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Voters weigh in on innovation issues: ballot issue round-up

November 06, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

While official results are still being certified, unofficial counts reveal a mixed bag on a slew of state ballot initiatives that could have an impact on innovation, education, state budgets and elections. Some gained favor with voters, like a battle over gig workers and how they are classified, which landed on the side of Uber and Lyft. The California Proposition 22 initiative won voter approval (58 percent) following a $200 million effort to defeat earlier legislation that provided employee-like protections for the app-based drivers. The approval allows the drivers to be classified as independent contractors and not employees, overriding Assembly Bill 5, and possibly chilling other states’ efforts to consider legislation that would have forced companies to treat freelancers as employees.

Meanwhile, California’s Proposition 14, a bond measure that authorizes $5.5 billion in new funding for stem cell research for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) that was created in 2004 after a $3 billion bond approval but ran out of unallocated funds last year, is currently narrowly passing with 51 percent of the vote, but its final fate is unknown.

A new source of revenue for state, recreational marijuana was approved in three states: Arizona (60 percent) Proposition 207 will place a 16 percent tax on marijuana sales with some of that revenue dedicated for community college districts; Montana (57 percent) legalized the possession and use of marijuana and imposed a 20 percent tax on its sales; New Jersey Question 1, a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession, use and sale of marijuana passed (67 percent); and, South Dakota passed both recreational and medical marijuana in separate ballot initiatives in this election with part of the revenue generated by its sale helping to fund public schools and the general fund.

The sports betting expansion measure on the ballot as Question 2 in Maryland passed (66.3 percent), with state revenue generated by the activities slated to help fund public education. And three measures on Nebraska’s ballot that together will legalize, regulate and tax gambling at horse tracks all passed.

In Illinois, a measure to allow for graduated income tax was defeated because it failed to achieve the vote thresholds required for a constitutional amendment. The measure would have permitted a graduated income tax. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has warned of significant budget cuts and a tax hike if the graduated income tax was not put in place.

In education-related measures, Question 1 in Nevada that supports removing the constitutional status of the Board of Regents is passing with 51.2 percent approval and 75 percent of precincts reporting. It would allow the state Legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities. And in New Mexico, Bond Question C that supported authorizing $156.3 million in bonds for public higher education institutions, special public schools and native tribal schools passed (65 percent).

California Proposition 16 was defeated (56 percent), which would have repealed the Proposition 209 affirmative action amendment, which stated that government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education and public contracting.

In election system initiatives, Massachusetts defeated Question 2, the ranked choice election system (54.6 percent), and Alaska defeated Ballot Measure 2 (57 percent), the top-four ranked-choice voting and campaign finance laws initiative that would have made changes to Alaska’s election policies. Florida’s Amendment 3, which would have established a top-two open primary system for state offices failed to garner the required 60 percent approval, and therefore failed.

Colorado voters passed (52 percent) Proposition 113 which would join Colorado with other states as part of an agreement to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote if enough states enter the agreement. Mississippi passed Ballot Measure 2 (78 percent), which changes election requirement of governor or state office to a majority vote of the people, and if the candidate does not receive a majority vote, they will proceed to a runoff election. The previous system required candidates to win the popular vote and the highest number of votes in a majority of the state's 122 House districts. 

In the area of redistricting, Missouri voters narrowly passed (51 percent) Amendment 3, which will change the redistricting process voters approved in 2018 by transferring responsibility for drawing state legislative districts from the Nonpartisan State Demographer to Governor-appointed bipartisan commissions and modify and reorder the redistricting criteria. New Jersey voters passed (59 percent) Question 3, which will postpone the state legislative redistricting process until after the November 2021 election, if the state receives federal census data after Feb. 15, 2021 and it will keep the current state legislative districts in place until 2023. And Virginia voters largely favored (65.9 percent) Question 1, which will transfer the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state Legislature to a bipartisan redistricting commission.

Florida voters passed (60.8 percent) a minimum wage increase that will increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until reaching $15/hour in September 2026. The measure required a 60 percent supermajority vote to pass.

Nevada’s renewable energy standards initiative passed (56 percent) and will require electric utilities to acquire 50 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030.