Voters Wrestled with Referenda Nationwide

Of the 159 initiatives decided on in 36 states across the country, many dealt with national issues of particular interest to conservatives.  They ranged from measures that would lower taxes, create a path for the legalization of marijuana and put states on record as opposing mandates contained in the Obamacare legislation. 

Among the issues on which voters balloted last week were: 


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

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

Marijuana Legalization

*  California’s Proposition 19 that would have permitted anyone over the age of 21 to have, grow and transport marijuana for personal use, lost 54% to 46%.  The measure was opposed by most office-holders and the U.S. Justice Department (which said it would continue to enforce federal laws banning possession of marijuana regardless of the vote in California).

*  “Too close to call” was still the word from Arizona late last week on, Proposition 203, a measure that 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 mandate that everyone buy health insurance, Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma all passed similar measures last night.  This could put the states in court in a clash with the federal government over the most controversial feature of the federal healthcare legislation enacted by Congress. 

Delaying ‘Cap and Trade’ 

*  California voters defeated Proposition 23 that would have suspended 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 two moderate Republicans, 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 racial-quotas opponent Ward Connerly.  Like similar measures that have passed in other states, the Arizona proposal would prohibit the state from discriminating for or against individuals on the basis of race, sex or ethnic background in state contracting or hiring or in education.


*  Californians rejected Proposition 20, which would have ended the drawing of U.S. House districts by the state legislature and given that power to an independent citizens commission selected by the state auditor.  The rejection was a surprise because a similar proposition was approved by voters in 2008 giving the power over legislative redistricting to a citizens’ commission. Another proposition

Card Check

*  Big Labor’s cherished “card check” proposal—which opponents say would scuttle the secret ballot in union elections—was resoundingly rejected at the state level last week.  Four states—Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah—handily enacted ballot initiatives that would put into state constitutions amendments to make the secret ballot in union elections the law of the state. 

Budget Reform

Spending-ceiling forces were dealt two setbacks last week.

*  Colorado voters turned down a constitutional amendment to ban state borrowing as of 2011.  Critics had charged the measure would have severely tied 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 week as voters, by 55% to 45%, enacted Proposition 25.  This measure will end the requirement of a two-thirds majority in the legislature to adopt a budget and replace it with a simple majority.  Critics say will undermine Proposition 13 by making it easier for lawmakers to raise taxes. 

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