Major Ballot Measures Across Country Could Upend Status Quo

FILE-A patient buys bags of medical marijuana at the Coffeeshop Blue Sky dispensary in Oakland, Calif.

FILE-A patient buys bags of medical marijuana at the Coffeeshop Blue Sky dispensary in Oakland, Calif.  (AP)

In California, the state's battle against climate change could be coming to an end, while recreational marijuana use may be legalized.

In Oklahoma, courts could be ordered not to consider Islamic or international law in their rulings.

In Washington, wealthy residents are facing a potential new state income tax aimed at bolstering education and health care.

These are just a few of the 160 statewide ballot initiatives in 37 states that voters will weigh Tuesday that could alter the way the states do business. The ballot measures include provisions in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma seeking to eliminate within those states the new federal mandate to purchase health care.

While state ballot questions pop up in every election cycle, several of the measures this year have attracted national attention.

Perhaps the most famous ones are in California. Voters appear to be turning against Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's law targeting global warming, and Proposition 19, which would legalize pot.

If Proposition 23 passes, it would suspend implementation of the state's Global Warming Solutions Act until state unemployment drops to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year – a very rare occurrence.

A new poll found that 48 percent of likely voters oppose the measure, 32 support it and 19 percent are undecided.

Proposition 19, an initiative that could make California the first state to legalize marijuana, is a lot closer, according to a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. In that poll, 49 percent oppose it compared with 44 percent who are in favor of it.

But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has warned that if it passes, the Obama administration won't look the other way, as it has with the state's legalization of medical marijuana.

Under the measure, adults could possess up to one ounce of the drug and grow small gardens on private property. Local governments would decide whether to allow and tax sales.

In Oklahoma, voters will decide whether they support a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit the courts from considering Islamic or other international law in their decisions. The "Save Our State" amendment easily passed a Republican-controlled state legislature earlier this year. And a poll by the Tulsa World in July found that 49 percent of voters supported the amendment, with 24 percent opposing it and 27 percent undecided.

In Colorado, abortion foes are pushing a "personhood" amendment, which would change the state constitution to grant citizenship rights at the "beginning of biological development."

In Washington, a battle of the billionaires is unfolding, as the co-founders of Microsoft find themselves on opposite sides of Initiative 1098, which would establish an income tax for wealthier residents.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates supports the measure, while his founding partner, Paul Allen, opposes it. If approved, the measure would institute state income taxes on couples making more than $400,000 or $200,000 for individuals. The money would be directed toward state education and health programs.

But opponents say it could discourage businesses from coming to the state.