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Taxes, Guns, Prison Sentences, Keeping Your Doctor and Other Substantive Ballot Results You May not Have Heard About from Tuesday

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file

Voters across the country voted on major issues that could have direct impact on their lives such as taxes on gasoline, prison sentences and the matter of keeping your doctor if you like your doctor.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file) (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

Though some were meaty matters, it was easy to get lost in the news of Republican capturing control of the Senate and key governors races. Further, state ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana and raised the minimum wage grabbed most headlines on referenda. But health care, abortion and gun rights were also on the ballot.

Here’s an overview of ballot issues with potential national consequences that passed under the radar Tuesday.

1. If You Like Your Doctor in this State...

Voters in South Dakota approved a measure to ensure patients have their choice of doctor – a pushback against a chief concern about Obamacare.

Under the ballot initiative approved Tuesday, doctors that agree to the conditions of the insurance plans, such as payments, could not be restricted from joining the insurer’s network. Patients pay less for in-network providers than for those outside the network of an insurance plan. The state’s medical association and hospitals favored the initiative, while insurance companies opposed it.

2. Lighter Sentences

California voters rolled back the prison sentences for nonviolent felony convictions. The initiative changed from a felony to a misdemeanor: petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks for $950 or less. The initiative approved by voters also required decreased sentences for certain drug possession offenses.

3. Voting on Taxes

Tennessee doesn’t have an income tax, and now it’s it will be extremely difficult to impose one. Voters in the state approved a state constitutional amendment Tuesday to ban the imposition of an income tax, a proposal that comes up every few years when the state legislature is looking for more revenue.

Georgia voters approved a freeze on state income taxes to prohibit the state legislature from hiking taxes and requiring a popular vote to determine if people are willing to pay more.

Massachusetts moved toward shedding its image as “taxachachusetts” when voters approved a measure to eliminate the automatic increase in the state’s gasoline tax, which is currently tied to inflation. Instead, the state legislature would have to actively raise the tax.

Not every state wanted a tax cut. Illinois voters approved a “millionaires tax,” which will impose an additional 3 percent tax on those earning more than $1 million.

4. Mixed Results on Abortion

Of three states where abortion was left to voters, only Tennessee approved a measure that comes close to a restriction. The Tennessee ballot language stated “nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion” and that the state lawmakers can “enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion.” In other words, state law now gives the Tennessee legislature permission to restrict abortion.

Two other states rejected anti-abortion measures.

In Colorado, voters rejected a measure to change the state’s criminal code to define a fetus as a “person” or “child.” North Dakota voted down a measure to guarantee the “inalienable right to life of every human being at every stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

5. Victory for Gun Control

Voters in Washington state backed Initiative 594, backed by gun control groups funded by Michael Bloomberg. The law strengthens background checks on gun purchasers to include gun shows and online sales. It marked a rare win for gun control advocates at the ballot box. Voters there also rejected a competing measure, Initiative 591, backed by the National Rifle Association, to prohibit any state background laws stricter than federal laws.

However, in Alabama, voters decided to codify the “right to bare arms” in their state constitution. The measure also confronts the potential for international limitations on gun rights. The ballot language reads, “every citizen has a fundamental right to bear arms and that any restriction on this right would be subject to strict scrutiny; and to provide that no international treaty or law shall prohibit, limit, or otherwise interfere with a citizen’s fundamental right to bear arms.”

One last thing…
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