Taxes, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, and more!
On Nov. 3, in addition to electing national, state, and local officials, voters will decide on state ballot measures on a variety of impactful issues. Oregon has four ballot measures: Measure 107 allowing campaign finance reform, Measure 108 increasing nicotine product taxes, Measure 109 legalizing psilocybin research, and Measure 110 creating Addiction Recovery Centers and decriminalizing drug possession. In California, there are a dozen propositions on the ballot that range from funding stem cell research, allowing affirmative action, and changing property taxes. Some states are voting on legalizing sports betting and others on legalizing medical or recreational marijuana. Ballot measures are not limited by many of the finance laws that regulate campaigns for official positions (like limits on individual contributions), and as a result ballot campaigns can become very expensive. Proposition 22 in California, which would allow gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, has become an almost $200 million fight with $184 million donated in support of the proposition, largely from the companies it would affect.
Oregon’s Measure 107 is a constitutional amendment to allow future laws on campaign finance reform. Currently, Oregon is one of five states without campaign contribution limits, as in 1997 the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that it was a violation of free speech according to the Oregon Constitution. If approved, the legislature will be able to pass laws setting contribution limits, requiring advertisements to label who funded them, and compelling disclosure of campaign contributions. Almost $150,000 has been donated in support of the measure.
Measure 108 would increase taxes on nicotine products to fund healthcare for low-income individuals. It would raise the tax on a carton of cigarettes from $1.33 to $3.33 and raise the tax cap on cigars from $0.50 to $1 per cigar. It would create a tax at 65% of the wholesale price on other nicotine delivery products including vapes and e-cigarettes. The increased taxes are expected to raise $110 million from 2019-2021 and over $330 million from 2021-2023, with 90% dedicated to the Oregon Health Plan and 10% dedicated to anti-nicotine public health programs. Over $13.2 million has been donated in support.
Measure 109 seeks to legalize research on the medical potential of psilocybin (the psychoactive compound in psychedelic mushrooms). It would create the Oregon Psilocybin Services Program, which would be implemented following a two year development period. It would legalize licensed production, processing, and possession by qualified providers and clients. Psilocybin has shown significant promise in treating mental health conditions, most notably Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Approximately $3 million has been donated in support.
Measure 110 would decriminalize drug possession and create many Addiction Recovery Centers (ARCs) by October 2021. The ARCs would cost $57 million which would be funded by additional revenue (after $11.25 million per quarter) from marijuana taxes. The measure would reclassify almost all felony or misdemeanor possession (without intent to distribute) as a Class E violation resulting in either a $100 fine or a health assessment from an ARC. Decriminalization, and the resulting decrease in incarceration, are expected to save the state almost $50 million over the next four years. Almost $4.5 million has been donated in support – including $500,000 from Mark Zuckerberg’s charity, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – and $500,000 has been donated in opposition.
California’s ballot measures, known as propositions, cover a wide range of impactful issues. Prop 14 would create $5.5 billion in bonds for stem cell research, which received $3 billion in 2004 but has run out since. One of the most expensive ballot measures nationwide, Prop 15 would raise property taxes on commercial holdings by assessing property taxes based on the current property value instead of the purchase price. Prop 16 would repeal Prop 209 which was passed in 1996 to ban affirmative action. Prop 17 would restore voting rights to approximately 40,000 Californians on parole, and Prop 18 would allow 17 year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 by the general election. Prop 19 would create a tax break for those over 55, and Prop 21 would allow the creation of stricter rent control laws, superseding local laws. Prop 20 would roll back recent criminal justice reforms established by Prop 47 in 2014 and Prop 57 in 2016. Prop 22 would exempt gig-economy workers from Assembly Bill 5, which would have required companies classify them as employees instead of contractors entitling them to benefits. Over one million Californians work in the gig-economy and would be affected by the proposition. Prop 23 would impose new standards on kidney dialysis clinics, Prop 24 would expand data privacy laws, and Prop 25 would eliminate cash bail.
Other states also have notable and consequential ballot measures. In Washington, Referendum 90 would dramatically expand and improve sexual education across the state. Alaskan Measure 1 would increase taxes on oil production fields and has received over $18 million in opposition from oil and gas companies. Constitutional Amendment 1 in Louisiana would add language clarifying that abortion is not a right. In Mississippi, ballot measure 2 would establish runoff elections for state offices and ballot measure 2 would create a new state flag that doesn’t include confederate imagery. Nevada’s Question 6 would require that 50% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.
Ballot measures, almost more than electing officials, can have a direct and significant impact on many aspects of life. To get involved with a specific ballot measure, visit the campaign website. To help engage new voters, learn more about When We All Vote and Rock The Vote.