Tagballot measure

Minneapolis City Council votes to certify Nov. 2 ballot language for initiative to replace police department

On July 23, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a ballot question and explanatory note for a citizen initiative that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The initiative would remove language on the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the police department. It would also create a department of public safety. The measure would allow the new department to include “licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate and the city council would appoint the commissioner of the public safety department.

Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted more than the required 11,906 valid signatures for the initiative on April 30. The city clerk certified the petition on May 14.

The city council’s vote was to (a) set the ballot language for the measure and (b) accept a city attorney report stating the measure concerned a proper subject matter for the city charter and is constitutional. The resolution now goes to the mayor’s desk; he has five days to sign or veto it. Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the initiative, but the resolution before him does not affect whether the measure will go on the ballot.

Frey’s office stated, “Mayor Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance. The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis stated, “It all started in Minneapolis. Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed a community movement against state-sanctioned violence — a movement to better protect Black lives. […] Our movement demands our city leaders move away from violent policing to create a department that addresses community safety holistically and with a public health approach. Our movement believes that the community should decide what safety looks like. To do so, we must amend the city charter that was written in 1961 and forces us to build on a broken system. We are proud to bring this issue to voters this November.”

The city council considered putting its own charter amendment to replace the police department on the Nov. 2 ballot. But sponsors withdrew the measure when Yes 4 Minneapolis’ initiative qualified for the ballot citing concerns over confusing voters. The city council passed a similar charter amendment in 2020, but the city’s charter commission effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot by taking the full time allotted to it for review.

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Contributions exceed $46 million to campaigns surrounding Maine electric transmission lines initiative

In November, voters in Maine will decide a ballot initiative designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project. NECEC would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine.

Since 2010, Ballotpedia has tracked campaign finance for ballot measures in Maine, and the transmission lines ballot initiative is the most expensive since then. Supporters and opponents of the initiative have raised more than $46 million raised June 30, 2021.

The second most expensive initiative was Question 1 (2017), an initiative to authorize slot machines or a casino in York County, Maine, which saw $10.16 million in contributions through the entire election cycle. In June 2017, the combined campaign contributions surrounding Question 1 were at $4.41 million—less than half of the final aggregate contributions. The next campaign finance deadline for the campaigns surrounding the transmission lines initiative is October 5, 2021.

The NECEC was proposed in response to Massachusetts soliciting for 9.45 million hydropower-derived megawatts in 2016. Hydro-Québec, a government-owned firm in Quebec, and Central Maine Power (CMP) submitted a joint proposal to deliver hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts through Maine. Segment 1 of the NECEC required a new 53-mile corridor from the border with Quebec to The Forks, Maine, which began construction on May 13, 2021. Other segments were planned to use existing transmission line corridors. 

Maine, in exchange for entering into a stipulation agreement for the project, was set to receive a benefits package worth $258 million, which included funds for low-income electric consumer projects, rural broadband internet, electric vehicle charging stations, electric heat pumps, education grants, workforce development, and business retention. Maine also secured 500 megawatt (MWh) hours per year from hydroelectric plants via NECEC. 

Former Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-17), a member of the campaign No CMP Corridor, filed the ballot initiative in October 2020. He said, “Mainers know they’re being lied to by these two foreign corporations, and they know that this project will forever change our state’s character, environment and economy in ways that will not benefit us.” Besides aiming to halt the NECEC, the ballot initiative would prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region, such as the NECEC, and require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve high-impact electric transmission line projects. The ballot initiative would define high-impact electric transmission lines as those that are (a) 50 miles in length or more, (b) outside of a statutory corridor or petitioned corridor, (c) not a generator interconnection transmission facility, or (d) not constructed to primarily provide electric reliability.

No CMP Corridor, together with the Mainers for Local Power PAC, raised $9.46 million, including $6.67 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $1.27 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $1.23 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Clean Energy Matters is leading the campaign in opposition to the ballot initiative. Jon Breed, executive director of Clean Energy Matters, stated, “It’s bad public policy and sets a bad precedent for our state if we take a project that has cleared every major regulatory milestone at the state and federal level, and then turn around and pull permits.” The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $36.99 million, including $27.12 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and $8.58 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

The Maine State Legislature passed a bill in June 2021 that could have impacted Hydro-Québec’s abilities to make contributions. LD 194 was designed to prohibit corporations and other entities that are at least 10% owned by a foreign government from making contributions or expenditures for or against a citizen-initiated ballot measure. Gov. Janet Mills (D) vetoed the legislation, saying, “Government is rarely justified in restricting the kind of information to which the citizenry should have access in the context of an election, and particularly a ballot initiative.”


Maine voters to decide $100 million transportation bond at November 2021 election

On July 6, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation placing a $100-million bond issue on the ballot for November 2, 2021. The bond issue is the third ballot measure set to go before voters in November. It’s the only bond issue certified for the ballot so far. 

The ballot measure divides the bond revenue into two categories:

  • (1) $85 million for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 highways, as well as bridges, and
  • (2) $15 million for facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports and harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects.

The bond issue would leverage an estimated $253 million in federal and other funding. 

Since 2007, voters have approved 97.6 percent (40 of 41) of statewide bond issues in Maine. The last bond measure to be rejected was Question 2 (2012), which would have authorized $11 million in bonds to expand the state’s community college system. In 2020, voters approved two bond issues, one that issued $105 million for transportation projects and one that issued $15 million for high-speed internet infrastructure.

As of June 30, 2020, Maine had $572.70 million in debt from general obligation bonds. About $64.63 million of voter-approved bonds from prior elections had not yet been issued for projects. The debt from general obligation bonds was the highest since at least 2005 (not accounting for inflation). In 2019, the general obligation bond debt was $543.40 million.

Besides the bond issue, voters will also decide a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, and a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food. Also before Gov. Mills, as of July 7, is a bill that would refer to voters a measure that would create a state-established, consumer-owned electric utility company called the Pine Tree Power Company. The legislature will return to session on July 19 and could consider an additional two constitutional amendments.

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Washington initiative signature deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

The signature submission deadline for Initiatives to the People (ITP)—which is the name of direct ballot initiatives in Washington—passed on July 2, 2021. No campaigns submitted signatures. To qualify for the ballot, proponents would have needed to submit 324,516 valid signatures. A total of 136 ITPs were filed by five sponsors. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics, including taxes, affirmative action, drug policy, marijuana, civil rights, and time standards.

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People (ITP) in Washington—or indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL) in Washington. In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation through veto referendums. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

This year will be the third consecutive year that no ITPs appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington. The 2020 election was the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot did not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP).

The last ITPs on the ballot were decided in the 2018 general election. In the ten-year period from 2009 to 2019, six ITPs were on the ballot in odd-numbered years: one in 2009, three in 2011, and two in 2015.

The signature deadline for 2021 Washington Initiatives to the Legislature (ITL) was December 31, 2020. A total of 216 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. Thirty-four Initiatives to the Legislature have been on the ballot since the first ITL in 1916; 18 were approved. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.

Two veto referendum measures filed by Tim Eyman have a signature deadline of July 24, 2021. A veto referendum is a type of citizen-initiated ballot measure that asks voters whether to uphold or repeal a law recently passed by the state legislature. Opponents of the law collect signatures for the veto referendum petition hoping that voters will repeal it at the ballot. Referendum 92 would ask voters to approve or repeal House Bill 1091, which would create the Clean Fuels Program overseen by the Department of Ecology to limit transportation fuel energy greenhouse gas emissions. Referendum 93 would ask voters to approve or repeal Senate Bill 5126, which was designed to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions overseen by the Department. of Ecology. Ballotpedia is not aware of an active signature-gathering campaign for either measure.

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments to the ballot with a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote. No constitutional amendments or other referrals were passed in the legislature before it adjourned its 2021 session on April 25, 2021. Advisory questions on bills increasing tax revenue could appear on the 2021 ballot.

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved, and 44% (27) were defeated.

Maine legislature sends right-to-food constitutional amendment to 2021 ballot

Maine voters will decide a constitutional amendment to create a state right to growing, raising, harvesting, and producing food, as well as saving and exchanging seeds, at the election on November 2, 2021. People would have this right as long as an individual does not commit trespassing; theft; poaching; or abuses to private land, public land, or natural resources in the process of acquiring food. 

The Maine Senate approved the constitutional amendment, which required a two-thirds vote in both legislative chambers, on July 2. The House approved the amendment on June 10. Of House Democrats, 75 voted “Yes” and 2 voted “No.” Of House Republicans, 26 voted “Yes” and 29 voted “No.” The constitutional amendment also received the support of the House’s four independent and third-party members. As a constitutional amendment, the governor’s signature is not required for the proposal to go before voters.

State Rep. William Faulkingham (R-136) introduced the constitutional amendment. He said the proposal was needed to “protect our food rights for future generations.” He added, “Will Monsanto own all the seeds, and will we have gotten so far from our roots that we won’t even have natural seeds anymore? Will people even be allowed to grow gardens?”

House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham (R-72), who voted against the amendment, said, “I think most of us here agree we have every right to grow, raise, harvest and choose our own food, on our own property. But this isn’t limited to just that.” She also stated, “This language is so broad we will be placing these challenges in the hands of the courts to interpret intent.”

The constitutional amendment is the first legislative referral certified for Maine’s November 2021 ballot. A citizen-initiated measure to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect, will also be on the ballot. As of July 2, the state Legislature had also approved a referred statute and a bond issue, which require the governor’s signature before being certified for the ballot.

The Maine State Legislature is also considering a constitutional amendment to create a state “right to a clean and healthy environment.” Between 1995 and 2020, the average number of measures on an odd-year ballot in Maine was between five and six. On average, there were one initiative, one amendment, and three bond measures.

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Judge blocks $3,000 limit on contributions to Florida initiative campaigns during signature gathering

On July 1, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Florida Senate Bill 1890. SB 1890 was designed to set $3,000 limits on campaign contributions to committees in support of or opposition to ballot initiatives during signature gathering. The bill was designed to lift the contribution limits after a measure is put on the ballot. It would have taken effect on July 1 without the injunction.

Winsor wrote that the state “bears the burden of justifying restrictions on political expression by advancing at least ‘a significantly important interest’ that is ‘closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgment of associational freedoms.’ […] Binding decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and the 5th Circuit (Court of Appeals) applied those principles and concluded that the First Amendment forbids limitations like those SB 1890 imposes.”

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) responded to the ruling, “The citizen initiative system was designed to be a mechanism for grassroots expression not a shortcut for billionaires to bypass the political process. SB 1890 contained limited and narrowly tailored measures to protect the integrity of the signature-gathering process.”

The Senate passed the bill 23-17 on April 14. Twenty-three Republicans were in favor, and 16 Democrats and one Republican were opposed. The House passed it 75-40 on April 26. All 75 voting Republicans were in favor, and all 40 voting Democrats were opposed. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the bill on May 7.

On May 8, the ACLU of Florida along with three initiative petition campaigns filed the lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction. The lawsuit cited previous rulings that overturned limitations on campaign contributions for ballot measure committees, including Citizens Against Rent Control v. City of Berkeley (1981), First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978), and Buckley v. Valeo (1976). The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in previous cases that political contributions constitute freedom of speech and cannot be limited without a compelling state interest, such as to prevent corruption and bribery. The court has also ruled that “referenda are held on issues, not candidates for public office. The risk of corruption perceived in cases involving candidate elections simply is not present in a popular vote on a public issue.”

In Florida, initiative proponents must collect signatures equal to 8% of votes cast at the previous presidential election. The requirement to put an initiative on the 2022 ballot is 891,589 valid signatures. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Signatures remain valid until February 1 of even-numbered years and must be verified by February 1 of the targeted general election year.

In 2020, four initiatives qualified for the ballot in Florida. The petition drives to put those measures on the ballot cost an average of $6.7 million each, ranging from $4 million to $8.8 million. From 2016 through 2020, the average total cost of an initiative petition drive that successfully qualified an initiative for the ballot in Florida was $5.1 million. Nationwide, the average total cost of a successful initiative petition drive was $2.1 million in 2020. It was $1.2 million in 2018. In Florida, the petition drives that put the four initiatives that were on the ballot in 2020 were each funded by one donor or entities that were all associated.

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Arizona voters to decide single-subject rule amendment for citizen-initiated ballot measures

At the 2022 general election, Arizona voters will decide a constitutional amendment to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject. The ballot measure would also require the initiative’s subject to be expressed in the ballot title, or else the missing subject would be considered void. 

Known as the single-subject rule, 16 states (of 26 with an initiative or veto referendum process) require that ballot initiatives address a single subject. Courts are often responsible for determining whether an initiative meets a single-subject rule if someone contests the initiative as violating the rule. 

The single-subject issue came up in a 2017 court case in which the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there was no single-subject rule for ballot initiatives. The case involved voter-approved Proposition 206, which enacted statutes related to minimum wage and paid sick time. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry argued that the initiative was two subjects in violation of a provision in the state constitution (Section 13 of Article 4) requiring that “every act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.” The Arizona Supreme Court held that the single-subject rule found in Section 13 of Article 4 applied to bills passed by the legislature but not citizen-initiated statutes.

State Rep. John Kavanagh (R-23) introduced the constitutional amendment into the Arizona State Legislature. He said, “It’s unfair to the people who you ask to vote to have more than one subject matter.” Joel Edman, director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, criticized the proposal, saying, “The trick is that what qualifies as a single subject is in the eye of the beholder.”

On March 4, 2021, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 31-28 to pass the constitutional amendment. On June 29, 2021, the Arizona State Senate voted 16-14 to approve the proposal. In both chambers, votes were along party lines, with Republicans voting to send the amendment to the ballot and Democrats voting against it. Since Republicans hold a one-member majority in each chamber, the amendment passed by the minimum number of required votes in the House and Senate.

The amendment is the second put on the 2022 Arizona ballot related to ballot initiative procedures. On June 25, the legislature referred an amendment to change the state’s laws on legislative alteration. It would allow the legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.

The legislature can refer additional measures during the remainder of this year’s legislative session and the 2022 legislative session. Arizonans also have the power to initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment or repeal legislation via veto referendum. Signatures for 2022 ballot initiatives are due July 8, 2022.

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California superior court judge tentatively overturns Los Angeles County measure on law enforcement budget restrictions

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel announced a tentative decision on June 17 to overturn last year’s Measure J. Strobel said that Measure J unconstitutionally limits how the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors can decide revenue allocations. Strobel gave 15 days for both plaintiffs and defendants to submit more evidence. She said she expected to issue a final ruling within the following weeks. 

The Coalition of County Unions, which includes the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, filed the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

Measure J, among other provisions, was designed to require that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, such as health services and pre-trial non-custody services, and prohibit those funds from being allocated to law enforcement. It was approved last year by Los Angeles County voters, 57% to 43%.

Click here to read more about Los Angeles County Measure J.

California Public Employment Relations Board overturns parts of Sonoma County’s 2020 oversight measure

The California Public Employment Relations Board overturned portions of Measure P, a police oversight-related measure that Sonoma County voters approved last year, on June 23. The board ruled that certain provisions of Measure P violated the collective bargaining rights of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. The ruling overturned provisions allowing the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) to:

  • conduct its own investigations of deputies, 
  • publish camera footage, 
  • subpoena records, 
  • provide disciplinary recommendations, and 
  • observe interviews during investigations by internal affairs.

The California Public Employment Relations Board is a commission of four appointees that rule on government labor issues. The board said that the unions representing county sheriffs should have had the opportunity to negotiate these provisions before they were enacted. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors can appeal the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the California Public Employment Relations Board’s ruling:

  • Karlene Navarro, the director of the law enforcement oversight office, said that the ruling “appears to essentially delete IOLERO’s independent investigatory power in its entirety and voids IOLERO’s subpoena power.”
  • “Who is in charge of law enforcement oversight?” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said. “Is it the more than 166,000 people in Sonoma County who voted yes on Measure P or is it the four members of the [labor board]?”
  • Mike Vail, president of the county sheriff deputy union, said that the union should have been invited to negotiate before the measure was put on the ballot. Vail said, “The Board of Supervisors rejected the appropriate legal process and squandered an opportunity to accomplish a mutually agreeable set of reforms.”

Click here to read more about Sonoma County Measure P.

Note: An earlier edition of this article contained a typo that misquoted Karlene Navarro. This has been corrected. We apologize for this error and any confusion it caused.

Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments on Detroit charter proposal, which includes police policy changes

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments on July 7 over Detroit’s Proposal P that is scheduled to go before voters on Aug. 3. Proposal P would replace Detroit’s charter with a new charter. Among many topics addressed by the charter revision, Proposal P contains several provisions related to police policy in the city, including

  • qualifications and disqualifications for the board of police commissioners;
  • the selection process for the chief of police;
  • training requirements on use of nonlethal and lethal force, racial bias and cultural sensitivities, de-escalation, and interactions with those affected by police brutality;
  • prohibitions on certain practices in response to protests, such as rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas;
  • a ban on no-knock warrants;
  • limitations on certain surveillance technology; and
  • civilian rights to record interactions with police officers, to know the reason for a police stop or detention, to know the name or badge number of any officer, and to request the presence of a supervising officer during a stop or detention

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether Proposal P requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) approval to appear on the ballot. The charter commission that drafted the proposal submitted it to Gov. Whitmer, but she declined to approve it. On June 1, the state supreme court suspended previous circuit and appeals court rulings that blocked the measure from the ballot. 

Click here to read more about Detroit Proposal P.