Tagstate senate

Louisiana legislature refers two more amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning waiving certain water charges and limiting increases in assessed value for Orleans Parish properties

The Louisiana Legislature voted on Sunday and Monday to refer two more amendments to the Nov. 2022 ballot, bringing to total to four. A two-thirds vote is needed in each chamber of the Louisiana Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

Last week, the legislature referred two amendments to the 2022 ballot concerning investing state money in stocks and electronic filing and remittance of sales taxes.

Louisiana Waiving Water Charges Amendment

This measure would allow local governments to waive water charges for water lost because of damage to infrastructure if damages are not caused by the customer.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 59 (HB 59) by Rep. Jeremy LaCombe (D) on March 4, 2021. On May 19, the House passed HB 59 in a vote of 102-0. The Senate approved the amendment in a vote of 36-1 on June 6. The “no” vote came from Democratic Senator Karen Carter.

Louisiana Limit on Assessed Value Increase of Reappraised Property in Orleans Parish Amendment

The amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property in Orleans Parish to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year. The effective date of the amendment is January 1, 2023.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 143 (HB 143) by Rep. Matthew Willard (D) on April 12, 2021. On May 10, the House passed HB 143 in a vote of 97-3. The bill was amended and passed in the Senate on June 2 in a vote of 26-6. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments and approved the amendment on June 7, in a vote of 94-1.

Potential 2021 and 2022 Louisiana ballot measures

There are six other constitutional amendments for the 2022 ballot and three amendments for the 2021 ballot that have passed one chamber of the Louisiana Legislature. They would appear on the statewide ballot if passed in the second chamber. The state legislature is set to adjourn its 2021 session on June 10, 2021.

Louisiana historical ballot measure statistics

From 2000 to 2020, 132 constitutional amendments appeared on the statewide ballot in Louisiana. Of the total, 96 amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, and 36 amendments appeared on the ballot during odd-numbered years.

The average number of amendments appearing on the statewide ballot was 10 in even-numbered years and 4 in odd-numbered years.

Voters approved 71.88% (69 of 96) and rejected 28.13% (27 of 96) of the amendments during even years. Voters approved 69.44% (25 of 36) and rejected 30.56% (11 of 36) of the amendments during odd years.

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Special election primary to be held June 12 in Louisiana Senate district

A special election primary is being held on June 12 for District 7 of the Louisiana State Senate. Joanna Cappiello-Leopold (D), Gary Carter Jr. (D), Mack Cormier (D), and Patricia McCarty (R) are running in the primary. Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

The District 7 seat became vacant after Troy Carter (D) won a special election for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District on April 24. Carter had represented District 7 since 2016. He resigned on May 10, a day prior to his swearing-in as a member of Congress.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 27-11 majority in the Louisiana Senate with one vacancy. Louisiana has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of June, 38 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Louisiana held 36 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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May 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats: 54.3% Republicans, 44.9% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s May partisan count of state legislative seats found that 54.30% of state legislators are Republicans and 44.93% are Democrats.

At the end of every month, Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, which refers to which political party holds a majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans currently control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber, the Alaska House of Representatives, has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the end of May, Republicans held 1,091 of the 1,972 total state senate seats, while Democrats held 867. The Democrats lost two seats since April, while the Republicans’ number of seats stayed the same. Democrats also held 2,450 of the 5,411 total state House seats (up one from last month), while Republicans controlled 2,918 (also up one). Third-party or independent officeholders held 38 seats, and there were 19 vacancies.

In May, Democrats had a net loss of one seat, while Republicans had a net gain of one. Compared to May 2020, Democrats have lost 142 state legislative seats, while Republicans have gained 153 seats. 

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Redistricting review: Illinois lawmakers approve state legislative, supreme court maps

Last week, Illinois lawmakers approved revised maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court. Both sets of maps were approved along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign HB2777 and SB0642 into law. 

Illinois lawmakers released the proposed maps on May 21. Sen. Omar Aquino (D), chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said, “Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes. This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”

Rep. Tim Butler (R) criticized the proposals: “Tonight’s drop of partisan maps is yet another attempt to mislead voters in an effort to block fair elections. We continue our call upon Governor Pritzker to live up to his pledge to the people of Illinois and veto a map that was drawn by politicians like what we see here today.”

Illinois lawmakers also released proposed maps for state supreme court districts, which were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. 

The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to _The Chicago Tribune_, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said it was necessary to redraw the court’s district maps to ensure more equal populations between districts: “This map is about equal representation in the state’s most important court. As we strive for all to be equal before the law, we must ensure we all have an equal voice in choosing those who uphold it.” 

The state Republican Party opposed the redrawn the state supreme court map: “This is a brazen abuse of our judicial system and nothing more than political gamesmanship with what should be an independent court, free of corrupt influence.”

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Flynn wins special election for Pennsylvania State Senate District 22

Pennsylvania State Senate District 22 held a special general election on May 18. Martin Flynn (D) won the special election with 51.5% of the vote and defeated Chris Chermak (R), Marlene Sebastianelli (G), and Nathan Covington (L). 

The filing deadline passed on March 29.

The special election became necessary when John Blake (D) resigned to join the staff of U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D). Blake served from 2011 to 2021.

Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Pennsylvania State Senate by a margin of 28 to 21, with one independent. Republicans also control the state House by a margin of 113 to 90. Tom Wolf (D) is the governor. 

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Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English resigns

Hawaii State Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English (D-7) resigned on May 1, citing the long-term health effects of a past COVID-19 infection. 

English said he contracted COVID-19 in November 2020. “After many discussions with my doctors, talks with those close to me and careful thought, I am announcing my retirement from the Hawai‘i State Senate, effective May 1, 2021,” English said in a press release. “Having been deemed a long hauler, I was diagnosed with long-term effects of COVID-19. My new normal will require me to address some of the challenges left to my short and long-term memory and other cognitive issues derived from the virus. These challenges have placed a number of things into perspective for me, including the need to take better care of my health.”

English represented Hawaii’s 7th state senate district from 2000 to 2021. He ran unopposed in the 2014 and 2018 general elections. He served as the Hawaii Senate majority leader from 2015 to 2021. The state Senate appointed Sen. Dru Kanuha (D-3) as the new majority leader on May 5.

If there is a vacancy in the Hawaii State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.

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April 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats: 54.3% Republicans, 44.9% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s April partisan count of state legislative seats found that 54.29% of state legislators are Republicans and 44.94% are Democrats. 

At the end of every month, Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, which refers to which political party holds a majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans currently control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber, the Alaska House of Representatives, has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the end of April, Republicans held 1,091 of the 1,972 total state senate seats, while Democrats held 869. The Republicans gained two seats since March, while the Democrats’ number of seats remained the same. Republicans also held 2,917 of the 5,411 total state House seats (down one from last month), while Democrats controlled 2,449 (up two). Third-party or independent officeholders held 38 seats, and there were 19 vacancies.

In April, Democrats had a net gain of two seats, while Republicans have a net gain of one. Compared to April 2020, Democrats have lost 142 state legislative seats, while Republicans have gained 151 seats. 

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Arkansas passes bill with multiple restrictions on the ballot initiative process

On April 29, Arkansas Senate Bill 614 became law (Act 951). The bill added several restrictions to the state’s ballot initiative and veto referendum process, including to:

• ban paying signature gatherers based on the number of signatures gathered, a payment method called pay-per-signature;

• require circulators to be state residents and citizens;

• add certain offenses that disqualify a person from being a signature gatherer, including assault, battery, intimidation, threatening, sexual offenses, trespassing, vandalism, and theft (in addition to the existing list of any felony, election law violations, fraud, forgery, and identity theft);

• require initiative sponsors to certify that signature gatherers do not have any disqualifying conviction and put the burden of proof on initiative sponsors with regard to lawsuits and administrative proceedings;

• make it a felony for petition sponsors or their representatives to knowingly pay a circulator for or submit petitions for which the circulator did not personally witness all signatures; and

• make it a felony for a circulator to not report another circulator that provides a false affidavit that they personally witnessed all signatures.

The state House passed an amended version of the bill on April 14 by a vote of 72-18. The Senate passed it on April 22 by a vote of 27-5. In the House, 72 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and 17 Democrats and one Republican voted against it. In the Senate, 26 Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the bill, and four Democrats and one independent voted against it. It became law after the governor’s five-day window to veto bills passed. Arkansas has a Republican state government trifecta. 

Provisions in Senate Bill 614 about disqualifying offenses for signature gatherers and the responsibilities of initiative sponsors regarding those offenses would replace the state’s previous background check requirements that were overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court on March 11. The ruling upheld a lower court decision that blocked the enforcement of the state’s background check requirements for paid circulators. The lower court ruled that the sections of state law requiring that information from a federal background check be included were impossible for sponsors to comply with since there was no way to obtain a federal background check. During appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Secretary of State John Thurston (R) argued that requirements for state police background checks could be left in place while blocking federal background check requirements. The supreme court ruled that the federal and state background check provisions could not be separated.

The Arkansas Legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would require 60% supermajority voter approval to adopt future constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.

2021 ballot measure law changes context

Ballotpedia has tracked 180 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 37 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 16 have been approved, and 12 have been defeated or have died.

Legislatures in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have approved bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in their states.

Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement and distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, pay-per-signature bans, residency requirements and other circulator restrictions, fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

Ballotpedia recently published an analysis of the effect of certain policy changes on the ease or difficulty of the ballot initiative and veto referendum processes. The analysis is based on generic concepts taken from proposed and approved laws that Ballotpedia has tracked since 2010. Twenty-six states have a process for either ballot initiatives, veto referendums, or both.

The analysis does not take into consideration the intention behind any proposed policy changes. It does not consider any other effects beyond the difficulty or ease with which ballot initiative or veto referendum sponsors can place their measures on the ballot, pass them, and see them enforced. Bills proposing these changes are not necessarily designed with the purpose of making the initiative process harder or easier. Ballotpedia is not endorsing any position on the policy changes listed in the analysis. The analysis covers topics including signature requirements and deadlines, a variety of restrictions on petition circulators, ballot and petition language requirements, petition formatting, legislative alteration, and supermajority requirements.

Click here to see the full list of policy changes.

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Montana voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to require a search warrant to access electronic data in 2022

On April 22, the Montana State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a search warrant to access electronic data or electronic communications. The amendment would also state that electronic data and electronic communications would be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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

Senate Bill 203 (SB 203) was introduced on February 9, 2021, by Sen. Kenneth Bogner (R). The state Senate approved the bill on February 23, 2021, in a vote of 50 to 0. On April 22, the state House approved the bill in a vote of 76-23 with one absent. 

Sen. Kenneth Bogner (R) said, “Senate Bill 203 is about updating Montana’s Constitution to reflect life in the 21st Century and make it explicitly clear that our digital information is protected from unreasonable government searches and seizures. Today, so much of our private lives—financial information, communication with family and friends, medical information, and much, much more—is contained on and transferred electronically among many devices and computer systems.”

The amendment is similar to a 2020 Michigan ballot measure that was approved by voters with 88.75% of the vote. Missouri voters also approved a similar ballot measure in 2014 with 74.75% of the vote.

In 2022, Montana voters will also be voting on a law referred to the ballot by the state legislature that would require medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an attempted abortion. Healthcare providers that violate the requirement would be guilty of a felony with a maximum sentence of a $50,000 fine and/or 20 years in prison under the measure.

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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