Tagconstitutional amendment

Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot will feature 4 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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Wyoming to vote in 2022 to allow local governments to invest in stocks and equities

On April 1, the Wyoming State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. Legislation establishing or increasing the percentage of funds a local government could invest would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the state legislature. Currently, the state constitution allows the state legislature to authorize certain state funds to be invested in stocks.

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

The measure was introduced as House Joint Resolution 9 on March 4, 2021. It was approved in the House on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 43-16. The Senate approved an amended version of the measure on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 25-5, which was sent to the House for concurrence. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 46-13.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 20 constitutional amendments to the ballot, of which, 12 were approved (60%) and eight (40%) were defeated.

The legislature was set to adjourn the 2021 legislative session on April 7, 2021. The legislature can also refer measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session.

As of April 2, 2021, 15 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2022 ballot in 10 states.

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Georgia legislature sends two measures to the 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The Georgia State Legislature adjourned its 2021 legislative session on April 1, 2021. The legislature passed two measures requiring voter approval at the general election in 2022:

  1. a constitutional amendment to suspend compensation for certain public officials while they are suspended from office due to a felony indictment and
  2. a measure to expand a property tax exemption to include merged family farms and dairy products and eggs.

A constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting was passed by the Senate but was not passed in the House before the 2021 legislative session adjourned. The amendment could be reconsidered during the 2022 legislative session.

Suspend Compensation for Assembly Members and Public Officials Indicted for a Felony Amendment:

This measure would amend the state constitution to provide for the suspension of compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office for being indicted for a felony:

  • Governor,
  • Lieutenant Governor,
  • Secretary of State,
  • Attorney General,
  • State School Superintendent,
  • Commissioner of Insurance,
  • Commissioner of Agriculture,
  • Commissioner of Labor, or
  • any member of the General Assembly.

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The measure was passed in the Senate on March 8 by a vote of 51-1 with four excused or not voting. It was passed in the House on March 23 by a vote of 169-0 with 11 excused or not voting. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

Merged Family-Owned Farms and Dairy and Eggs Tax Exemption Measure:

The Georgia Constitution requires voter approval of legislation to enact any property tax exemption, which must be passed in the legislature by a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in each chamber.

This measure would expand certain property tax exemptions provided for agricultural equipment and certain farm products. The measure would allow any entity that is a merger of two or more family-owned farms to qualify. It would also extend the exemption to include dairy products and eggs.

The Senate approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 48-0 with eight members excused or not voting. The House approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 163-1 with 16 members excused or not voting. The single no vote in the legislature came from Democratic Representative Mesha Mainor.

A total of 84 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Georgia from 1996 to 2020, of which 84.5% (71 of 84) were approved, and 15.5% (13 of 84) were defeated.



Kentucky voters will decide an amendment in 2022 saying there is no right to abortion in the state constitution

The Kentucky State Legislature referred the No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment to the November 8, 2022 ballot. The amendment would add a section to the Kentucky Bill of Rights that states: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

In Kentucky, a 60% supermajority vote in each chamber of the Kentucky State Legislature during one legislative session is required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration. The Kentucky House of Representatives introduced the amendment as House Bill 91 (HB 91) on January 5, 2021. The state House approved the amendment 76-20 on February 25, 2021, along party lines. All voting Republicans and two Democrats approved the amendment in the House. Twenty Democrats voted against the amendment. Three Democrats and one Republican were absent. On March 30, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 32-6.

Rep. Joseph Fischer (R), the sponsor of the amendment, said, “HB 91 simply assures that no Kentucky court will ever be able to fashion an implicit right to abortion from the language of our state Constitution. There will be no Roe vs. Wade decision in Kentucky.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “This constitutional amendment is a blatant effort to take away Kentuckians’ fundamental rights and prevent individuals from making the health care decisions best for them and their families.”

This is the second amendment of its kind to be certified for the 2022 ballot. Kansas voters will be deciding a similar amendment on August 2, 2022. The amendment would reverse a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ruled there was a right to abortion in the Kansas Bill of Rights. The amendment would add a section to the Kansas Bill of Rights to state that there is not a right to abortions and the government is not required to provide funding for abortions. The new section would also add that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws to regulate abortion. 

As of January 2021, at least 10 states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, provided a state constitutional right to abortion based on court rulings. The rulings were based on constitutional rights to privacy, equality, and liberty. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures in the past to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. The most recent measure was approved in Louisiana in November 2020 with 61.1% of the vote. Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), and West Virginia (2018) also previously approved measures to declare no right to an abortion in their respective state constitutions. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

The Kentucky State Legislature also referred another constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allow the state legislature to change the end date of the legislative session through a three-fifths vote in each chamber. It would also provide that a special legislative session up to 12 days may be jointly called by the House speaker and the Senate president and add that laws take effect on July 1 in the year the act was passed or 90 days after it is signed by the governor, whichever is later.

The Kentucky State Legislature adjourned on March 30. 

From 1995 to 2020, 12 measures appeared on the ballot in Kentucky, of which, 10 were approved and two were defeated.

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Georgia to vote in 2022 on suspending pay for assembly members or public officials indicted for felony

Voters in Georgia will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to suspend compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office due to a felony indictment:

1. any member of the General Assembly;

2. Governor;

3. Lieutenant Governor;

4. Secretary of State;

5. Attorney General;

6. State School Superintendent;

7. Commissioner of Insurance;

8. Commissioner of Agriculture; or

9. Commissioner of Labor

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The constitutional amendment was passed in the Senate by a vote of 51-1 and in the House by a vote of 169-0. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

The measure was proposed in the state legislature shortly after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in late January that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck has been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. The charges included stealing over $2 million from his former employer and using those funds to pay for his 2018 campaign. Beck was elected to the office on Nov. 6, 2018, and was suspended from the office by Governor Brian Kemp (R) on May 16, 2019.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Beck’s attorney said in June 2019 that “[Beck] acted legally and in good faith in his employment.” He also said Beck would fight the charges and planned to maintain his job as the state’s insurance commissioner. Beck said, “I am, in fact, innocent of these charges. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.” Because Beck was suspended and did not resign, the state has been compensating him, as well as John King, Kemp’s appointment to fill the position during Beck’s suspension.

Rep. Matthew Wilson (D) said Beck “is about to go a whole term without doing a job Georgians put their trust in him to do, but the taxpayers have been on the hook for his salary, health care and benefits the whole time.”



New Mexico voters will decide whether to increase funding for early childhood education and public schools

On March 18, the New Mexico State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allocate 1.25% of the five-year average of year-end market values of the money in the Land Grant Permanent Fund (LGPF) to early childhood education and the public school permanent fund. Revenue in the LGPF comes from leases and royalties on non-renewable natural resources, such as oil and gas, and returns on invested capital. It is currently valued at over $20 billion.

Of the total increased allocation, 60% would go towards early childhood education, and 40% would go toward the public school permanent fund. The amendment defines early childhood education as “nonsectarian and nondenominational education for children until they are eligible for kindergarten.” The amendment would also provide that the allocation would not occur if the balance of the Land Grant Permanent Fund drops below $17 billion. The measure will likely appear on the ballot in November 2022 unless a special election is called for an earlier date.

In New Mexico, both chambers of the New Mexico State Legislature need to approve a constitutional amendment by a simple majority during one legislative session to refer the amendment to the ballot. This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR 1) on January 19, 2021. On February 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 1 in a vote of 44-23 with three absent. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed it in a vote of 26-16. Both votes were largely along party lines. New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta.

The amendment was sponsored by Democratic Representatives Antonio Maestas, Javier Martínez, Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, Georgene Louis, and Senator Pete Campos (D). 

Sen. Leo Jaramillo (D), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Studies show that pre-kindergarten and other programs for kids 5 and under later pay off with higher high school graduation rates and fewer incarcerations.”

Sen. Bill Sharer (R), who opposes the amendment, said, “Each time we tap into it, we harm that compound interest,” he said of the endowment. “Each time we do that, sometime in the future we are somehow harming children.”

Similar amendments were introduced during the last six legislative sessions but did not pass both chambers of the state legislature.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Mexico voters approved 87% (89 of 102) and rejected 13% (13 of 103) of the ballot measures that appeared statewide.

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South Dakota will decide an amendment requiring 60% voter approval for measures raising taxes in June 2022

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

South Dakota voters will decide June 7, 2022, on a constitutional amendment that would require three-fifths (60%) voter approval for any future ballot measures that would increase taxes or fees or that would require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years. The requirement would apply to constitutional amendments and state statutes that are placed on the ballot through citizen initiative petition drives or by a vote of the state legislature. Currently, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.

This amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 5003 by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. The measure was passed in the House on February 16, 2021, in a vote of 56-12. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused.

On March 2, 2021, the South Dakota State Senate amended HJR 5003 to move the election date from November 2022 to June 2022. The amended version was passed by a vote of 18-17. All three Senate Democrats voted against the measure. Among Senate Republicans, 18 voted in favor and 14 voted against. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on March 4, 2021, in a vote of 51-17, certifying the measure for the June ballot.

Two states have supermajority requirements for ballot measures about certain topics:

  1. Washington requires three-fifths (60 percent) supermajority approval from all voters casting a ballot on initiatives or referendums related to gambling. Other questions require simple majority approval to be enacted.
  2. Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.

Legislation to enact or increase existing supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures was introduced in 2021 legislative sessions in six states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

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Supporters, opponents of Louisiana constitutional amendment on abortion raised over $1 million in 2020

Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition, the campaign in support of Louisiana Amendment 1, and Louisiana for Personal Freedoms, the opposition campaign, reported receiving a combined total of $1.1 million in contributions for the 2020 election cycle. 

Louisiana voters approved Amendment 1 in November 2020 by a vote of 62.06% to 37.94%. It added language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

According to the latest campaign finance reports filed February 17, Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition reported $681,191 in contributions. The top donors to the coalition included:
• LA Right to Life Educational Committee – $280,000
• Edward L. Rispone – $50,000
• Donald T. Bollinger – $25,000
• Kenneth Wood Sr. – $25,000
• William Henry Shane Jr. – $20,000

Louisiana for Personal Freedoms reported $428,824 in cash and in-kind contributions. The top donors to the committee included:
• BYP 100 – $150,000
• Open Society – $100,00
• Lift Louisiana – $80,758.12
• Planned Parenthood Action Fund – $51,448
• Catholics for Choice – $5,000

As of 2021, at least 10 states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, provided a state constitutional right to abortion based on court rulings. Ballotpedia has identified six ballot measures to amend state constitutions to declare that nothing in the state constitution provides a right to abortion. In Tennessee (2014), Alabama (2018), West Virginia (2018), and Louisiana (2020), these constitutional amendments were passed. In Massachusetts (1986) and Florida (2012), these constitutional amendments were defeated.

Kansas voters will be deciding a similar measure in August 2022 to state that nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion and that the state legislature has the authority to pass laws regarding abortion. The amendment was a response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling in Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt (2019), in which the court decided that the Kansas Bill of Rights includes a right to abortion.

Louisiana Amendment 1 was referred to the ballot by the state legislature in June 2019. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

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South Dakota state House advances constitutional amendment requiring three-fifths approval for measures increasing taxes, fees or appropriating more than $10 million

The South Dakota House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 5003 on February 16 in a vote of 56-12.

The measure would amend the state constitution to require a three-fifths (60%) vote for approval of any ballot measures (whether citizen-initiated or legislatively referred) that imposes or increases taxes or fees or appropriates $10 million or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.

South Dakota residents may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. The South Dakota State Legislature may place measures on the ballot as legislatively referred constitutional amendments or legislatively referred state statutes with a simple majority vote of each chamber. As of 2021, all ballot measures in South Dakota required a simple majority vote (50%+1) to be adopted.

HJR 5003 was introduced into the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen on February 2, 2021. All eight House Democrats voted against the bill. Of 62 House Republicans, 56 voted in favor, four voted against, and two were excused. To be placed on the 2022 ballot, the amendment must receive 18 affirmative votes in the South Dakota State Senate, in which Republicans hold a 32-3 supermajority. To become a part of the state constitution, a simple majority of voters must approve the change.

The South Dakota State Senate has passed three other bills this month concerning citizen initiative requirements:

  • Senate Bill 77, which was designed to require initiative petitions to print the full text in 14-point font;
  • Senate Bill 86, which was designed to require the South Dakota Secretary of State and Attorney General to issue an opinion to sponsors of initiative constitutional amendments concerning whether or not the amendment comprises a single subject and whether or not the proposed change is considered a constitutional amendment or a revision of the state constitution; and
  • Senate Bill 123, which was designed to create a 10-day comment period for ballot language of citizen initiatives, requiring the attorney general to review all comments and amend the ballot language as deemed necessary.

These bills would take effect if approved in the state House, where Republicans hold a 62-8 supermajority and do not require voter approval.

Republican sponsors of the bills pointed to the legal challenges to Amendment A, a constitutional initiative approved by voters in 2020 to legalize marijuana, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court and appealed to the state supreme court.

Senator Reynold Nesiba, one of three Democratic Senators in South Dakota, said, “This is a systematic attack by the Republican party to stifle direct democracy in South Dakota.”

Vote requirements for ballot measures vary from state to state and based on different ballot measure types and topics.

As of 2021, South Dakota was one of 37 states that required a simple majority vote (50%+1) for a proposed constitutional amendment to be adopted. Below are some of the other requirements that ballot measures face across the country.

In Nevada, a simple majority vote is required for all constitutional amendments, however, initiated constitutional amendments must be approved by voters at two successive general elections.

Constitutional amendments in Colorado require a 55% supermajority vote for approval, except for amendments that repeal language and do not amend or add language, which require a simple majority. This supermajority requirement was adopted in 2016 through a citizen initiative.

Constitutional amendments in Florida (citizen-initiated and legislatively referred) must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question, according to Section 5 of Article XI. This change was made via a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in 2006.

In Illinois, legislatively referred constitutional amendments must receive a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.

In New Hampshire, a proposed amendment must be approved by two-thirds (66.67%) of those voting in order to become part of the state’s constitution.

In seven other states, there are requirements based on turnout at the election or for a particular office, such as governor.

In Washington, a 60 percent supermajority vote for any measure concerning gambling. Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for the approval of any initiatives concerning the taking of wildlife.

A total of 67 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota during the 20-year from 2000 through 2020 in South Dakota, of which, 43% (29 of 67) were approved by voters and 57% (38 of 67) were defeated.

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