How to Pass a Constitutional Amendment

How to Pass a Constitutional Amendment?

In Maryland, 2022 will be the fourth year in which the proposed Environmental Human Rights Amendment is introduced. It’s also an election year, which is particularly important for a cause like this one, because the General Assembly tends to consider constitutional amendments only during election years – since, if passed, the amendment needs to be ratified at the ballot box.

Here are the steps:

  • The amendment is introduced as a bill in the General Assembly and must be voted on by them. It must pass with at least a 3/5ths majority in the House and the Senate in just one legislative session. (This differs from other states – New York, for instance, needs two legislative sessions, but here it’s just one.)
  • After the amendment successfully receives its 3/5ths majority, it goes directly to referendum in the next general election. Voters then get to decide whether it is passed.
  • Note: The governor has nothing to do with this process. Only the legislature and voters are involved in passing/approving constitutional amendments.

Who are the amendment sponsors?

In previous years, our primary bill sponsors have been:

  • 2019: Delegate Stephen Lafferty (Baltimore County)
  • 2020: Delegate Vaughn Stewart (Montgomery County)
  • 2021: Delegate Wanika Fisher and Senator Obie Patterson (Prince George’s County)

Our House and Senate Lead Sponsors in 2022 are:

  • Delegate Wanika Fisher, District 47B, Prince George’s County
  • Senator Will Smith, Jr. , District 20, Montgomery County

What are the bill numbers and committee assignments?

  • House: HB596 assigned to Environment and Transportation
  • Senate: SB783 assigned to Judicial Proceedings and Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs

Building momentum in 2022

While this bill has a robust number of co-sponsors and the endorsement of over 130 organizations across the state, we need to get more sponsors and build a larger coalition. We need, in short, to make this a PRIORITY BILL this year.

The General Assembly session is only 90 days long, running from early January to early April. In that time, the legislature considers anywhere from 2,000-4,000 bills. Each bill is given a formal hearing. But what happens after that depends on the perceived importance and priority of the bill, especially if there is strong opposition, as there is in our case. So we want the understanding to be, going into the session, that this bill is deeply significant.

That’s why we need to build on the momentum that exists by getting the word out, informing people about the amendment, and asking people to contact their representatives before and during the General Assembly. We need all-hands-on-deck to get this bill passed.

How Can You Help?

  • Write a letter to your representative
    • Your state representatives need to hear from you about the issues that are most important to you. Your personal story about why a particular issue is important is the most compelling way you can advocate. Your stories help to make connections with your representative and inform the priorities that your representative fights for and supports in the General Assembly.  
    • Want help in writing and sending your letter? Use our email letter campaign here.
  • Sign our petition
    • This is a critical year for the amendment because it is an election year. Representatives care about what the voters think because you make it possible for them to be elected again. 
    • Passing the Environmental Human Rights Amendment in 2022, an election year, is more actionable for the General Assembly because the passing of the amendment means it goes on the ballot for the next general election which is November 8, 2022. 
    • Sign our petition here which asks the leadership of the General Assembly to support the amendment and ensure it is brought to the floor in both chambers for a vote. 
  • Tell friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers and community members about the amendment. 
    • Our best way to pass this amendment is to raise public awareness of the need to protect this human right. We need your help in getting the word out. 
    • MDEHR is offering Ambassador Training to prepare you to educate your community about the amendment and what it could mean for current and future generations of Marylanders. You can sign up for Ambassador Training here. 
  • Follow MDEHR on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.  
    • We need your help in raising awareness on social media. Share and like our tweets and posts.