2012 Ballot Initiatives: Local Winners and Losers
The 2012 election, of course, wasn't just about the presidential contest: ballot initiatives approved or defeated in states and cities all over the country Tuesday will have profound impacts on crucial sectors of local economies. Who won and who lost? Read on to find out.
- Hoteliers in Washington State. Voters decriminalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado last night. But while Colorado's state-run tourism board opposed the measure (Visit Denver told USA Today the change would hurt the state "brand"), the state of Washington appears ready to roll out the red carpet to visitors. A spokesman for the legalization campaign there argued the law would transform Washington into a "tourist destination similar to the effect of the Oregon wine and beer industry," according to USA Today. Even famed travel dork (and Washington resident) Rick Steves endorsed the measure, saying (and yes, he's referring to himself in the third person):
"If it was Snoop Dogg, it would be one thing. But it's Rick Steves. He's a nice guy. A businessman. We're saying this is not for kids. This is about civil liberties, (and) if a guy wants to light up a joint and stare at the fire inside his house for two hours, then he should be able to do that."
- The wedding industry. Maine and Washington voted to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday, and Maryland voted to uphold its law, a boon to civil rights advocates in all of those states. But it will also be a boost for the florists, caterers, invitation makers, and slew of the other small and large businesses that make up the wedding industrial complex. In the year after New York legalized gay marriage, New York City saw an extra $259 million spent on marriage licenses, hotel rooms, and, obviously, weddings. If you work in weddings and are looking for new business, may we suggest Baltimore, Boston, or Portland, Maine?
- Charter school consultants. It looks like Washington and Georgia voters have approved measures that will help bring more charter schools to their respective states. Washington voters had rejected three previous attempts at similar measures (in 1995, 2000, and 2004). But this year's version prevailed, largely thanks to rafts of pro-education reform funding (Bill Gates poured $3 million into this year's race). Education reform enthusiasts also helped pay for Sarah Newell Usdin's successful campaign to the New Orleans Parish school board. If you know anything about setting up successful charter schools, you've probably already begun packing.
- San Francisco companies with lots of employees. Last night, the city of San Francisco voted to rejigger its business tax (the second largest money generator for the city). Instead of charging businesses based on the size of their payrolls, the new tax will levy fees based on a company's revenue. The measure is expected to generate $28.5 million more a year for the city, some of which will go to affordable housing.
- Maryland Community Colleges: Voters granted in-state public tuition rates to undocumented immigrants who attended high school in the state for at least three years. However, to qualify, students must first spend two years in community college, earning 60 credits or an associate's degree. The bill could well up community college attendance across the state, filling classrooms with ambitious students.
- West Virginia. Marylanders also voted to expand gambling in their state, allowing table games like black jack and roulette. This is bad news for neighboring West Virginia, whose tourism industry is built on the backs of ski bunnies and gamers. That's why a casino in Charles Town spent $33 million on advertising to try to defeat the measure, which passed narrowly last night despite their efforts.
- Manuel Moroun. The billionaire owner of the Detroit Ambassador Bridge fought hard, spending almost $40 million to pass a referendum that would require a vote every time a new international bridge between Michigan and Canada is proposed. But voters rejected the initiative, paving the way for the construction of a second bridge. This is good news for truckers and travelers, and comes at a shockingly low cost for the state: Canada has agreed to foot the bill for much of the construction.
- The San Fernando Valley. Los Angeles voters have agreed that porn stars filming within city limits may not appear on camera without a condom. It was a wildly controversial measure, pitting the porn industry against public health advocates. Nearly 90 percent of the country's adult films are made in L.A.'s San Fernando valley, but this law means that could soon change. Performers and creators say they may have to leave because consumers just aren't interested in seeing condoms in their porn.
- California's schools, social services, and anyone else who benefits from public money. California voters narrowly rejected a proposal that would have gotten rid of the death penalty. Supporters argued the death penalty has cost the state $4 billion since 1978, a period of time during which only 13 California convicts have been executed. Abolishing capital punishment could have saved cash-strapped California an estimated $130 million per year.