Environmental Ballot Initiatives to Watch

A local poll, conducted in early October by the Denver-based research and consulting firm Ciruli Associates, showed that 51 percent of surveyed voters indicated they would vote for the amendment. Twenty-five percent said they were opposed to it.

Minnesota: The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment

Minnesota's only ballot initiative this year -- the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment -- asks voters to increase the sales-and-use tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to protect wetlands and wildlife habitat, preserve arts and cultural heritage, support parks and trails and other causes.

Supporters of the measure say the amendment is necessary to clean up polluted lakes, rivers and streams across the state. They also say that funding for natural habitat and wildlife is at a decades-long low.

Opponents of the amendment argue that though clean air and water are certainly important causes, this year's ballot initiative shifts the power away from elected officials and undermines the democratic process.

DiPeso said that the Minnesota chapter of his Republicans for Environmental Protection backs the measure. Despite the tight economy, he said that people recognize the value of supporting conservation initiatives.

"What we have seen is that in many parts of the country, even in 'red' parts, people are in support of taxes to support [such measures.] ... If you demonstrate to the people that they will get value by raising property and sales taxes, they will vote for them and they will vote for them in considerable margin," DiPeso said.

A wide coalition of cultural, social and environmental groups also supports the amendment, including the state League of Women Voters chapter, a local Sierra Club chapter and The Nature Conservancy. The editorial boards of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the St. Cloud Times and the Pioneer Press opposed the measure.

On Monday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that a recent poll of 933 likely voters found that the amendment was favored by 53 percent, with 41 percent opposed to it. A poll in early October found that 59 percent supported the initiative and 32 percent opposed it.

California: Proposition 7

Never short on controversial ballot initiatives, California is asking voters this year to vote on a proposition that would double the amount of energy electric utilities must derive from clean energy sources. The unusual twist is that many environmentalists are finding themselves in the position of fighting against the measure.

Proposition 7, or the Solar and Clean Energy Law, would require utilities, including government-owned utilities, to generate 50 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2025. The existing requirement raises the standard by 1 percent per year, with a goal of reaching 33 percent by 2020.

Advocates of the measure say it would help the state achieve its target cuts in global-warming emissions, create jobs and keep electricity rates affordable for consumers. The proposition is almost entirely financed by Arizona billionaire Peter Sperling, whose money comes from the for-profit University of Phoenix colleges, according to the Sacramento Bee. He and former San Francisco Supervisor Jim Gonzalez, a political consultant, have spent about $7.4 million on the campaign, the paper reported in early October.

Opponents maintain that the proposal is well-intentioned but poorly designed.

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