Term Limits Special Report
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Voters in Several States, D.C. Adopt Limits For Legislators

By Dana Priest and William Claiborne
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 9, 1994; Page A25

Mirroring the mood that swept so many incumbents out of office yesterday, voters in Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Maine and the District of Columbia adopted term limits, which also appeared headed for approval in Colorado and Massachusetts.

Term limits, which were on ballots in eight states and the District, were approved by more than a 2-to-1 margin in Nevada and Nebraska, with 63 percent of the vote in Maine, 57 percent in Idaho and 62 percent in the District.

Only in Utah were term limits defeated, by 64 to 36 percent.

No results were available early today from Alaska, where term limits had been favored in polls.

Most term-limit measures impose a three- or four-term limit on House seats and a two-term limit on Senate seats. The constitutionality of state-set limits on federal offices is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

There were more than 70 citizen-sponsored initiatives on ballots this year, the most in any year in six decades.

In California, the incendiary Proposition 187, which would deny most social services, including education, to illegal immigrants, was approved 65 to 35 percent. The measure also requires doctors, teachers and police to report people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

In Florida, voters decisively rejected a gambling initiative that casino and parimutuel interests spent more than $16 million to promote. It was the third time in 15 years that voters there had been asked to legalize gambling, which is permitted on Indian reservations and a limited number of riverboats. Concern about crime and lifestyle changes played heavily in the campaign, but so did industry spending, which outpaced opponents' 10 to one.

Voters in Rhode Island also turned down measures that would have permitted casinos in five cities, including the state capital. Meanwhile, a Missouri gambling measure was winning 53 to 47 percent.

A "three strikes and you're out" crime measure was winning 3 to 1, but a universal health care measure to create a tax-financed system similar to Canada's was being roundly defeated 75 to 25 percent. And a tobacco-industry sponsored measure to loosen local and state smoking restrictions was losing by more than 2 to 1.

In Oregon, returns showed a slim majority of voters -- 52 to 48 percent -- favoring an initiative barring prosecution of doctors who help dying patients commit suicide.

In one of a handful of anti-crime measures on the ballot, voters in Georgia were headed toward approving a "two strikes and you're out" law that would impose a sentence of life without parole for criminals convicted of a second violent crime. Early returns showed it leading 3 to 1.

In two states, Idaho and Oregon, voters were rejecting anti-gay measures, but by only slim margins in early returns. Wyoming voters defeated the only antiabortion measure by 61 to 39 percent. It would have subjected doctors who perform abortions to felony charges in certain situations.

The second wave of a general voter revolt against politics -- initiatives to limit campaign contributions and to restrict state legislators from imposing taxes -- showed mixed results.

Voters in four states -- Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Oregon -- were voting overwhelmingly in favor of limiting contributions to political campaigns. But campaign finance reform was losing in Colorado and appeared defeated by a wide margin in Massachusetts.

Initiatives in three states that would have required state legislatures to get prior voter approval for certain tax increases was defeated in Missouri and headed for defeat in Montana and Oregon.

Twenty-four states allow citizens to circumvent Congress and state legislatures and to place initiatives on the ballot.

As usual, California outpaced most other states on ballot initiatives and referenda -- measures that are referred to voters by the legislature. California voters decided on 10 major propositions, upholding what critics of the escalating number of initiatives there have branded as a system of "super-majority anarchy," which they say has helped bring the state to the edge of fiscal collapse through anti-tax and other measures.

As happened in the mid-1960s with the state's controversial open-housing law and again in 1978 when voters waged a property tax revolt around Proposition 13, this year's statewide election in California was overshadowed by how candidates campaigned on one highly emotional ballot initiative -- Proposition 187.

Proposition 184, the "three strikes" measure, would lengthen prison sentences for habitual offenders but is virtually identical to a habitual-offender law passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson (R) in March.

The smoking initiative, drafted by cigarette manufacturers and funded almost entirely by the tobacco lobby, would have reversed a decade-long trend in the state by repealing local smoking bans and a new statewide one to go into effect next year. Instead, it would substitute a more relaxed, statewide smoking policy.

The health care proposition would have created a Canadian-style universal, tax-financed health program -- at an estimated cost of up to $100 billion a year. It would virtually eliminate health care involvement by the insurance industry, which was heavily involved in its defeat. Critics said the plan placed too much power in the hands of state government, and some observers viewed its defeat as another sign that the nation is not in the mood for radical changes in health care like those proposed by President Clinton.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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