Californians rejected a proposed five-cent hike on each pack of cigarettes sold. The revenue would have funded research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. The vote runs somewhat contrary to historical trends: since 1992, voters had approved seven of the 11 proposed tobacco tax hikes on statewide ballots. This is a striking exception from voter behavior on most proposed tax increases. Over the 1992-2011 period, voters just 32% of the 73 tax increases that appeared on statewide ballots, but they approved 63.6% of the proposed tobacco tax increases. Perhaps Californians just don't like to pay more for their tobacco though -- they rejected another proposed tobacco tax hike back in 2006. That was Prop. 86, and like yesterday's Prop. 29, the revenue would have funded health care. As of Wednesday morning, the "yes" vote on Prop. 29 was 49.2% (that's still unofficial, since provisional and absentee ballots remain to be counted).
Proposition 28 fared much better, garnering a 61.4% "yes" vote in unofficial results. This measure amends the state's strict term limits law for legislators. Currently, a person may serve up to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate; after that, you're out for good. These "lifetime" term limits are the nation's strictest. Prop. 28 reduces the total number of years a person can serve in the Legislature from 14 to 12, but removes the chamber-specific limits. This would allow someone to serve the full 12 years in one chamber, or divide it among the two. It also removes a provision that had allowed some members to serve as long as 17 years by discounting partial terms from the limit.
The aim of the measure is to allow lawmakers to avoid the political musical chairs forced by the shorter, chamber-specific limits, and instead allow more time in a single office. The advantage is that with more time in office, lawmakers can develop deeper expertise on issues, state government, and the rules and procedures of the Legislature.
Voters rejected an initiative that was very similar to Prop. 28 back in 2008. The key difference was that the 2008 measure, Prop. 93, would have allowed members currently in office at the time it passed to serve up to 12 years in that chamber, regardless of previous service in the other chamber. This year's Prop. 28 applies only to members elected after the passage of the initiative.
Legislatures in Arkansas, Michigan and Missouri have considered legislation similar to Prop. 28, but to date, none of these measures has made its way to the ballot for voter approval.