Ballot Initiatives

From key changes in Congress and state capitols to statewide and local ballot measures, Tuesday was a pivotal Election Day when it comes to transportation. I have some thoughts on the significance of this year’s batch of state and local ballot measures, a roundup of all the results, and links to information about the potential impact of the changes on Capitol Hill, in governor’s mansions and elsewhere. Plus, as always, news, links and new reports on MAP-21 reauthorization and the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state transportation funding activities, public-private partnerships and tolling, and state multi-modal strategies.

On Election Day 2014, voters in four of five states rejected ballot propositions specifically addressing voting rights and election administration.

On November 4, 2014, citizens in two California cities—San Francisco and Berkeley—voted on proposed soda tax initiatives. As expected, San Francisco voters did not pass the measure. However, the initiative in Berkeley, known as Measure D, passed with 75% of the vote, making Berkeley the first city in the nation to tax soda and sugary drinks.

California voters rejected by a nearly 60 percent majority Proposition 45 that would have required the state insurance commissioner to approve proposed increases in health insurance rates for small groups and individuals.

Voters in Alaska and Oregon voted yesterday to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over.  The decision brings the number of states which have legalized marijuana to four.  In 2012 both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Ballot initiatives in Colorado and North Dakota that would have provided more rights to fetuses were rejected overwhelmingly on Nov. 4, 2014. The vote in the two states was identical: 64 percent voted no and 36 percent voted yes.  Tennessee voters approved, 53 percent to 47 percent, a state constitution change that will allow the legislature to pass more restrictive abortion laws.

On Nov. 4, 2014, South Dakota voters approved Initiated Measure 17 that would require health insurers to allow patients to choose any legitimate medical provider. The measure was approved by 62 percent of those casting a vote.

The question, to allow “any willing provider,” seemed simple on its face – a matter of allowing patients to choose their doctors and hospitals rather than force a selection from a list of in-network providers.  Any provider could join a health insurance company’s network, assuming that they agree to the company’s terms (such as reimbursement levels) and that they work within the geographic coverage area.

On November 4, 2014, Arizona became the fifth state in the nation to allow terminally ill individuals to get access to medicines that are still undergoing clinical trials. Proposition 303 was overwhelming approved by voters, 78 percent voting yes and 22 voting no.

Now drugs not yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration could be made available to terminally ill individuals. The drugs would have to be prescribed by a doctor and the risks of taking the drugs could not be more than the risk of the disease. The measure is intended to give more options to patients with terminal diseases who must now wait for months to get federal government clearance for non-FDA approved drugs under the FDA compassionate use program.

On Election Day 2014, the minimum wage appeared on the ballot in four states - Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota - and in every state, a majority of voters decided the wage should be raised. The changes will affect at least 57,000 minimum wage earners across all four states.

After surviving a legal challenge last week, voters in Arkansas got the chance to decide at the polls if the minimum wage in their state should be raised. By a significant margin, they said yes. With most counties reporting, the measure to raise the minimum wage in the state passed 66 to 34 percent. That means minimum wage workers in Arkansas will see a few pay raises - first from $6.25 to $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2015 then twice more over the next two years, until it reaches $8.50 in 2017.