Tagballot measure

Maryland voters will decide whether to rename the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2022

On April 6, the Maryland State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. It would also change the name of a Judge of the Court of Appeals to a Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland and the name of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. The measure would also amend the gendered language to be gender-neutral in the articles of the Maryland Constitution that would be amended.

In a hearing on the bill, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said, “There is confusion from beyond the borders of our state as lawyers, law students and litigants research, contact and even file papers with the wrong court. That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 885 (HB 885) on January 29, 2021, by Delegate Ron Watson (D). It was approved in the state House by a vote of 125-10 on March 21, 2021. On April 6, 2021, the Maryland State Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 40-7.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. Judges are appointed to serve 10-year terms with confirmation from the Maryland State Senate. The seven judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission and are subject to state Senate confirmation. After serving for at least one year, judges must stand in yes-no retention elections to determine whether they will remain on the court. Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for all judges of 70 years.

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 (92%) statewide measures in Maryland were approved, and three of 36 (8%) were defeated.

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Voters in Madison, Wisconsin, advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council

With 98.7% of precincts reporting, voters in Madison, Wis., advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council. Voters rejected the other two ballot questions. All four questions were non-binding advisory questions.

Question 4, which advised the council to adopt term limits of 12 consecutive years for alderpersons, was approved with 70.9% of the vote. 

Question 1 would have advised Madison to transition to a full-time Common Council beginning with the spring 2023 election; with members earning approximately $45,000 to $71,00 per year, or 50% to 80% of the Adjusted Median Income for Dane County for a single parent with two children. It was defeated in a vote of 58.2% opposed to 41.8% in favor.

Question 2 was designed to ask voters about the size of the 20-member Madison Common Council. It asked voters if the council should be reduced, increased, or remain the existing size. The vote breakdown was as follows according to unofficial election results:

• 16.5% in favor of reducing the size

• 13.4% in favor of increasing the size

• 70.2% in favor of remaining the same size

Question 3 would have advised Madison to change the term length for alderpersons starting with the spring 2023 election from the existing two-year terms to four-year terms. It was defeated in a vote of 55.5% opposed to 44.5% in favor.

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St. Louis voters approved five sewer district charter amendments, a bond issue, and an earnings tax renewal

According to unofficial election results, voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County approved five sewer district charter amendments, a bond issue, and an earnings tax renewal.

St. Louis Proposition E, which renewed the city’s 1% earnings tax, was approved with 79.4% of voters favoring the earnings tax and 20.6% voting against it.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition 1 was approved with 59.2% favoring it and 40.8% opposing it. Proposition 1 removed obsolete positions and titles; added gender, sexual orientation, familial status, ancestry or national origin, and disability to the list of protected classes; and replaced “affiliated with” with “a member of” with respect to the existing requirement that no two trustees appointed from the city or county be “affiliated with” the same political party.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition 2 was approved with 57.03% favoring it and 42.97% opposing it. Proposition 2 amended the charter to require an affirmative vote by two members of the Board of Trustees appointed from the city and two members appointed from the county to pass any ordinance, resolution, regulation, rule, or order; except that with at least five board members present and unanimous consent, an affirmative vote of any four board members shall be sufficient for passage. 

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition 3 was approved with 64.2% favoring it and 35.8% opposing it. Proposition 3 amended the charter to change the governance of the Rate Commission and the process of presenting the Rate Commission Report to the Board of Trustees.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition 4 was approved with 61.5% favoring it and 38.5% opposing it. Proposition 4 amended the charter to compensate trustees $25 per day of attendance at a public meeting of the board and to compensate Civil Service Commission members $25 per day of attendance at a meeting of the commission, not exceeding $625 per fiscal year.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition 5 was approved with 59.7% favoring it and 40.3% opposing it. Proposition 5 amended the charter to allow the district to engage the same independent auditing firm for more than five consecutive years if the district lets a competitive bid for auditing services and the lead or concurrent audit partner does not perform auditing services for the district for more than five consecutive years.

Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District Proposition Y was approved with 81.6% favoring it and 18.4% opposing it. Proposition Y authorized the district to issue up to $500 million in bonds with bond revenue going to fund designing, constructing, improving, renovating, repairing, replacing, and equipping new and existing MSD sewer and drainage facilities and systems.

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Wyoming to vote in 2022 to allow local governments to invest in stocks and equities

On April 1, the Wyoming State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. Legislation establishing or increasing the percentage of funds a local government could invest would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the state legislature. Currently, the state constitution allows the state legislature to authorize certain state funds to be invested in stocks.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Wyoming State Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The measure was introduced as House Joint Resolution 9 on March 4, 2021. It was approved in the House on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 43-16. The Senate approved an amended version of the measure on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 25-5, which was sent to the House for concurrence. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 46-13.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 20 constitutional amendments to the ballot, of which, 12 were approved (60%) and eight (40%) were defeated.

The legislature was set to adjourn the 2021 legislative session on April 7, 2021. The legislature can also refer measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session.

As of April 2, 2021, 15 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2022 ballot in 10 states.

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Georgia legislature sends two measures to the 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The Georgia State Legislature adjourned its 2021 legislative session on April 1, 2021. The legislature passed two measures requiring voter approval at the general election in 2022:

  1. a constitutional amendment to suspend compensation for certain public officials while they are suspended from office due to a felony indictment and
  2. a measure to expand a property tax exemption to include merged family farms and dairy products and eggs.

A constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting was passed by the Senate but was not passed in the House before the 2021 legislative session adjourned. The amendment could be reconsidered during the 2022 legislative session.

Suspend Compensation for Assembly Members and Public Officials Indicted for a Felony Amendment:

This measure would amend the state constitution to provide for the suspension of compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office for being indicted for a felony:

  • Governor,
  • Lieutenant Governor,
  • Secretary of State,
  • Attorney General,
  • State School Superintendent,
  • Commissioner of Insurance,
  • Commissioner of Agriculture,
  • Commissioner of Labor, or
  • any member of the General Assembly.

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The measure was passed in the Senate on March 8 by a vote of 51-1 with four excused or not voting. It was passed in the House on March 23 by a vote of 169-0 with 11 excused or not voting. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

Merged Family-Owned Farms and Dairy and Eggs Tax Exemption Measure:

The Georgia Constitution requires voter approval of legislation to enact any property tax exemption, which must be passed in the legislature by a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in each chamber.

This measure would expand certain property tax exemptions provided for agricultural equipment and certain farm products. The measure would allow any entity that is a merger of two or more family-owned farms to qualify. It would also extend the exemption to include dairy products and eggs.

The Senate approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 48-0 with eight members excused or not voting. The House approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 163-1 with 16 members excused or not voting. The single no vote in the legislature came from Democratic Representative Mesha Mainor.

A total of 84 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Georgia from 1996 to 2020, of which 84.5% (71 of 84) were approved, and 15.5% (13 of 84) were defeated.



New York becomes third state to legalize recreational marijuana through legislative action instead of a ballot measure

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill on March 31 legalizing recreational marijuana and allowing resentencing for those convicted of certain marijuana-related charges.

Both chambers of the legislature passed the bill (Assembly Bill 1248/Senate Bill 854) on March 30.

New York became the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana. In addition, South Dakota voters approved a marijuana legalization initiative in November 2020, but it was overturned by a circuit court ruling, which was appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Fifteen additional states have decriminalized recreational marijuana.

New York was the third state, after Vermont and Illinois, to legalize recreational marijuana through legislative action instead of a voter-approved ballot measure. The first nine states to legalize recreational marijuana did so through citizen-initiated ballot initiatives. 

Responding to legalization in New York, Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “We expect 2021 to be a record-breaking year for legislatures legalizing cannabis.” 

Marijuana laws in the United States

Details of New York’s bill:

The bill allows the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana and allows each person to grow up to three mature marijuana plants with a cap of six mature plants per household. The legalization of possession and home-grow goes into effect immediately.

The bill establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to license and regulate recreational marijuana retail and distribution. The new office will also take over the regulation of medical marijuana sales. The office will be run by a board consisting of three members appointed by the governor, one member appointed by the Assembly, and one appointed by the Senate. The bill does not establish a specific date by which legal recreational marijuana sales would begin, but state officials estimated it would be between 18 months and two years. The bill also establishes an advisory board for the office.

The bill will create expungement and resentencing processes for anyone convicted on a charge that is no longer a crime under the new law. It would also allow for the expungement of certain convictions that occurred prior to the state’s 2019 decriminalization law but for which sentences were reduced or removed by decriminalization.

The bill provides for a 13% excise tax on retail marijuana sales. It also enacts a tax ranging from $0.03 to $0.08 per milligram of THC for wholesale to dispensaries. Gov. Cuomo’s office estimated revenue of $350 million annually. Revenue above what is required for administration and enforcement would be allocated to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, general education through the State Lottery Fund, the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund, and local municipal and county governments.

The bill allows for cities, towns, and villages to pass local laws prohibiting certain retail establishments and regulating certain aspects of the operation of retail establishments. The bill also contains a process for local voters to overturn local legislation banning recreational marijuana retail.

Comparing New York’s bill with legalization measures in other states

Among the 13 marijuana legalization ballot measures that have passed in other states, all but one explicitly allowed a certain amount of local government control over marijuana regulation. Excise taxes on marijuana sales ranged from an initial rate of 3.75% (subject to increase) in Massachusetts to 25% in Washington. The average tax rate was about 13%. The New Jersey ballot measure applied the state’s sales tax to marijuana but prohibited an additional excise tax.

Seventeen states and D.C. have enacted laws expunging past marijuana convictions, sealing marijuana crime records, or establishing set-aside policies that apply to marijuana-related convictions.

For a comparison of details on possession limits, tax rates, home grow regulations, local control, and revenue allocation among all recreational marijuana ballot measures approved so far, click here.

As of March 2021, 15 states and Washington, D.C., had legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. did so through citizen initiatives, one through a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, and three, including New York, through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors. An additional 15 states had decriminalized recreational marijuana usage. Based on 2019 population estimates, roughly 40% percent of Americans lived in a jurisdiction with legalized recreational marijuana as of March 2021.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana when voters approved legalization initiatives.

In January 2018, Vermont was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana without voters approving a citizen initiative. Illinois was the second state to legalize recreational marijuana without a voter-approved citizen initiative.

In 2020, New Jersey was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through voter approval of a legislatively referred measure, rather than a citizen-initiated one.



Kentucky voters will decide an amendment in 2022 saying there is no right to abortion in the state constitution

The Kentucky State Legislature referred the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment to the November 8, 2022 ballot. The amendment would add a section to the Kentucky Bill of Rights that states: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

In Kentucky, a 60% supermajority vote in each chamber of the Kentucky State Legislature during one legislative session is required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration. The Kentucky House of Representatives introduced the amendment as House Bill 91 (HB 91) on January 5, 2021. The state House approved the amendment 76-20 on February 25, 2021, along party lines. All voting Republicans and two Democrats approved the amendment in the House. Twenty Democrats voted against the amendment. Three Democrats and one Republican were absent. On March 30, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 32-6.

Rep. Joseph Fischer (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “HB 91 simply assures that no Kentucky court will ever be able to fashion an implicit right to abortion from the language of our state Constitution. There will be no Roe vs. Wade decision in Kentucky.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “This constitutional amendment is a blatant effort to take away Kentuckians’ fundamental rights and prevent individuals from making the health care decisions best for them and their families.”

This is the second amendment of its kind to be certified for the 2022 ballot. Kansas voters will be deciding a similar amendment on August 2, 2022. The amendment would reverse a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled there was a right to abortion in the Kansas Bill of Rights. The amendment would add a section to the Kansas Bill of Rights to state that there is not a right to abortions and the government is not required to provide funding for abortions. The new section would also add that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws to regulate abortion. 

As of January 2021, at least 10 states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, provided a state constitutional right to abortion based on court rulings. The rulings were based on constitutional rights to privacy, equality, and liberty. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures in the past to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. The most recent measure was approved in Louisiana in November 2020 with 61.1% of the vote. Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), and West Virginia (2018) also previously approved measures to declare no right to an abortion in their respective state constitutions. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

The Kentucky State Legislature also referred another constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allow the state legislature to change the end date of the legislative session through a three-fifths vote in each chamber. It would also provide that a special legislative session up to 12 days may be jointly called by the House speaker and the Senate president and add that laws take effect on July 1 in the year the act was passed or 90 days after it is signed by the governor, whichever is later.

The Kentucky State Legislature adjourned on March 30. 

From 1995 to 2020, 12 measures appeared on the ballot in Kentucky, of which, 10 were approved and two were defeated.

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Georgia to vote in 2022 on suspending pay for assembly members or public officials indicted for felony

Voters in Georgia will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to suspend compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office due to a felony indictment:

1. any member of the General Assembly;

2. Governor;

3. Lieutenant Governor;

4. Secretary of State;

5. Attorney General;

6. State School Superintendent;

7. Commissioner of Insurance;

8. Commissioner of Agriculture; or

9. Commissioner of Labor

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The constitutional amendment was passed in the Senate by a vote of 51-1 and in the House by a vote of 169-0. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

The measure was proposed in the state legislature shortly after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in late January that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck has been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. The charges included stealing over $2 million from his former employer and using those funds to pay for his 2018 campaign. Beck was elected to the office on Nov. 6, 2018, and was suspended from the office by Governor Brian Kemp (R) on May 16, 2019.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Beck’s attorney said in June 2019 that “[Beck] acted legally and in good faith in his employment.” He also said Beck would fight the charges and planned to maintain his job as the state’s insurance commissioner. Beck said, “I am, in fact, innocent of these charges. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.” Because Beck was suspended and did not resign, the state has been compensating him, as well as John King, Kemp’s appointment to fill the position during Beck’s suspension.

Rep. Matthew Wilson (D) said Beck “is about to go a whole term without doing a job Georgians put their trust in him to do, but the taxpayers have been on the hook for his salary, health care and benefits the whole time.”



Nevada voters will decide whether to add an equal rights amendment to the state constitution

In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide whether to add the following language to Article 1 of the state Constitution:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by this State or any of its political subdivisions on account of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.”

The amendment was referred to the ballot by the Nevada State Legislature. An amendment proposed by the legislature must be approved by a majority in both the state Assembly and state Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The amendment was first introduced on May 30, 2019. It was approved on June 1, 2019, by the state Senate in a vote of 18-3 and approved on June 3 by the state Assembly in a vote of 33-8. During the 2021 legislative session, it was approved by the state Senate on March 23 in a vote of 18-3 and approved by the state Assembly on March 24 in a vote of 30-12.

In support of the amendment, Sen. Pat Spearman (D) said, “When you stop and you take a look at my lived experience through the lens of my life, you know exactly why I support the ERA. If you can comprehend what it means to have to fight every day of your life to be recognized as equal, if you understand that, you know why we should vote yes.”

This is the third ballot measure to be certified for the statewide ballot in 2022. The state Legislature did not vote on two indirect initiated state statutes by the March 12 deadline, which sent them to the 2022 ballot. On initiative would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. The other would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points with revenue dedicated to public schools and Tourism Improvement Districts.

In May 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide a similar amendment that would add language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race or ethnicity. It is also a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3%(33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.

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New Mexico voters will decide whether to increase funding for early childhood education and public schools

On March 18, the New Mexico State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund. Revenue in the LGPF comes from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. It is currently valued at over $20 billion.

Of the total increased allocation, 60% would go towards early childhood education, and 40% would go toward the public school permanent fund. The amendment defines early childhood education as “nonsectarian and nondenominational education for children until they are eligible for kindergarten.” The amendment would also provide that the allocation would not occur if the balance of the Land Grant Permanent Fund drops below $17 billion. The measure will likely appear on the ballot in November 2022 unless a special election is called for an earlier date.

In New Mexico, both chambers of the New Mexico State Legislature need to approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority during one legislative session to refer the amendment to the ballot. This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) on January 19, 2021. On February 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 1 in a vote of 44-23 with three absent. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed it in a vote of 26-16. Both votes were largely along party lines. New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta.

The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Antonio Maestas, Javier Martínez, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, Georgene Louis, and Senator Pete Campos (D). 

Sen. Leo Jaramillo (D), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Studies show that pre-kindergarten and other programs for kids 5 and under later pay off with higher high school graduation rates and fewer incarcerations.”

Sen. Bill Sharer (R), who opposes the amendment, said, “Each time we tap into it, we harm that compound interest,” he said of the endowment. “Each time we do that, sometime in the future we are somehow harming children.”

Similar amendments were introduced during the last six legislative sessions but did not pass both chambers of the state legislature.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.

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