Tax caps, smoking ban get OK in fall elections

In the November 2010 elections, voters weighed in on a wide range of ballot proposals — from a plan in Indiana to cap property taxes and a workplace smoking ban in South Dakota to a proposal in Nebraska to abolish the treasurer's office and a new governor-recall law in Illinois.

Stateline Midwest, Volume 19, No. 10 - November 2010

More Midwestern states have indoor-smoking bans and recall-election laws as the result of ballot measures approved by voters in November.

Other notable changes include constitutionally mandated property-tax caps in Indiana and a constitutional change in South Dakota that requires the use of secret ballots in union elections. Here is a summary of results from the region.

  • South Dakota is the ninth state in the Midwest with a ban on smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, Indiana and North Dakota are the only states in the region without such laws. South Dakota was one of four U.S. states where the secret-ballot requirement for union elections was approved.
  • Indiana voters changed the state Constitution to make permanent the property tax caps enacted by the General Assembly in 2008. Homeowners’ property taxes are limited to 1 percent of assessed valuation; rental and farm property is capped at 2 percent and business property at 3 percent.
  • Illinois became the sixth state in the Midwest to allow voters to recall a governor from office. Unlike the recall provisions in Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, Illinois’ law does not extend to other elected officials. In Michigan, voters decided that officials convicted of certain felonies should be disqualified from serving in office for 20 years.
  • North Dakotans voted to deposit 30 percent of oil and gas tax revenue into a newly created Legacy Fund. Principal and earnings from the fund cannot be spent until 2017. After that time, interest from the fund will be moved to the state’s general fund, and the Legislature will have the authority to spend 15 percent of the principal in any biennium.
  • Iowans created a natural resources and outdoor-recreation trust fund. Money for the fund, however, is contingent on the legislature raising the sales tax rate.
  • In Kansas, voters affirmed “the right to keep and bear arms” and eliminated mental illness as a disqualification to vote; in Nebraska, local governments now have more funding options for financing local economic development projects.

Among the ballot measures defeated in November was a Nebraska proposal to abolish the treasurer’s office and a South Dakota proposal to legalize medical marijuana. (In the Midwest, it is only legal in Michigan.)