By Neisha Roberts
The Alabama Baptist
More than 150 state level ballot measures made their way before voters Nov. 8, including 71 measures from citizen signature petitions instead of state legislatures — the highest number of such initiatives to make it to Election Day since 2006.
More than 130 million Americans voted on several far-reaching issues including marijuana use, physician-assisted suicide, religion-based issues, minimum wage, gun control and gambling (see page 13).
Eight out of 9 states with marijuana-related ballot measures voted to legalize or expand the use of the drug.
California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use. Arizona was the only state to reject the measure.
Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota voted to legalize the use of marijuana for medical use. Montana, which legalized medical marijuana use in 2004, voted to expand its medical use.
‘Dropped their guard’
According to Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “Everywhere medical marijuana makes its entrance, the effort to legalize it for recreational use soon follows. Every state that legalized recreational marijuana on Nov. 8 had previously legalized medical marijuana.
“Now [four] more states have dropped their guard and naïvely welcomed this deadly drug inside their borders under the mistaken belief that they are only helping to alleviate suffering,” he said.
In Colorado, a state that legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, voters chose to legalize physician-assisted suicide through the Colorado End of Life Options Act. It joins five other states with a similar law. Before this measure passed in the Centennial State, assisted death was a crime of felony manslaughter.
The newly passed law gives adults access to “medical aid-in-dying medication,” according to the law’s text posted on Colorado’s Legislature website. It also allows terminally ill patients to self-administer drugs prescribed by a physician to induce “peaceful death.”
Mark Edlund, executive director of the Colorado Baptist Convention, said, “As a Colorado native it grieves me to see Colorado continue its strong march to the liberal side of the political spectrum. Sadly our state receives national recognition for the legalization of marijuana, same-sex ‘marriage’ and legalization of abortion. Now we add to that physician-assisted suicide.”
In 2015 messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution also called on Christians to “care for the elderly … and show them honor and dignity.”
Minimum wage was addressed in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Washington and South Dakota, with 4 of the 5 states voting in favor of raising the minimum wage. South Dakota was the only state that voted on a veto referendum to actually lower the minimum wage for minors.
In California voters opposed Proposition 61, what was considered one of the most expensive ballot measures in 2016. Fifty-four percent of voters said “no” to the measure so that state agencies will continue to be able to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs without reference to the prices paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Supporters of the measure said it could have provided significant savings and forced the drug industry to begin reducing its prices. Opponents of the measure said passing Proposition 61 would have reduced access to prescription drugs and raised prices for everyone, including veterans.
Colorado voted down the Colorado Creation of ColoradoCare System Initiative, leaving the health care system unchanged. If the measure had passed it would have meant a new payment system would go in place designed to finance universal health care for Colorado residents (through a 10 percent additional payroll tax paid by the employer and the employee).
Gun control was on the ballot in four states. California voted “yes” to support prohibiting the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring individuals to pass a background check in order to purchase ammunition. In Maine, however, voters said “no” to requiring background checks before a gun sale. Nevada voted “yes” to requiring firearm transfers to go through a licensed gun dealer and Washington voted “yes” to allowing the authorizing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders and remove an individual’s access to firearms.
Penalties for sex crimes
Georgia approved the measure “Additional Penalties for Sex Crimes to Fund Services for Sexually Exploited Children.” More than 80 percent of voters voted “yes” in order to allocate generated revenue for the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.
And the Ten Commandments monument could have made its way back to Oklahoma’s state capitol if they had passed a measure relating to the use of public money. Voters there did not want to allow public money to be used for religious purposes.
Alabama’s 14 measures passed, relating to topics from state park funds to age restrictions for government officials. (BP contributed)