THIS STUFF MATTERS
There Is a Ton More at Stake Tuesday Than Just the Virginia Governorship
There are 16 ballot initiatives happening. One could give 70,000 people in Maine health insurance.
While much of the political universe will be hyper-focused on the Virginia gubernatorial election Tuesday, voters across the country are considering a number of other, incredibly weighty issues, from the future of health care in their states to whether convicted lawmakers should be eligible for pensions.
Residents in six states will be voting on these ballot measures. Some could break longstanding political logjams. Others could facilitate the upending of state constitutions. People may find prescription drug prices more affordable after Tuesday. Others could see stricter term limits put on their elected officials.
In all, there are 16 ballot measures being considered. Here are the highlights.
In what is arguably the most consequential election outside of Virginia, voters in Maine on Tuesday will vote on whether to expand Medicaid coverage to 70,000 additional low income residents. The initiative follows five separate vetoes of Medicaid expansion legislation by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Rural hospitals would greatly benefit from the expansion. All 23 of Maine’s rural hospitals face possible closures or cuts to essential services, reported the Press Herald. The Medicaid expansion would give hospitals an additional $260 billion in revenue a year. However, opponents have argued that these nonprofit hospitals should treat poor residents as an act of charity and that the expansion would simply pass the costs onto others.
“As I always say, ‘free’ is very expensive to somebody. If hospital CEOs have their way, that somebody would be Maine taxpayers,” LePage told the Press Herald in a statement.
In addition, Mainers will also decide on building a casino in York County, a $105 million bond proposal to improve infrastructure and an amendment to stabilize funding for state pensions.
Ohioans have the opportunity to dramatically reduce their drug prices on Tuesday. On the ballot will be an initiative to allow the state’s Department of Medicaid, state prisons, and other health programs to buy drugs at the same price as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, which already receives a 24 percent discount on pharmaceuticals, according to the Ohio Ballot Board.
While proponents of the initiative say that it will save the state millions of dollars, a report from the state’s budget office argued that state savings would be minimal (PDF).
The initiative is considered the most expensive ballot campaign in U.S. history, Ballotpedia expert Josh Altic told The Wall Street Journal. Both advocates and dissenters have spent over $60 million on the campaign, with $49 million from drug companies in opposition.
Another initiative would establish the Ohio Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights that would give victims better access to support services, force courts to update victims on proceedings, and give the victims more opportunity to share their input with the court, as laid out in the initiative’s language (PDF).
Tuesday, New Yorkers will vote on an initiative that, if passed, would spur a convention to revise the state constitution. Supporters like the League of Women Voters and the New York State Bar Association see the convention as an opportunity to bypass gridlock in the state house on contentious issues like campaign finance limits, government ethics laws, and marijuana legalizations, according to the New York Daily News. Others say that the convention would simply waste money considering that the last convention, which took place in 1967, did not result in a new constitution. The convention would cost at least $50 million, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told the Daily News.
The ballot will also include an amendment that would strip elected officials and government employees of their pensions if they are convicted of a felony. The constitutional amendment designed to curtail corruption differs from a similar anti-corruption law by applying the pension forfeiture retroactively, the Gotham Gazette reported. It was prompted, in part, by the arrests of ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both of whom continued to receive $95,000 and $79,000 annual pensions after their conviction in 2015, according to the Daily News. Both Skelos and Silver were acquitted over the summer.
Voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that restricts how states spend money collected from pollution lawsuits. It would only allow the money to go towards funding environmental projects. The amendment first gained popularity after Governor Chris Christie only used 20 percent of $580 million in settlements towards improving the environment, reported The Observer. Increased funding for public libraries will also be on the ballot.
Pennsylvanians will decide if residents should continue to pay property tax on their homes, expanding on a current exemption that determines taxes based off 50 percent of the property’s median assessed value. The amendment does not face strong opposition, although the state still needs to find a substitute for the lost revenue.
Texas has a total of seven different measures on the ballot this year. Half of the ballot measures center around saving residents money through property tax exemptions for partially disabled veterans and spouses of first responders killed while on duty, as well as increasing accessibility for home equity loans. Another measure would allow banks to offer prizes like raffles to encourage people to use savings accounts.
The rest of the measures tweak office term limits for appointed officials, requests that the courts update the attorney general on new amendments to the state constitution, and expands the definition of a sports team as a way to promote charity fundraisers.