boundary proposal to legislature

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission (MDAC) voted 3-2 to submit its final legislative district boundary proposal to the legislature. The commission’s nonpartisan chairperson, Maylinn Smith, and two Democratic-appointed commissioners voted to approve the map, and the two Republican-appointed commissioners voted against it.

According to Nicole Girten of the Daily Montanan, “The legislature will have 30 days after submission on Jan. 6 to comment on the map before it gets kicked back to the commission, which will…meet again in February to receive recommendations from the legislature and will then have 30 days to submit the final map to the Secretary of State’s Office.”

MDAC Commissioner Jeff Essmann, who was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R), stated his opposition to the final proposal: “This map does have compromises, but I would not call it a compromise map. There are still significant differences that we have in viewing this map, as was evidenced even today.” Commissioner Kendra Miller, who was appointed to the MDAC by House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner (D), said that both the Republican and Democratic commissioners knew Smith, who was appointed to the MDAC by the Montana Supreme Court, would cast the tie-breaking vote: “They needed to put up what they thought was the very best map they had, that met the criteria and could get her vote…We had to put up a map that we knew was going to be superior on criteria, and that’s what we did.”

After the MDAC voted 3-2 to advance the proposal on Dec. 1 for consideration at a public hearing. Arren Kimbel-Sannit of the Montana Free Press wrote that the proposed map “yields 60 House seats that, to varying degrees, favor Republicans, and 40 that favor Democrats. Ten of the seats are considered competitive based on metrics the commission adopted earlier in the process, with five that lean Republican and five that lean Democratic.”

The MDAC voted 3-2 to enact the state’s new congressional district boundaries on Nov. 12, 2021. Both Republican commissioners and Smith voted in favor of that map, and the two Democratic commissioners voted against it.

More information about the final legislative map proposal—named “Tentative Commission Plan-3″—along with population and statistical reports and GIS shapefiles, can be viewed by visiting the MDAC’s website.

Additional reading: