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Taxes, Marijuana, Obamacare Voted on in States


Of the 159 initiatives decided on in 36 states, there was particular interest in those dealing with national issues.  These ranged from measures which would lower taxes, ease legalization of marijuana, and put states on record as opposing mandates contained in federal health care legislation. 

Among issues in which voters had a say in referenda were. . .

Taxes

In Massachusetts, voters rejected a measure to cut the sales tax from 6.25% to 3% by January 1 and thus force the next governor and state legislature to make major spending cuts.  Fearing cuts would hurt their services, towns and cities called for a no vote, as did  Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and GOP opponent Charles Baker. 

In Washington State, voters turned down a “soak the rich” ballot measure to place a new tax on individuals making more than $200,000 per year and couples whose annual income was greater than $400,000.  The “yes” forces were led by Bill Gates, Sr., father of the Microsoft tycoon, who said it would make up for Washington being one of seven states without an income tax.

Marijuana Legalization

California’s Proposition 19, to permit anyone over the age of 21 to have, grow, and transport marijuana for personal use, lost by a margin of 54% to 46%.  The measure was opposed by most office-holders and the U.S. Justice Department (which announced it will continue to enforce federal laws banning possession of marijuana regardless of the results).

“Too close to call” was the word from Arizona this morning on a similar measure, Proposition 203.  This proposal  would permit ownership, growth and transportation of marijuana for  patients diagnosed with specific illnesses. 

Similar ballot measures in Oregon and South Dakota to  ease restrictions for ownership and transportation of marijuana by private individuals both lost by comfortable margins. 

Stopping “Obamacare”

With the resounding passage in Missouri earlier this year of an initiative making it illegal for government to require that everyone own health insurance, Arizona, Colorado, and Oklahoma all passed similar measures last night.  This could put the states in court in a clash with Washington over most noted feature of the federal health care legislation enacted by Congress. 

Delaying “Cap and Trade” 

California voters defeated Proposition 23 to suspend the state’s A.B. 32 (cap and trade-style limits on emissions) until the Golden State’s double-digit unemployment is down to 5.5%.  The vote against “23” was 61% to 39%, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Secretary of State George Shultz leading the charge for the “no” forces.

Affirmative Action

The Arizona Civil Rights Initiative passed resoundingly.  The proposal was pushed by nationally-known quota opponent Ward Connerly.    Like similar measures passed in other states, the Arizona ban would prohibit the state to discriminate for or against individuals on the basis of race, sex, or ethnic background in state contracting or hiring or in education.

Redistricting

Californians also rejected Proposition 20, which would end the drawing of U.S. House districts by the state legislature and give the power to an independent citizens commission selected by the state auditor.  The results were a surprise because a similar measure passed in 2008 that gave the power over legislative redistricting to a citizens’ commission. 

Card Check

Big Labor’s cherished “card check” concept—which opponents say would scuttle the secret ballot in union elections—got a resounding rejection at the stae level.  Four states—Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah—handily enacted ballot initiatives that would place in state constitutions amendments to make the secret ballot in union elections the law of the state. 

Budget Reform

The spending ceiling forces were dealt two setbacks last night.

Colorado voters turned down a constitutional amendment to ban state borrowing as of 2011.  Critics had charged this would say this would severely tie the hands of a debt-wracked state, as it would also ban the issuance of bonds to fund infrastructure projects and limit the borrowing ability of municipal governments as well.

California’s 32-year-old tax ceiling known as Proposition  13 suffered a blow last night as voters, by a margin of 55% to 45%, enacted Proposition 25.  The new measure would end the requirement of a two-thirds majority in the legislature to adopt a budget and replace it with a simple majority.  Critics say it would make it would undermine Proposition 13 and thus make it easier for lawmakers to raise taxes. 

In Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia, voters all approved ballot measures to enlarge their state’s “rainy day funds” for fiscal emergencies.