Voter-sponsored questions abound on state ballots
Boston — South Dakotans bent on protecting the mourning dove and Massachusetts citizens angered by pay raises their state lawmakers voted themselves last Halloween have a lot in common -- determination.
Petitions in hand, both took to the streets in pursuit of their parallel goals to let the voters decide the issues.
These are among 43 such voter-initiated measures on Nov. 4 ballots in elections in the District of Columbia and 17 states.
Such proposals, similar in approach to the Sept. 23 voter-rejected nuclear plant closing referendum in Maine, are on the increase.
This year's bumper crop of citizen-framed measures is the biggest in more than four decades, according to John Forster, publisher of Initiative News, a Washington, D.C.-based reporting service.
Current proposals, many of which have been deemed "too hot to handle" by state legislators, span a broad spectrum of issues from tax reform to legalized gambling.
All but five of the 22 states and the District of Columbia where the initiative petition approach to lawmaking is available have as many as four such proposals on their ballot. Such proposals comprise nearly one-quarter of the 208 questions on various statewide ballots.
Of the 43 initiatives, 17, or nearly 4 percent, involve taxation, seven deal with state government structure and reform, six are energy related, four concern environmental protection, four affect banking, two propose lotteries, and one each concern transportation, and eduction.
California, the home of Proposition 13 and a state where citizen-initiated proposals have become particularly prevalent in recent years, has but one, highly volatile initiativesponsored ballot question that would require areas to be set aside for nonsmokers at indoor public gathering places.
Alaska's initiative attention will be divided between a proposal to slash the state income tax to 1 percent and a measure to set up a state-sponsored private corporation to invest in various projects such as the development of hydroelectric plants.
Every Alaska citizen would be given one share in the Alaska General Stock Ownership Corporation, which would raise funds from public or private sources for its investments. Ninety percent of the corporation's earnings would be divided equally among the citizen shareholders.
Prospects for the proposal are uncertain. Sen. Mike Gravel (D) of Alaska has played a leading roll in its sponsorship. The petitions placing the matter on the ballot were signed by some 26,000 voters -- about 20 percent of the state's total
Illinois voters will decide whether to shrink the state's House of Representatives by one-third from 177 to 159. The initiative is the first to reach the ballot there since this constitution-amending process became available in the state a decade ago.
A South Dakota group is pressing a similarly backed constitution change. If approved, it would prohibit the wiping out of such measures except by voter approval through a referendum.
Montana's ballot includes proposals to require legislative lobbyists to disclose how much they spend and for what, and a litter control measure. Under the latter, the bottle and can industry would have to come up with an increasingly successful recycling program or deposits would be required on beer and soft-drink containers.
District of Columbia voters will decide on calling of a constitutional convention aimed at moving the city toward statehood. Another initiative there would provide for a lottery.
A lottery proposal also is before the Arizona electorate, along with several tax-chopping measures.
On the Oregon ballot are proposals to ban use of leg-hold animal traps and empower the state takeover of private utilities in 12 counties.
Measures to restrict uranium mining, regulate the storage and transportation of nuclear materials, and construction of nuclear power plants without voter approval will be dediced in South Dakota.
Proposals to regulate or ban outright the storage, use, or disposal of nuclear materials also are the ballots in Missouri, montana, and Washington. In the latter the importation of such wastes from out of state would be prohibited.
Property tax cut or spending limit initiatives are before voters in Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, and Utah.
In Ohio an overhaul of the tax structure to shift more of the burden to upper income residents and the business community is at issue.
Sales tax reductions to exempt food are proposed in Nevada and Utah.A Montana initiative seeks to tie state spending to a percentage of total personal income by residents.
Hiking the state's oil extraction tax and creation of a state-funded housing finance program of low interest mortgage rates are on the North Dakota ballot.
Measures to protect mortgage holders from increased rates and allow banks to establish branches at greater distances from their home offices are pending in Colorado.
More than 150 other types of statewide questions are on various state ballots.
Future first-term governors would be eligible to run for re-election under proposals in New Mexico and South Carolina.
Sunday horse racing and increased prizes for legalized games of chances are at issue in New Jersey.
In Iowa the question of calling a state constitutional convention and attaching an equal rights amendments to the state constitution will be decided.
Lowering the minimum liquor age from 21 to 19 is before Michigan voters.
Minnesota, now one of 27 states without the initiative petition process, will consider it and Idaho voters will vote on a proposal to permit such voter-sponsored questions at every general election instead of only at those where the governorship is being filled.
A righ of privacy consititutional amendment is before Florida voters.
A new state constitution is at issue in Arkansas. Rhode Islanders will decide creation of a new special commission to help set lawmaker salaries. Legalizing bingo to help fraternal and charitable organizations raise money is proposed in Missouri. Oregon will vote on boosting the state gasoline tax from seven cents to nine cents a gallon. Creation of a new appeals court is before Nevada voters. State lotteries are proposed in Arizona and California.
Three exemptions from proposition 13-induced property tax limitations are on the California ballot.
Other questions on state ballots propose legislative per diem pay raises in New Mexico and Utah, campaign spending curbs in Minnesota, increased budget controls in Texas, juries of six to sit on misdemeanor cases in Wyoming, and property classification for tax purposes in Georgia and Ohio, and outlawing discrimination against handicapped in Massachusetts, an equal education opportunities in Arkansas and Nebraska, and lowering from 21 to 18 the minimum age for holding elective office in Connecticut.