Ballot Measures 2017: Part I

Image: Bolder Advocacy

This year, 19 statewide ballot measures will appear on the ballot in 7 states. As Congress debates a new health care bill, which we’ve all heard about in the news, new laws have passed every week that we haven’t heard about, and on important issues including environmental protections and ethics legislation. These very same debates will be put in front of voters this fall. Here’s a look at four statewide ballot measures up for election this fall:

Maine Medicaid Expansion Initiative

Election Date: November 7, 2017

Summary of 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.

What a Yes/No Vote Means: A “Yes” vote would expand Medicaid, through Mainecare, to persons under the age of 65 and with incomes equal to or below the 138% poverty threshold. A “No” vote would maintain the current Medicaid state system, which has reduced enrollment 24% in the last 6 years.

Impact: Supporters of the bill maintain it will expand health care to 70,000 Mainers, create 3,000 jobs, and help address Maine’s drug crisis. Opponents of the measure argue that the recent reduction in Medicaid enrollment in Maine has decreased the number of uninsured people while allowing saved spending to be put towards programs for the elderly and disabled. They argue this initiative would reverse that progress and burden the system.

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

Election Date: November 7, 2017

Summary of 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.

What a Yes/No Vote Means: A “Yes” vote directs all state revenue from natural resource litigation to be spent on restoration and protection of the affected areas. A “No” vote would allow the money earned to be used as the state government sees fit.

Impact: New Jersey has used money earned through resource damages to solve budgetary shortfalls. If passed, the money may still not end up completely protecting natural resources and land — it could instead be partially spent on other projects, such as parking lots and a “food truck plaza.”

New York Pension Forfeiture for Convicted Officials Amendment (2017)

Election Date: November 7, 2017

Summary of 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. A legislatively referred constitutional amendment is now going to the ballot to 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 1th, 2018.

What a Yes/No Vote Means: A “Yes” vote allows judges the ability to reduce or revoke pensions of public officials convicted of a felony related to their official duties for crimes committed after January 1, 2018. A “No” vote would not stop this from being allowed for future officials, it would only stop this from affecting officers in the system before 2011.

Impact: Supporters of the bill maintain that reducing or revoking of criminals could discourage corruption. Those opposed to the bill argue that the families of public officers should not have to suffer fiscally because of their crimes.

Ohio Drug Price Standards Initiative (2017)

Election Date: November 7, 2017

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

What a Yes/No Vote Means: A “Yes” vote requires all state agencies and programs to buy prescription drugs at or below the price the VA pays. A “No” vote would not require state agencies to price in line with the VA.

Impact: Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices claim that the 3.7 million Ohio Medicaid recipients would benefit and prescription drug companies would be forced to moderate their prices. Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue claim that this bill is impossible to implement and will waste tax dollars while causing reduced access to medicine at higher costs.

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