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A Look at Some State Election Initiatives

00:00AM Oct 23, 2008

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Animal rights and renewable energy measures on some November state ballots

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Thus far, there are 153 measures on the 2008 November ballot among 35 states. According to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), 61 of them are citizen-petitioned initiatives; 92 of them were referred to the ballot by state legislators or other administrative bodies.

Looking at presidential years, six more ballot initiatives qualified for the 2008 election versus the 2004 presidential election, according to the Center. "What's notable about this year," the BISC said, "is how many measures were attempted, but failed to gain steam or were kicked off the ballot despite serious efforts to qualify (29 in all)."

Regarding agriculture- and energy-related propositions, the following are summaries from the Initiative & Referendum Institute:

-- Animals. Animal rights have emerged as an actively contested political arena. Animal rights activists are promoting Proposition 2 in California, a constitutional amendment that requires mini mum living space for farm animals, including calves, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs. Similar measures were approved by Florida voters in 2002 and Arizona voters in 2006, in both cases by large margins. Florida's "pregnant pigs” measure has been ridiculed as an example of a frivolous constitutional amendment, but voters continue to be amenable to this agenda. Proposition 2 is more ambitious than its predecessors in including chickens, and that is likely to be the focus of the opposition campaign. Question 3 in Massachusetts would ban commercial dog racing in the state by 2010, requiring closure of two tracks. In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 asks voters to ban aerial hunting of bears, wolves, and wolverines. In Oklahoma, animal rights supporters are on the defensive with State Question 742, which establishes a state constitutional right to hunt and fish.

-- Energy: California's Proposition 7 requires all utilities to generate 20% of their energy from renewable fuel sources by 2010, rising to 40% in 2020 and 50% by 2025. Previously, renewable energy rules in the state applied only to publicly owned utilities. Missouri has a similar measure that would require 2% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources initially, rising to 15% by 2021. The trend to require utilities to produce a minimum fraction of energy with renewable fuels began with Colorado's Amendment 37 in 2004. The standards established by Proposition 7 would be the toughest in the nation. The fate of these measures provides a signal of the public's mood on energy conservation in light of skyrocketing oil prices. On a related theme, California's Proposition 10 would authorize $10 billion in borrowing for alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy.

Comments: While the focus on Nov. 4 will logically be on the presidential outcome, and key state races, how state initiatives fare can sometimes be a signal that similar action is likely in other states in the years ahead.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.