While the Presidential election, rightly took up most of the coverage of last night’s election, further down the ticket states were voting on a variety of ballot measures and seats that could have as big of an impact. Here we offer a brief rundown of what we know now based on early returns. Some of these items may tip slightly in the final analysis, but these are the projections from the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL).
Voters passed groundbreaking measures to legalize marijuana use and approve same-sex marriage on a day when 174 ballot measures were considered by the electorates of 38 states. That was the most since 2006 when 204 measures were on ballots. In other historical movements, control of the Arkansas state legislature shifted into Republican hands, marking the first time since the Reconstruction that the confederate states have all had state legislatures controlled by the same party. 12 chambers switched from one party to another, with Democrats gaining control in Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado House, the New York Senate, and New Hampshire House. Republicans gained in Wisconsin and Alaska in addition to Arkansas.
There were 12 popular referenda on the ballot this year, the highest number since 1920 when there were also 12. The popular referendum, available in 23 states, allows citizens to put a new law on hold and let voters decide its ultimate fate.
Voters came out strongly against attempts by several states to strip collective bargaining rights from public unions – in Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota, attempts by the legislature to reduce the influence of teachers’ unions were rejected by voters. This includes a rejection of Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law, a provision that would have allowed state-appointed emergency managers to terminate public employee contracts and collective bargaining agreements.
Same-sex marriage initiatives were on the ballots in four states this election. While close, all three ballot measures in Maryland, Washington and Maine passed and a constitutional amendment in Minnesota defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman was defeated.
Four out of five states voted approved legislative measures blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act. These states included Alabama, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming. Going in the opposite direction, Florida voters voted against exempting their state from the Affordable Care Act. For states that blocked implementation, based on how the law is written, they’ve essentially blocked themselves from state control of things like health insurance exchanges which are part of the law. Now, those states will have their exchanges managed using a generic exchange administered by the federal government.
Voters rejected most proposed tax cuts, including a new state revenue limitation in Florida and a 2/3 legislative vote for tax increases in Michigan. In California voters supported a new tax measure that blocks out-of-state corporations from lowering their state income taxes, that revenue will now go to fund renewable energy measures. The measure was supported by hedge fund executive Thomas Steyer, who recently retired from his fund. According to a Bloomberg account, Steyer spent $29.5 million of his personal fortune on the measure.
NCSL is offering a searchable database for users looking for information on specific ballot measures it’s available here.