NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Liberal Initiatives Will Dominate Ballots This Fall

July 31, 2002

For years, conservative ideas dominated state ballot initiatives -- starting with California's successful Prop. 13 in 1978 to cut property taxes by nearly 60 percent. But now liberals -- having concluded that conservative initiatives won't go away -- have turned to initiatives to further their pet causes. Some experts say liberal ideas will occupy nearly twice as many spots on state ballots this fall as conservative proposals.

Law can be made by citizen-driven initiatives in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

These are among the initiatives this year that some observers label "liberal":

  • An indoor smoking ban in Florida and decriminalization of marijuana in Nevada, as well as medical marijuana use in Arizona and South Carolina.
  • Raising tobacco taxes to pay for health care in Missouri and Arizona, and health coverage for all in Oregon.
  • Election day voter registration in California and Colorado.
  • Money for after-school programs in California -- spearheaded by Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On the conservative side, voters in Massachusetts and probably Colorado will decide whether to abolish bilingual education. Nevada voters will consider a ban on same-sex marriages.

The initiative trend peaked in 1996 with 93 statewide initiatives on ballots. Most states that have initiative provisions are clustered in the West.

Source: Jill Lawrence, "The Left Takes Over Ballot Initiatives," and "Costs, Complications Seize Ballot Initiatives," USA Today, July 31, 2002.


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