The highest-profile state ballot initiative this election season is the progressive Proposition 19, which would legalize possession of a small quantity of marijuana in California.
But ballot initiatives, which can have profound and long-lasting public policy implications, have traditionally been more the province of the right than the left. Just think of the drastic consequences that have resulted from California's Proposition 13 and Massachusetts' Proposition 2 1/2, measures that were designed to limit property taxes and that were popular with voters but that have wreaked budgetary havoc in both states.
Although they have largely been flying under the national radar, there are plenty of right-wing initiatives that will be put to voters around the country in November -- and, especially given this year's political climate, there's a good chance that many of them will pass. Here are five of the most notable:
- "Personhood Amendment" in Colorado: For the second consecutive election cycle, abortion rights foes in Colorado are pushing an amendment to the state Constitution that would give rights "to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being." Proponents of this measure, known as Amendment 62, says its goal is to "end abortion now." It drew such prominent supporters as GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck -- until he realized that Amendment 62 would probably also ban common forms of birth control and withdrew his endorsement.
- Gutting climate change law in California: Proposition 23, which is being marketed with millions of dollars from Koch Industries and Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro, would suspend a landmark 2006 law that requires significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Proposition 23 would suspend the 2006 law until the unemployment rate in the state, which is now around 12 percent, drops below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. Thus, supporters have dubbed the campaign the "California Jobs Initiative 2010."
- Fighting Obama's healthcare overhaul in Oklahoma: The Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature succeeded in getting Question 756, or the "Health Care Freedom Amendment," on the ballot in November. It would amend the state's Constitution to ban any healthcare mandates that require employers or individuals to buy insurance. Though designed to block implementation of the Obama administration's healthcare reform, Question 756 was dealt a blow this month when the state attorney general's office put language on the ballot reminding voters that federal, not state, law is the supreme law of the land.
- Restricting income tax in Missouri: Ballot initiatives are a favorite tool of anti-tax activists, and this year Proposition A in Missouri would require voters in St. Louis and Kansas City to approve those cities' earnings tax every five years, and bar any other city in the state from levying such a tax. (The earning taxes are levied on incomes of those who either live or work in St. Louis and Missouri.) Backers of Proposition A are calling their effort "Let Voters Decide." A coalition of public employees unions and others are warning of deep cuts to basic municipal services.
- Anti-affirmative action push in Arizona: Backed by longtime California-based affirmative action foe Ward Connerly, Proposition 107 would ban any "preferential treatment" by the state on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender. This would kill minority recruiting efforts by the state's universities and government agencies. Among the key legislators who got Proposition 107 on the ballot was state Sen. Russell Pearce, who is best known as the man behind SB 1070, Arizona's controversial anti-immigration law.
For a comprehensive rundown of ballot initiatives around the country, check out the excellent Ballotpedia.