Tagconstitutional amendment

The Texas legislature sends amendment on homestead tax limits for surviving spouses of disabled to November ballot

On May 14, the Texas State Legislature voted to refer a constitutional amendment that would allow the surviving spouse of a disabled individual to maintain a homestead property tax limit if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the death and remains at the homestead. The amendment would retroactively validate a 2019 law that extends the property tax ceiling to the surviving spouse. The amendment would also add a temporary provision that would refund taxes to spouses of a deceased disabled individual for the 2020 and 2021 tax years that exceeded the amount that should have been paid with the tax limit.

Representative Jake Ellzey (R), one of the authors of the amendment, said, “The surviving spouse of a disabled homeowner should not be saddled with an unexpected large increase in their tax bill. That only magnifies the tragedy of the loss of their spouse and if they are on a fixed income it even further compounds their difficulties. If a couple has a disability exemption for their homestead, when the disabled person passes away, the surviving spouse loses the exemption. HJR125 protects the surviving spouse from the loss of an important benefit.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before Texas 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 introduced as House Joint Resolution 125 on March 8, 2021. On April 12, 2021, the state House passed HJR 125 in a vote of 147-0, with three not voting. On May 14, 2021, the Senate approved HJR 125 in a vote of 30-0 with one excused.

Currently, disabled individuals may apply for a $10,000 homestead tax exemption and a limit on school district property taxes. In order to qualify for the disabled exemption and tax limit, the individual must also qualify to receive disability benefits under the Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program administered by the Social Security Administration. Property taxes on the residence of a disabled individual or their surviving spouse do not increase from the year the individual qualifies for the exemption and tax limit.

The amendment is the second ballot measure the Texas Legislature sent to the 2021 ballot. In November, Texas voters will also be deciding whether to add a provision to the Texas Constitution that prohibits the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services.

Since 1876 when the current constitution was adopted, it has been amended 507 times. In November 2019, voters approved nine constitutional amendments. On average, the legislature referred 13 constitutional amendments to odd-year ballots from 1995 through 2019.

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Pennsylvania voters pass constitutional amendments to limit governor’s emergency orders without legislative support

On May 18, Pennsylvania voters approved two constitution amendments on the governor’s emergency powers, which were a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. According to unofficial results on May 19, both Question 1 and Question 2 received 54% of the statewide vote.

Voters also approved the other two statewide measures on the ballot by votes of 71%-29% and 72%-28%, respectively.

Question 1 allows 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 limits the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order. 

The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to end the governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration in June 2020. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution. A two-thirds vote in the legislature would have been required to overturn the veto.

Pennsylvania will join four other states—Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota—that require a legislative vote to extend or terminate a governor’s emergency declaration after a specific number of days. In Kansas, the requirement is 15 days after the order is first issued. In Michigan, the requirement is 28 days. In Alaska and Minnesota, the requirement is 30 days.

Ballotpedia did not identify ballot measure committees that supported or opposed the constitutional amendments. Americans For Prosperity and The Commonwealth Foundation—both 501(c) organizations—spent about $150,000 through independent expenditures to support Question 1 and Question 2.

The Pennsylvania amendments were the first in the country to address the governor’s emergency powers since the pandemic began. In 2021 or 2022, at least six other states will vote on at least seven other ballot measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions. In November, Texans will vote on a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

The approval of Pennsylvania Question 1 and Question 2, as well as Question 3, continues the trend of successful constitutional amendments in the state since 1989. Between 1989 and 2020, 15 constitutional amendments were approved. Pennsylvanians could see more constitutional amendments on the ballot in November. Potential measures that have passed in one chamber of the legislature include amendments to have gubernatorial candidates select their lieutenant gubernatorial running mates and to reorganize the election of state judges and justices into districts. 

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Nevada legislature refers minimum wage amendment to 2022 ballot

In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide on an amendment to increase the minimum wage for all employees to $12 by 2024. The state legislature voted on Friday to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would change the current minimum wage, which is set at two different rates depending on whether the employee receives health benefits or not. The amendment would also remove the existing annual inflation adjustments to the minimum wage, which are currently capped at 3% of the prior year’s rate, and allow the legislature to pass a minimum wage law setting the rate higher than the constitutionally mandated minimum.

In 2019, the Nevada State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 456 (AB 456), which enacted a minimum wage increase beginning in 2020 at a rate of $8.00 for employees that received health benefits and $9.00 for those who did not. The rate is set to increase incrementally until July 2024 when it reaches $11 and $12 for the respective employee tiers. 

As of January 2021, the minimum wage in Nevada was $8.75 for employees with health benefits and $9.75 for employees without health benefits.

Twenty-five states and D.C. increased or will increase their minimum wages in 2021. Across the country, the average state minimum wage in 2021 is about $9.59, up from $9.17 in 2020.

To refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot, a majority vote is required in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature in two successive sessions. The amendment was introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 10 (AJR 10) during the 2019 legislative session. The amendment passed in the Nevada State Legislature along party lines with Democrats in the majority and Republicans in the minority. The Assembly passed the amendment in a vote of 28-12 with one Republican member excused. The State Senate passed the amendment in a vote of 12-8 with one Democratic member excused.

During the 2021 legislative session, the State Assembly passed the amendment along party lines with a vote of 26 Democrats in favor and 16 Republicans opposed. The Senate passed the amendment largely along party lines with a vote of 13-8, with one Republican joining the Democratic majority.

The amendment is the fourth ballot measure to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The legislature also referred a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. Voters will also be deciding two indirect initiatives that would increase gaming and sales taxes and dedicate revenue to education and tourism.

Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3% (33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.

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Texas voters will decide amendment prohibiting restrictions on religious gatherings and organizations in November

The Texas State Legislature voted Tuesday to refer its first constitutional amendment to the November ballot. The amendment would add a section to the state constitution prohibiting the state or any political subdivision from issuing or enacting a statute, order, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services, including religious services conducted in churches.

The amendment was proposed in response to the restrictions put in place requiring religious institutions to refrain from meeting in person in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Texas cities and counties issued stay-at-home orders requiring religious gatherings to stream their services. On March 31, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order that included “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship” in the definition of “essential services.”

Rep. Scott Sanford (R), who voted in favor of the amendment, said, “Churches provide essential spiritual, mental and physical support in a time of crisis. Closing churches not only eliminated these critical ministries and services, but it violated their religious freedom, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution.”

Douglas Laycock, professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, opposes the measure and similar bills considered by the legislature: “There are very few occasions or reasons on which it would ever be necessary to shut down a place of worship, but COVID is one.”

As of May 10, Ballotpedia has identified 10 measures appearing on statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. On May 18, 2021, Pennsylvanians will decide on two constitutional amendments on 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, which will be decided in 2022, concern changes to election procedures, convening state legislatures, and increasing appropriations limits during emergencies.

In Texas, 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 requirement amounts to 100 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate.

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 27 on January 25, 2021. On March 25, 2021, the state Senate passed SJR 27 in a vote of 28-2 with one absent. All but two Democratic members voted in favor of the amendment. On May 11, 2021, the House approved the amendment by a vote of 108-33, with nine not voting or absent. In the House, 27 Democrats joined the Republican majority, and 33 Democrats were in the minority.

At the general election on November 3, 2020, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate. They maintained their 83-67 majority in the House and lost one seat in the Senate. The new majority in the Senate following the election was 18-13, which means support from at least three Democrats is needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the Senate.

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. Democrats filed 92 (42.2%) of the constitutional amendments. Republicans filed 126 (57.8%) of the constitutional amendments. The legislature has until May 31st when it adjourns to refer a measure to the ballot.

Since 1876 when the current 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.

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New York Legislature refers two voting policy constitutional amendments to November ballot

Voters in New York will decide constitutional amendments at the election on November 2, 2021, to authorize no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. Currently, the state constitution requires voters to be absent from their county of residence, ill, or physically disabled to vote with an absentee ballot. It also requires that persons must register to vote at least ten days before an election, thus prohibiting same-day voter registration.

To refer constitutional amendments to the ballot, the New York State Legislature must approve them by a simple majority vote in each chamber during two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. Both of the constitutional amendments were previously approved in 2019. On January 11, 2021, the state Senate voted 50 to 13 to pass the no-excuse absentee voting amendment. Democrats, along with seven Republicans, voted in favor of the proposal. Thirteen Republicans voted against the proposal. On January 12, the Senate voted 42 to 20 to pass the same-day voter registration amendment. Democrats supported the proposal, and Republicans opposed the proposal. On May 11, 2021, the state Assembly voted to pass both constitutional amendments, sending them to the ballot for voter consideration.

As of April 2021, 20 states and D.C. allow for same-day voter registration, including neighboring Connecticut and Vermont. New York is one of 16 states that require an excuse to receive an absentee ballot. Thirty-four states and D.C. provide for no-excuse absentee voting (or provide every voter with a mail-in ballot), meaning any voter can apply to receive an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, absentee voting was temporarily extended in New York to any voter ‘unable to appear personally at the polling place of the election district in which they are a qualified voter because there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease causing illness to the voter or to other members of the public.’  

Since 1995, an average of 1.5 constitutional amendments appeared on odd-year ballots in New York. As of May 12, four constitutional amendments had been approved for the November election. In addition to the two voting policy amendments, voters will also decide an amendment to make changes to the redistricting process in New York and an amendment to create a state constitutional right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment.

An additional two constitutional amendments could appear on the ballot, bringing the total up to six measures. These two amendments would increase the NYC Civil Court’s jurisdiction from civil cases involving $25,000 to $50,000 and remove the wartime service requirement for veterans to receive civil service credits.

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Arizona to vote on in-state tuition for non-citizen residents in 2022

In 2022, Arizonans will vote on a ballot measure to expand in-state tuition to some residents without legal citizenship status. The ballot measure would make in-state tuition available to non-citizen residents who (a) attended school in Arizona for at least two years and (b) graduated from a public school, private school, or homeschool in Arizona. Individuals who are considered nonresident aliens under federal law, such as the children of foreign diplomats and foreign government employees, would not be eligible.

The ballot measure would repeal provisions of Proposition 300, which 71% of voters approved in 2006. Proposition 300 provided that non-citizens could not receive certain state-subsidized services, benefits, or financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

State Sen. Paul Boyer (R-20) filed the ballot measure as Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 (SCR 1044). On March 4, 2021, the Arizona State Senate voted 17-13 to approve the proposal, with Democrats and three Republicans supporting SCR 1044. On May 10, 2021, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 33-27 to refer the ballot measure to the ballot, with Democrats and four Republicans supporting the resolution. According to the Associated Press, House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-25) did not want a vote on the bill unless a majority of House Republicans supported it. However, State Reps. Michelle Udall (R-25) and Joel John (R-4) motioned for a vote and were joined by Democrats and two other Republicans.

Republicans hold 31 House seats and Democrats hold 29 House seats. Rep. Udall said, “We need more college educated teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations. The youth this bill seeks to help shouldn’t be blamed or judged based on others’ actions. They were brought here as minors, as children.” State Rep. John Fillmore (R-16), who voted against the measure, stated, “Americans should not have to pay for non-American citizens, illegals, giving them favored status for their trespass and invasion into America.” 

The ballot measure is the first certified for the ballot in Arizona for 2022. Since 1985, the state legislature referred an average of five proposals to the ballot during each election cycle. As of May 10, ten legislative referrals have passed at least one chamber of the Arizona State Legislature. A simple majority is required in each legislative chamber to refer a measure to the ballot. This applies to both statutes and constitutional amendments. The 2021 legislative session is expected to adjourn on May 31. 

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Tennessee legislature votes to send amendment providing for an acting governor to the 2022 ballot

On May 4, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to send a constitutional amendment to provide a process, along with a line of succession, for an acting governor when the governor is unable to perform the office’s powers and duties.

The ballot measure would allow the governor to provide a written, signed declaration saying that he or she is unable to perform the powers and duties of the office. The speaker of the Senate, who also serves as the Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, would serve as acting governor. If the office of the speaker of the Senate is vacant, the speaker of the House would be next in line to assume the office. The acting governor would perform the duties of the office until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she is able to perform the office’s powers and duties again. The ballot measure would also allow a majority of executive department officials to determine that the governor is unable to perform his or her powers and duties, putting an acting governor in power until the governor provides a written, signed declaration saying he or she is able to perform the office’s powers and duties.

The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, the constitution provides for two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.

During the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R) introduced the constitutional amendment into the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 154 (SJR 154) on February 5, 2019. On April 18, 2019, the state Senate approved SJR 154, in a vote of 32-0, with one senator not voting. On May 2, 2019, the state House approved SJR 154, with 92 members supporting the amendment, two members opposing the amendment, and two members not voting.

The amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR 10) during the 2021 legislative session on January 12, 2021. The Senate passed SJR 10 on March 4, 2021, in a vote of 32-0, with one not voting. The House approved an amended version of SJR 10 on May 3, 2021, in a vote of 91-0. On May 4, the Senate concurred with the amendments in a vote of 29-0.

The amendment is one of three set to appear on the 2022 statewide ballot. Tennessee voters will also be deciding a right to work amendment and an amendment that would remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment.

Tennessee voters last decided on a constitutional amendment in 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.



Tennessee voters will decide 2022 amendment to remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment

On May 4, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to refer a constitutional amendment to the 2022 general election ballot that would remove language that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishment and replace it with the statement, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.” The ballot measure would also state that the language does not prohibit an inmate from working when the inmate has been duly convicted of a crime.

In 2020, voters in Nebraska and Utah voted to remove language from their respective constitutions that allowed the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. Nebraska Amendment 1 was approved by a margin of 68.23% to 31.77%. Utah Constitutional Amendment C was approved by a margin of 80.48% to 19.52%.

As of 2021:

• Ten states had constitutions that included provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude but with an exception for criminal punishments.

• Nine states had constitutions that included provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment.

• One state—Vermont—had a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.

The Tennessee State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot for gubernatorial general elections. The Tennessee Constitution requires the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment during two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, the constitution provides for two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber. In the state Senate, that amounts to 17 votes during the first session and 22 votes during the second session, assuming no vacancies. In the state House, that amounts to 50 votes during the first session and 66 votes during the second session.

During the 2019 legislative session, Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-29) introduced the constitutional amendment into the legislature as Senate Joint Resolution 159 (SJR 159) on February 5, 2019.

On March 25, 2019, the state Senate approved SJR 159, in a vote of 32-0. On April 22, 2019, the state House approved SJR 159, in a vote of 97-0.

The amendment was introduced during the 2021 legislative session as Senate Joint Resolution 80 (SJR 80). The Senate approved SJR 80 on March 15, 2021, in a vote of 26-4. On May 4, 2021, the House approved SJR 80 in a vote of 81-2, with two present and not voting.

State Representatives Joe Towns (D) said, “Today is a historic day as this state has taken a definitive step forward in stripping all forms of slavery from the Tennessee State Constitution. Some Tennesseans may be prisoners, but, by God, they will not be slaves.  We are the first Southern State to embrace universal abolition. I am proud to have carried this joint resolution and now we need all Tennesseans to join us in correcting this wrong by voting for this constitutional amendment in November of 2022.”

The amendment is one of three set to appear on the 2022 statewide ballot. Tennessee voters will also be deciding a right to work amendment and an amendment that provides a process, along with a line of succession, for an acting governor when the governor is unable to perform the offices’ powers and duties.

Tennessee voters last decided on a constitutional amendment in 2014. Tennessee voters approved 100% of the 11 statewide ballot measures appearing on ballots between 1995 and 2014.



Five constitutional amendments certified to appear on 2022 ballot in Alabama so far

As of May 4, 2021, the Alabama State Legislature has referred five statewide ballot measures to the 2022 ballot. One measure will be on the May 24 ballot. Four measures will be on the Nov. 8 ballot. The legislature unanimously approved four of the amendments. The other amendment, which would ban election and voting changes for six months before a general election, was passed largely along party lines with most Republicans in favor and most Democrats opposed.

In Alabama, both chambers of the legislature must approve proposed constitutional amendments by a 60% vote in one session to refer them to the voters.

May 24, 2022:

  1. House Bill 565 would amend the state constitution to authorize $85 million in bonds for improvement, renovation, acquisition, construction, and maintenance of state parks managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and historical sites managed by the Alabama Historical Commission, excluding the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury. The measure was passed by a vote of 29-0 in the Senate and 98-0 in the House.

November 8, 2022:

  1. House Bill 388 would require that any legislation changing the conduct of a general election must be implemented at least six months before the next affected general election. It was passed in the House by a vote of 75-24 and in the Senate by a vote of 25-4. In the House 74 Republicans and one Democrat were in favor of the amendment, and 24 Democrats were opposed. In the Senate, 24 Republicans and one Democrata were in favor, and two Republicans and two Democrats were opposed.
  2. Senate Bill 68 would remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts. County probate courts would continue to be responsible for adoptions, guardianships, and granting letters of testamentary. It was passed in the Senate by a vote of 28-0 and in the House by a vote of 90-0.
  3. House Bill 131 would amend the Alabama Constitution to provide that the legislature may enumerate offenses for which bail may be denied. The measure is referred to as Aniah’s Law. The legislature also passed House Bill 130, which would take effect if the amendment is approved. House Bill 130 enumerates offenses for which bail may be denied by a court, including murder, kidnapping, rape, assault, and more. For individuals charged with listed offenses under the bill, bail could be denied “if the prosecuting attorney proves by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance in court or protect the safety of the community or any person, may deny a defendant’s bail.” It was passed by a vote of 30-0 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House.
  4. House Bill 178 would allow certain cities that were previously authorized to pass a special property tax to pay for bonds or other forms of debt to fund capital improvements to instead use the tax revenue to pay for capital improvements directly. It would also validate any past use of such property tax revenue directly for capital improvements. It was passed by a vote of 98-0 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate.

A total of 88 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 2000 to 2020. Sixty-nine were approved (78.41%), and 22 were defeated (21.59%). All but three measures were on even-year ballots. From 2000 to 2020, the number of measures on statewide ballots during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15.



Missouri legislature passes 2022 constitutional amendment to expand treasurer’s investment options

On May 4, 2021, the Missouri State Senate voted 32-0 to pass a constitutional amendment expanding the types of securities and financial instruments the state treasurer can invest state funds into. It will appear on the ballot for the election on Nov. 8, 2022. The constitutional amendment would add municipal securities that receive one of the five highest ratings from a nationally recognized rating agency to the list of securities into which state funds can be invested. The constitutional amendment would also allow the legislature to pass laws allowing the treasurer to invest in other financial instruments and securities that are deemed reasonable and prudent.

The Missouri House of Representatives previously passed the amendment on March 11, 2021, by a vote of 156-1. State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer (R-61) was the amendment’s lead sponsor. 

In Missouri, the state treasurer is responsible for determining how much state revenue is not needed for operating expenses and invests those remaining funds with the goal of accumulating interest income for the state. The current state treasurer is Scott Fitzpatrick (R), who was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike Parson and elected to his first full term in 2020. 

Since 1985, Missouri voters have approved 69% (51 of 74) of legislatively referred constitutional amendments. The state legislature is expected to adjourn its 2021 session on May 14 and could refer additional amendments to the 2022 ballot during next year’s legislative session.

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