Tagconstitutional amendment

Michigan legislature puts legislative term limits, financial disclosure amendment on November ballot

Thirty years ago, Michigan voters approved an initiated constitutional amendment, Proposal B, that enacted term limits on state legislators, as well as other elected officials. This November, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to modify the state legislative term limits. The Legislature passed House Joint Resolution R (HJR R) on May 10, placing the new constitutional amendment on the ballot. House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-97) introduced HJR R earlier in the day. 

In Nov. 1992, 58.7% voted to approve Proposal B, which was designed to limit the number of times that a person could be elected to congressional, state executive, and state legislative offices in Michigan. In the Michigan State Senate, members were limited to two 4-year terms. In the Michigan House of Representatives, members were limited to three 2-year terms.

This year’s ballot measure would replace Proposal B’s state legislative term limits with a new requirement: a combined 12 years in the state Legislature. Under Proposal B, an individual could serve 14 years in the state Legislature–6 in the House and 8 in the Senate. The 2022 ballot measure would allow for 12 years, which is less than Proposal B; however, a legislator could serve that entire time in one legislative chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-16) said, “In my view, Michigan’s current term limits discourage good people from running for office, shifting the power from the people to the bureaucracy and interest groups, which negatively impacts the legislative process.”

The ballot measure contains a second provision on financial disclosure statements for elected state legislative and state executive officials. Under the proposal, they would be required to file annual financial disclosure reports on their income, assets, liabilities, gifts from lobbyists, positions held in certain organizations, and agreements on future employment beginning in April 2024. 

A political action committee, Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, was collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to change the term limits and require financial disclosure statements. The group called on the Legislature to act sooner. “We’re gaining momentum, and we are determined to get this proposal on the ballot in November. The sooner we can start a healthy debate between Michiganders about amending our state constitution, the better off we will be,” said Rich Studley, a former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO and co-chairperson of Voters for Transparency and Term Limit.

Patrick Anderson, one of the principal authors of Proposal B, responded to the legislative process, which saw the amendment introduced and passed on the same day. He said, “Not a single citizen in the entire state has had a chance to take a look at the resolution they passed, ambushing the voters before noon. The stench of this will last all the way to November.” 

The constitutional amendment is the first ballot measure certified for the 2022 ballot in Michigan. Voters could see additional legislative referrals, along with citizen-initiated ballot measures. The deadline to file signatures for initiated statutes is June 1, and the deadline for initiated constitutional amendments is July 11. 

Michigan voters have approved most (10 of 11) constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the Legislature since 1985. The last time voters rejected a legislatively referred constitutional amendment was in 2015, when 80% voted against a proposal to increase the fuel excise tax, eliminate the sales tax on fuel, increase the earned income tax credit, and make other tax and spending changes.

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Alabama to decide $85 million bond issue to fund public historical sites and state parks on May 24

Alabama voters will vote on 10 constitutional amendments in 2022. One measure will be on the May 24 primary election ballot. The other nine amendments will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Voters will decide a constitutional amendment on May 24 that would amend the state constitution to issue up to $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks. Of the bonds, $80 million would be used for state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and $5 million would be used for historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission. Under the amendment, bond proceeds could not be used for improvement, acquisition, provision, construction, equipping, or maintenance of the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Alabama. If bond proceeds exceed $85 million for any reason, additional proceeds would be allocated to the Alabama Forestry Commission for capital improvements and maintenance of state forests.

The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-24) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-27) as House Bill 565. The House approved it in a vote of 97-1 on April 13, 2021, with five absent or not voting. The Senate passed an amended version of HB 565 in a vote of 29-0 on April 29, with five absent or not voting. The House concurred with the amendments on the same day in a vote of 98-0, with five absent or not voting.

Amendment sponsor Rep. Ledbetter said, “Because interest rates are so low today, we’re able to use the same amount that we’re paying out now, redo new bonds and put $80 million into the existing parks, which is going to be a tremendous asset to our state and to our tourism and across our state.”

Christopher Blankenship, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said, “As we’ve seen this past year with COVID, state parks and outdoor recreation have been extremely important to people for their physical and mental health. We saw great increases in usage at our parks, and also the federal wild properties in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.” Blankenship also said attendance to state parks was up by about 1.2 million visitors in 2020 and the amendment would bring the state parks “up to a standard that people have come to expect now and as the landscape is changing with motor homes and they’re becoming more advanced and require more from our campground.”

In November, Alabama voters will be asked to approve an updated and recompiled state constitution, titled the Alabama Constitution of 2022. Voters will also decide a ballot measure that would authorize the Code Commissioner to incorporate constitutional amendments that are approved at the elections on May 24 and Nov. 8 into the Alabama Constitution of 2022 if voters approve the new constitution. The other amendments would:

  • allow local governments to award funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure to public or private entities;
  • remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts;
  • allow the legislature to provide for offenses for which bail may be denied;
  • require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months before the general election;
  • require the governor to provide notice to the attorney general and the victim’s family before granting a commutation or reprieve of a death sentence
  • specify that counties and municipalities have authority to finance economic and industrial development through the use of public funds, issuing bonds, and leasing property or lending bonds to a private entity; and
  • authorize specific cities to use a previously established property tax to directly fund capital improvements in addition to using the revenue to repay bonds and other debt.

Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.59%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years ranged from 4 to 15.

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Nebraska legislature sends constitutional amendment to voters to authorize local governments to develop commercial air travel

On April 12, the Nebraska legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot authorizing any city, county, or other political subdivision that operates an airport to spend revenue to develop commercial air travel at the local airport. 

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in the Nebraska State Senate. This amendment was introduced as Legislative Resolution 283CA (LR283CA) on Jan. 22, 2022. On March 2, 2022, the state Senate voted 42-1 to send the measure to review. On April 12, the state Senate took a final vote on the amendment to place it on the ballot by a margin of 47-0 with two not voting.

Sen. Eliot Bostar (D) of Lincoln sponsored the amendment. He said, “Especially for small to medium-sized airports across the country, this is essentially the tool that is used to attract and expand passenger air service. I know of no other state where this cannot be utilized or isn’t being utilized.”

The amendment is the first measure to be placed on the state ballot in November. Between 1996 and 2020, an average of six measures appeared on statewide general election ballots in Nebraska. Voters approved 56.96% (45 of 79) and rejected 43.04% (34 of 79) of the ballot measures appearing on statewide ballots during that time.

The Nebraska legislature is set to adjourn on April 20.

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Alabama state legislature adjourns legislative session; 10 constitutional amendments to appear on 2022 statewide ballot

Alabama voters will vote on 10 constitutional amendments in 2022. One measure, which would authorize $85 million in bonds to be issued for public historical sites and state parks, will be on the May 24 primary election ballot. The other nine amendments will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The legislature referred five of the amendments to the 2022 ballot during the 2021 legislative session, and another five constitutional amendments during the 2022 legislative session, which adjourned on April 8.

In November, Alabama voters will be asked to approve an updated and recompiled state constitution, titled the Alabama Constitution of 2022. Voters will also decide a ballot measure that would authorize the Code Commissioner to incorporate constitutional amendments that are approved at the elections on May 24 and Nov. 8 into the Alabama Constitution of 2022 if voters approve the new constitution. The other amendments would:

  • allow local governments to use funding provided for broadband internet infrastructure under the American Rescue Plan Act and award such funds to public or private entities;
  • remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts;
  • allow the state legislature to provide for offenses for which bail may be denied;
  • require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months from the general election;
  • require the Governor to provide notice to the Attorney General and the victim’s family before granting a commutation or reprieve of a death sentence
  • specify that counties and municipalities have authority under to provide for financing economic and industrial development through the use of public funds, issuing bonds, and leasing property or lending bonds to a private entity; and
  • authorize specific cities to use a previously established property tax to directly fund capital improvements in addition to using the revenue to repay bonds and other debt.

Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.

A total of 78 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years from 2000 to 2020, of which, 62 were approved (79.49%), and 16 were defeated (20.59%). From 2000 to 2020, the number of constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years ranged from 4 to 15.



The deadline to register to vote in the May constitutional amendment election in Texas is April 7

Texans are heading to the polls on May 7 to decide two constitutional amendments. The deadline to register to vote in the election is April 7.

The Texas State Legislature referred two measures to statewide ballots during the second and third special legislative sessions of 2021. The ballot measures were the first referred to an even-numbered year ballot since 2014.

Proposition 1 would amend the state constitution to authorize the state legislature to reduce the property tax limit for school maintenance and operations taxes imposed on the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents to reflect any tax rate reduction enacted by law from the preceding tax year. In 2019, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 3, which provided school maintenance and operations tax rate changes. However, the rate reduction did not apply to the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents. The implementing legislation, Senate Bill 12, which would extend the 2019 reduction, was also passed during the second special legislative session in 2021. Proposition 1 and SB 12 were modeled after a 2007 constitutional amendment and 2006 property tax reduction.

Proposition 2 would increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. The increased exemption would take effect on January 1, 2022, and applies only to a tax year beginning on or after that date. The Legislative Budget Board estimated that the increase would cost $355 million in fiscal year 2023. Voters last increased the exemption in 2015 with the passage of Proposition 1, which increased it from $15,000 to $25,000.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), the sponsor of the amendments, said, “Property tax relief has been one of my top priorities since I was elected to the Texas Senate in 2014. These bills will provide over $600 million in relief per biennium to homeowners for first year homestead exemptions and those over 65 or disabled freeze value.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds vote is required in both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. Both amendments exceeded the supermajority requirement by at least 10%.

During the 2021 second and third special legislative sessions, 72 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2022 ballot. Democrats filed 28 (38.9%) of the constitutional amendments, and Republicans filed 44 (61.1%) of the constitutional amendments.

Ballotpedia is also covering local ballot measures on May 7 for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. in Texas, which includes Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.

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Florida to vote in November on additional property tax exemption for certain public service workers

The Florida State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November ballot that would allow for an additional homestead property tax exemption on $50,000 of assessed value on property owned by certain public service workers, including teachers, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, active duty members of the military and Florida National Guard, and child welfare service employees.

Property taxes in Florida are levied by counties, school districts, cities, and special districts, which set millage rates. One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. Homes in Florida are assessed at just value (market value), minus the homestead exemption. Currently, every primary residence is eligible for a $25,000 homestead exemption. Another $25,000 homestead exemption is applied to homesteads that have an assessed values between $50,000 and $75,000. The homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of a property. In Florida, other property tax exemptions may be granted for those with disabilities, those deployed on active military duty, disabled veterans, surviving spouses of veterans or first responders, and low-income citizens aged 65 or older.

To put the legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60 percent vote was required in both the state Senate and the state House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 on January 11, 2021. It was approved by a vote of 115-0, with four representatives not voting and one vacancy. It was passed by the Senate on March 10, 2022, by a vote of 37-1, with one senator not voting.

The state Legislature referred two other constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot. One of the amendments would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, a 37-member commission that meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state’s constitution and refer them to the statewide ballot for voter approval or rejection. The other amendment would allow the legislature to pass laws prohibiting flood resistance improvements made to a home from being taken into consideration when determining a property’s assessed value for property tax purposes.

A total of 78 measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020, including six measures that appeared on the statewide ballot in odd-numbered years. Between 2000 and 2020, 71.79% (56 of 78) of statewide measures were approved by voters and 28.21% (22 of 78) were defeated. The number of measures appearing on the even-year statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020 ranged from three to 13.

The Florida State Legislature was set to adjourn its 2022 legislative session on March 11, 2022.



Alabama legislature refers broadband expansion funding amendment to November ballot

In November, Alabama voters will decide a constitutional amendment that would authorize the state or local governments, such as counties or cities, to grant federal award funds, or any funds designated for broadband infrastructure by state law, to public or private entities for broadband internet infrastructure. Funds granted by a local government to a private entity would need to be approved at a public meeting held by the county or municipality.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed by President Biden in March 2021, provided $130 billion to states for local government uses, including investments in broadband infrastructure.

The Alabama Legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 1 on January 27, 2022. It provided for the allocation of $772 million received by the state under the ARPA. Alabama HB 1 provided for $277 million to be used to fund broadband expansion.

This constitutional amendment was supported by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, which said that a constitutional amendment was needed to allow counties to use the designated ARPA funding for broadband expansion because the state constitution prohibits local governments from using funds to provide a thing of value to a private entity.

The amendment was introduced as House Bill 255 and was passed in the House by a vote of 101-0, with two members absent, on February 15, 2022. It was passed in the Senate on March 10 by a vote of 27-0, with eight members absent.

The broadband amendment is the seventh constitutional amendment referred to the 2022 statewide ballot by the Alabama State Legislature. The state legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the May 24 ballot that would authorize $85 million in bonds to be issued for improving, renovating, and maintaining public historical sites and state parks, excluding the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury. Other measures appearing on the November 2022 ballot include:

  • A question asking voters to ratify an updated and recompiled state constitution, which was drafted by the state legislature following voter approval of Amendment 4 in 2020;
  • An amendment removing orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate court;
  • An amendment to allow the state legislature to provide for offenses for which bail may be denied;
  • An amendment to require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months from the general election; and
  • An amendment to authorize specific cities to use a previously established property tax to directly fund capital improvements in addition to using the revenue to repay bonds and other debt.

In the 20-year period from 2000 to 2020, a total of 88 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama, of which, 69 were approved (78.41%), and 22 were defeated (21.59%).

The state legislature may refer additional measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session, which was set to run until April 25, 2022. As of March 10, two potential constitutional amendments had been passed in one chamber of the state legislature and would appear on the ballot if passed in the second chamber. Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.



New Mexico legislature sends constitutional amendments on household service infrastructure and judicial vacancies to the ballot, three bond measures to the governor’s desk

The New Mexico legislature adjourned on Thursday. During the 2022 session, the legislature referred two additional constitutional amendments to the Nov. 8 ballot to join one put there during the 2021 session. The legislature also approved three bond questions that the governor must sign before they also go before voters.

One constitutional amendment would provide that a judge appointed to fill a vacancy be up for election at the first general election one year after the appointment. The judge elected to replace the appointed judge would serve the expiration of the term in effect at the time of election. Currently, the state constitution requires a judge appointed to fill a vacancy to be up for election at the next general election.

The other amendment would authorize the legislature to appropriate state funds for infrastructure that provides household services, including internet, electric, natural gas, water, and wastewater. Such appropriations would require a majority vote in each chamber. Currently, the state constitution prohibits the state from lending or pledging credit or donating to any person, association, or public or private corporation. It contains a list of specific exceptions that does not include paying for infrastructure for household services.

When a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a judge from a list of candidates recommended by a judicial nominating commission.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both chambers of the state legislature.

The amendment on elections for appointed judges was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3) on Jan. 18, 2022. The state Senate passed SJR 3 on Feb. 5 in a vote of 33-1, with eight absent or excused. The sole “no” vote was Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D). The state House voted on Feb. 15 to pass the measure by a vote of 58-0 with 12 excused or absent.

The amendment on funding infrastructure for household services was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1). The state House passed HJR 1 on Feb. 10, 2022, in a vote of 43-23 with four absent or excused. The state Senate passed HJR 1 on Feb. 16, 2022, in a vote of 25-14, with three absent or excused. Both votes were along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

During the 2022 legislative session, the state legislature also passed a bond package totaling $258.8 million for (1) senior citizen facility improvements, (2) public education, and (3) public libraries. Voters will decide each bond issue as a separate ballot question if the governor signs the bill.

During the 2021 session, the legislature referred another amendment to the 2022 ballot, which means voters will see three constitutional amendments and, pending the governor’s signature, three bond questions on Nov. 8. The amendment from the 2021 session would allocate an additional 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 increasing the total annual distribution to 6.25%.

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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Vermont voters to decide constitutional amendment for the first time in 12 years that would prohibit slavery and indentured servitude

The Vermont House of Representatives took the final vote on Feb. 4 to send Proposal 2 to voters in November. The constitutional amendment would repeal language stating that persons could be held as servants, slaves, or apprentices with the person’s consent or “for the payments of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” and would add “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

In Vermont, a constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Vermont General Assembly in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, there are different vote requirements depending on the session and chamber. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in the state Senate and a simple majority (50%+1) vote in the state House. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority vote in each legislative chamber.

State Sens. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden), Timothy Ashe (D-Chittenden), and Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) were the lead sponsors of Proposal 2 in the Vermont General Assembly in 2019.

The state Senate approved Proposal 2 on April 24, 2019. The vote was 28-1. At least 21 votes were needed to pass the constitutional amendment. The state House approved Proposal 2 on Jan. 21, 2020. The vote was 145-0. At least 73 votes were needed.

Proposal 2 was introduced during the 2021-2022 legislative session on March 31, 2021. It was approved by the state Senate by a vote of 29-1 on April 9, 2021. Only 15 votes were needed for the second vote in the senate. It was approved by the state House by a vote of 139-3 on Feb. 4, 2022. At least 71 votes were needed. The majority requirement was slightly lower the second time because Vermont determines their vote requirement by the number of members voting and not the total number of representatives.

In support of the amendment, State Rep. Hal Colston (D) said, “My truth as a descendent of slave advocates is that this current language gives the appearance that there may be an exception for the existence of slavery and indentured servitude. Language is powerful and the truth shall set us free.”

The amendment will be the first measure to be decided by Vermont voters in 12 years. The last constitutional amendment was referred to ballots in 2010 where it was approved. Vermont voters have only decided on one other amendment between 1995 and 2021. It was also approved.

Currently, 10 states have constitutions that included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments. These constitutional provisions were added to state constitutions, in their original forms, from the 1850s to the 1890s. Nine states have constitutions that included provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment. Vermont is the only state to have a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.

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Campaigns supporting and opposing Massachusetts additional income tax amendment report $1.6 million in contributions

In November, Massachusetts voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would create an additional income tax of 4% for income over $1 million, in addition to the existing 5% flat-rate income tax, and dedicate revenue to education and transportation purposes.

Raise Up Massachusetts, the campaign registered in support of the amendment reported $1.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions in 2021. The top donors to Raise Up Massachusetts include the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, 1199 SEIU MA PAC, Omidyar Network Services LLC, and Jewish Alliance For Law and Social Action.

Coalition for a Strong Massachusetts Economy is registered in opposition to the amendment and reported $437,486.00 in cash and in-kind contributions. The top donors to the coalition include Robert Reynolds, Nino Micozzi, Jeffrey Markley, and Mark Casady.

The amendment is modeled after a 2018 initiative that was removed from the ballot after certification due to a lawsuit that ruled the initiative violated the constitutional requirement that subjects of initiatives be “​​related or mutually dependent.” Since the 2022 amendment is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, it does not need to meet the same constitutional requirement.

In 2018, Raise Up Massachusetts and the Coalition for Social Justice raised $1.97 million in support of the initiative.

Opponents of the 2022 amendment filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court on Jan. 27 arguing that the ballot summary is misleading and the court should remove the amendment from the ballot. The lawsuit was filed by Christopher R. Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) and Secretary of State William Galvin (D). In a statement, the Massachusetts High Technology Council said, “The promise of new public education and transportation spending is an empty one, because the amendment imposes no real limits on how the state legislature can spend the new tax revenues.”

According to separate reports from the Beacon Hill Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University, the additional tax could generate at least $1.2 billion in 2023.

In order to refer the amendment to the ballot, the state legislature needed to pass the measure with a simple majority ​​during two successive legislatures. This amendment passed in 2019 by a vote of 147 to 48 with five members absent or not voting and again in 2021 by a vote of 159-41. Both votes were largely along party lines with Democrats in the majority and Republicans in the minority.

Between 1996 and 2020, about 54% (22 of 41) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 46% (19 of 41) were defeated.

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