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‹ FEATURED DISCUSSION

November 01, 2006

This year's ballot measures

By Walter Olson

There are plenty of initiatives on the ballot this year with implications for law and litigation. Twelve states will consider measures on eminent domain, ten will confront tobacco taxation and regulation, eight will vote on constitutional gay-marriage bans, and six will consider minimum-wage hikes, constitutionally inscribed or otherwise. The Initiative and Referendum Institute tracks the status of these and other measures in its latest election preview issue (PDF).

Notable for its absence: a flurry of tort-related initiatives, the kind we saw last time around. Possibly the backers of such measures have been scared off by the trial bar's long track record of organizing "revenge initiatives" aimed at inflicting as much pain as possible on whatever interest group is perceived as standing up to the lawyers. Or perhaps the backers have noticed that when voters approve a measure inconvenient to the lawyers, state courts like Florida's sometimes proceed to invalidate or gut the measure. So why put yourself through the trouble?

One minor exception to the general lull: Arizona voters will consider Proposition 102, which would prohibit illegal aliens from receiving punitive (as distinct from compensatory) damage awards in lawsuits. That measure is part of a package of proposals intended to toughen up enforcement of immigration laws, however, and doesn't seem to have much of a connection to wider efforts to reform punitive damages.

Two miscellaneous, dubious ballot proposals relate to children: Question 3 in Massachusetts, backed by the Service Employees International Union, would facilitate unionization of home-based child care workers. Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald oppose it. Measure 3 in North Dakota would mandate "shared parenting" and prescribe a default assumption of joint custody after divorce unless one parent could prove the other unfit; it would also limit support payments to those adequate to cover a child's "basic needs". (Proponents; opponents; AP summary; Wendy McElroy; Bismarck Tribune coverage and editorial).

P.S.: A couple of major omissions in the above list: the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, discussed favorably by George Will and Stephen Chapman, and South Dakota's scary judge-bashing Amendment E, discussed by Ted here.

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.