Tagballot measures

Colorado governor signs transportation bill removing 2021 bond issue from ballot

On June 17, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 260, thereby removing a bond issue that was set to appear on the state’s 2021 general election ballot.

The Colorado State Legislature passed Senate Bill 260 on June 2, 2021. It included a provision to remove the bond issue that was set to appear on the 2021 ballot. The bill was passed largely along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

The bond measure was designed to issue $1.337 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects with a maximum repayment cost of $1.865 billion over 20 years. The measure was originally passed in the state legislature as Senate Bill 1 in 2018. It was placed on the 2019 ballot after two 2018 citizen initiatives designed to authorize bonds for transportation projects—Proposition 109 (“Fix Our Damn Roads”) and Proposition 110 (“Let’s Go Colorado”)—were defeated.

In 2019, the measure was delayed to the 2020 ballot. Legislators had concerns that the bond issue appearing on the 2019 ballot alongside Proposition CC, which was designed to allow the state to retain revenue for transportation purposes, could cause both measures to fail. In 2020, the measure was delayed again to the 2021 ballot due to the economic concerns surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.

The new transportation bill provides for $5.4 billion in transportation spending over 10 years. About $3.8 billion of the funds will come from new fees set to take effect in July 2022, including fees on gasoline and diesel purchases, retail deliveries, Uber and Lyft rides, electric vehicle registrations, and car rentals.

The bill was also designed to create four new state enterprises: the Nonattainment Area Air Pollution Mitigation Enterprise, the Clean Transit Enterprise, the Clean Fleet Enterprise, and the Community Access Enterprise.

Enterprises were established through the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment of 1992. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide goods or services for a fee or surcharge that is paid for by the individuals or entities that are purchasing the goods or services. This is in contrast to government agencies or programs that provide goods or services that are paid for by tax revenue. Enterprise revenue does not count toward the TABOR limit. TABOR limits the amount of money the state of Colorado can take in and spend. Any money collected above the TABOR limit is refunded to taxpayers unless the voters allow the state to spend it.

Proposition 117 of 2020, which was approved by voters, was designed to require statewide voter approval of new state enterprises if the enterprises’ projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within their first five years. Under Proposition 117, revenue collected for enterprises that were created at the same time or that serve substantially the same purpose is aggregated when calculating the application of this restriction. The four enterprises are expected to collect below the $100 million five-year limit.



Ballotpedia publishes June’s edition of State Ballot Measure Monthly

This edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly report covers certifications and a selection of notable ballot measure news from May 17 through June 17.

Here are the highlights:

• 10 statewide measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in Louisiana, Maine, New York, and Texas.

• One measure was removed from the 2021 ballot in Colorado.

• 12 statewide measures were certified for the 2022 ballot in six states.

• Texas’ 2021 constitutional amendments are finalized. Voters will decide eight measures, including two measures proposed in response to COVID-19 and related regulations.

• One amendment in Texas would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. Another would provide residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, or state-supported living centers with the right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be prohibited from visiting the resident.

• An initiative was certified for the 2022 ballot in California that would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks.

• Oregon voters will decide a measure in 2022 to make affordable healthcare a constitutional right.

• Connecticut voters will decide in 2022 on a constitutional amendment to allow early voting.

• The Massachusetts Legislature referred a measure to enact an additional tax on income above $1 million to fund education and transportation. The amendment is identical to a 2018 citizen initiative that initially qualified for the ballot but was later removed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

• A federal court judge blocked the enforcement of paid circulator registration requirements that the South Dakota Legislature passed in 2020.



Maine voters to decide ballot initiative on electric transmission corridor through state’s Upper Kennebec Region

On November 2, 2021, voters in Maine will decide a ballot initiative to prohibit the construction of electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, including the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), which began construction in the region on May 13. The ballot initiative would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve electric transmission line projects defined as high-impact.

The NECEC is a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. Segment 1 of the NECEC is a new corridor from the border with Quebec through the Upper Kennebec Region. The remainder of the NECEC would utilize an existing transmission corridor. 

No CMP Corridor is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC Mainers for Local Power is also registered to support the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $7.75 million, including

  • $4.98 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;
  • $1.26 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and
  • $1.22 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. The PAC Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership is also registered to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the PACs had raised $31.56 million, including

  1. $22.14 million from Central Maine Power (CMP), NECEC Transmission LLC, and the companies’ parent firm Avangrid; and
  2. $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec. 

Hydro-Québec is a state-owned corporation wholly owned by the Province of Quebec. In 2020, 25 current and former state legislators sent a letter to Quebec Premier François Legault and Hydro-Québec CEO Sophie Brochu, which said, “Hydro-Quebec provides billions of dollars annually to its sole shareholder, the Province of Quebec, which means that the residents of Quebec have a direct financial stake in the outcome of the CMP corridor referendum. … If the shoe were on the other foot and Maine voters were directly connected with a campaign to overturn public opinion on a construction project in Quebec, we would hear protests from the people of Quebec.”

Serge Abergel, the director of external relations for Hydro-Québec, responded to the letter, stating that Hydro-Québec should be allowed to provide information to voters after spending years to obtain permits. Abergel said, “So once you want to take that away, at least give us the right to give the facts when it comes to us. We don’t view this as a loophole at all. We’re compliant to the rules, and we’re just trying here to give a straight story, so people can understand and make their own choices.”

Proponents of the ballot initiative submitted 95,622 raw signatures on January 21, 2021. Former Sen. Thomas Saviello (R-17) filed the ballot initiative. On February 22, 2021, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) announced that 80,506 signatures were valid. The minimum requirement was 63,067 valid signatures. 

The ballot initiative is the only initiated statute on the ballot for the election on November 2, 2021. The Maine State Legislature could still refer general obligation bonds to the ballot. It is also considering at least three constitutional amendments and a referred statute to create a consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility. The legislature adjourned its special session on June 17 but will reconvene on June 30.

Additional reading:



Louisiana legislature adjourns 2021 session on June 11 referring two constitutional amendments to the 2021 ballot, seven to the 2022 ballot

The Louisiana State Legislature adjourned its 2021 session on June 10, 2021. It referred two constitutional amendments to the 2021 ballot and seven to the 2022 ballot.

The Louisiana Constitution limits legislation and constitutional amendments in odd-numbered years to matters concerning the state’s budget, government finance, and taxation.

2021 amendments:

The two 2021 constitutional amendments will be on the statewide ballot on October 9, 2021. In odd-numbered years from 1999 to 2019, 52 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana, of which, 36 (69.23%) were approved and 16 (30.77%) were defeated. There was an average of 4.7 amendments on odd-year ballots from 1999 through 2019.

Louisiana Changes to Taxing Authority of Levee Districts Amendment (2021):

The Louisiana Constitution authorizes levee districts, with district voter approval, to impose a tax of up to five mills ($5 per $1,000 of assessed value) for the purpose of constructing and maintaining levees. This amendment would remove the voter approval requirement for levee districts created between January 1, 2006, and October 9, 2021, and that vote in favor of this amendment in October. Levee districts created after October 9, 2021, would require voter approval to levy a tax.

The Board of Levee Commissioners of the Orleans Levee District may impose a tax of up to two and a half mills ($2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value). Voter approval is not required in this district. This constitutional amendment would not affect the Orleans Levee District.

Louisiana Increase Limit on Funding Reductions and Redirections During Budget Deficits Amendment (2021):

The amendment would increase from 5% to 10% the funds that can be redirected to a purpose other than what was originally provided for by law or as stated in the constitution during a projected budget deficit.

2022 amendments:

During the 2021 legislative session, the Louisiana Legislature referred seven constitutional amendments to November 8, 2022 ballot. In even-numbered years from 2000 to 2020, 96 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana, of which, 69 (71.88%) were approved and 27 (28.13%) were defeated. There was an average of 8.7 amendments on even-year ballots from 2000 through 2020. The legislature can refer additional amendments to the ballot in 2022.

Louisiana Adjustment of Ad Valorem Tax Rates Amendment (2022):

Currently, the state constitution provides for the adjustment of ad valorem tax rates up to the maximum authorized rate in effect the prior year. The maximum authorized rate is adjusted every four years in a statewide reassessment and may also be adjusted if the homestead exemption change.

The amendment would provide that ad valorem tax rates can be increased by a two-thirds vote of a taxing authority up to the maximum rate allowed by the constitution until the authorized rate expires.

Louisiana Reduction of the Maximum Individual Income Tax Rate Amendment (2022):

The amendment would decrease the maximum individual income tax rate from 6% to 4.75% for tax years beginning in 2022. The tax brackets for an individual would be 2% on the first $12,500 of net income, 4% on the next net income up to $37,500, and 4.75% on income above $50,000. The amendment would permit, (instead of require) a deduction for federal income taxes paid.

Louisiana Waiving Water Charges Amendment (2022):

The Louisiana Constitution currently prohibits the state or any local government from “loaning, pledging, or donating its funds, credit, property, or things of value,” though it provides certain exceptions. The amendment would add a new exception to this requirement in order to allow local governments to waive water charges for customers if water is lost due to water delivery infrastructure damages if such damages are not caused by the customer’s actions or the customer’s failure to act.

Louisiana Limit on Assessed Value Increase of Reappraised Property in Orleans Parish Amendment (2022):

The amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year. The effective date of the amendment is January 1, 2023.

Louisiana Increase Maximum Amount Invested in Equities for Certain State Funds Amendment (2022):

The amendment would increase the portion of money in certain state funds that could be invested in equities (stocks) from 35% to 65%. The increase would apply to the following funds:

1. Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund;

2. Artificial Reef Development Fund;

3. Lifetime License Endowment Trust Fund;

4. Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund; and

5. Russell Sage or Marsh Island Refuge Fund.

The amendment would also remove a provision in the constitution that limits the legislature’s ability to increase the amount of money in the Millennium Trust that may be invested in stock and instead allows the legislature to provide for investments by general law.

Louisiana Creation of the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission Amendment (2022):

The amendment would create the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission. The commission would have eight members. The role of the commission would be to provide streamlined electronic filing and remittance of all sales and use taxes. It would also be responsible for promulgating rules related to all sales and use taxes levied by any taxing authority in the state. The administration of the commission would be funded by sales and use tax revenue. The amendment would require the state legislature to enact any laws related to the duties and funding of the commission. The commission would replace the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers and the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board after one year with all employees transferred to the new commission.

Louisiana Classified Civil Service Employee Public Support of Family Members’ Campaigns Amendment (2022):

The amendment would allow civil service employees to publicly support the election campaigns of individuals in their immediate family when off duty.

Click here for vote totals for each amendment broken down by political party.

Additional reading:



New Yorker voters will decide five constitutional amendments related to voting, redistricting, and the environment in November 

The New York State Legislature voted to send five constitutional amendments to voters for the general election on November 2, 2021, and one bond issue to voters for the general election on November 8, 2022. The state Legislature adjourned on June 10, 2021.

On January 20, 2021, the first constitutional amendment was referred to the ballot. The amendment is designed to make several changes to the redistricting process in New York. Legislative votes were largely along party lines, with Democrats supported the amendment and Republicans opposing it. The ballot measure would repeal the higher vote threshold for adopting redistricting plans when the legislature is controlled by a single party. In other words, a simple majority vote would be required for the legislature to adopt plans regardless of party control. Currently, both chambers of the New York State Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

The second constitutional amendment was referred on February 8. The ballot measure would add a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Senate Democrats supported the proposal, and Senate Republicans were divided 6 to 14. Assembly Democrats, along with the chamber’s one Independence Party member, supported the proposal, while Assembly Republicans split 17-25.

On May 11, 2021, the legislature referred two constitutional amendments related to voting policy. One amendment would authorize the state legislature to pass a statute for no-excuse absentee voting. No-excuse absentee voting would allow any registered voter to request and vote with an absentee ballot. As of 2021, the New York Constitution requires voters to be absent from their home county, ill, or physically disabled to vote with an absentee ballot. Democrats in both chambers supported the amendment, while Republicans were divided 7-13 in the Senate and 13-30 in the Assembly. 

The second May 11 amendment would repeal the requirement that persons must register to vote at least ten days before an election, thus authorizing the state legislature to pass a statute for same-day voter registration. Same-day voter registration enables voters to register and vote at the same time. In the Senate, Democrats supported and Republicans opposed the amendment. In the Assembly, Democrats and one Republican supported it, while the remaining 42 Republicans opposed the proposal.

On the final day of the legislative session, the legislature approved a fifth constitutional amendment in a unanimous vote in both chambers. The amendment would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction over lawsuits involving claims for damages from $25,000 to $50,000.

The 2022 bond measure is a proposal that was originally set for the November 2020 ballot but was withdrawn due to financial concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Officially called the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, the ballot measure would issue $3.00 billion in general obligation bonds for projects related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation. It was included as a provision of the state’s budget. Most Democrats (38 of 43 in the Assembly and 88 of 107 in the Senate) voted to approve the budget. All Assembly and Senate Republicans voted against the bill.

In New York, constitutional amendments require a simple majority vote in each legislative chamber in two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. All of the constitutional amendments approved in 2021 were previously approved in 2019.

Between 1995 and 2020, the legislature referred an average of 1.7 constitutional amendments to the odd-yer ballot. The highest number during this period was 6 in 2013. Voters approved 76% of the referred amendments. 

Additional reading:



Massachusetts voters will decide measure in 2022 creating additional income tax on income above $1 million

On June 9, the Massachusetts General Court convened a joint session and passed Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) by a vote of 159-41, which sent an increase in the state’s income tax for top earners to state voters in 2022.

SB 5 is a constitutional amendment that would create an additional 4% income tax on income above $1 million, increasing the rate from 5% to 9%. The additional tax revenue would be dedicated “to provide the resources for quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.” Currently, Massachusetts is one of nine states with a flat income tax rate (5%).

The amendment would also authorize the $1 million threshold to be adjusted according to any changes in the cost of living in Massachusetts using the same method used to establish federal income tax brackets. The tax would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The amendment is identical to a 2018 citizen initiative that initially qualified for the ballot but was later removed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court following a lawsuit where they ruled that the measure violated a provision of the state constitution that requires an initiative “contains only subjects … which are related or which are mutually dependent.” The ballot initiative, according to the ruling, encompassed two subjects—a tax and a dedication of revenue, which were not mutually dependent in their judgment. The state’s single-subject rule does not apply to legislative referrals.

Representative James O’Day (D) introduced House Bill 86 (HB 86) during the 2019 legislative session. In Massachusetts, both chambers of the state General Court meet as a single convention to vote on amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. An amendment needs to receive the vote of 101 of 200 state legislators during two successive sessions to appear on the ballot. During the 2019 legislative session, the bill was approved by a vote of 147 to 48 with five Democratic members absent or not voting. During the joint session convened Wednesday, the bill was approved by a vote of 159-41. All but one Republican, Sen. Patrick O’Connor, voted against the amendment, and all but nine Democrats favored it. The sole Independent member, Rep. Susannah Whipps, voted in favor of it.

On the eve of the vote, Democratic Representatives James O’Day and Jason Lewis wrote, “The reason why the Fair Share Amendment is so popular is that most people recognize that our wealthiest residents can afford to pay a bit more in taxes to help fund investments that expand opportunity and make our Commonwealth more just and equitable for all. … In fact, investments in a stronger education system and improved transportation infrastructure will strengthen our economy, expand opportunity, and make Massachusetts an even more desirable place to live, work, raise a family, and build a business.”

Raise Up Massachusetts, the non-profit coalition that sponsored the 2018 amendment, tweeted after the vote Wednesday, “We applaud the state legislature for their vote and thank our many grassroots partners for making this possible.”

In opposition to the amendment, Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Massachusetts, said, “A millionaire’s tax could also send wealthy people fleeing the state and leave Massachusetts with less revenue, which would place a financial burden upon the remaining residents who would see taxes go up, small business owners included.” 

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to statewide ballots in Massachusetts. Between 1962 and 2020, Massachusetts voters decided on 11 ballot measures related to state income tax. Nine measures were defeated, and two were approved.

Additional reading:



Louisiana legislature refers two more amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning waiving certain water charges and limiting increases in assessed value for Orleans Parish properties

The Louisiana Legislature voted on Sunday and Monday to refer two more amendments to the Nov. 2022 ballot, bringing to total to four. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

Last week, the legislature referred two amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning investing state money in stocks and electronic filing and remittance of sales taxes.

Louisiana Waiving Water Charges Amendment

This measure would allow local governments to waive water charges for water lost because of damage to infrastructure if damages are not caused by the customer.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 59 (HB 59) by Rep. Jeremy LaCombe (D) on March 4, 2021. On May 19, the House passed HB 59 in a vote of 102-0. The Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 36-1 on June 6. The “no” vote came from Democratic Senator Karen Carter.

Louisiana Limit on Assessed Value Increase of Reappraised Property in Orleans Parish Amendment

The amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year. The effective date of the amendment is January 1, 2023.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 143 (HB 143) by Rep. Matthew Willard (D) on April 12, 2021. On May 10, the House passed HB 143 in a vote of 97-3. The bill was amended and passed in the Senate on June 2 in a vote of 26-6. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and approved the amendment on June 7, in a vote of 94-1.

Potential 2021 and 2022 Louisiana ballot measures

There are six other constitutional amendments for the 2022 ballot and three amendments for the 2021 ballot that have passed one chamber of the Louisiana Legislature. They would appear on the statewide ballot if passed in the second chamber. The state legislature is set to adjourn its 2021 session on June 10, 2021.

Louisiana historical ballot measure statistics

From 2000 to 2020, 132 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana. Of the total, 96 amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, and 36 amendments appeared on the ballot during odd-numbered years.

The average number of amendments appearing on the statewide ballot was 10 in even-numbered years and 4 in odd-numbered years.

Voters approved 71.88% (69 of 96) and rejected 28.13% (27 of 96) of the amendments during even years. Voters approved 69.44% (25 of 36) and rejected 30.56% (11 of 36) of the amendments during odd years.

Additional reading:



Louisiana legislature refers two amendments to 2022 ballot concerning investing state money in stocks and electronic filing and remittance of sales taxes

The Louisiana Legislature voted to put two amendments on the Nov. 2022 ballot last week.

Louisiana Increase Maximum Amount Invested in Equities for Certain State Funds Amendment (2022)

This amendment would increase the portion of money in certain state funds that could be invested in equities (stocks) from 35% to 65%. The increase would apply to the following funds:

  • Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund;
  • Artificial Reef Development Fund;
  • Lifetime License Endowment Trust Fund;
  • Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund; and
  • Russell Sage or Marsh Island Refuge Fund.

The amendment would also remove a provision in the constitution that limits the legislature’s ability to increase the amount of money in the Millennium Trust that may be invested in stock and instead allows the legislature to provide for investments by general law.

The legislature passed House Bill 154 on June 2 by a vote of 36-0 in the Senate and 100-0 in the House. In Louisiana, a two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana State Legislature to refer an amendment to the ballot.

Louisiana Creation of the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission Amendment (2022)

This amendment would create the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission. The commission would be comprised of eight members. The purpose of the commission would be to provide streamlined electronic filing and remittance of all sales and use taxes. It would also be responsible for promulgating rules related to all sales and use taxes levied by any taxing authority in the state. The administration of the commission would be funded by sales and use tax revenue. The amendment would require a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote by the state legislature to enact any laws related to the duties and funding of the commission. The commission would replace the Louisiana Sales and Use Tax Commission for Remote Sellers and the Louisiana Uniform Local Sales Tax Board after one year with all employees transferred to the new commission.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 199 (HB 199) on March 26, 2021. On April 21, 2021, the House passed HB 199 in a vote of 97-4 with three absent. The Senate unanimously passed the bill with amendments on May 12, 2021. The House rejected the Senate’s amendments and a conference committee was called. Both houses adopted the conference committee’s version of the bill unanimously on June 3, 2021.

Potential 2021 and 2022 Louisiana ballot measures

There are eight other constitutional amendments for the 2022 ballot and three amendments for the 2021 ballot that have passed one chamber of the Louisiana Legislature. They would appear on the statewide ballot if passed in the second chamber.

Louisiana historical ballot measure statistics

From 2000 to 2020, a total of 132 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana. A total of 96 amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, and 36 amendments appeared on the ballot during odd-numbered years. The average number of amendments appearing on the statewide ballot was 10 in even-numbered years and 4 in odd-numbered years. Voters approved 71.88% (69 of 96) and rejected 28.13% (27 of 96) of the amendments during even years. Voters approved 69.44% (25 of 36) and rejected 30.56% (11 of 36) of the amendments during odd years.

Additional reading:



Texas voters will decide in November whether to allow counties to issue bonds to fund infrastructure in blighted areas

On May 28, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would add counties to the list of political subdivisions that may issue bonds to fund transportation and infrastructure projects in underdeveloped or blighted areas of the county. Currently, the Texas Constitution states that the legislature by general law may authorize incorporated cities and towns to issue such bonds. The proposed amendment would also prohibit counties from allocating more than 65% of property tax revenue increases annually to repay the bonds and prohibit counties from using the funds from the issuance of the bonds to build toll roads.

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

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 99 (HJR 99) on February 24, 2021. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 99 in a vote of 127-15, with eight absent or not voting. On May 26, the Senate approved an amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 27-4. On May 28, the House voted to pass the amended version of HJR 99 by a vote of 126-13 with 11 absent or not voting.

The amendment is the eighth referred to the ballot during the 2021 legislative session, which adjourned on May 31. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding on

  1. limitations on religious services;
  2. a right to a designated essential caregiver in a nursing facility;
  3. homestead tax limits and exemptions for surviving spouses of disabled individuals and military service members;
  4. eligibility requirements for state judicial office;
  5. the power of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over candidates seeking judicial office; and
  6. charitable raffles at rodeo venues.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline.

• Democrats filed 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments.

• Republicans filed 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments.

• In the state Senate, 58 (26.6%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• In the state House, 160 (73.4%) of the constitutional amendments were filed.

• Of the Democrats, Rep. Richard Raymond (D-42) filed the most constitutional amendments—eight.

• Of the Republicans, Rep. Cody Vasut (R-25) filed the most constitutional amendments—seven.

Eight proposed constitutional amendments that received a vote in at least one chamber died with the adjournment of the legislative session. The amendments related to extending emergency declarations, property tax exemptions for certain physicians, the issuance of bonds, the reliability of state utilities, denial of bail for certain crimes, and the state budget. 

Between 2009 and 2020, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2021, 8 of the 218 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 3.7%, down from 4.6% in 2019.

Additional reading:



Constitutional amendment establishing a right to a designated essential caregiver will be on the November ballot in Texas

On May 27, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would provide residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and state-supported living centers with a right to designate an essential caregiver who may not be prohibited from visiting the resident. It would also authorize the Texas State Legislature to pass guidelines for facilities to establish visitation policies and procedures for essential caregivers.

Senate Bill 25, the implementing legislation for the amendment, was approved in the last few days of the 2021 legislative session. SB 25 requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to develop guidelines for the visitation policy of designated essential caregivers. The guidelines are required to include a visitation schedule, a minimum duration for visitation, physical contact between caregiver and the resident, and rules on safety protocols including a signature that a caregiver will comply with all protocols. 

The bill would also allow the facility to revoke the designation of the caregiver if the caregiver does not follow the protocols. The resident would be allowed to immediately designate a new essential caregiver. SB 25 would also allow nursing facilities to petition the Health and Human Services Commission to suspend visitation for an initial seven days and up to 14 days in a year if there is a health risk. The commission would be allowed to deny the petition if they disagree with there being a health risk. The law was designed to take effect on September 1, 2021.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R) said, “Visiting a loved one in a nursing home should be a right, not a privilege. If another health emergency occurs, our state’s caregivers will always have a way to safely go inside a facility for scheduled visits and ensure that their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met.”

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

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19) on March 3. On March 17, the state Senate passed SJR 19 in a vote of 29-0 with two absent. The House passed an amended version of SJR 19 on May 24, by a vote of 142-1 with seven not voting or not present. On May 27, the Senate concurred with the House amendments.

The amendment is the second referred to the Texas ballot that is related to policies put in place during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislature also voted to refer an amendment that would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

As of May 28, Ballotpedia has identified 11 ballot measures certified for statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians approved two constitutional amendments related to the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic. The other ballot measures will be decided in 2022 and concern changes to election procedures, convening legislative sessions, and increasing appropriations limits during emergencies.

Since 1876 when the Texas constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. Voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the constitutional amendments on ballots between 1995 and 2019.

Additional reading: