Written by Kimberly Kooles
More than just the fate of the 112th United States Congress was decided during last week’s election. Across the nation voters made their voices heard on statewide measures ranging from the creation of state level income taxes for high wage residents to forbidding convicted felons from running for sheriff. In the mix of all this, there are several notable statewide ballot initiatives affecting historic preservation - directly or indirectly - that are worthy of recognition.
In Arizona, Measure 301 to transfer the Land Conservation Fund to the state general fund was defeated 74% to 26% (thankfully!). If approved, this measure would have diverted $123.5 million in conservation funds to the general fund.
California voters had two opportunities to affect historic preservation in their state. Unfortunately, the 58.2% to 41.8% defeat of Proposition 21 means California state park and wildlife conservation programs will continue to be funded through existing state and local funding sources instead of through an $18 annual surcharge would have been added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. The surcharge revenues would have provided funding for state park and wildlife conservation programs.
California voters redeemed themselves with the 61.1% to 38.9% defeat of Proposition 23, which would have suspended a state law that requires greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020 until California's unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. If passed, the proposition would have abandoned the implementation of a comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy, cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension ends.
Iowa residents successfully adopted Proposition 1, Iowa's Water and Land Legacy Amendment, with a 62.4% to 37.6% vote. This creates a dedicated trust fund for the purposes of protecting and enhancing water quality and natural areas in the state including parks, trails, and fish and wildlife habitat, and conserving agricultural soils in the state.
In Maine, Bond Issue 3 was passed with a 59.3% to 40.7% vote, providing a consistent approach to refunding the Land for Maine’s Future Fund, the state’s primary vehicle for buying conservation lands and easements. Issue 3 includes $6.5 million for LMF (including 10% for water access), $1,750,000 for working waterfront projects, $1 million for farmland conservation, and $500,000 for state parks and other land managed by the Department of Conservation.
Nevada voters defeated Proposition 4 to amend the state constitution to revise eminent domain with a 67.3% to 32.7% vote. If voters had approved Proposition 4 - known as the Peoples' Initiative to Stop Taking Our Land (PISTOL) - a constitutional amendment approved in 2008 would have been revised to allow a government to take private property and turn it over to another private interest in limited cases. As currently written, the PISTOL amendment flatly blocks governments from taking someone's private property and then turning it over to a private business. Any property taken must be for a public use.
In Oregon, Measure 72 successfully passed with a 59% to 41% vote to allow for real-property improvements. Currently, the state constitution forbids lending the state’s credit or borrowing in excess of $50,000 with some exceptions. The measure amends the state constitution to add a new exception to allow the state to issue general obligation bonds to finance acquisition, construction, remodeling, repair, equipping or furnishing of state owned or operated property.
Oregon Proposition 76, the Oregon Lottery Funds for Natural Resources Amendment, successfully passed with a 68.5% to 31.5% vote. Under current constitutional provision, 15 percent of net lottery proceeds are placed in a Parks and Natural Resources Fund, half for state parks, beaches, historic sites and recreation areas, and half for restoration and protection of natural resources, including fish and wildlife habitat and protection of watersheds. When they passed Proposition 76, Oregon voters chose to continue 15 percent funding for the same purposes beyond 2014.
Happily, Rhode Island voters approved Question 4 with a 64.5% to 35.4% vote, which authorizes the State of Rhode Island to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes for the purpose of acquiring all or a portion of land in and around the former Rocky Point Park for the purpose of establishing a public park.
In Washington, Initiative 52 for energy efficiency in schools was unfortunately defeated 56.4% to 43.6%. This bill would have authorized bonds to finance construction and repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings. The measure would have authorized the state to borrow $505 million by issuing bonds to be repaid from future revenue.
If you would like any more information on these statewide ballot initiatives, please contact the Center for State and Local Policy.
Kimberly Kooles is a program associate in the Center for State and Local Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.