Ballot initiative roundup: Marijuana, gun control and minimum wage measures pass


Legislation and Lobbying


Ballot box.

Proponents for legalized marijuana, increased minimum wage and stricter gun control provisions had a good Election Night.

On Tuesday, voters in seven states approved various marijuana-related ballot initiatives. According to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada will now allow recreational use of marijuana. Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota have expanded access to medicinal marijuana. In Arizona, on the other hand, a recreational-use initiative failed.

The California initiative could bring in up to $1 billion in revenue to the state, although the Wall Street Journal reports that it’ll take a while to hit that number as California begins issuing licenses to sell marijuana.

Meanwhile, voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington all approved minimum wage hikes. Washington will raise its wage to $13.50 per hour while the other states will go to $12. “The minimum wage wins tonight show that progressive values live at the state level and at the ballot box,” said Justine Sarver, executive director of the left-leaning Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, to the newspaper.

Several gun control measures were approved by voters on Election Day. In Washington state, voters enacted a measure that would allow law enforcement or family members to petition the state to deny a high-risk individual access to firearms. In the meantime, California voters approved a ban on high-capacity magazines and will require background checks for ammunition purchases. According to the Wall Street Journal, background-check expansions in Maine looked likely to pass (the vote is still too close to call) while the Las Vegas Sun reports that a provision to close a background-check loophole has been successful in Nevada. The National Rifle Association came out against all of the gun control measures, saying that they hurt gun owners’ rights.

According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the state initiatives on the ballot Tuesday were backed by Democrats frustrated at making little headway with their state legislatures.



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Trump campaign manager doesn’t rule out a Clinton prosecution; is an advance pardon possible?


Criminal Justice



Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday refused to rule out the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for using a private server to send emails, though Conway did say the president-elect is seeking to unify the country.

Will there be a prosecution? And could President Obama pardon Clinton in advance of any prosecution? Politico and the Washington Post consider the possibilities.

During the Oct. 9 debate, Trump said he would seek a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s situation. At Trump rallies, “Lock her up,” has been a frequent refrain.

Conway said in a TV appearance Wednesday on MSNBC that “we haven’t discussed [prosecution] in recent days, and I think that it’s all in due time,” report Reuters and MassLive.com. She made similar comments in other TV appearances.

Obama could head off a prosecution. Experts told Politico that Obama could pardon Clinton for any federal offenses she may have committed, even if she doesn’t seek a pardon. The pardon could extend not only to any offenses committed as secretary of state, but also to any statements she has since made and any conduct in connection with the Clinton Foundation.

Politico notes possible political repercussions. A pardon “would surely trigger charges of unfairness and political favoritism, while seeming to some to be an admission of guilt,” the article states.

But there is precedent for pardons in advance of charges. President Nixon was pardoned, as were Vietnam War draft dodgers. And President Clinton granted clemency to former CIA Director John Deutch in a case involving the handling of classified information stored on his home computer, Politico says.

If no pardon is granted and Trump decides to prosecute, he couldn’t just “snap his fingers and throw his political rival behind bars,” the Washington Post notes. Trump would have to order his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor; the attorney general would have to comply; Clinton would have to be charged with an offense; a trial would have to be held; and she would have to be found guilty.



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Single-payer health initiative goes down in defeat in Colorado


Health Law


US flag and stethescope.

Voters in Colorado overwhelmingly rejected a proposed law that would have established a single-payer health care system in the state.

On Tuesday, the proposed Amendment 69, or “ColoradoCare,” lost in a landslide at the polls. According to The Denver Post, nearly 80 percent of voters voted against the measure. The proposed law would have gotten rid of most private insurance in the state in favor of a public health co-op funded through a 10 percent payroll tax. According to the Denver Post, the Amendment’s defeat was comprehensive—even the relatively liberal city of Denver voted it down by a two-to-one margin, based on early returns.

The initiative was controversial from the start and engendered opposition from the business community, health insurance companies and politicians from both sides of the aisle, including state governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. The co-op’s budget, which stood at a proposed $36 billion, would have made it the largest agency in Colorado and would have more than doubled the state’s budget. “We’re grateful to the people of Colorado for carefully considering Amendment 69 and voting overwhelmingly against a measure that was clearly risky, untested, and fiscally irresponsible,” Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and chair of opposition group Coloradans for Coloradans, said in a statement to the Denver Post.

Meanwhile, supporters of ColoradoCare vowed that they would try again. “We learned a lot,” said author T.R. Reid to the Denver Post. “And we’ll definitely be better next time.”



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Law clerk accused of ruling on cases wins judicial election, though she is barred from the bench


Judiciary


robes.

A law clerk/staff attorney accused of donning a judge’s robes and ruling in cases has won a judicial election in Cook County, Illinois, despite a state supreme court order temporarily barring her from the bench.

Rhonda Crawford had at least 74,000 votes with about 85 percent of the precincts reporting, defeating a write-in candidate who said she had “several thousand votes,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Crawford was accused of ruling in three traffic court cases in August as part of a shadowing process. She was indicted in October on a felony charge of official misconduct and a misdemeanor charge of false impersonation.

The Illinois Supreme Court has suspended Crawford’s law license and banned her from taking the bench “until further order of the court.” The judgeship will remain unfilled unless she is permanently banned from the bench and the Supreme Court appoints a replacement, according to the Tribune.

The write-in candidate, Maryam Ahmad, told the Tribune that, when talking to voters, she was shocked by how many were unaware of Crawford’s legal problems. “It’s very sad given the awesome responsibility that judges have,” Ahmad said.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) noted the Tribune story. Crawford’s lawyer, Victor Henderson, told the Law Blog that they would “address the charges head-on” and his client “looks forward to having the full story told and clearing her name.”



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Trump win could put legal industry ‘on steroids,’ consultant says


Business of Law



The legal industry stands to benefit when Donald Trump takes office. That’s the conclusion of legal consultant Peter Zeughauser.

Zeughauser tells Law360 (sub. req.) that “we’re going to see a legal industry on steroids” with Donald Trump in office. A Trump administration “would be the biggest thing in the legal industry since the enactment of the U.S. Constitution,” he declared.

Trump could begin changing immigration law immediately with executive actions that repeal President Barack Obama’s deferred deportation program, according to the article. Changes in immigration law would mean work for immigration lawyers asked to advise businesses on how to keep their workers, immigration lawyers told Law360. Trump could also increase corporate audits to make sure companies are complying with record-keeping requirements to prove their employees are eligible to work here.

Lawyers working in the area of international trade would “have a field day” if Trump acts on his pledges to renegotiate trade deals and impose protectionist measures, according to the article. Some of his actions could bring legal challenges before the International Trade Commission.

Changes to the Affordable Care Act could also affect the legal industry. Whether or not Congress adopts Republican ideas to change the health care law, “the legal industry expects the jockeying over health policy to continue to benefit it,” the story says.

Trump’s pledge to increase spending to rebuild infrastructure could also “steer a lot of work to the legal sector,” according to the story. “Any effort to strengthen roads or speed up railways inevitably runs up against a range of property concerns and regulatory hurdles.”



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