On November 6, 2018, voters across the country — roughly 100 million of them parents — will be able to choose their governor, senator, or congressperson. They’ll also be able to vote on a variety of ballot initiatives that will fundamentally affect things that matter to parents in the state. For the uninformed, Ballot initiatives are placed on the ballot through public petition and are different from voting for representatives in that citizens will be able to directly decide whether or not their state will enact certain laws.
When passed, initiatives can lead to larger laws down the line in the states and can even recommend the path of national policy. They’re worth paying attention to. Whether or not they are passed could inform political debate for the foreseeable future.
In short, they’re important to understand. For your reference, here is a handy list of 28 midterm ballot initiatives in 20 states that parents should care about.
Proposition 305: School VouchersWhat Is It:In March, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that voters would vote on a ballot initiative potentially expanding or shutting down the state’s school voucher program. That program, the Empowerment Scholarship Account, allows certain students from poor-performing schools to receive public money and spend that money on private or charter school tuition as well as other educational costs. Governor Ducey and Republicans moved to expand the program and a group of concerned citizens who reject that expansion got the initiative on the November 2018 ballot.Why it matters: School voucher programs have long been touted by conservatives as a way to give parents choices in their child’s education and as a means of giving kids with fewer resources access to a better education. However, these programs have many critics. The National Education Association, for instance, says that vouchers don’t meaningfully address issues in poor-performing public schools and actually subsidize private schools.
Fatherly’s Vote: Vote No.
What is it: In California, voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to pay California children’s hospitals $1.5 billion to finance new equipment, construction, renovation, and medical advancement. Bonds aren’t free, so this funding, which could be used to pay pensions or spent on K-12 education, will come from taxpayers. Critics of the initiative say that too much of the money goes to the private children’s hospitals and private hospitals have primarily funded the campaign. Some say that by bypassing the legislative process and going straight to a ballot initiative, these hospitals are trying to get money by confusing voters eager to support children’s health.
Why It Matters: Children’s hospitals in California are a vital resource. The bonds would support both university hospitals and not-for-profit centers, even if most of the funding goes to private hospitals. Children’s hospitals in the state perform 97 percent of all pediatric organ transplants, 96 percent of all pediatric heart surgeries, and treat other serious conditions like pediatric cancer.Fatherly’s Vote: We do not have enough information about this amendment to recommend a vote.
Amendment 73, Establish Income Tax Brackets And Raise Taxes for Education InitiativeWhat Is It: In the state of Colorado, voters will have the chance to decide whether or not they want to approve an amendment that would raise an extra 1.6 billion dollars per year in revenue for public schools in the state.Why It Matters: It’s an amendment supported by the Educators Association in the state, and, in a state with a booming economy, restoring education funding that has been cut from the state since 1992 seems like a no brainer. Colorado spends $2,000 dollars less per student than the national average. Voters have a chance to change that.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
Amendment 5, Two-Thirds Vote of Legislature to Increase Taxes or Fees AmendmentWhat Is It: This bill would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to increase any taxes or fees in the state.Why It Matters: This bill is a similar type of law to a law in Oklahoma that made it nearly impossible for Oklahomans to increase education funding or revenue in the state, resulting in deep cuts to education funding over the years that forced some districts to only be open four days a week and some of the worst teacher pay in the country. A similar measure in Florida would strangle education funding in the state. It’s opposed by the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida Policy Institute, and the Florida Education Association.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote No.
Amendment 1, Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund AmendmentWhat is it: Georgia voters will be able to decide whether or not they will allow the tax revenue from purchases of outdoor recreation equipment (bikes, RVs, fishing lures, etc) to fund conservation in the state of Georgia. This would be done without increasing any of the actual taxes that consumers are already paying.Why it matters: This revenue would help conservation efforts in the state of Georgia by keeping state parks open, and providing funding for the protection of clean water for the foreseeable future, helping ensure access to clean water for kids, and would help land conversation in general. If passed, built-in requirements would force the allocation of taxes through rigorous project proposal approval processes, implementing reporting requirements, and establishing a board of trustees.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
What is it: Amendment 5, if passed, would allow school districts or a group of schools within a county to call a referendum on a sales tax of up to 1 percent for 5 years. In counties with more than one school district, the district with more full-time students have the authority to call a referendum to impose that sales tax for educational purposes. The money gathered from that tax, if approved, would go back into education. The smaller districts within that county would have no say in whether or not they would wish to call the referendum. According to Senator Ellis Black, who has sponsored the bill, said it would prevent smaller systems from being able to blackmail larger districts into putting or not putting the ballot on the measure.Why it matters: It’s hard to say. This referendum is poorly written and 33 Republicans and 7 Democrats voted against putting the measure on the ballot. There’s also no clear designation of how this sales tax would be used except for “education.”Fatherly’s Vote: We don’t have enough information about this amendment to recommend a vote.
State Bill 2922, Hawaii Surcharge on Investment Properties to Fund Public EducationWhat is it: This bill would allow Hawaiian voters to authorize the state to place a surcharge on all investment properties valued over a million dollars within the state and spend that increased revenue on public education. The Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Teachers Standards Board, and many others support the bill. However, some opponents of the bill say that it could pass the tax burden onto people who rent — a large portion of people who live in Hawaii full time — and therefore burden full-time residents further. It’s opposed by the Affordable Hawaii Coalition, which is funded by the Chamber of Commerce, Hotels and Resorts groups, Lanai Resorts LLC, a petroleum group, a property organization, and more — companies who have a vested interest in keeping investment property prices lower and little stake in education. Unfortunately, this bill was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Hawaii Supreme Court.Why it matters: Hawaii is a state that’s known to be a vacation hot spot, and it’s also a place with a lot of second homes. The state’s appeal drives up the already high cost of living for locals. Hawaii has some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country and the lowest per capita funding of schools in the entire country. Even though it’s unconstitutional, voting ‘yes’ would show support for increased funding.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Proposition 2, Medicaid Expansion InitiativeWhat Is It: In Idaho, voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to expand Medicaid coverage to more individuals in their state. Through the Affordable Care Act, the law provided that individuals who earn incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level (a single income of 16,573 or 34,638 for a family of four could be eligible for Medicaid in the state. This particular proposition would expand eligibility to people under 65 years old, which could help cover parents and their dependents, whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below, and who are not eligible for other state insurance coverage.Why It Matters: This would get more people insured, making insurance in general less expensive, and would get more kids on coverage rolls.
Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Maine Question 1, Payroll and Nonwage Income Taxes for Home Care Program Initiative:What Is It: This ballot initiative would create a 3.8 percent payroll tax and non-wage income tax to fund a universal at-home care program.Why It Matters: In November, Maine voters could approve the nation’s first program that provides free at-home services for anyone in need of long-term care, largely the elderly and disabled. It would be funded through a 3.8 percent tax increase for wealthy residents. This would help many parents in multigenerational households by not forcing them to make a decision between their own jobs and caring for the aging or disabled in their family. Maine is a state with the second largest amount of elderly people — and parents in the state are forced to put money that could go to their kids to help support their own parents, which could jeopardize the future of parents in the state.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Maryland Question 1: Gambling Revenue Dedicated to Education Lockbox AmendmentWhat Is It: Maryland voters would be able to vote on an initiative that would support amending the state constitution to have certain funding from video lotteries to supplementary education funding.Why It Matters: Maryland legalized certain gambling games about ten years ago with the stipulation that they be used to at least partly fund education in the state. This amendment would add more revenue streams to the supplementary fund, which aims to raise an additional 125 million dollars in education funding by 2020.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
Question 3: Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto ReferendumWhat Is It: Question 3 would allow parents to decide whether or not they want to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in public places. A yes means supportingWhy It Matters: Anti-discrimination bills matter. But in light of the Trump Administration’s recent potential move to limit gender to a definition set by genitals and fixed at birth, this could protect kids in the state from discrimination.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Montana LR-129: Property Tax for State University System MeasureWhat Is It: In Montana, voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to renew an already existing six-million dollar tax on real estate and personal property. That tax would go directly into funding the Montana University System through 2028.Why It Matters: In Montana, the university system is funded in no small part by the 6 million dollar tax — one that amounts to about 6 dollars per 1,000 dollars of a property’s taxable value. If the tax were not to be renewed, the university system in the state would lose over 20 million dollars in continued funding for maintenance and improvement of the universities in the state.
Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Initiative 427, Medicaid Expansion InitiativeWhat Is It: In Nebraska, voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to expand Medicaid coverage to more individuals in their state. Through the Affordable Care Act, the law provided that individuals who earn incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level (a single income of 16,573 or 34,638 for a family of four could be eligible for Medicaid in the state. This particular proposition would expand eligibility to people under 65 years old, which could help cover parents and their dependents, whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below, and who are not eligible for other state insurance coverage.Why It Matters: This would get more people insured, making insurance in general less expensive, and would get more kids on coverage rolls.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Question 2, Exempting Feminine Hygiene Products from Sales TaxWhat is it: Question 2 would exempt feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads from the sales tax, otherwise known as the Pink Tax.Why it matters: Question 2 has been a referendum that citizens across the country have been discussing with new vigor. Are tampons and pads a luxury item? What does it mean when they’re taxed as such? Does the tax harm people who live in poverty? Many states have successfully overturned the Pink Tax and others have begun to raise the issue with their own representatives. For parents, especially parents of daughters, repealing the tax is a no-brainer.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote yes!
Bond Question B, Public LibrariesWhat Is It: New Mexico voters can decide whether or not they would authorize the sale of 12.976 million dollars in bonds for academic, public, tribal, and public school libraries in the state.Why It Matters: The money from this bond would go to updating libraries in print books, non-print resources, electronics, internet equipment, and furniture. Libraries are a public resource and for many, the only access they have to computers and internet. Libraries in public schools should be well-funded academic resources for young scholars.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
What Is It: If approved, Bond Question C would authorize the sale of 6.137 million dollars in bonds to purchase more school buses and improve existing school buses without air conditioning systems.Why It Matters: School buses should have air conditioning. It’s a public safety thing.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
What Is It: If approved, this amendment would authorize the sale and issuance of 136.230 million dollars in bonds for higher education, special schools, and tribal schools in the state of New Mexico.Why It Matters: These funds would go to improving infrastructure in these schools, renovating them, building new schools, repairing them, and more.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes!
Senate Bill 75, North Carolina Income Tax Cap AmendmentWhat Is It: In November, North Carolinian voters will be able to vote on Senate Bill 75, which would cap the income tax rate at 7 percent — a decrease from the formerly constitutionally mandated 10 percent tax rate. Why It Matters: The income tax cap would drain the state of 3.5 million dollars annually, which would make it tough to put any significant cash investment in public schools. This, combined with the already 900 million dollar tax cut set to go in effect in the state, could decimate education funding.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote No.
Oregon Ballot Measure 103, Ban Tax on Groceries InitiativeWhat is it: In Oregon, parents will have a chance to vote on whether or not they want to make groceries officially non-taxable in both state and local taxes. Although there is currently no tax on groceries in Oregon, there’s no law preventing that tax from being implemented.Why it matters: For parents who are on or near the poverty line, taxing groceries just makes a basic need more expensive and harder to afford. Groceries and foodstuffs are essential items for survival, particularly for families.Fatherly’s Vote: There is not enough information on this amendment to recommend a vote.
What Is It: Oregon voters will also be able to decide how to vote on Oregon Measure 104, which would require a three-fifths vote of each chamber of the state legislature to increase taxes.Why It Matters: Although this might sound innocuous, requiring anything more than a simple majority to raise taxes can come with dire consequences, as we’ve seen in Oklahoma, where education was starved over decades and tax cuts decimated schools there.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote No.
Amendment 1, Appointed Superintendent of Education MeasureWhat Is It: Voting for this measure would make the state superintendent of education position governor-appointed rather than elected.Why It Matters: Currently, the South Carolina state Superintendent of Education is an elected official (one of only 13 in the country) and serves a four-year term. Amendment 1 would change the position to one appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the state’s legislature. The Superintendent would then serve, much as other cabinet officials, at the pleasure of the governor rather than a specific term. Clearly, this would politicize the position — though it is already political to a degree as a product of down-ballot voting. If enacted, the change would not take effect until 2023.Fatherly’s Vote: There is not enough information on this amendment to recommend a vote on this measure.
Question 1: School Buildings Bond MeasureWhat Is It: Question 1 would issue $250 million in bonds for improving school buildings in the state of Rhode Island. These bonds would be issued over five years with no more than 100 million issued in any single year. Why It Matters: This money would go towards funding school housing aid for students in the state and would provide funding to capital improvement projects in the state.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes.
What Is It: If approved, this measure would issue 70 million dollars in investing in higher education facilities in the state of Rhode Island.Why It Matters: 45 million dollars of this fund would go to the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus. The money would go to educational and research projects. Another 25 million would go to the Rhode Island College School and Human Development, to update Horace Mann Hall.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes.
What Is It: Question 3, if approved, would issue nearly 48 million dollars in bonds that would go towards environmental conservation, recreation in the state, and water infrastructure.Why It Matters: Failing to prioritize water infrastructure can have disastrous effects on local environments. As well, the money would prioritize increasing resiliency for vulnerable coastal habitats, would put almost 8 million into drinking water, add a ton of money into dam safety programs, and create more funding for local open spaces in Rhode Island.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes.
Nonbinding Opinion Question 1, 10 Centers Per Gallon Gas Tax Increase for Education and Local Roads What Is It:In Utah, parents will have a chance to improve a law that would advise the state legislature to pass a small increase in a tax on gas. That increase would cost the average driver about 48 dollars per year, and 70 percent of that tax would be invested into public education in the state, with another 30 going to improving roads. Approval for the question would show support for the initiative in the state if legislators took the recommendation from voters.Why It Matters: The initiative would signal support to fund education programs in the state and improve infrastructure.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes.
What Is It: Utah voters will be able to decide whether or not they want to expand Medicaid coverage to more individuals in their state. Through the Affordable Care Act, the law provided that individuals who earn incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level (a single income of 16,573 or 34,638 for a family of four could be eligible for Medicaid in the state. This particular proposition would expand eligibility to people under 65 years old, which could help cover parents and their dependents, whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below, and who are not eligible for other state insurance coverage.Why It Matters: This would get more people insured, making insurance in general less expensive, and would get more kids on coverage rolls.Fatherly’s Vote: Vote Yes.
Washington Initiative 1634, Ban Tax on GroceriesWhat is it: Washington Initiative 1634 aims to tackle taxes on groceries, an essential item for any person — but especially for families. Washington’s initiative is solely focused on local taxes.Why it matters: For parents who are on or near the poverty line, taxing groceries just makes a need more expensive and harder to afford. Groceries and foodstuffs are essential items for survival, and most families spend lots of money at the grocery store each month.Fatherly’s Vote: There is not enough information on this amendment to recommend a vote.
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