In other election news…
Aside from the big election this week, voters in several states also voted on several referendums that are making headlines. The states of Washington, Maryland and Maine approved referendums to legalize same-sex unions and become the first states to do so by popular vote rather than strictly by legislation. Washington had passed a law legalizing the practice earlier this year and the referendum asked voters to approve or reject the measure. Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. Six other states currently allow for same-sex unions.
Washington state also made the headlines for another referendum that was passed by voters, legalizing recreational marijuana use. Colorado voters also voted to approve legalization, while voters in Oregon opted against legalization. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper warned supports not to “break out the Cheetos” just yet, as there will be challenges to face in navigating current federal laws. Massachusetts approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, while Arkansas rejected it; and votes on a revision of the current law on medical marijuana are still being counted in Montana. Currently medical marijuana is legal in 17 states; though, in recent years, some states and the federal government have begun to crackdown on the medical marijuana business.
Puerto Rico also turned out some interesting Election Day results. As a U.S. territory, citizens living on the island cannot vote for the President, but they did vote in a referendum regarding the territory’s future. They also elected a new governor and legislators. Puerto Ricans were asked if they wanted to change the territory’s relationship with the U.S. and if so, there were three choices. Voters could choose to: become a U.S. state, gain independence, have a “sovereign free association.” The last option would provide more autonomy to the territory. Puerto Rico experienced high voter turnout out, as did the rest of the US, and the results showed that just over 50 percent of voters preferred a change. As for what type of change voters were seeking, 65 percent voted for U.S. statehood. 31 percent voted for a sovereign free association, and only 4 percent voted for complete independence. Prior to the Presidential election both candidates said the supported the will of the Puerto Rican people if there was “a clear majority.” A change would have to be approved by Congress.
With the election behind us, and a two year state legislative session about to come to a close, some are already looking ahead to next year. The Republican-controlled Senate lost three seats to Democrats for a 27-23 majority next session. The House, also Republican-controlled, is shaping up for at least 110 Republican seats, with the results of three races too close to call just yet, reports John Micek of The Morning Call.
Next session, legislators are looking to undertake transportation funding and pension reform and they are also aiming for another on-time budget. Speaker of the House, Sam Smith, noted that he’ll be seeking re-election to his leadership position; and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said the same. There will also be a number of committee vacancies to fill next session and there is a whole new crop of freshman legislators headed to Harrisburg. Both chambers return in January.