By Wendy Underhill and Brenda Erickson
Voters in seven states will be looking at ballot measures this fall that directly affect NCSL’s constituents—the 7,383 legislators around the nation.
Some of what’s “on offer” are tried-and-true, settled law in other states. Others are newer ideas that may spread through the nation. In any case, it’s always good to know what’s happening in your neighboring state, because policy spreads.
Taking the states alphabetically:
Alabama’s legislature put Amendment 6 on the ballot to update impeachment procedures. Right now the Yellowhammer State’s constitution doesn’t specify the vote requirement for impeachment. The amendment would clarify that a two-thirds vote of the Senate would be required. That’s about on par with most states. For more see NCSL’s Separation of Powers-Impeachment webpage.
California voters will face Proposition 54, the Legislative Transparency Act. This citizens’ initiative would require the Legislature to print and publish online any bill—and any proposed changes to it—72 hours before a vote. Proponents say it’s about transparency; opponents say it will slow the legislative process down and give special interests more opportunity to deploy their lobbyists. The initiative also contains several significant provisions relating to recordings of legislative proceedings, the estimated cost of which may be $1 million per year. It:
- Requires the Legislature to post online audiovisual recordings of all proceedings (except closed-door proceedings).
- Requires the recordings to be archived for 20 years, unprecedented in other states.
- Allows any person to record proceedings.
- Allows the recordings to be used for campaigns.
Idaho’s Legislative Administrative Rules Amendment, HJR 5, would give the Legislature the right to review, approve or reject any administrative rule to ensure that it is written to be consistent with legislative intent and legislative approval or rejection of a rule is not subject to gubernatorial veto. It was put on the ballot by legislators frustrated by passing a bill that then doesn’t get implemented as they intended.
In Minnesota, the Legislature referred Amendment 1 to the voters to create an independent citizens council to set pay for legislators. Nineteen states have given the role to an outside commission or council.
North Dakotans will decide on Measure 1, which makes it explicit that legislators must reside in their districts.
South Dakotans will be deciding on a citizens’ initiative—Amendment T—to create a commission to handle legislative redistricting. Redistricting is a traditional power of legislatures, so giving the job to a commission could be seen as a diminution of legislative power. Thirteen states have some kind of a commission, but in most cases legislative leaders play a leading role in appointing members. That would not be true with this South Dakota proposal.
Wyoming’s Legislature is asking its state's voters to say yes to Amendment A. The Wyoming Constitution already allows the Legislature to authorize the investment of public employee retirement systems funds and permanent state funds in equities, such as stock or shares in private or public companies. This measure would allow the Legislature to also invest other state funds in equities.
Wendy Underhill is the program director for elections, redistricting and ballot measures. Brenda Erickson is a program principal in NCSL's Center For Legislative Research and Support.