State ballot questions aim to expand democratic rights

The newly formed Our Revolution organization, dedicated to “reclaiming democracy for the working people of our country,” has issued a list of six ballot initiatives and propositions that “if passed, would be a tremendous victory for the ideals of the political revolution.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D.-Vt., the founder of the organization says, “A progressive ballot initiative that passes in one state will have ripple effects throughout the entire country. It will impact everyone.”

The ballot initiatives listed are:

Colorado’s Amendment 69: Universal healthcare for state residents.

If passed, the constitution of Colorado would be amended to guarantee healthcare for every resident of the state. Colorado would become the first in the nation to do so.

The amendment would create ColoradoCare, which “is Colorado’s opportunity to create and control its own health care payment system. It is a resident-owned, health care financing system designed to ensure comprehensive, quality, accessible, lifetime health care for every Colorado resident.”

California’s Proposition 61: The Drug Price Relief Act

California’s Proposition 61 aims to make sure drug companies charge reasonable prices for their products.

If passed, the measure would require the state of California to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Veteran Administration does. The V.A. is the only U.S. government agency allowed by law to negotiate the lowest possible prices with drug companies.

As a buyer of drugs for about 4.5 million public workers, university employees and others, the state has muscle to affect market prices and can refuse to pay indecent price markups. (Proposition 61 would not affect Californians on private plans.)

California’s Proposition 62: Abolition of the death penalty.

Called the Justice that Works Act, Proposition 62 would abolish the death penalty in California and make sure anyone currently sentenced to death there would instead serve a life sentence without parole.

California’s Proposition 59 would urge California politicians to do everything they can to overturn Citizens United.

If it passes, elected officials in California would be urged to advocate for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

Proposition 59 will not having any binding legal effect, nor any direct fiscal effect. The question of the proposition basically asks, “Shall California’s elected officials use all of their constitutional authority, including, but not limited to, proposing and ratifying” a constitutional amendment to overturnCitizens United?

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v FECthat corporations have the same rights to freedom of speech as do individuals and can spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against political candidates. As a result, the amount of money poured into political campaigns by corporations and the very wealthy has more than quadrupled.

The process for amending the Constitution can only be initiated by either Congress or a national convention assembled at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds of the states. Then, at least three-fourths of the states must approve the proposed amendment before it becomes law.

Critics of calling for a constitutional convention point out that once called, any delegate can propose amendments on any subject, which would give right wingers the opportunity to do a lot of mischief.

Washington State’s Initiative 735 would have the state officially call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Similar to California’s Proposition 59, if passed Initiative 735 would urge Washington State’s congressional delegation to propose a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizen’s United.

Photo: Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd.  |  AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.