2017 Ballot Measures Results: Part I


While you’ve likely heard about the election results in Virginia and New Jersey last week, voters also weighed in on referendums across the country.


Back in July, we previewed four prominent ballot initiatives from New York, Ohio, Maine, Texas, Louisiana and New Jersey. Today, we take a look at the results and see  how their respective state government agencies will enforce the decisions made by popular vote.


Maine Medicaid Expansion Initiative


Summary of the Issue: Under the Affordable Care Act, Congress expanded Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes of up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. But in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to choose whether they wanted to participate in the Medicaid expansion, and in Maine Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed statewide Medicaid expansion 5 times. As a result, the expansion is headed directly to the ballot via a petitioned indirect initiative signed by at least 61,123 Mainers. If passed, the bill would move pass the governor and legislature to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which would be tasked with creating a Medicaid expansion plan.


Vote Results: Medicaid Expansion approved by 59% of Maine voters.


What Happens Next: Maine legislators had previously voted to expand Medicaid  five times, with Republican Governor Paul LePage vetoing every  bill. Even though the outcome of the ballot initiative is not subject to a veto, Gov. LePage has stated that his administration will not implement the change unless the legislature identifies funding sources for the state portion of the program’s costs. Groups in Idaho and Utah are hoping to follow the lead of Maine and include their own Medicaid expansion on the ballot  in 2018.


New Jersey Revenue from Environmental Damage Lawsuits Dedicated to Environmental Projects Amendment


Summary of the Issue: Previously, any revenue obtained from large pollution lawsuits in New Jersey has not been spent on preservation or conservation efforts in the affected areas. Instead, most of these funds went to balancing the state budget. This bill would require all money earned by the state related to natural resource damages be used to restore the affected area.


Vote Results: 69% of New Jersey voters voted to spend revenue obtained from pollution on lawsuits on conservation.


What Happens Next: This affirmative result formally amends the state constituion to prevent future governors and the state legislature from repurposing money earmarked for restoring land and waterways tainted by pollution. According to the ballot question, any funds paid by a polluter “would have to be used to repair, restore, replace, or preserve the State’s natural resources. The money may also be used to pay legal or other costs incurred by the state in pursuing its claims.”


New York Pension Forfeiture for Convicted Officials Amendment (2017)


Summary of the Issue: After several elected officials in New York were criminally convicted and still allowed to receive large pensions in jail, the state attempted to enact the Public Integrity Reform Act in 2011 to allow judges to reduce or revoke the pensions of convicted officials. Yet, because pensions are a contractual relationship in the New York state constitution, this change could only apply to future officers entering the system after 2011. The legislatively referred constitutional amendment would allow judges to reduce or revoke pensions of public officers convicted of a felony related to their official duties for any public officer in the system who commits the crime after January 1, 2018.


Vote Results: 64% of New York voters approved the constitutional amendment.


What Happens Next: Courts will now be able to “reduce or revoke” the pension of elected officials who are convicted of felonies related to their public duties. This ballot measure was included as a reaction to a series of scandals involving a number of state legislators, including Norman Seabrook, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, who were still able to receive their pensions retroactively after serving time in prison for their crimes.


Ohio Drug Price Standards Initiative (2017)


Summary of the Issue: This initiative would alter the price of drugs purchased through the state to align prices with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This could reportedly reduce Ohioans’ drug prices by up to 24 percent.


Vote Results: 79% of Ohio voters opposed the price alteration.


What Happens Next: The overwhelming majority of Ohio voters voted against this ballot initiative so the state will still be able to buy prescription drugs at prices higher than what the Department of Veterans Affairs pays. While supporters claimed that using the VA as the standard for how the government should spend money would save Ohio residents millions of dollars each year in healthcare costs, voters disagreed.

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By Mikala Cohen, BallotReady Blog Intern