Friday, October 25, 2013

Some Nov. 5 elections could have major rural impact

Election Day, Nov. 5, will not be a busy one in the U.S., but some rural Americans have a chance to vote on major issues affecting them. Lou Jacobson of Governing magazine included some in his guide to state and local elections on Nov. 5, and we have others.

Texans can vote on Proposition 6, which would create funds for water projects in the state, which has been hard hit by recent droughts. In an editorial, The Dallas Morning News writes: "Texans can stand pat, wait and hope we have enough water to survive the next killer drought and the one after that. Or we Texans can get ahead of these conditions and provide the supplies the state will need alongside a fast-growing population." The proposition "would ratify the decision legislators made during their 2013 session to use $2 billion from the state’s rainy-day fund, put that money in a new water-funding bank, and use the investment to help communities finance their projects." (Read more) (DMN photo: Drought- dried lake in Texas)

Colorado voters have two important issues. Amendment 66, backed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, "asks for nearly $1 billion in tax increases to support school reform and changes in how the state distributes money to school districts," Jacobson writes. "The money would support early-childhood education, at-risk students, English-language learners, charter schools and locally determined innovations such as longer school days and years." Also in Colorado, residents from 11 rural counties will vote whether or not they want to secede, in response to state legislators passing laws that are unpopular in rural areas, requiring background checks for private gun sales and a certain amount of renewable energy in the portfolio of rural electric cooperatives, now dependent on relatively cheap coal. The referendum would not be binding. (Wall Street Journal map)

The Whatcom County Council in northwest Washington state is having an election, with two incumbents and two challengers seeking seats. This rural election could have major implications on the coal industry. The council will vote on permits that would allow construction of a proposed $600 million port in Bellingham that would ship 48 million tons of coal per year to Asia from Wyoming and Montana, enough to power between 15 to 20 power plants. Environmentalists oppose the permits, which the coal industry desperately wants, needing exports to make up for its loss of domestic market share to natural gas.

In another election, the Detroit suburb of Novi will let voters decide whether it will put official notices on its website instead of the local newspaper, stirring fears among community papers that other governments will do likewise and increase momentum for the state legislature to follow suit. Such battles are being fought in several legislatures.

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