Themes and Patterns in Amendment Activity in 2021
Environmental Rights: New York voters approved an amendment guaranteeing that each person has a right to clean air and water and a healthful environment, making New York the latest state to protect environmental rights in its constitution.
Right to food: Maine became the first state to include in its constitution a provision protecting a right to grow, produce, and consume food of one's own choosing. Twenty-three state constitutions protect the right to hunt and fish. And two states protect the right to farm. But Maine is the first state to adopt an amendment guaranteeing the right to food.
Anti-discrimination: Pennsylvania voters approved an amendment prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. Delaware's legislature gave final approval to an amendment adding race, color, and national origin to its anti-discrimination provision.
Religious liberty: An amendment approved in Texas and motivated by concerns about COVID-related restrictions bars state or local governments from prohibiting or limiting religious services in any way.
In-person visitation at assisted-living facilities: A Texas amendment, also motivated by COVID-related restrictions, guarantees that residents of nursing homes and assisted-care facilities have a right to in-person visits from a designated caregiver.
Income taxes: A Louisiana amendment, the only one of four amendments on Louisiana's 2021 ballot to be approved, reduces the maximum allowable individual income tax rate from 6 to 4.75 percent and also removes a requirement that individuals be able to deduct from their state income taxes the amount of federal income taxes they pay.
Emergency declarations: Pennsylvania voters approved two amendments that strengthen legislative authority to approve, extend, or terminate governor-declared emergencies. One amendment allows the legislature at any time to end a governor-declared emergency by passing a concurrent resolution that cannot be vetoed. Another amendment stipulates that an emergency can last a maximum of 21 days and can only be extended if the legislature passes a concurrent resolution approving an extension.
Gambling: Voters in New Jersey and Texas approved amendments expanding the ability of groups to operate and benefit from raffles and bingo games. The New Jersey amendment expanded the list of groups that can use the proceeds from these games to support their own organizations. The Texas amendment expanded the list of professional sports organizations that are allowed to hold these games, so as to include rodeo associations. But New Jersey voters rejected an amendment that would have removed an existing limitation on sports betting by permitting wagering on college sporting events that involve a New Jersey team or are held in New Jersey.
Voting and Elections
Voting and registration: New York voters rejected two amendments that would have increased voting accessibility. One amendment would have authorized the legislature to institute election-day registration. Another amendment would have authorized the legislature to provide for no-excuse absentee voting.Redistricting: New York voters also rejected another election-related amendment, a multi-faceted amendment that would have changed the procedures for a redistricting commission to recommend district maps and also would have reduced the number of legislators required to approve district maps in cases when one party controls both legislative chambers.
Source: John Dinan and The Council of State Governments