With passage of fall ballot proposals, big policy changes coming to Midwest
|Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 12:43 PM
State constitutions were changed and policies on issues ranging from medical marijuana to the death penalty were decided on by voters across the Midwest this November.
In all, 20 ballot proposals were voted on in seven states in the region. Here is a review of some of the proposals that won voter approval.
Nebraskans back death penalty
Nebraska is one of five states in the Midwest that allows for a veto referendum — the chance for voters to override the actions of their state legislature. Nebraskans used that power to reject, by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, a decision made by legislators last year to eliminate the death penalty.
As a result of this vote, Nebraska remains one of five states in the region with capital punishment (Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and South Dakota are the others). Supporters of the death penalty also won important ballot victories this fall in two states outside the Midwest (Oklahoma and California).
Independent board to set legislative pay
Minnesota is one of five states in the region where ballot proposals must first receive legislative approval, and this year, the state’s lawmakers successfully sought a change in how their own salaries are set.
More than three-quarters of Minnesotans agreed to change the state Constitution so that legislators no longer have the power to determine how much they are paid. That task will now be handled by an independent, citizen-run board — eight appointed by the governor, eight by the Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice.
In most Midwestern states, the decision on legislator pay is ultimately left to the legislators themselves. However, there are other exceptions — a voter-approved constitutional change is required in Nebraska, and in Indiana, a statutory formula ties the pay of state lawmakers to that of trial court judges.
Medical marijuana legal in North Dakota
Over the past six months, two Midwestern states have legalized the use of medical marijuana: Ohio via legislative action, and now North Dakota through a vote of the people (64 percent to 36 percent). With passage of this citizen-initiated statutory measure, North Dakotans with specified medical conditions and written notes from their doctors will be able to purchase marijuana from licensed, nonprofit “compassion” centers. If individuals live 40 miles or more from a center, they can grow their own marijuana for medical use.
Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota also permit the medical use of marijuana.
South Dakotans veto youth-wage law
South Dakotans used a veto referendum to reject a legislative decision in 2015 to create a separate, lower minimum wage for workers under the age of 18 ($7.50 per hour). By a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent, South Dakotans decided that the minimum wage (currently $8.55 per hour) should apply to everyone.
In all, 10 ballot proposals were voted on in South Dakota this fall (third most in the nation). Voters rejected two election-reform ideas: one to create an independent, nine-member commission to draw state legislative districts, and a second to make South Dakota’s elections nonpartisan. However, they did approve a major revision of South Dakota’s campaign-finance laws (by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent).
In addition to strengthening disclosure and reporting requirements, the citizen-initiated measure creates a method for publicly financing political candidates: Every registered voter in the state will receive two $50 credits and assign them to candidates. To receive these credits, candidates must agree to limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.
Right to hunt, fish in state constitutions
The Indiana and Kansas constitutions now give individuals the right to hunt and fish. These legislatively referred amendments received the support of more than 80 percent of voters in both states. According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the constitutions in Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin also give residents the right to hunt and fish.
Illinois funding for roads put in ‘lock box’
To ensure that revenue from Illinois’ road fund (gas taxes and license fees, for example) is used only for transportation purposes, the Illinois General Assembly asked voters to amend the state Constitution. After receiving near-unanimous legislative support this year, the “lock box” amendment was overwhelmingly approved by Illinois voters. In 2014, a similar change was made to the Wisconsin Constitution.
|Stateline Midwest: November 2016||3.45 MB|
Tags:Medical MarijuanaMinimum WageReferendumdeath penaltyhunting/fishing rightslegislative paylock-boxtransportation funding