Initiatives send big-money backers scrambling

Thumbs down to school vouchers, campaign-finance reform, and some growth limits. Thumbs up to drug-policy reform and gun control. Mixed signals on tax cuts.

These are the themes experts see as they sift through the results of 205 ballot initiatives in 42 states.

In two of the most-watched initiatives: An Arizona ballot gave new momentum to the effort to ban bilingual education in states such as New York and Florida, and the defeat of heavily financed voucher measures in Michigan and California will cause activists to rethink strategies - away from the initiative process.

"Interest in the issue will continue, but probably not in the form of citizen measures," says Dane Waters president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute.

With tax cutting being the main target of reformers this year in 36 measures, voters showed they could discriminate those that were reasonable from those that went too far. In Colorado, for example, voters said "no" to Amendment 21, which would have eliminated - among other things - property and income taxes.

"Voters looked at measures in several states and looked very carefully at how they impacted their daily lives," says Mr. Waters. "They were very skeptical and concerned that if they passed some of these measures, they would hurt local services from fire to law enforcement to education."

By contrast, voters in Oregon said "yes" to what they saw as a more-reasonable measure: requiring government to compensate landowners when government regulations reduce land value. "People here rallied to one of the basic tenets of freedom which is property rights," says proponent Becky Miller.

For measures that lost - like vouchers - proponents promised to regroup.

"A defeat ... doesn't spell the end of the voucher movement by any means," said initiative sponsor Tim Draper.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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