Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Voters approve animal-space rules in Calif., Medicaid expansion in Idaho, Utah and Neb., recreational pot in Mich.

Voters not only chose officeholders yesterday but decided a host of ballot initiatives.

Colorado voters rejected, 57 percent to 43 percent, a proposal to increase the minimum distance from buildings and waterways for oil and gas drillers. John Aguilar of The Denver Post has a report.

California voters passed Proposition 12, requiring farmers to provide more space for egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves. "California businesses will be banned from selling eggs or uncooked pork or veal that came from animals housed in ways that did not meet these requirements. Prop 12 also bans the sales from other states not meeting California’s standards. The changes must happen by 2022," KOVR-TV in Sacramento reports. That could have a huge impact on the nation, as it did in 2008 when California passed a similar measure that barred farmers from keeping those animals in cages so small they could barely move. "Since then, supermarket shelves have filled with cage-free egg varieties. Corporations like McDonald’s, Costco and Taco Bell have committed to using cage-free products," the station reports.

The largely rural states of Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to expand their Medicaid programs under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That will extend coverage to about 325,000 people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Since the poverty line in 2018 is, for example, $12,140 for an individual and $25,100 for a family of four, that means individuals making $16,146 and families of four making $33,250 will qualify for Medicaid, Sarah Kliff reports for Vox.

Montana rejected an initiative to increase taxes on tobacco products to keep funding its Medicaid expansion. Montana's legislature expanded Medicaid in 2015, but only funded the program for four years. In July 2019 the expansion will end without a reauthorization of funds, and the initiative was an attempt to head off a possible reauthorization fight, Kliff reports. The initiative failed in part because of heavy opposition from the tobacco industry; Altria Group, which includes Philip Morris, spent more than $12 million, Kelly Gooch reports for Becker's Hospital Review.

Marijuana was also on several ballots. Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana while North Dakota said no to the idea. In both states, the winning side got about 60 percent of the votes, Michael Grass reports for Route Fifty.

Medicinal marijuana was on the ballot in two states. In Missouri, voters had three initiatives to legalize medical cannabis and tax its sales. The differences were the level of tax and what the revenue would be used for. The one that passed, with 66 percent of the vote, will tax sales at 4 percent and use the revenue to pay for services for veterans, German Lopez reports for Vox. It also allows people to grow marijuana at home, which the other two did not.

Utah also legalized medical marijuana with 53.2 percent of the vote though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed the measure in favor of a legislative approach. "To some, the vote seemed largely symbolic, since top lawmakers are busy constructing a different model for delivering medical cannabis to Utah patients. State legislators were expected to overwrite Prop 2 if it succeeded at the ballot box and approve their own cannabis act if it failed," Bethany Rodgers reports for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Voters in Florida automatically restored voting rights to former felons, affecting some 1.4 million residents," the National Conference of State Legislatures reports. "In Louisiana, voters instituted a five-year waiting period for felons to seek political office." NCSL has resources on felon voting rights.

In West Virginia, 52 percent of voters passed a measure that could limit access to abortion. "In 1993, the state Supreme Court interpreted the state constitution to say that medically necessary abortions could not be denied to the poor. That meant state Medicaid funds would have to pay," WSAZ-TV reports. "With the passage, this language will be added to the state constitution: 'Nothing in this constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.'"

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