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PSN on October 6, 2008 - 4:28pm
Ballot Initiatives 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Ballot Initiatives 2008: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will appear on state ballots across the country this November. Whether it's workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an issue.
We lead off outlining what began as a nearly epic clash between labor and business groups in Colorado, but has recently just resolved itself into a united front to oppose three fringe anti-union initiatives in that state. We then take a tour of other initiatives appearing this fall. Our roundup is deeply in debt to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), which is an invaluable resource to progressive groups across the country promoting positive initiatives and seeking help in defeating initiatives promoted by the rightwing.
Colorado: An Initiative Clash Ends in Labor-Business Alliance
In Colorado, labor unions and their allies faced an ideological assault by rightwing business leaders pushing three initiatives (47, 49 and 54) aimed at diminishing workers rights in the state:
In response, labor unions in the state filed their own set of pro-worker and corporate accountability initiatives, including a requirement that Colorado employers show "just cause" before firing employees (as we discussed a few weeks ago here ).
The result were negotiations between Colorado unions and the mainstream business community that led late last week to an agreement by the unions to drop their initiatives, in exchange for 75 top Colorado executives agreeing to oppose the anti-union initiatives. As part of the agreement the Colorado executives will raise $3 million to contribute to the campaign to defeat anti-union initiatives.
Anti-Worker Initiatives in Other States: A Paycheck Deception initiative, similar to Colorado's Measure 49, is also on the ballot in Oregon as Measure 64. South Dakota's Measure 10 combines Colorado's Measure's 49 and 54 in an attempt to politically silence worker voices throughout that state as well.
Taxes and Health Care
After the meltdown of anti-tax initiatives across the country in 2006, there are fewer on this year's ballot, but a number could still wreck havoc in those states:
Beyond cutting immediate taxes, Arizona's Proposition 105 would require a majority of registered voters to approve future ballot initiatives to raise state taxes or fees, meaning every non-voter would count as a no vote, making it nearly impossible to use initiatives to raise state revenue.
On the positive side, Colorado is considering their own Amendment 59, which would further fix problems with the state's TABOR tax limitation system by creating a SAFE (Saving Account for Education) which would create a permanent fund to prevent cuts in education during recessions. Further, Oregon's Ballot Measure 56 seeks to repeal a double-majority requirement for local property tax increases previously enacted in that state.
Health Care: In Maine, business lobbyists are seeking to repeal modest taxes on beer, wine and soft drink syrup that were enacted to help fund the state's innovative Dirigo health care plan-- a plan that could undermine health care for tens of thousands of Maine residents.
Education, Energy and Transit
Oregon's Measure 60 would require "merit pay" for teachers based on "classroom performance." There is no evidence that changes in methods of paying teachers has any benefit for students, and a coalition of teachers, parents, school advocates, and others has formed to defeat the measure, which they believe would lead to more standardized testing in classrooms and more teaching to the test. In 2000, a similar ballot measure was rejected by 65% of voters. This year teacher's groups are standing against the measure. Five of eight Oregon ballot initiatives come from Bill Sizemore, and anti-tax activist in the state.
Renewable Energy: In Missouri Prop. C, the Clean Energy Initiative, would require the Missouri investor-owned electric utilities (Ameren, Empire, Aquila, and KCP&L) to get 15% of their electricity from renewable and clean energy sources like wind, solar, landfill gas, biomass, and small hydroelectric projects. Unlike in other states, affected utilities are supporting this initiative. California Prop. 7 is even more ambitious in calling on all utilities, including government-owned utilities, to generate 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2010, 40% by 2020 and 50% by 2025. This is seen as too ambitious by some opponents, not only the usual suspects like utility companies but also the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology and the California Democratic Party.
California Prop. 10, the California Alternative Fuels Initiative , would authorize $5 billion in bonds, paid from state’s General Fund, for cash payments to high full economy and alternative fuels vehicles, incentives for renewables research and use, and grants for education and training in renewable technologies.
Minnesota's Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will raise the state sales tax three-eights of one percent, raising $300 million a year to restore wetlands, forests, lakes, parks and cultural heritage sites throughout the state.
Transit Investments: California has two major transit initiatives on their ballot-- California's Prop. 1A which asks voters to approve $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds to fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles and Los Angeles County's Measure R to add a half-cent sale tax increase dedicated to raising $40 billion over thirty years for major transit investments.
Making Voting More Accessible: The Connecticut Voting Age Measure would allow state residents to vote in primaries at the age of 17, while the Maryland Early Voting Measure would authorize the state legislature to implement in-person early voting the two weeks preceding an election. Three designated polling places in each county would be opened for the 10 days before Election Day.
Redistricting: California Prop. 11, the Voters FIRST Act , would create a non-partisan redistricting commission in the state. No other initiative this year has created such strife between usually allied groups. The measure has strong support led by Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and the Governor. Yet many civil rights organizations such as Mexican American LDF and NAACP LDF, and Senator Boxer and Speaker Pelosi, think that voting rights will be diminished under the proposal and are actively opposing the measure.
Utah Amendment 4 would prevent mid-census redistricting by clarify that the Legislature's division of the state into districts must occur no later than the next annual general session following results of the United States enumeration.
Oregon Measure 55 is designed to prevent situations where State Senators whose seats are not up in the next cycle following a redistricting are forced to move to their new district.
Term Limits: South Dakota Amendment J would repeal legislative term limits.
Other Measures: Nevada Question 1 would eliminate an unconstitutional requirement that a person must reside in Nevada for 6 months prior to an election in order to be eligible to vote in that election, lowering the residency requirement to 30 days.
Oregon Measure 65 would institute top two primary elections where all candidates for an office would compete against each other regardless of party, and the two candidates with the most votes would then advance to the general election. This statute would also allow independent voters to participate in primary elections for US Senator or Representative, Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Attorney General, state Senator or Representative, and any other local partisan office.
Social Issues: Immigration, Civil Rights and Reproductive Rights
Immigration: Despite the noise around anti-immigrant bills in state legislatures, only two stand-alone anti-immigrant measures are on ballots around the country:
In Arizona, business leaders have put Arizona Prop. 202 on the ballot to weaken the employer sanctions law that took effect in January by raising the threshold for filing complaints by requiring complaints to be signed, rather than anonymous. It would also crack down on employers who engage in wage theft and those who avoid taxes by paying their workers in cash. On the negative side, it would also expand the definition of identity theft to criminalize immigrants forced to use fake identification to obtain or continue employment.
Affirmative Action: Ward Connerly, who has paid himself $7.6 million for running anti-affirmative action campaigns in various states yet benefitted from affirmative action programs in California in the 1990s, ran into trouble this year as both his own campaign's fraud and organized challenges to his initiatives led to a number of them failing to make the ballot or being withdrawn. Just two will be on the ballot:
LGBT equality: California Prop. 8 seeks to overturn the California state law recognizing gay marriage equality. National anti-gay rights organizations like Focus on the Family have put resources into the campaign, but a broadbased campaign is working for a strong democratic endorsement of marriage equality this November.
Arkansas' Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban would make it illegal for any unmarried couples, gay or straight, to adopt or provide foster care to minors, a measure which is supported by conservative groups seeking to limit gay marriage. A coalition of child welfare, faith and social justice groups oppose the measure and say that it would reduce the pool of good foster and adoptive parents. Gov. Beebe has backed off of previous support for the measure, believing that children need more qualified foster homes and parents.
Reproductive Rights: Three initiatives seek to restrict abortion rights:
3 Steps Forward
2 Steps Back
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Nathan Newman, Policy Director
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