Tagballot measures

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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Voters in Colorado Springs approved Issue 1 regarding ballot titles for ballot measures

According to unofficial election results, Colorado Springs voters approved Issue 1 by 65.9% to 34.1%. Issue 1 amended the Colorado City charter to allow ballot titles for tax or bonded debt increases to exceed 30 words.

Yes on 1 Colorado Springs led the campaign in support of Issue 1. In support of the change, the campaign said, “Limiting ballot language to just 30 words isn’t enough space to give voters a clear and thorough explanation of what they are voting on. Removing the 30-word restriction will allow Colorado Springs voters to have the details of how our tax dollars will be spent.”

The charter amendment was put on the ballot through a unanimous vote of the Colorado Springs City Council on Jan. 26.



Kansas City and St. Louis voters approve 1% earnings tax renewal measures

According to unofficial election results, 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. Kansas City voters also approved Question 1 to renew the city’s 1% earnings tax with 75.9% of voters supporting it and 24.17% opposing it. 

St. Louis officials estimated the earnings tax would generate $159 million in the fiscal year 2021 (excluding the deferral of $16.2 million in earnings tax revenue from 2020). According to the ordinance that the City Council of Kansas City passed to refer the question to the ballot, the earnings tax generates 44% of the city’s budget or approximately $270 million annually. 

Both cities last renewed the earnings tax in 2016. Kansas City approved it with 77% of voters favoring its renewal, and St. Louis approved it with 72% of the vote.

A 2010 statewide ballot initiative, Proposition A, required voters in Kansas City and St. Louis to renew the tax every five years. If one of the cities does not approve the earnings tax, the tax would be incrementally phased out in that city over 10 years and could not be reinstated.

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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.



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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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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Ballot measures proposed in response to coronavirus and emergency powers

The coronavirus pandemic has shaped the political landscape of the United States, including the powers of governors and state legislatures. Changes have been proposed in response to the pandemic or pandemic-related regulations and restrictions. Some of these changes, such as state constitutional amendments, require ballot measures for ratification. Others are citizen-initiated proposals, meaning campaigns collect signatures to put proposals on the ballot for voters to decide.

As of March 12, three constitutional amendments related to coronavirus events and conflicts have been certified for future ballots in two states—Pennsylvania and Utah. Voters in Pennsylvania will decide the ballot measures on May 18, 2021. Both of the ballot measures resulted from conflicts between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the governor’s emergency powers and the legislature’s role in emergency orders. One proposal would limit the governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes to extend the order. The other amendment would allow the legislature to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, to terminate the governor’s emergency declaration.

In Utah, voters will decide a constitutional amendment on appropriations limits at the general election in 2022. The ballot measure, which received bipartisan support in the Utah State Legislature, would increase the size of appropriations permitted during an emergency and exempt emergency federal funding from the appropriations limit. 

There are also proposed constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives that could make the ballot in at least 5 additional states. In Arizona, the Senate passed an amendment to limit the governor’s emergency declarations to 30 days unless the legislature votes to extend them. The Arizona House voted to refer a ballot measure that would allow the legislature to modify or terminate the governor’s emergency order. Other citizen-initiated measures related to the governor’s emergency powers have been filed in California, Maine, and Michigan.

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