Voters take action on minimum wage, guns and marijuana in state ballot questions

Overall, 41 states voted on 147 ballot initiatives on Tuesday.
By Matt Bradwell  |  Updated Nov. 5, 2014 at 11:04 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- While voters around the United States chose who to send office and who to send home Tuesday, many also faced questions of adding or rewriting their state's existing laws.

Voters in 41 states and the District of Columbia determined the fate of 147 ballot initiatives, covering a wide swath of hot-button issues including, the minimum wage, gun control and legal marijuana.

Colorado and North Dakota rejected "personhood" amendments that proposed to extend legal protections to the moment of fertilization. If passed, the ballot measures could have criminalize in vitro fertilization, ban certain types of birth control and restrict women's access to abortion clinics. Meanwhile, Tennessee approved an amendment adding language to its state constitution that the right to an abortion is not protected.

Alaska was also one of four states to approve a minimum wage hike, along with Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Alaska's measure will raise the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour by 2016 and tie it to inflation moving forward. South Dakota's minimum wage hike is also tied to inflation after its rise to $8.50 in 2014. Arkansas' minimum wage, which is currently below the federal minimum of $7.25, will raise incrementally to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska will reach $9 by 2016. Neither Nebraska nor Arkansas have inflation provisions.

In Washington state, opposing ballot initiatives sought to require and ban universal background checks for individuals attempting to purchase firearms, with voters backing the gun control legislation.

Initiative 594 requires background checks on all gun purchases and closes the state's "gun show loophole." Initiative 594, which passed with 60 percent of the vote, was backed by an $11.2 million campaign by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group with major funding from Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen.

Oregon and Alaska voted to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use, as Washington and Colorado already have. Voters in the District of Columbia approved a similar measure, but it does not legalize marijuana on federal land and does not allow for an open retail market. Citizens of the capital are instead allowed to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants in their home.

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