Incumbents, Gay Rights, Spending, And Black Bears

Political incumbents who survived a voter drive to "throw the rascals out" may be savoring only a temporary victory. Term-limitation initiatives were the most prominent of a host of ballot referendums throughout the states. And the limits passed in all 14 states where they appeared on the ballot--most by huge margins.

That doesn't mean incumbents are going to go without a fight. After Florida voters passed the state's "Eight is Enough" amendment, which limits state legislators and congressional representatives to 8 years and U.S. senators to 12, former State Representative Barry Richard filed suit in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. He wants to invalidate the term-limits measure on constitutional grounds. "I don't think we can change the balance of Congress one state at a time," he says.

Voters may not have to. Former Colorado State Senator Terry Considine is organizing support for a constitutional amendment that would set term limits once and for all. A Republican who was defeated on Nov. 3 by Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Colorado's U.S. Senate race, Considine and his Americans Back in Charge Committee are working to introduce such a measure in all 50 state legislatures by the end of January.

Business fared better than incumbents in the wide array of measures on state ballots this year (table). California's "Soak-the-Rich" proposition, which would have hiked taxes on business and the wealthy, was defeated. So were two environmental measures that industry fought vigorously: In Massachusetts, voters nixed a rigorous initiative that would have required recycling of packaging. Opponents, including food marketers and chemical and plastics companies, spent more than $4.5 million to defeat it. And in Ohio, voters rejected a measure that would have required producers of consumer goods to list cancer- or birth-defect-causing chemicals on package labels. Consumer-products companies and retailers convinced Ohio voters that the initiative would cost jobs.

SUICIDE. Voters weren't in the mood to endorse spending hikes, either. Connecticut residents limited future increases in state spending to the growth rate of either the consumer price index or of their personal income. And Coloradans, who had turned down tax-limitation initiatives twice before, this year voted yes. New Yorkers nixed a plan to borrow $800 million for public-works projects.

The nation's electorate was less consistent in its reaction to an array of emotional social issues. A controversial antigay measure in Oregon that would have condemned homosexuality as perverse, and might have forced the state to fire gay and lesbian teachers, was defeated by a margin of 57% to 43%. That margin was wider than expected, says a spokeswoman for the "No on Nine" campaign against the measure. But in a surprise vote, Coloradans passed a measure banning protective status for gays. Polls had shown the issue would lose, and angry homosexuals staged a midnight march on the state capitol.

Maryland voters, meanwhile, approved a measure reaffirming a woman's right to abortion. But the Catholic Church won a battle in California, where a measure to make physician-assisted suicide legal for the terminally ill was defeated after a last-minute advertising blitz, funded in part by the Church.

Maybe the clearest winners on state ballots this year were Colorado's black bears. By a margin of 2-to-1, voters agreed to end spring bear hunts.

      14 state ballots included measures to limit the terms of state and federal 
      elected officials. The initiatives passed in all the states
      A cigarette tax hike of 25  passed in Massachusetts. Three states approved a 
      lottery. California rejected a measure to impose stiff tax increases on business
      Massachusetts defeated a measure that would have required recycling of 
      packaging materials. Ohio voters rejected a proposal requiring labels on 
      consumer products to note the presence of carcinogens
      Voters in Colorado passed a measure rescinding laws that protect gays and 
      lesbians from discrimination. Oregonians rejected a similar proposal
      DATA: BW
Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.