What Happened Last Night?: Ballot Initiative Breakdown

Voters went to the polls yesterday for state and local elections around the nation. Despite the fact that turnout is generally lower in off years, several states had important initiatives on their ballots allowing citizens to determine the future of policies directly. Jennifer Horn covered these Monday in her 2013 preview.

Colorado

Voters rejected a $950 million tax hike directed towards education known as Amendment 66. The initative fell 34.5% to 65.4% with 92% of districts reporting. The Colorado legislature passed SB 213 earlier this year. The law will change how the state distributes money among its 178 school districts. The Colorado legislature put the responsibility of paying for the law on the people; the law will not go into effect unless Coloradans approve a finance mechanism by November 2017.  Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper supported the measure which eliminated Colorado’s flat income tax of 4.23% in favor of a 5% tax on income up to $75,000 and 5.9% on income above that.

Colorado voters approved Proposition AA which created a 15% excise tax and a 10% sales tax on sale of recreational marijuana. The approximately $70 million in tax revenue will be split between school construction and marijuana enforcement in the state. The initative split 65% in favor to 35% against.

New Jersey 

Voters in the garden state approved Public Question 2 on a 60-40 split. The constitutional amendment raises that state’s minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 an hour on January 1st and provides for cost of living adjustments every following September. Newly re-elected Republican Governor Chris Christie had vetoed the Democrat-led initiative when the legislature passed the hike last year. Voters also approved Public Question 1, allowing veterans’ groups to keep some of the money raised through raffles and other games for the repair of meeting halls.  Previously groups were required to use proceeds only on "educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited purposes."

New York

Voters in New York State rejected a constitutional amendment which would have increased the retirement age of Supreme and Appeals Court judges. Court of Appeals judges will continue to retire at the age of 70 despite the timing of their 14 year terms. State Supreme Court judges will also continue to retire at 70 although current law allows for judges to receive a special recertification every year from ages 70-76. The failure of the initiative is seen as a referendum on Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. With the failure of the motion, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo will have more power to shape the state’s highest court from which several Republicans will soon be forced to retire.

Voters also voted to allow the state to permit up to seven new casinos. The state’s five existing casinos are located on Indian reservations; the new casinos will not have this restriction. Governor Cuomo’s budget office is projecting $430 million in new revenue which will be split among the state, local governments and school districts.

Texas

Texas voters approved nine amendments to their constitution yesterday. These amendments included a measure allowing seniors to purchase homes with a reverse mortgage. Texas had been the only state to forbid the practice, which allows seniors to leverage their homes for equity in the same transaction used to purchase the home. Texans also approved Proposition 6 which will provide for the creation of the $2 billion State Water Implementation Fund for the financing of water projects found in the state’s 50-year water plan.

Voters rejected a bond initiative to redevelop the Houston Astrodome as a convention center. The world’s first multipurpose domed stadium was frequently referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. The failure of the initiative likely will mean demolition for the structure.

Washington

Voters in Washington State rejected a pair of initiatives yesterday. The first of which, Initiative 517, was designed to allow for more initiatives by extending the window required to gather signatures from six months to a year. The initiative would have also allowed qualified proposals to continue to the ballot for voter approval despite a pending lawsuit.

Despite early signs of support, Washington voters also rejected an initiative that would have required genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. A similar measure failed in California. Maine and Connecticut have laws requiring GMO labeling but only in the event that other states also require labeling. 

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