Tagconstitutional amendment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reading:



Oklahoma adjourns 2021 legislative session without passing any constitutional amendments

The Oklahoma State Legislature adjourned its 2021 state legislative session on May 27, 2021. The legislature did not refer any constitutional amendments to the ballot during the 2021 legislative session. One constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 1001, was passed unanimously in the House but did not receive a vote in the Senate before the session adjourned. The legislature may consider the amendment again for referral to the 2022 ballot during its 2022 legislative session.

HJR 1001 would change how the Rainy Day Fund’s maximum balance is calculated. Currently, the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund (Rainy Day Fund) has a maximum allowed balance of 15% of the General Revenue Fund certification for the preceding year. The amendment would change how the maximum balance is calculated to 15% of total expenditures for the previous fiscal year. The total expenditures would exclude money expended from revolving funds, funds with money derived from fees or non-tax revenues, and proceeds from a bond or debt obligation. In the amendment’s fiscal impact statement, legislative analysts said that “the provisions will increase the basis on which the calculation of the fund balance maximum is made, perhaps as much as a one hundred percent (100%) increase. This will result in the ability for the fund to receive more surplus funds.”

Oklahoma also allows for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, citizen-initiated state statutes, and veto referendums, making it one of 26 states in which statewide ballot measures can qualify for the ballot through a signature petition. The number of signatures required to qualify initiatives and veto referendums for the ballot is tied to the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. For a signature petition to initiate a constitutional amendment, proponents must collect valid signatures equal to 15% of votes cast for governor—177,958 for the 2022 ballot. For initiated state statutes, the requirement is 8%—94,911 for the 2022 ballot—and for veto referendums, the requirement is 5%—59,320 for the 2022 ballot.

One initiative petition has been filed targeting the 2022 ballot. The measure is a veto referendum that was designed to repeal House Bill 1674. HB 1674 would (1) make unlawfully obstructing use of public roads a misdemeanor and prescribe penalties for those found guilty of participation in a riot and (2) grant criminal and civil immunity in certain circumstances to vehicle operators who flee from a riot if they cause injury or death.

Once an initiative petition is filed, protests may be filed challenging the sufficiency of the petition within 10 days after the notice of filing is published. The Secretary of State sets the date for signature collection to begin at least 15 days (but no more than 30 days) after any/all protests challenging the petition have been resolved. Initiatives can be circulated for a maximum of 90 days. Signatures are due by 5:00 p.m. local time on the 90th day. State election officials in Oklahoma recommend filing a proposed initiative during the first months of the year preceding the targeted election year due to the two periods during which challenges may be filed against an initiative. For example, to qualify an initiative for the November 2022 ballot, Oklahoma election officials recommended filing the initiative proposal in the early months of 2021. For a measure to appear on the ballot, signatures must be submitted long enough in advance for the governor to issue an election proclamation, which must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days prior to an election (August 30, 2022, to qualify for the November 8, 2022, ballot).

A total of 71 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Oklahoma from 2000 to 2020, including five measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years. Of the measures, 74.65% (53 of 71) were approved, and 25.35% (18 of 71) were defeated.



Connecticut voters to decide early voting amendment in 2022

On May 27, the Connecticut State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to voters in 2022 that would authorize the state legislature to provide by law for early voting. Currently, Connecticut does not permit early voting.

As of April 2021, 38 states and the District of Columbia permitted early voting. Early voting allows citizens to cast ballots in person at a polling place prior to an election. In states that permit early voting, a voter does not have to provide an excuse for being unable to vote on election day.

Cheri Quickmire, the Connecticut executive director of Common Cause, a progressive 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, said, “We trust Connecticut’s voters will embrace this additional option when it is on the ballot next year. In states that have Early Voting, people use it. In Georgia, for instance, more than two-thirds of November’s voters used in-person early voting to cast their ballots. In Florida, almost half of November’s voters cast their ballots early, in person.”

The Connecticut Constitution provides two paths for the Connecticut General Assembly to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot: (1) a 75 percent vote in each chamber of the legislature during one legislative session, or (2) a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each chamber of the legislature during two legislative sessions.

The constitutional amendment was introduced into the Connecticut General Assembly as House Joint Resolution 161 (HJR 161) during the 2019 legislative session. On April 24, 2019, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed HJR 161, meeting the three-fourths vote required to approve a constitutional amendment during one legislative session. As there was one vacant seat in the House, 113 votes were needed to approve the amendment during one session. The vote on HJR 161 was 125 to 24. On May 8, 2019, the Connecticut State Senate passed HJR 161 by less than the three-fourths vote required to approve an amendment during one session. The vote was 23 to 13. At least 27 votes were required to meet the three-fourths threshold.

As the constitutional amendment was approved during the 2019 legislative session by a simple majority vote in each chamber, legislators needed to approve the amendment again during the 2021–2022 legislative session by a simple majority vote. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution (HJR 59). It was approved by the House on May 6, 2021, by a vote of 115-26 with 10 absent or not voting. On May 27, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 59 by a vote of 26-9 with one absent.

This is the first amendment referred to the 2022 statewide ballot in Connecticut. Between 1996 and 2020, voters approved 71% (5 of 7) ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots in Connecticut.

Additional reading:



Sports betting initiative qualifies for 2022 ballot in California

An initiative to legalize sports betting qualified for the ballot in California. Voters will decide the issue on November 8, 2022. The ballot initiative would amend the state constitution and state statutes to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California. The measure would tax profits derived from sports betting at racetracks at 10% and legalize roulette and dice games, such as craps, at tribal casinos. 

The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which supports the proposal, launched in November 2019. It received a signature deadline extension due to the coronavirus pandemic and related regulations. On December 14, 2020, the campaign filed 1,427,373 signatures. On May 26, 2021, the office of Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that the initiative qualified for the ballot after counties found 1,061,282 signatures to be valid. The minimum number required was 997,139.

Several American Indian tribes support the Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, including the top-five donors to the campaign—the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The campaign had raised $11.57 million through March 31, 2021. Mark Macarro, chairman of Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, stated, “Californians should have the choice to participate in sports wagering at highly regulated, safe and experienced gaming locations. We are very proud to see tribes from across California come together for this effort, which represents an incremental but important step toward giving Californians the freedom to participate in this new activity in a responsible manner.”

Opponents launched the No on the Gambling Power Grab PAC, which terminated in late 2020. The PAC raised $1.09 million. Kyle Kirkland, president of the California Gaming Association, said, “This initiative does nothing to advance sports wagering, and instead expands the tribal casinos’ tax-free monopoly on gaming and rewards those operators for prioritizing their own wealth over public health and safety.”

As of May 2021, California was one of 21 states that had not legalized sports betting; 29 states and D.C. had legalized or passed laws legalizing sports betting. In California, a constitutional amendment is required to legalize sports betting because the state constitution defines what types of gambling are permitted in the state. Since 2018, four states have legalized sports betting through ballot measures. The ballot measures received approval from between 51.4% of voters in Colorado and 67.7% in Maryland. 

The sports betting ballot initiative joins two other citizen-initiated measures on the 2022 general election ballot in California. An initiative to increase the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and a veto referendum to overturn the ban on flavored tobacco sales have also qualified for the ballot. Signatures need to be verified for California 2022 ballot initiatives 131 days before the general election, which is June 30, 2022.

Additional reading:



Illinois voters will decide ballot measure in 2022 to make collective bargaining a state constitutional right

In 2022, voters in Illinois will decide a constitutional amendment to make collective bargaining a right. The ballot measure would also prohibit a future right-to-work law in Illinois.

In the General Assembly, the constitutional amendment needed to receive 36 votes in the Senate and 71 votes in the House. The Illinois Senate voted 49 to 7 on May 21, 2021. Senate Democrats and 11 Senate Republicans supported the resolution, while seven Senate Republicans opposed it. The Illinois House of Representatives voted in favor of the amendment 80 to 30 on May 26, 2021. House Democrats and 9 House Republicans supported the resolution. Thirty House Republicans voted against the proposal. During committee hearings, representatives from the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Chicago Teachers, and Illinois AFL-CIO advocated for the constitutional amendment, and representatives from the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and National Federation of Independent Business advocated against it.

Currently, 27 states have right-to-work laws, which mandate that no person can be required to pay dues to a labor union or join a labor union as a condition of employment.

In 2018, Missouri voters repealed the right-to-work law through a veto referendum. Missouri was the last state in which voters directly voted on a right-to-work law.

In 2022, Tennessee voters will decide a measure to put a right-to-work provision into the state’s constitution. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work law in state statute 1947.

Since 1995, Illinois voters have decided 7 constitutional amendments, approving 5 of them. The most recent defeated measure was in 2020, when 53% of voters opposed a constitutional amendment to repeal the requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and instead allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. The 2020 tax amendment saw more than $123 million in contributions, with supporters and opponents evenly split in terms of campaign cash. 

The Illinois General Assembly is expected to adjourn on May 31, 2021. Additional constitutional amendments can be referred to the 2022 general election ballot during the remainder of this year’s legislative session or during next year’s legislative session.

Additional reading:



Texas voters will decide changes to the homestead tax exemption for surviving spouses of military service members

On May 23, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would authorize a total residence homestead property tax exemption for a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.” Currently, the constitution grants the exemption to the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed in action.” The amended language would include service members who are killed or fatally injured during military training or other military duties. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2022.

In 2013, Texas voters first authorized the state legislature to grant exemptions for the surviving spouse of a service member killed in action with the approval of Proposition 1. The amendment was passed with 86.98% of voters favoring it and 13.01% of voters opposing it. At the time of Proposition 1’s approval, Section 1-b, Article VIII of the Texas Constitution allowed for various property tax exemptions on the homes of disabled veterans and their surviving spouses but did not previously grant such exemptions for the surviving spouses of service members who were killed in action.

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

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 35 (SJR 35) on February 8, 2021. On April 8, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 35 in a vote of 29-1, with one absent. On May 23, 2021, the House approved SJR 35 in a vote of 144-0 with six not present or not voting.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2019, 10 of the 216 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 4.6%.

The Texas State Legislature is set to adjourn on May 31.

Additional reading:



Texas State Legislature sends an amendment to expand the authority of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to 2021 ballot

On May 22, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would expand the authority of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to state judicial candidates. The amendment would authorize the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept complaints regarding the conduct of candidates seeking judicial office and discipline candidates, in the same manner, the commission is currently authorized to do so with judicial officeholders. Currently, the Texas Constitution authorizes the commission to discipline sitting judges through involuntary retirement, censure, unpaid suspension, or removal from office once indicted by a state or federal grand jury for a felony offense or charged with a misdemeanor involving official misconduct.

The commission is made up of 13 members: six judges, two lawyers, and five members of the public. The judges are appointed by the state supreme court, the lawyers are appointed by the State Bar of Texas, and the members of the public are appointed by the governor.

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

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 165 (HJR 165) on April 27, 2021. Representative Jacey Jetton (R) requested permission to introduce the bill after the March 12 deadline to submit constitutional amendments. On May 13, 2021, the state House passed HJR 165 in a vote of 137-0 with 13 not present or not voting. On May 22, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 165 by a vote of 31-0.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. The 2021 legislative session began on January 12, 2021, and will adjourn on May 31, 2021.

The Texas Legislature has also referred five other ballot measures to the November ballot. One other measure relates to the state judiciary. It would change the eligibility requirements for the following judicial offices: a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge. The other amendments relate to taxes, raffles at rodeo venues, and religious services.

Between 1995 and 2020, Texas voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the constitutional amendments that appeared on statewide ballots.

Additional reading:



Texas voters to decide whether rodeo venues can host charitable raffles in November

On May 22, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would authorize professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues. The amendment would also include “an organization sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or the Women ’s Professional Rodeo Association” when defining “professional sports team.”

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

This amendment was filed as House Joint Resolution 143 (HJR 143) on March 11, 2021. On May 3, 2021, the state House passed HJR 143 in a vote of 123-17, with 10 absent or not voting. The Senate passed the amendment on May 22, 2021, by a vote of 28-2 with one absent.

During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%. In 2019, 10 of the 216 proposed constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot, meaning the rate of certification was 4.6%. The 2021 legislative session began on January 12, 2021, and will adjourn on May 31, 2021.

The Texas Legislature has also referred five other ballot measures to the November ballot.

Additional reading:



Texas legislature sends amendment to change eligibility requirements for certain judicial offices to voters in November

On May 18, the Texas State Legislature voted to send a constitutional amendment that would change the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge. The changes include: 

• requiring candidates to be residents of Texas as well as citizens of the United States;

• requiring 10 years of experience in Texas as a practicing lawyer or judge of a state or county court for candidates of the supreme court;

• requiring 8 years of experience in Texas as a practicing lawyer or judge of a state or county court for candidates of a district court; and

• disqualifying candidates if their license to practice law was revoked or suspended during their experience requirement.

The changes would apply to judges elected or appointed to first terms on or after January 1, 2025. The amendment would also change gendered language used in the section of the state constitution to gender-neutral language.

Currently, the state constitution requires judges to be a citizen of the United States and Texas. The present constitution also requires that a judge has been either a practicing lawyer or a lawyer and judge of a court of record together for at least 10 years for a supreme court justice and four years for a district judge.

Across the state’s appellate and trial courts, there are nine supreme court justices, nine criminal appeals judges, 80 appeals court judges, and 448 district court judges.

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

This amendment was filed as Senate Joint Resolution 47 (SJR 47) on March 8, 2021. On April 27, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 47 in a vote of 30-1. On May 18, 2021, the House approved SJR 47 by a vote of 120-19 with 11 not present or not voting.

This was the third constitutional amendment to be referred to the November 2021 ballot in Texas. Voters will also be deciding amendments regarding restrictions on religious services and extending a homestead tax limit to the surviving spouses of disabled individuals.

Between 1995 and 2020 in Texas, ballots featured an average of 13 ballot measures. During the 2021 legislative session, 218 constitutional amendments were filed in the Texas State Legislature. Legislators were permitted to file constitutional amendments through March 12, 2021, unless permission was given to introduce an amendment after the deadline. Between 2009 and 2019, an average of 192 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7%.

Additional reading:



Oregon voters will decide on whether to add a right to affordable healthcare to the state constitution in 2022

On May 19, the Oregon State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would add a new section requiring the state to “ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The amendment would also add a provision requiring the right to affordable healthcare be “balanced against the public interest in funding public schools and other essential public services.”

Rep. Rob Nosse (D), one of the chief sponsors of the amendment, said, “Burdensome medical bills, or medical conditions that go untreated because of a lack of financial resources, cause great strain to families and individuals all over this state. They hold people back, causing them to forego starting a business, getting an education, buying a home, or having children. This amendment is a practical and sober statement of what the people of this state need.”

Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod (R), who voted in opposition to the measure, said, “It’s going to either be an absolutely empty promise that we have no intention of keeping, or it’s going to be a right that’s going to bankrupt the state.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the Oregon State Senate and the Oregon House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 12 (SJR 12) on January 11, 2021. On March 18, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 12 largely along party lines in a vote of 17-13. Independent Senator Brian Boquist and Democratic Senator Betsy Johnson joined the Republican minority. On May 19, 2021, the House approved SJR 12 along party lines by a vote of 34-23 with three excused. 

The amendment was proposed in the state legislature at least eight times in the last 16 years according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. During the 2020 legislative session, Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D) proposed the amendment. It was approved largely along party lines in the Oregon House of Representatives by a vote of 36-21 with three excused. One Democrat joined the Republican minority in the vote. 

The amendment did not receive a vote in the Oregon State Senate due to a legislative walkout. On February 24, 2020, 11 of the 12 Republican members of the Senate did not attend the regularly scheduled morning Senate floor session. Democrats held 18 seats, two short of the 20 members needed for a quorum. On March 5, Senate President Peter Courtney (D) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) adjourned their respective chambers early due to the lack of a quorum.

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to the Oregon 2022 ballot. From 1995 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 32, and the average number of measures was 14. Between 1995 and 2020, about 46.43% (78 of 168) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 53.57% (90 of 168) were defeated.

Additional reading: