Ballotpedia's Regional Breakdown: Northeast ballot measures

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October 21, 2010

Regional Breakdown of 2010 ballot measures: Northeast
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By Bailey Ludlam, Johanna Herman and Al Ortiz

NORTHEAST REGION, United States: November 2 is inching closer for voters across the country, and only two more regions are left in Ballotpedia's weekly regional breakdown of statewide ballot measures. The penultimate region Ballotpedia will look at is the Northeast Region of the country, which offers some controversial issues such as tax rollbacks, casino operation, and even changing the name of a state. Maine took first place for the most measures on the ballot, with a total of 8 proposals for voters to decide on. The state also had the biggest increase in ballot measures from 2008 to 2010, with 5 more measures on the ballot measures this year. Two states in the region, Vermont and Virginia, did not have any measures on the ballot in 2008, but do boast measures on the ballot this year. Included in this week's breakdown is a local measure in Maryland that is stirring up the political atmosphere in that state.

The states that Ballotpedia has included in the Northeast region are: Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Below is a breakdown of how many statewide measures are on the ballot in the Northeast and how that compares to 2008, followed by summaries of each state. Among the regional breakdowns so far, the Northeast region had the biggest difference of ballot measures from 2008 to 2010, with 11 more measures on the ballot this year. The following information was compiled by Ballotpedia's analysis of the 2010 ballot measures.

Overview

State Number of measures in 2008 Number of measures in 2010 Change between the two years
Maine 3 8 +5
Maryland 2 3 +1
Massachusetts 3 3 0
New Jersey 2 1 -1
Rhode Island 2 4 +2
Vermont 0 1 +1
Virginia 0 3 +3
Totals: 12 23 +11
BallotpediaExclusives.png

Magnifying the states

Maine

Maine

Maine voters will have seen a total of 8 ballot questions come this November 2nd. Five have already appeared on the June 8 ballot. Four measures covered bond issues, while one addressed taxes. All were approved. However, voters will once again cast their votes this November on three questions. In the general election voters will decide on two bond issues and one gambling-related measure.

Maine Oxford Casino Initiative, Question 1 would “allow a casino with table games and slot machines at a single site in Oxford County, subject to local approval.” According to reports, the initiative would dedicate 46% of net income from slot machines and 16% of net income from table games to the state. The proposed initiative has accumulated more than $500,000 in campaign funds in support and an estimated $60,000 in opposition. A late September 2010 poll by Critical Insights revealed that 52% of polled voters support the initiative.

In addition to the gambling measure, two bond issues will also appear on the fall ballot. Both proposed measures have seen little to no campaign activity. Question 2 asks voters if they favor various bonds to increase access to dental care and education in Maine. Question 3 calls for issuing a $9,750,000 bond issue to invest in land conservation, working waterfront preservation and preservation of state parks.

Maryland

Maryland

Maryland voters have three measures to decide on this year, with one measure being a question asking whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. Maryland is one of four states with this measure, as the question appears on the statewide ballot every twenty years. The constitutional convention would be held to consider amendments to the document. According to reports, the Maryland Constitution is one of the longest constitutions in the nation, with the document containing about 47,000 words. The United States Constitution, in comparison, is is about 8,700 words long.

One other measure that is grabbing attention in Maryland is Question 3. The measure deals with the qualifications of judges in Orphans' Court in Baltimore City. The amendment would add requirements for judges to hold their titles in those courts.

The Orphan's Court was created in 1777, where according to reports, the name derives from London's Court for Widows and Orphans. The Oprhan's Court in Baltimore, and in all Maryland counties except two, does not require its judges to be lawyers, therefore judges do not have to be member of the bar. The amendment would require that judges in the court be members of the bar. On November 2, voters will have the option to vote for Ramona Moore Baker, who is up for the position of judge in the Orphans' Court. However, she is not a lawyer, according to reports, which could spell controversy if she is successful in her bid and if the amendment is passed at the same time.

Massachusetts

Three questions will appear on the Massachusetts ballot in November, and all three are getting plenty of attention from news reports, supporters and opponents. Perhaps the most controversial in the state is Question 3, which would roll back the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent. The initiative was placed on ballot by the efforts of the Alliance to Roll Back Taxes, headed by Carla Howell. Howell argues, "About 94,200 Massachusetts workers lost their jobs in 2009. What did the Massachusetts state Legislature do? They raised state government spending by $4 billion, and they raised the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. The result? More Massachusetts businesses driven out of state - or shuttered." Opponents, such as The Massachusetts Coalition for Our Communities member Donna Kelly-Williams, counter by stating, "If this passes it will be a complete disaster for Massachusetts. Once again we will be passing a burden onto our kids. And we already have a shortfall of $2.5 billion. Where is this money going to come from?”

Massachusetts

Another tax question, Question 1, asks voters whether or not to repeal the sales tax for alcohol sales. Liquor retailers in the state are arguing that the 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol is making sales decline, as they argue that more people are heading to New Hampshire to buy their alcohol, since that state is tax-free. According to retailers, liquor sales in Massachusetts have declined from 10 to 40 percent in the past year. Opposing the initiative is the group "No Special Tax Breaks for Alcohol."The group is supported by over 90 nonprofit organizations that serve state residents that need addiction services, which are funded by the alcohol tax. The organizations that support this group stated that alcohol does not deserve a tax exemption, because it is not an everyday necessity.

Question 2 asks voters to repeal a state law, Chapter 40B, that allows an organization that is proposing to build government-subsidized housing that includes low- or moderate-income units "to apply for a single comprehensive permit from a city or town’s zoning board of appeals.” Affordable Housing Now-Yes on 2 is the main campaign for the measure. The Campaign to Protect the Affordable Housing Law, a state ballot committee, has been formed to oppose the elimination the housing law. The campaign, Vote No on 2, is a grassroots coalition of more than 350 individuals and organizations.

All three measures on the ballot are citizen initiatives, which is a complicated process in the state of Massachusetts, compared to other initiative and referendum states. The process includes multiple deadlines, legislative review, and additional signature gathering under certain circumstances. All three initiatives are categorized as indirect initiated state statutes.

New Jersey

New Jersey

One ballot measure will be placed in front of New Jersey voters this year. The measure, Public Question 1, would amend the New Jersey Constitution to state that any assessments on wages by the state be dedicated to the payment of employee benefits. This does not apply to gross income tax, according to the proposal.

Although Ballotpedia compared the total count of New Jersey ballot measures from 2008 to 2010, the state did in fact see a ballot measure in 2009. The proposal, the open space bond issue, asked voters if the state should borrow $400 million to preserve open space, farmland, and historic areas. Originally the bill requested $600 million but was reduced by a third in light of the state's economic downturn. The measure was approved by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island

Most people in the United States would assume that the state of Rhode Island's official name is just that - Rhode Island. However, the official name of the state is in fact "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."However, if enacted by a majority of state voters, Question 1 would change the official name to just "Rhode Island." The proposal was introduced due to proponents' beliefs that the name can be related to a history of slavery in the state. Representative Joseph Almeida, who sponsored the bill, said "It's high time for us to recognize that slavery happened on plantations in Rhode Island and decide that we don't want that chapter of our history to be a proud part of our name." However, opponents such as Governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri, state that the name does not refer to slavery and should not be changed. Carcieri's spokesperson, Amy Kempe, pointed out that "The historical definition of the word 'plantation' is 'settlement or colony' and is no way in reference to the most modern definition associated with slavery."

The other three measures on the ballot are separate bond questions that would fund certain projects in the state. The measures would issue general obligation bonds for higher education, transportation and open space and recreation.

Rhode Island voters, according to Ballotpedia's database, have had a rich history of ballot measures in the past decade. Not including 2010, since the year 2000, the state has seen a total of 36 statewide ballot measures appear on the ballot.

Vermont

Vermont

This year marks the second time a ballot measure will appear on the Vermont statewide ballot in the latest decade. In no surprise, Vermont voters will cast their ballot on only one measure. Previously, the latest ballot measure to appear on the statewide ballot was in 2002.

The 2010 measure, Vermont Voting Age Amendment, Proposal 5 was proposed by Senator Jeannette White. The measure was referred to the ballot following approval in both the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions as required by the Vermont Constitution. According to the text of the proposal it would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary election provided they turn 18 before the general election.

Virginia

Virginia

Fiscal issues are hot this year and there’s no exception in Virginia. Voters this fall will cast their votes on three legislatively-referred constitutional amendments; the state’s ballot measure average.

Question 1 and Question 2 call for property tax exemptions. Specifically Question 1 calls for a property tax exemption for “for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently and totally disabled.” On the other hand, Question 2 proposes a “real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability.”

Lastly, Virginia is one of three states that propose a ballot question involving revenue stabilization or rainy day funds on the November 2010 ballot. Question 3 asks voters if they approve of directing “10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth's average annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal year” to a “rainy day fund.”

Local measure activity

The Anne Arundel Mills Mall casino referendum is one of the most notable local measures of the region, as opponents and supporters have made their voices heard in their respective campaigns.

In November of 2008, there was a Maryland casino measure on the ballot, where voters approved the placement of slots in five locations throughout Maryland, one being in Anne Arundel county. It was later decided that the Anne Arundel slot location would be at the Anne Arundel Mills Mall. During the 2009 election, 59% of voters approved the placement of slots in Anne Arundel county. A coalition of anti-slot activists and Maryland horsemen then gathered the required 19,000 signatures needed to suspend the approval and have county voters decide to approve the location or not.

After two separate pieces of litigation stalled the efforts to place the measure on the ballot, it was ruled by the The Court of Appeals that the measure could stay on the ballot. The measure was first ruled invalid because it was said that the slots were a part of a zoning appropriation package and such issues were not valid for referendum under state laws.

Next week's Regional Breakdown: Southeast ballot measures.
Last week's Regional Breakdown: Midwest ballot measures

See also

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