Gay Marriage, Marijuana And Taxes: States Decide

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Voters will decide 174 ballot propositions across 37 states this election. Reid Wilson, the editor in chief of National Journal's Hotline, says he believes these decisions will change the day-to-day lives of average Americans more than who wins the presidency.

He spoke to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about some key initiatives across the country.


Interview Highlights

On same-sex marriage

"There are three initiatives on the ballot in Maine, Maryland and Washington state this year, in which voters will have the opportunity to legalize gay marriage. In two cases, Maryland and Washington, they would vote to ratify initiatives that have already been passed by the state legislature. In Minnesota there is a ban on same-sex marriage that is on the ballot this time around — a state constitutional ban."

On marijuana

"In a lot of places, medical marijuana is available to patients, and in those states, places like Washington and Oregon, we are seeing the medical marijuana community actually fighting against decriminalization laws because that would rob them from some business.

"In all of these states, the provisions that are supposedly supposed to make this initiative more palatable have to do with driving while under the influence of marijuana. They are trying to establish a legal standard much like there is for alcohol. These things look like they are in better shape now than they have been in previous years. ... A lot of local law enforcement officials are actually arguing in favor of [this]. They say too many resources are being spent on locking up people who are simply buying marijuana, something that is not a huge ill to society, and those resources can be spent better."

On taxes

"There are strategies that political professionals can use to actually increase the odds of a voter voting to tax themselves even more. In California there are two competing education-reform taxes on the ballot, things that would raise revenue and put that revenue directly towards education."

On the changing nature of referenda and initiatives

"It is a citizen attempt to go after a law that has been passed by a legislature. It is effectively the recall of a policy rather than a recall of an individual. I think in the past couple of years we have seen an increase in the number of recalls.

"The history of the initiative and referendum is all about giving the citizens more power. Well, it also gives citizens who are deeply involved in corporations more power. In Michigan there is a bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada, that the owner of that bridge is running an initiative to block the construction of another bridge because he'll be robbed of some tolls. We've got initiatives on the ballot that go specifically to single issues that have a lot to do with a company's bottom line."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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