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Voters in 37 US States to Decide State, Local Issues


National issues are at the forefront of Tuesday's midterm elections, but voters in 37 states will consider hundreds of ballot measures on state and local questions. Mike O'Sullivan report from Los Angeles, issues include energy, taxes, smoking and gay marriage.

Twelve states, including California, will decide whether to restrict or ban the right of local governments to expropriate property for private development, which the U.S. Supreme Court permitted in a 2005 case.

Another hot issue has carried over from the election two years ago. Eight states from Arizona to Wisconsin have proposals to amend their state constitutions to prevent the courts or legislatures from permitting gay marriage. Nineteen states have already done this, sparked by a 2004 court ruling in Massachusetts that said the state's constitution contained such a right. Colorado voters will consider two competing measures, one to ban gay marriage and another creating domestic partnerships that offer same-sex couples the same rights as married couples.

Ten states will consider measures to restrict smoking in public places or increase tobacco taxes.

Dozens of measures around the country would raise or lower taxes, and approve or limit public spending. Several measures in California would allow the state to borrow funds to rebuild infrastructure.

The issue is not exciting, admits Congressman Dan Lungren, a Republican. But he says good roads are required to keep the economy healthy, and that levies or retaining walls on the Sacramento River need to be reinforced. Otherwise, he says, the region could be struck with kind of damage that devastated New Orleans when its levies broke last year in Hurricane Katrina. He spoke at a recent forum on California politics.

"If we don't do something in terms of our roads, bridges, highways, and don't do something with respect to the need to improve our levy system, our water protection system, we're going to be in even deeper trouble as we approach the next decade," he said.

He says the issue is bipartisan. Both Republicans and Democrats support several measures for infrastructure improvement.

Some issues are more divisive. Proposals in California and Oregon would require the parents of a girl under the age of 18 to be notified if she seeks an abortion. A measure in South Dakota asks voters to uphold or overturn a statewide ban on nearly all abortions, passed by the state legislature earlier this year.

All of the issues are being fought on the airwaves through campaign ads. Former President Bill Clinton has endorsed a California measure called Proposition 87. It would impose a tax on oil producers and create a fund to promote alternative energy use.

"With one vote, you can make California America's leader in alternative fuel," he said in a TV advertisement. "America has to change, but you can lead the way."

Opponents say the measure would raise gasoline prices and create a new bureaucracy to spend the money.

Arizona will test the patience of its voters, with 19 measures on the state ballot. One would deny state services to illegal immigrants. Another would make English the state's official language. Yet another would create a novel incentive for voters, a random drawing after each statewide election that would award a lucky voter a $1 million prize.

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