Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wide-Ranging Ballot Measures Define Individuality of States

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wide-Ranging Ballot Measures Define Individuality of States

Article excerpt

California turned its back on affirmative action. Florida rejected a sugar tax to clean up the Everglades. And pot smokers celebrated in California and Arizona after marijuana was legalized for medical purposes.

Across the nation Tuesday, voters decided ballot measures ranging from securities fraud to logging and leg traps.

Colorado refused to bill churches for property taxes or to enshrine the "inalienable right" of parents into its constitution. South Carolina clung to the blue laws that make it illegal for retail stores to open before 1:30 p.m. on Sundays. And in the year when the fugitive Freemen held authorities at bay for 81 days in Montana, voters there passed a measure that would make it easier to sue people accused of threats and ban the filing of bogus property liens. "Ballot measures are all about individuality," says Elaine Stuart, editor of State Government, a magazine published by the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit group in Lexington, Ky. "They are about shaping our identity as individual states." Win or lose, they tend to pave the way for future legislation, and national change. California's Proposition 209, which bans racial and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting and education, was widely considered the most divisive - and one of the most significant issues. Supporters argued for a colorblind society, while opponents said the move would derail programs that counter racism and sexism. The final say will likely shape affirmative action programs nationally - and will probably be decided in the courts. Both sides filed suit Wednesday over the measure - proponents to get it into effect, opponents to get rid of it as unconstitutional. "No matter what happens, this is only the beginning of what we believe will be a nationwide battle," said Kathy Spillar, a leader of Stop Prop 209. In Florida, $23 million in advertising by sugar companies and farmers helped persuade voters to reject a penny-a-pound sugar tax for Everglades cleanup. …

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