Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative certified for the ballot

On May 22, 2020, the Missouri Secretary of State issued a statement certifying the Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative for the ballot. This qualified the initiative for the November ballot unless the governor called for it to go on the August ballot by the May 26 deadline. On May 26, Governor Mike Parson (R) announced that the amendment will appear on the August 4 primary election ballot.

The initiative would amend the state constitution to do the following:

  • expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults who are between the ages of 19 and 65 and whose income is at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, which would effectively expand Medicaid to those with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level under the Affordable Care Act;
  • prohibit any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage; and
  • require the state to seek maximum federal funding of Medicaid expansion.

In Missouri, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. Healthcare for Missouri submitted 341,440 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State on May 1, 2020. The secretary of state used a random sample method, which projected enough valid signatures in congressional districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, to qualify the measure for the ballot. In those six districts, a total of 172,015 valid signatures were required; 258,686 signatures were projected to be valid.

Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of people with income below certain levels and individuals with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid. The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states. In 2018, the federal government financed 94% of the costs of state Medicaid expansion. For 2020 and subsequent years, the federal government was set to cover 90% of the costs.

Voters in Oklahoma will also decide a Medicaid expansion initiative in November.

As of 2019, a total of 36 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 14 states had not.

In 2017, voters in Maine approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. The measure was the first time a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid appeared on any statewide ballot.

In November 2018, voters in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah decided ballot initiatives concerning Medicaid expansion and the funding of expanded Medicaid coverage. The Idaho and Utah measures were approved by voters and later altered by the states’ legislatures. The measure in Nebraska was approved, and the measure in Montana was defeated. In January 2018, voters in Oregon approved Measure 101, thereby upholding 2017 legislation to provide funding for the state’s portion of costs for expanded Medicaid coverage through a tax on healthcare insurance and the revenue of certain hospitals.

Federal judge requires Ohio to accept electronic signatures from initiative campaigns seeking to place minimum wage and voting changes on the ballot

On May 19, U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus ordered Ohio to accept electronic signatures from the campaigns sponsoring the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative and the Voting Requirements Initiative. The judge also extended the signature deadline from July 1 to July 31. The judge’s order only applies to the ballot measure campaigns that sued the state, including several local marijuana decriminalization initiative campaigns.

On March 30, 2020, Ohioans for Raise the Wage and Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections filed a lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas asking for the July 1 signature deadline to be extended, the number of signatures required to be reduced, and permission to gather signatures online. On April 28, Judge David C. Young dismissed the case arguing that since the petition requirements for initiatives are in the Ohio Constitution “the ability to change those requirements is reserved only to the people.” He added that there is no exception for public health emergencies. Following the case dismal, the campaigns brought their case to the federal court.

U.S. District Judge Sargus argued in his opinion that “these unique historical circumstances of a global pandemic and the impact of Ohio’s Stay-at-Home Orders, the State’s strict enforcement of the signature requirements for local initiatives and constitutional amendments severely burden Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights.” The ruling did not change the number of signatures required or the state’s distribution requirement.

Ohio filed an appeal of the ruling on May 20. If the decision is not reversed, Ohioans for Raise the Wage and Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections have until July 31 to collect 443,958 valid signatures.

The Minimum Wage Initiative would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $13 per hour by January 1, 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation. The first increase would be on January 1, 2021, to $9.60 per hour.

The Voting Requirements Initiative would remove the requirement that voters must be registered 30 days prior to an election; require absentee ballots requested by military personnel or voters outside of the U.S. be sent 46 days before the election; automatically register citizens at motor vehicle departments unless the citizen refuses registration via a written statement; allow voter registration at polling locations; and require 28 days of early voting.

Ballotpedia has identified 11 lawsuits in nine states seeking changes or suspensions of ballot measure requirements. The topics of the lawsuits include:
• the number of signatures required,
• notary requirements for remote signatures,
• the ability to collect signatures electronically, and
• the extension of signature deadlines.

Before March 2020, no states allowed the use of electronic signatures for statewide initiative and referendum petitions. While some states allowed remote signatures through petition sheets printed, signed, and mailed, no states allowed remote signature gathering through email before the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 29, 2020, Massachusetts became the first state to allow campaigns to collect electronic signatures for statewide citizen-initiatives for the 2020 cycle after four campaigns filed a lawsuit and the secretary of the commonwealth agreed to a settlement.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed an executive order on May 17 that authorized the Colorado Secretary of State to establish temporary rules allowing for remote petition signature gathering to be signed through mail and email. The rules were expected to be finalized by the Secretary of State in early June. Prior to the order, petition circulators were required to witness each act of signing in person. The order also removed individual initiative signature deadlines of six months after ballot language finalization and instead required that signatures for all initiatives are due by August 3, 2020.

The Washington, D.C., Council passed a bill on May 5 that allowed remote signature gathering for initiative campaigns through email.

On May 13, 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a request made by four ballot initiative campaigns to allow them to gather signatures through E-Qual, which is the state’s online signature collection platform, during the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 30, Missoula District Judge John Larson rejected a request by Montana ballot initiative petitioners to allow them to use electronic signatures. Judge Larson ruled that the State’s “compelling interest in maintaining the integrity and security of its election process outweighs any burden on [the] Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”

Additional Reading:

Portland voters approve income tax to fund homeless services and gas tax renewal

Voters in the Portland Metro area in Oregon approved Measure 26-210 on Tuesday, authorizing an income surtax and business tax to fund homeless services. The measure authorizes a 1% tax on household income above $200,000 and individual income above $150,000 and a 1% profit tax on businesses with gross receipts higher than $5 million. The income tax was designed to be on resident and non-resident income earned within the Metro area.

Metro officials estimated the combined revenue of the income and business taxes to be $248 million per year. The tax would take effect in 2021 and expire in 2030. Measure 26-210 required that the revenue raised by the income and business taxes be divided according to the proportion expected to be received from the three counties that make up Portland Metro. Multnomah County was set to receive 45.3% of the revenue, Washington County was set to receive 33.3%, and Clackamas County was set to receive 21.3%. A 20-member oversight committee will be formed to conduct and publish annual financial audits.

Vote totals available as of Wednesday afternoon showed voters approving Measure 26-210 by a vote of 63% to 37%. Voters in Multnomah county approved the measure by a vote of 77% in favor to 23% opposed. Voters in Washington County approved the measure by a vote of 52% in favor to 48% opposed. Voters in Clackamas county rejected the measure by a vote of 53% opposed to 47% in favor. Here Together Coalition led the campaign in support of Measure 26-210. Alliance for an Affordable Metro led the campaign in opposition to Measure 26-210.

Portland voters also approved Measure 26-209 to authorize the renewal of the city’s gas tax for four years at a rate of $0.10 per gallon and dedicate revenues to infrastructure repairs. City officials estimated the gas tax would raise $74.5 million over four years. The $0.10 gas tax was first approved in 2016. Vote totals available as of Wednesday afternoon showed voters approving Measure 26-209 by a vote of 77% to 23%. The measure was approved in each county.

Additional reading:

Puerto Rico to vote on statehood referendum at November general election

Puerto Rico will vote on a statehood referendum at the general election on November 3, 2020. The ballot measure will ask, “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?” Congress has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico and would decide if and how to respond to the election results.

Should the ballot measure be approved, the governor would appoint a seven-member commission to represent Puerto Rico in matters and negotiations related to achieving statehood. The commission would develop a transition plan, which the governor would approve or reject, and present the plan to Congress and the President.

According to Senate Bill 1467, which placed the referendum on the ballot, voting “No” on the referendum would mean that a seven-member commission would be appointed to negotiate with the federal government for the free association or independence of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico has voted on five political status referendums since developing a territorial government in the 1950s. This year’s referendum is the first to give voters just two options—“Yes” and “No.” In 1967 and 1993, voters were asked to choose between maintaining the territory’s current status, statehood, and independence. In 1998, voters were given two additional options—free association and none of the above. In 2012, the political status referendum was a two-part measure. First, voters were asked whether to maintain the territory’s current status. Since 54.3 percent voted “No,” votes were counted for a second question, which asked about statehood. Turnout decreased 24.2 percent between the first and second questions, meaning about a quarter of voters who voted on the first question left the second question blank. Puerto Rico voted on a referendum again in 2017, with the statehood option receiving 97.2 percent of the vote. The Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which had the second most members in the Puerto Rico Legislature, boycotted the referendum. Turnout was 22.9 percent.

In Puerto Rico, there are three political parties with elected members in the territorial Legislature. The New Progressive Party (NPP), which controls both chambers and the governor’s office, is pro-statehood. The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) is associated with the pro-commonwealth position, which supports maintaining Puerto Rico’s current territorial status with changes. The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) supports independence from the U.S.

Placing a referendum on the general election ballot required the vote of the Puerto Rico Legislature. Both chambers passed a bill for the referendum, with support from NPP members. Members of PDP and PIP opposed the bill. Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced (NPP) signed the bill on May 16, 2020.

Voters in Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and New York to decide a combined $5.16 billion in bond issues in 2020

Seven bond issues (totaling $5.16 billion combined) are on the ballot for voters in Maine, on July 14, and Colorado, New Mexico, and New York on November 3.

A bond issue is a measure placed on the ballot by the state or local government that asks voters to approve the issuance of bonds. A bond is a debt in which the issuer owes the holders a debt and is obligated to repay the principal and interest at a later date.

Voters in California rejected Proposition 13 on March 3, 2020. Prop. 13 would have authorized $15 billion in general obligation bonds for school and college facilities. Proposition 13 was defeated by a vote of 47% in favor to 53% opposed. Proposition 13 was the first statewide education-related bond issue that California voters rejected since 1994.

Two bond issues are on the July 14 ballot in Maine. Question 1 would authorize $15 million in general obligation bonds for the ConnectME Authority to provide funding for high-speed internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. Question 2 would authorize $105 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects.

A bond issue is on the November ballot in Colorado that would authorize $1.837 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects.

Three bond issues are on the November ballot in New Mexico as a bond package. The package includes $156.3 million in bonds for public higher education institutions, special public schools, and native tribal schools; $9.7 million in bonds for public libraries; and $33.29 million in bonds for senior citizens’ facilities. The total amount of the bonds is $199.29 million.

A bond issue in New York is on the November ballot that would issue $3 billion in general obligation bonds for projects related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation.

From 2008 through 2019, 113 bond measures (totaling $77.1 billion) were on the ballot. Voters approved 105 of the measures ($53 billion) and rejected eight of the measures ($24 billion). The year with the highest dollar amount of total bonds on the ballot was 2018, where voters across six states voted on 18 bond measures totaling $29.1 billion. Voters approved 15 of the measures ($20.2 billion). Of the 113 bond issues, 95 were on even-year ballots and 18 were on odd-year ballots.

In even years from 2008 to 2018, 95 bond issues totaling $76 billion were on the ballot in 16 states. Of the 95 measures, 87 were approved ($51.94 billion) and eight ($24.06 billion) were defeated. In odd years from 2009 to 2019, 18 bond issues totaling $1.1 billion were on the ballot. All were approved.

The states with the most bond issues on the ballot from 2008 to 2019 were Maine (34), Rhode Island (22), New Mexico (22), and California (11).

Additional reading:

Four of five trustees up for recall in Idaho library district

A recall election seeking to remove four of the five trustees of the Priest Lake Library District board in Idaho is on the ballot on May 19, 2020. Trustees Debbie Sudnikovich, Laurel Smith, Nancy Bushman, and Lori McReynolds were targeted for recall after they voted to fire library director Beverly Richmond in a 4-1 vote in September 2019.

Rosemary Yocum, leader of the recall effort and a former trustee of the library district board, said the trustees violated state law because they fired Richmond without cause. Yocum said Richmond was not an at-will employee and that the board broke statutes governing open meetings and executive sessions. The recall petition also said that the four trustees had treated district citizens in a condescending manner and had failed to fulfill their duties of office.

In her response to the recall, McReynolds said Richmond was an at-will employee. She said their decision was made with the best interest of the community in mind. Sudnikovich said the former library director had been under review since November 2018 prior to her being let go. She said improvements to employee morale and the library’s management and atmosphere reinforced that “the decision to terminate the former director was both reasonable and appropriate.”

The recall effort was initially approved for the March primary ballot, but it was taken off after an order from the district board did not get filed in time for that election. It was instead scheduled for May 19.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Voters in Lincoln and Omaha approve five local ballot measures on Tuesday according to unofficial results

Voters in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, approved five local ballot measures on May 12. Unofficial election results indicate that Omaha voters approved Question 1 and Question 2 with 72.86% and 64.70% of the vote, respectively. Question 1 authorized the city to issue $200 million in bonds to fund street maintenance, and Question 2 authorized the city to impose an estimated property tax at a rate of $35 per $100,000 of assessed property value to repay the bonds.

Voters in the Millard Public Schools district also approved $125 million in bonds with 58.57% of the vote. The bond question authorized the school district to impose a 1% property tax to repay the bonds bringing the total estimated property tax to $1,236 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Voters in Lincoln approved two charter amendments. The Gender Neutral References to Mayoral Office Charter Amendment received 76.51% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to fix typographical errors in the article dealing with appropriations and change all references to the mayoral office to gender-neutral terms.

The City Contracts Charter Amendment received 70.22% of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to require mayoral approval on contracts exceeding $50,000, increase the bid requirement from $25,000 to $50,000, and remove the requirement for three informal bids for city contracts.

Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure will appear on November ballots

The Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure, a legislatively referred state statute, was certified for the ballot on May 7. The ballot measure would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities. The state revenue generated by such activities would be primarily dedicated to funding public education.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Murphy v. NCAA that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, thereby overturning the federal ban and allowing states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 16 states had active sports betting industries, three of which legalized sports betting by approving a statewide ballot measure. South Dakota voters will vote on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in November that would legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Maryland Constitution requires that the Maryland General Assembly refer laws expanding commercial wagering to voters at a general election. In Maryland, a simple majority vote is needed in each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to refer a state statute to the ballot. The governor is able to veto bills proposing legislatively referred state statutes. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the bills after they are presented to him. If the governor does not sign a bill by the deadline, the bill is enacted without his signature.

On March 14, 2020, the Maryland House of Representatives voted 129-3 in favor of the measure. On March 18, the Maryland State Senate voted 45-0. Governor Larry Hogan (R) did not sign or veto the bill by the May 7 deadline. Therefore, the sports betting measure was certified for the ballot on May 7 without his signature.

During the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly also referred to the 2020 ballot the Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment, which would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated. One legislatively referred state statute appeared on Maryland ballots between 1996 and 2019, and it was approved.

Additional reading:

Local California voters approve three and defeat two tax measures on May 5

Voters in Blythe and four special districts within Contra Costa, Mendocino, Plumas, Riverside, and Sonoma counties voted on five different local tax measures on Tuesday. According to unofficial election night results, three were approved, and two were defeated.

  • Voters in the city of Blythe approved an additional 1% sales tax, thereby increasing the total sales tax rate in the city from 7.75% to 8.75% and generating an estimated $1.144 million per year in general fund revenue. It was ahead by 71% to 29%, and it required a simple majority to pass.
  • Voters in Contra Costa County Service Area No. P-2 Zone A (Blackhawk) approved a parcel tax to fund police services. It was ahead by 73% to 27%, and it required a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for approval. The measure authorized a parcel tax of $395 per residential unit, $2,370 per parcel for property designated as commercial/industrial/institutional, and $11,852 per parcel for property designated as commercial/theater.
  • Voters in the Coast Life Support District, a district primarily providing ambulance services and that overlaps parts of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, approved a parcel tax ranging from $61 to $1,220 per year depending on the property type. It was ahead by 81% to 19%, and it required a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for approval.
  • Voters in the Hamilton Branch Fire Protection District defeated a parcel tax measure to increase its annual parcel tax by $175 per parcel by replacing the existing rate of $108 per parcel with a rate of $283 per parcel in order to fund fire protection and emergency medical services. It was behind the 66.67% supermajority requirement with a vote of 64% to 36%.
  • Voters in the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District defeated a measure to increase the district’s annual parcel tax rate to between $160 and $240 for residential parcels depending on size and to $0.11 per sq. ft. for non-residential buildings, $54 per building for agricultural structures, and $170 for every vacant parcel or parcel above 20 acres for fire services. It was behind the 66.67% supermajority requirement with a vote of 63% to 37%.

Parcel taxes are taxes unique to California that are based on units or characteristics of property rather than assessed value.

In the March 3 primary, local California voters decided 293 local measures, which was more than double the average of 139 decided at even-year June primaries from 2010 through 2018. Of the 293 local measures, 237 (81%) were bond or tax measures.

  • There were 45 sales tax measures on the March 3 ballot. Twenty-four (53.3%) were approved, and 21 (46.7%) were defeated. From 2014 through 2019, 76% of local sales tax measures were approved.
  • There were 54 parcel tax measures on the March 3 ballot. Nineteen (35.2%) were approved, and 35 (64.8%) were defeated. From 2003 through 2019, 57.5% of local parcel tax measures were approved.
Additional reading:

Signatures filed for California ballot initiative to fund stem cell research institute

On May 5, 2020, the campaign Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments & Cures filed signatures for a ballot initiative to issue $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). CIRM was created in 2004 when voters approved Proposition 71 and funded with $3.00 billion in bond revenue. As of October 2019, CIRM had about $89 million from the original bond remaining. The ballot initiative would provide CIRM with more revenue in order to remain open and continuing to provide grants for stem cell-related research, trials, and programs.

The campaign reported filing about 925,000 signatures. At least 623,212, or around 67 percent, of the signatures need to be valid. The recommended deadline to file signatures to appear on the election on November 3, 2020, was April 21, 2020. Counties need to validate the signatures before June 25, 2020, for the ballot initiative to appear on the ballot in 2020. Otherwise, the ballot initiative would appear on the ballot on November 8, 2022.

Californians for Stem Cell Research, Treatments & Cures aimed to collect 950,000 signatures but decided to stop in-person signature gathering when the state’s shelter-in-place order was issued on March 19. The campaign raised $6.06 million, as of the most recent campaign finance report on April 3. Robert Klein, a real estate investor based in Palo Alto, is chairperson of the campaign and provided $4.63 million of the campaign’s total funds. Klein is also the chairperson of the organization Americans for Cures and former chairperson of the campaign behind Proposition 71 (2004).

The ballot initiative is the 10th to file signatures to appear on the ballot for November 3, 2020. As of May 6, five had qualified and five were pending signature verification. The California State Legislature also has until June 25, 2020, to refer measures to the general election ballot.

Additional reading: