Several states in play this election cycle for innovation initiatives, gubernatorial and legislative elections

October 31, 2019
By: Ellen Marrison

As voters head to the polls next week, some will be deciding the fate of innovation and development-related initiatives, while voters in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi will be voting in gubernatorial elections. The initiatives include a possible additional $3 billion in Texas for cancer research. And in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia, legislative chambers are holding regular elections. Those races and initiatives are covered below.

State ballot initiatives  

Colorado

Colorado voters will be deciding whether the state can retain revenue above the state spending cap to provide funding for transportation and education purposes in Colorado Proposition CC, a legislatively referred state statute. A no vote on the measure would require the state to continue issuing refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) when the state collects revenue in excess of the state’s annual revenue limit. The Denver Post reports that while Colorado voters have denied ballot initiatives for education and transportation in the past, the TABOR tax refund measure is a different attempt to garner funding for those areas that have been “chronically underfunded parts of the state budget.”

Colorado Proposition DD would authorize sports betting in the state and allow the legislature to levy a tax of 10 percent on those operations, which would be used to fund state water projects. Revenue from the tax is projected to generate $10 million for the state for FY 2020-2021.

Texas

Texas Proposition 6 is on the ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to increase the maximum amount of bonds for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) from $3 billion to $6 billion. Science Magazine reports that CPRIT, which is the second largest public source of cancer funding in the U.S. after the federal government, was originally inspired by California’s $3 billion stem cell agency, and while it has faced challenges in the past, voters are expected to pass the measure.

Washington

Washington Referendum 88 is a veto referendum that gives voters the opportunity to approve or reject Initiative 1000, which was the Legislature’s decision in April of this year to restore affirmative action. Initiative 1000 allows affirmative action policies by the state of Washington in the areas of public education, public employment, and public contracting as long as they do not constitute preferential treatment. If voters approve Referendum 88, Initiative 1000 will go into effect.

Washington voters also have the opportunity to show their support for maintaining or repealing House Bill 2158 through a non-binding question in Washington Advisory Vote 24. House Bill 2158 was approved by the Legislature in May of this year to create a Workforce Education Investment, which includes funding to train students in the state for jobs that will require postsecondary credentials. The investment is to be funded by surcharges levied on the business and occupation taxes paid by various entities, namely Amazon and Microsoft, both of which supported the measure. The results of the vote will not change the bill.

State gubernatorial elections

Three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi — are facing gubernatorial elections this year, with the incumbents running in Kentucky and Louisiana, while Mississippi’s governor, Phil Bryant, is term limited. Some of their positions on innovation-related policies are outlined here.

Kentucky

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is in a close race against current Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. Bevin said he wants to use a second term in office to finish what he started and cites the state’s environment and energy cabinet’s working relationship with “The Trump EPA” and recognizing coal as an ongoing part of the state’s energy portfolio as part of his energy strategy. He also says he has increased education spending and stopped lottery funds from going to programs unrelated to education. He also says he has lowered tax rates by 17 percent and cut the size of state government by 10 percent.

Beshear cites his record as attorney general where he says he stood up to the current governor on teacher pensions. He says he will prioritize fully funding public education and growing the economy to create good-paying jobs for Kentuckians, and transparent and inclusive state government.

Louisiana

Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) faces businessman Eddie Rispone (R) in the upcoming election. Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and says he stabilized the state’s budget for the first time in a decade after inheriting the largest budget deficit in the state’s history. He also cites 160 major economic development projects, low unemployment rate, stabilized funding for higher education, and launched the first information technology apprenticeship program in Louisiana in 2018, as well as the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. Rispone is running as “successful entrepreneur, business executive, and conservative outsider” and says he is “a staunch advocate for workforce development, limited government, lowering taxes, and reducing the burdens to do business in Louisiana.”

Louisiana’s general election is Nov. 16.

Mississippi

State Attorney General Jim Hood (D) faces Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) in the Nov. 5 election for governor. Hood has served as the attorney general since 2003. His campaign site outlines four workforce training policies he would implement, including tuition assistance for community college students, expanding apprenticeship programs, helping students earn industry recognized certification and teaching high-school students essential job skills. Reeves cites progress made under the current administration, saying Mississippi students are “outpacing the nation when it comes to gains in math and reading,” and says he will keep working on the state’s schools.

State legislative elections

Legislative chambers in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia are holding regular elections this year. Both the House and Senate are up for election in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia, while in New Jersey the state representatives are being elected, but the Senate is not up for election until 2021 (elections for the four-year term last took place in 2017).

Ballotpedia reports that of the seven chambers holding elections, Republicans hold six and Democrats hold one. While they expect New Jersey to remain as a Democratic trifecta (where one party holds the governorship and control of both the House and Senate), Ballotpedia’s analysis reveals that the Republican trifecta in Kentucky and Mississippi are moderately vulnerable, while in Virginia there is a moderate possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming; it is currently a divided government with Democrat Ralph Northam as governor and Republicans holding majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Democrats need to flip two or more seats in both chambers to gain a majority.

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