Tagballot measures

West Virginia State Legislature refers three constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The West Virginia State Legislature referred three constitutional amendments to the November 2022 ballot on April 9 and 10, the last days of the legislative session. 

  1. West Virginia No Court Authority over Impeachment Amendment
  2. West Virginia Incorporation of Religious Denominations and Churches Amendment
  3. West Virginia Tax Exemptions for Personal Property Used for Business Activity Amendment

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate (23 votes) and the West Virginia House of Delegates (67 votes). November 2020 elections gave Republicans two-thirds majorities in both chambers when previously at least some support from Democrats to refer amendments to the ballot.

One amendment would say that no state court has authority over impeachment proceedings by the state legislature and that no court can review any impeachment judgments made by the state senate. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 on February 11, 2021, and passed largely along party lines in each chamber. The state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 on March 2, 2021. In the House, 76 Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of it, and 21 Democrats voted against it. On April 9, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 23-11. All 23 Republicans voted in favor of it, and all 11 Democrats voted against it.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. Investigation and impeachment proceedings stemmed from the justices’ alleged misuse of over $1 million in state funds, specifically relating to courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. On October 2, 2018, the Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. In October 2018, temporary supreme court justices blocked the Senate from conducting an impeachment trial for Justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry. A similar amendment was proposed in 2020 but did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the House.

Another amendment would authorize the state legislature to pass laws to incorporate churches and religious denominations. The measure was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4) on February 10, 2021. The state Senate approved SJR 4 with a vote of 32-0 with two absent on March 2, 2021. On April 7, 2021, the state House adopted the bill with amendments and sent it back to the state Senate. On April 10, the state Senate did not adopt the amendments and sent the bill back to the state House where it was approved in its original form in a vote of 94-4 with one absent. Four Democratic legislators voted against it.

The third amendment would authorize the state legislature to exempt personal property (machinery, equipment, and inventory) used for business activity from ad valorem property taxes. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR 3) on February 11, 2021. The state House approved an amended version of HJR 3 with a vote of 84-16 on March 31, 2021. Fifteen Democratic representatives and one Republican voted against it. On April 10, 2021, the state Senate approved the measure with a vote of 29-5. Four Democratic senators and one Republican voted against it.

The West Virginia State Legislature convened on February 10, 2021, and adjourned on April 10, 2021. Republicans held a 23-11 majority in the Senate and a 76-24 majority in the House, which means Republicans had the two-thirds majority required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in both chambers. Before the November 2020 elections, Republicans held 20 seats in the Senate and 58 seats in the House, which means they needed at least three votes from Democrats in the Senate and nine votes from Democrats in the House to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.

The party also controlled the governorship, creating a Republican state government trifecta.

From 1996 through 2020, 73.3% (11 of 15) of statewide ballot measures in West Virginia were approved, and 26.7% (4 of 15) were defeated.

So far, 21 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 12 states.

At the end of the West Virginia session, there were five constitutional amendments that had passed one chamber. Bills are carried over to the 2022 legislative session as long as the sponsor/sponsors remain in office during the next session, and the measure has not been rejected, tabled, or postponed indefinitely. The five outstanding amendments relate to education, term limits, firearms, and veterans.

The state legislature is set to convene on January 12, 2022, and adjourn on March 12, 2022.

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Maryland State Legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot on the last day of its legislative session

On April 12, 2021, the Maryland State Legislature voted to refer two constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot—the Civil Jury Trials Amendment and the Residency Requirements for State Legislators Amendment. 

The Civil Jury Trials Amendment would amend the state constitution to increase from $15,000 to $25,000 the minimum amount in controversy that guarantees a right to a jury trial in civil cases. Currently, if a plaintiff files a case where the amount in controversy is greater than $15,000, the defendant may request a trial by jury in the circuit court.

The Residency Requirements for State Legislators Amendment would require that starting in January 2024 candidates for the state legislature maintain a primary place of abode in the district they wish to represent for at least six months prior to the date of the election. Currently, the state constitution requires that a candidate has resided in the district for six months before the election. It would also change all gendered language in the amended sections of the state constitution to gender-neutral language.

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.

The amendment concerning the right to jury trials in civil cases was introduced as Senate Bill 669 on Feb. 3, 2021, by Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D). It was approved in the state Senate in a vote of 43-4 on March 16. On April 10, the state House passed an amended version of the bill in a vote of 100-34 with seven not voting or absent. The state Senate concurred with the amendments in a vote of 46-0 with one not voting. 

The residency requirements amendment was introduced as Senate Bill 55 on Jan. 13, 2021, by Sen. Charles Sydnor III (D). It was approved in the state Senate in a vote of 47-0 on April 9. On April 12, the state House passed an amended version in a vote of 136-0 with five not voting or absent. The state Senate concurred with the amendments on the same day with a vote of 47-0.

The Maryland State Legislature convened on Jan. 13 and adjourned on April 12. During the session, the state legislature also referred a constitutional amendment 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.

From 1996 through 2020, there was an average of about three measures on the ballot in even-numbered years in Maryland. Since 1996, 33 of 36 measures or 92% were approved, and three of 36 measures or 8% were defeated.

So far, 21 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 12 states.

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State legislators passed restrictions on the initiative process in three states and are considering ballot measure law changes in several others

At least 123 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall were introduced in the 2021 legislative sessions of 34 states. At least eight had been approved so far.

Here are some of the most notable changes to ballot measure law passed and proposed in 2021:

  • The South Dakota Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a 60% supermajority vote for future ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.
  • The legislature referred the amendment to the June 2022 ballot, and voters must approve it before it is enacted.
  • Legislation to enact or increase supermajority requirements for ballot measures was introduced in 2021 sessions in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%). Some proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures but not referrals, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.
  • The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. 
  • In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. 
  • The 2021 law was passed by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto in each chamber.
  • When the Idaho Legislature approved SB 1110, Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones submitted a petition with about 16,000 signatures to Gov. Little asking him to veto the bill.
  • Bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives were introduced in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota.
  • Bills to require certain disclosures and details regarding their single-subject rules were also introduced in 2021 in Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Other topics addressed by 2021 legislation include drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, and voter guide language; signature removal; signature verification; filing fees; ballot and voter guide argument fees and requirements; deadlines and process changes; procedures and requirements for legal challenges; and election date requirements.


Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot will feature four ballot measures, the most since 1981

At the primary election on May 18, 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide four ballot measures alongside legislative special elections, municipal and school district elections, and judicial elections. It is the most measures on a Pennsylvania ballot since 1981. During the last two decades, the average number of measures on the ballot in Pennsylvania per year was less than one. Additional measures could appear on the November general election ballot this year. Four constitutional amendments are pending in the legislature.

Question 1 and Question 2 on the May ballot address the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. Question 1 would allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which would not require the governor’s signature, to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration. Question 2 would limit the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order.

In June 2020, the General Assembly passed a concurrent resolution to terminate Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) coronavirus emergency declaration. On July 1, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution, which would have required a legislative two-thirds vote to overturn. 

Question 3 would add the following section to the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual.” The state Senate voted to add Question 3 to the same bill that referred Question 1 and Question 2 to the ballot.

Unlike the other three ballot measures, Question 4 changes state statute, not the state constitution. It would expand the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to also include municipal fire companies and EMS services. The loan program is funded by general obligation bonds. Question 4 would not issue new bonds. Voters have approved a total of $100 million in general obligation bonds between 1975 and 2002 to fund the loan program. Loans can be used for establishing or modernizing facilities, equipment, and vehicles.

Between 1995 and 2020, the state legislature referred 10 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All 10 of the constitutional amendments were approved. As of 2020, voters last rejected a constitutional amendment in 1981.

May 3 is the deadline to register to vote in the election. May 11 is the last day to request a mail-in ballot.

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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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