Tagconstitutional amendment

Highlights from April’s edition of Ballotpedia’s State Ballot Measure Monthly newsletter

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Nineteen statewide measures were certified for the 2022 ballot from March 16 through April 22 in 11 states. This brought the total number of 2022 statewide measures certified so far up to 28 in 16 states. An average of 22 measures were certified for even-year ballots by this point from 2011 through 2019. No new 2021 measures were certified.

The April edition also covers a significant initiative process restriction passed in Idaho and gives an update on ballot measure law changes in 2021.

Below are some highlights of the certifications and ballot measure news covered in this edition of the State Ballot Measure Monthly:

• After gaining the supermajority required in November 2020, Republican lawmakers in West Virginia put a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot that would say that no state court has any authority over impeachment proceedings or judgments. The amendment is in response to impeachment proceedings against supreme court justices in 2018 that temporary supreme court justices blocked from going to trial.

• In Idaho, the legislature passed and Gov. Brad Little (R) signed Senate Bill 1110 to increase signature distribution requirements for ballot initiatives.

• Arkansas, South Dakota, and Utah legislators have also passed ballot measure restrictions. Arkansas voters will decide a constitutional amendment in 2022 that would require 60% supermajority voter approval for any future constitutional amendments or initiated state statutes.

• Arkansas, Idaho, and Kentucky voters will decide in 2022 whether to give their legislatures the power to call themselves into special session. These measures were proposed partially in response to COVID-19.

• Ballotpedia is tracking seven certified statewide measures and seven potential statewide measures proposed in response to COVID-19.



Montana legislature sends law to require medical care for infants born alive after an attempted abortion to 2022 ballot

The Montana State Legislature put a measure on the November 2022 ballot that would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion by classifying them as a “legal person” with “the right to appropriate and reasonable medical care and treatment.” The healthcare provider that violates this requirement by not providing care could be convicted of a felony with a maximum sentence of a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison under the measure. The law would take effect on January 1, 2023.

In Montana, a simple majority is required in both chambers of the state legislature to place a proposed change to statute on the ballot. The governor’s signature is not required for legislatively referred state statutes.

The measure was introduced as House Bill 167 (HB 167) on January 14, 2021, in the Montana House of Representatives. On January 26, 2021, the state House passed the measure in a vote of 68-32. All 67 Republicans voted in favor of it, and all but one Democrat, Rep. Dave Fern, voted against it. It was sent to the Montana State Senate on January 26. On February 26, the state Senate passed an amended version in a vote of 30-20. The vote was largely along party lines, except for Senator Jeffrey Welborn, who was the sole Republican to vote against the measure. On April 22, the state House concurred with the amended version in a vote of 66-34. The vote was also along party lines, except for Rep. Edward Buttrey, who was the sole Republican to vote against the measure.

Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway, the sponsor of the bill, said, “I stand today as a witness that this practice of infants dying because they are not wanted or not planned is an abomination in God’s eyes, and I will continue to fight for the most invulnerable.”

Representative Kathy Kelker (D), who voted against the bill, said, “This one size fits all legislated standard of care not only interferes with medical practice, but denies physicians the ability to provide care that is necessary, compassionate, and appropriate to an individual woman’s circumstances.”

The measure is the third ballot measure related to abortion sent to 2022 ballots. Voters in Kentucky and Kansas will be deciding on constitutional amendments to add language to their respective state constitutions to state that nothing in the constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.

In 2022, Montana voters will also be voting on a constitutional amendment to require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications.

Between 1996 and 2020, about 64.6% (42 of 65) of the total number of measures that appeared on Montana ballots were approved, and about 35.4% (23 of 65) were defeated.

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Idaho voters to decide in 2022 if the legislature can call itself into special session

The Idaho State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow lawmakers to call a special legislative session. The measure would authorize the president pro tempore of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House to convene a special session of the Idaho State Legislature upon receiving a joint written request from 60% of the members of each chamber. The special session called by the state legislature would have to start no later than 15 days after a written request is received. The special legislative session would be restricted to the subjects specified in the written request from legislators. The amendment would also require organizational legislative sessions on the first Thursday of December following a general election.

Currently, only the governor is authorized to call the state legislature into a special session regarding a specified subject.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states authorize the governor or the state legislature to call a special session, and 14 states authorize only the governor to do so.

Kentucky voters will be voting on a similar ballot measure in 2022 that would extend the power to call a special legislative session from solely the governor to the House speaker and the Senate president.

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

This amendment was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 102 on Feb. 26, 2021. On March 3, the state Senate passed SJR 102 in a vote of 24-11. On April 20, the state House approved the amendment in a vote of 54-15 with one absent. All but seven Republican legislators voted in favor of the amendment, and all Democratic legislators voted against the change.

The amendment is the first ballot measure certified in Idaho for the 2022 ballot. Between 1996 and 2020, 27 of the 37 ballot measures appearing on Idaho ballots were approved by voters.

So far, 25 statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 15 states.

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Alabama legislature sends two constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot

On April 15, 2021, the Alabama State Legislature gave final approval to two constitutional amendments that will appear on the 2022 ballot.

One measure 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 sets the specific 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.”

The bill is named after Aniah Blanchard who was murdered in 2019 in Alabama after the suspect was released on bond after being charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Amendment sponsor Chip Brown said “too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.” The measure was passed by a vote of 30-0 in the Senate with four members not voting and 92-0 in the House with 11 members not voting.

The other measure 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. The measure was passed by the Senate in a vote of 28-0 with seven members not voting and by the House in a vote of 90-0 with 13 members not voting.

Three other constitutional amendments have passed one chamber of the Alabama state legislature and will appear on the November 2022 ballot if they pass in the second chamber. The amendments would

  1. require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months from the general election;
  2. authorize $85 million in bonds for state parks improvement; and
  3. create the Alabama Education Lottery, authorize sports betting, and authorize casino-style games in certain facilities in specific counties.

A total of 102 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2020, of which 80 were approved and 22 were defeated. Between 1998 and 2020, an average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years.



West Virginia State Legislature refers three constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The West Virginia State Legislature referred three constitutional amendments to the November 2022 ballot on April 9 and 10, the last days of the legislative session. 

  1. West Virginia No Court Authority over Impeachment Amendment
  2. West Virginia Incorporation of Religious Denominations and Churches Amendment
  3. West Virginia Tax Exemptions for Personal Property Used for Business Activity Amendment

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the West Virginia State Senate (23 votes) and the West Virginia House of Delegates (67 votes). November 2020 elections gave Republicans two-thirds majorities in both chambers when previously at least some support from Democrats to refer amendments to the ballot.

One amendment would say that no state court has authority over impeachment proceedings by the state legislature and that no court can review any impeachment judgments made by the state senate. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 2 on February 11, 2021, and passed largely along party lines in each chamber. The state House approved the amendment by a vote of 78-21 on March 2, 2021. In the House, 76 Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of it, and 21 Democrats voted against it. On April 9, 2021, the state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 23-11. All 23 Republicans voted in favor of it, and all 11 Democrats voted against it.

The amendment was proposed in response to an investigation and impeachment proceedings for multiple West Virginia Supreme Court Justices in 2018. Investigation and impeachment proceedings stemmed from the justices’ alleged misuse of over $1 million in state funds, specifically relating to courthouse office renovations; misuse of state vehicles; and illegal payments to senior judges. On October 2, 2018, the Senate censured Justice Beth Walker but did not remove her from office. In October 2018, temporary supreme court justices blocked the Senate from conducting an impeachment trial for Justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis, and Allen Loughry. A similar amendment was proposed in 2020 but did not receive the necessary two-thirds vote in the House.

Another amendment would authorize the state legislature to pass laws to incorporate churches and religious denominations. The measure was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4) on February 10, 2021. The state Senate approved SJR 4 with a vote of 32-0 with two absent on March 2, 2021. On April 7, 2021, the state House adopted the bill with amendments and sent it back to the state Senate. On April 10, the state Senate did not adopt the amendments and sent the bill back to the state House where it was approved in its original form in a vote of 94-4 with one absent. Four Democratic legislators voted against it.

The third amendment would authorize the state legislature to exempt personal property (machinery, equipment, and inventory) used for business activity from ad valorem property taxes. The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 3 (HJR 3) on February 11, 2021. The state House approved an amended version of HJR 3 with a vote of 84-16 on March 31, 2021. Fifteen Democratic representatives and one Republican voted against it. On April 10, 2021, the state Senate approved the measure with a vote of 29-5. Four Democratic senators and one Republican voted against it.

The West Virginia State Legislature convened on February 10, 2021, and adjourned on April 10, 2021. Republicans held a 23-11 majority in the Senate and a 76-24 majority in the House, which means Republicans had the two-thirds majority required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in both chambers. Before the November 2020 elections, Republicans held 20 seats in the Senate and 58 seats in the House, which means they needed at least three votes from Democrats in the Senate and nine votes from Democrats in the House to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.

The party also controlled the governorship, creating a Republican state government trifecta.

From 1996 through 2020, 73.3% (11 of 15) of statewide ballot measures in West Virginia were approved, and 26.7% (4 of 15) were defeated.

So far, 21 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 12 states.

At the end of the West Virginia session, there were five constitutional amendments that had passed one chamber. Bills are carried over to the 2022 legislative session as long as the sponsor/sponsors remain in office during the next session, and the measure has not been rejected, tabled, or postponed indefinitely. The five outstanding amendments relate to education, term limits, firearms, and veterans.

The state legislature is set to convene on January 12, 2022, and adjourn on March 12, 2022.

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Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot will feature four 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

Image of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

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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