Modest Wins for Minimum Wage, Huge Gains for Marijuana Legalization Amid Shock GOP Wave

It was an otherwise bright spot for left-leaning voters, on a night punctuated by shocking Republican gains.It was an otherwise bright spot for left-leaning voters, on a night punctuated by shocking Republican gains. (Photo: J.Blueberries / Flickr)

Ballot initiatives on minimum wage increases and marijuana legalization were approved by voters in a number of states on Tuesday night, despite Republicans’ jarring gains in representative elections.

Measures that would increase the minimum wage were approved in Washington, Colorado, Maine and Arizona. Voters in Washington backed a move to raise the hourly wage floor to $13.50, while the other three states got behind increases to $12 per hour. The hikes will be phased in over the next four years.

Voters, meanwhile, backed referenda that would end marijuana prohibition in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada. The question failed, however, in Arizona.

Medicinal marijuana was also approved through questions posed directly to voters in Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Montana.

It was an otherwise bright spot for left-leaning voters, on a night punctuated by shocking Republican gains. Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton, flipping much of the Rust Belt from blue to red, while the GOP maintained its stranglehold on the legislative branch — during an election cycle when the stars had been aligned against Republicans maintaining the Senate.

Conservatives also prevailed in a number of ballot measures, affirming support for the death penalty in Nebraska and Oklahoma. Californians, meanwhile, backed a move that would expedite capital punishment, while defeating another that would have scrapped state executions entirely.

Liberals and conservatives also united to defeat single payer healthcare in a Colorado ballot initiative, giving the progressive dream a resounding loss in the Rocky Mountain state.

Separately, a bid to overturn South Dakota’s “right-to-work” status — a framework that allows workers to free-ride on collective bargaining fees — also suffered a clear defeat.

South Dakotans, though, also backed an initiative that would put a 36 percent interest rate cap on short-term loans, in a minor blow to the payday lending industry.

Retail loansharks will have to take comfort in the fact that Donald Trump has pledged to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act — legislation that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.