Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Cancer Research, Vouchers on ’07 Ballots

by Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer

Famed cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong is using his star power to encourage fellow Texans to support a ballot measure this November that would secure $3 billion for cancer research in the Lone Star state.

The proposal is one of 38 ballot questions that voters in seven states will take up during this fall’s quiet election season — about the same number of measures expected in a year without a presidential race and only three gubernatorial contests. But several will be closely watched and could sway strategies for the 2008 contests.

“The end game is 2008,” said Kristin Wilfore, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a group that helped lead a national, coordinated effort to get initiatives to increase a state’s minimum wage on six ballots in 2006. All six passed.

Utahans, for example, will decide this November if they want to launch the nation’s broadest statewide program to provide tax-funded vouchers to pay for private schools. If approved, it could give momentum to school voucher advocates who have seen their efforts at the ballot box fail in recent years. Voucher programs were defeated in both California and Michigan in 2000, the last time voters weighed in on the issue.

Click here for’s 2007 State Elections Interactive Guide that briefly describes the 38 ballot measures as well as the gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi and statehouse races in New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.

Texas is once again living up to its motto that everything indeed is bigger, having the longest list of statewide measures for voters to consider this fall, with 16. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has championed the $3 billion, 10-year bond proposal as a way to make the state a leader in cancer research. Click here for a podcast of Armstrong discussing the ballot measure.

Texas voters also will decide if the state should issue $5 billion in bonds for highway projects and another $1 billion in bonds for maintenance, repair and construction projects.

Many are watching Oregon this year, where voters will decide if they want to scale back an initiative voters there approved in 2004 that made Oregon a model for property rights advocates. The 2004 measure requires state and local governments to compensate land owners if land-use restrictions lower their property values – and if the government can’t pay, to allow the owners to essentially develop their land as they see fit.

In the 2006 elections, California, Washington and Idaho voters all rejected measures similar to Oregon’s 2004 example while Arizona approved a version of it. This year’s Oregon measure would put some restrictions on what property owners can do, for example, limiting large subdivisions and commercial development projects on land reserved for residential and farm use.

Other high-profile 2007 measures include:

  • Health care: Oregon’s current $1.18 state tax on cigarettes would increase by 84.5 cents, with the new money used to pay for health care for uninsured children and low-income adults.
  • Stem cell research: New Jersey voters will decide if the Garden State should spend $450 million on stem cell research.
  • Insurance: In a referendum that pits insurers against trial lawyers, Washingtonians will give a thumbs up or down to a law the Legislature passed this year that would allow consumers to collect triple damages if their insurer unreasonably denies a clam. The measure would not apply to health insurance coverage.
  • Gambling: Maine voters will weigh in whether they want an American Indian tribe to run a harness-racing track with slot machines and high-stakes beano games in Washington County
  • Taxes: Voters in Washington state or the Legislature would have to give two-thirds approval before a tax hike could take effect under an initiative there.
Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Fresh data delivery Saturday mornings

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for The Briefing

Weekly updates on the world of news & information