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Ballot Preview: Voters to Decide on Taxes, GMOs, Higher Ed

October 30, 2014

On November 4, 42 states will vote on 146 ballot issues across a wide array of issues. In addition to initiatives on gun control, bear baiting, and the minimum wage, several initiatives relevant to the TBED community are also up for decision. SSTI has gathered information on many of these and will discuss their results after next week’s elections.

Arkansas voters will decide on Issue Three, an initiative that seeks to establish an independent citizens’ commission to evaluate salaries for public officials, eliminate free meals and gifts to state politicians, prohibit politicians from receiving donations from corporations, and restructure term limits for state senators and house representatives. Currently, Arkansas’ state representatives can serve six years in office, while senators can serve eight. Issue Three will allow politicians to serve 16 years in either chamber, rather than forcing them to switch chambers after serving at the current limits. The bill will also force legislators to wait two years before they can become a lobbyist.

In Colorado, residents will vote on Proposition 105, which would require any prepackaged, processed food or raw agricultural commodity that has been produced using genetic modification to include the label: “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” Exceptions include food prepared for immediate consumption, such as restaurants, alcoholic beverages, animal feed, medically prescribed food, or food derived from animals that were not genetically modified but received genetically modified food or drugs. The bill also requires the Colorado Department of Public Health to enforce the labeling.

Georgia may become the first state in the U.S. to cap income taxes if voters approve Amendment A, a measure that would prohibit the state from increasing the maximum state income tax rate above the rate in effect on January 1, 2015. Because Georgia’s legislative session is adjourned until 2015, income taxes would be capped at the current level, 6 percent.

Three bond proposals in Maine, Question 3, Question 4 and Question 5, would build and enhance advanced research centers in the state. If approved, Question 3 would issue $8 million in bonds to support agriculture and natural resource industries, creating an animal and plant disease and insect control laboratory in the state to be administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service. Question 4, if approved, would issue $10 million in bonds, matched by $11 million in private and other funds, to build a research center for genetic solutions to cancer and diseases of aging with the goal of promoting job growth, attracting and retaining talent, and making the state a leader in genomics medicine. Finally, Question 5, if approved, would issue $3 million in bonds, matched by $5.7 million in additional funds, to modernize and expand infrastructure in a biological laboratory specializing in tissue repair and regeneration, in addition to creating a drug discovery and development facility.

North Dakota residents will decide on Measure 3, which would change the constitution to replace the governance structure of the state’s 11 public universities and colleges. Currently, the system is run by a chancellor and directed by eight volunteer members appointed by the governor to the State Board of Higher Education. Measure 3 would replace this system with three full-time, paid members of a commission that would be appointed to four-year terms by the governor, subject to Senate confirmation.

Oregon voters will decide on amendments related to higher education (Measure 86) and GMO labeling (Measure 92). Measure 86 would amend the state’s constitution to create a fund for Oregonians pursuing post-secondary education and career training, while also authorizing the state to incur debt – something generally prohibited in the constitution – to finance the fund. If approved, Measure 86 would make Oregon the first state to have an ongoing investment trust fund for higher education. Similarly to the Colorado bill, Measure 92 would require retailers of genetically engineered raw food to include “Genetically Engineered” on packages, display bins, or shelves, and suppliers to label shipping containers. Manufacturers of packaged food produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering would also be required to include “Produced with genetic engineering” or “Partially produced with genetic Engineering” on packages. 

In Rhode Island, Question 4 is a $125 million bond proposal to rebuild the engineering facilities at the Kingston Campus of University of Rhode Island. The new building will anchor the northwest corner of the campus’ Engineering Quadrangle and provide state-of-the-art instructional and research facilities. The bond, in conjunction with a $25 million bond referendum planned for next year, represents the largest taxpayer-financed construction project proposed by the university in more than 25 years.

Residents of Tennessee will vote on Amendment 3, which would amend the state constitution to permanently disallow the state legislature from levying any income and payroll taxes. Amendment 3 would not apply to any tax in effect on January 1, 2001, so the state’s personal income tax on certain stock dividends and interest income would continue.


Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennesseeelections