A look back on the 2002 elections and their impacts

Heather McTavish
Government Relations Coordinator
APWA Washington Office

The November 2002 elections brought almost 50/50 split in control of statehouse seats. Republicans made significant gains in state legislative seats, taking over seven state legislative chambers previously tied or controlled by Democrats. As a result, Republicans ended a historic election trend where the President’s party has lost seats in every midterm election cycle since at least 1938 (National Conference of State Legislators).

Republicans now hold 21 state legislatures including: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The Democrats control 16 legislatures: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Twelve states have split legislatures including: Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

The Nebraska Unicameral is nonpartisan.

Ballot Initiatives
Voters in 30 states were offered the chance to decide 153 statewide ballot measures in election 2002—the lowest number since 1986 and a 40 percent drop over the number in the 2000 general elections, according to ballotwatch.org.

On the ballot this year were 47 initiatives (citizen-placed advisory questions, memorials, statutes or constitutional amendments); 102 legislative referendums (governmental propositions submitted to the people for their approval or rejection); and four popular referendums (citizens may refer specific legislation enacted by their legislatures for the voters to accept or reject).

Hot issues for voters seemed to be drug policy reform measures, education reform acts, and election reform measures. Tax cuts generally failed across the country, while education measures were successful. Following is a summary of infrastructure-related referendums on the ballots November 12.

Alaska: PASSED: Bonding Proposition B—State Guaranteed Transportation Revenue Anticipation Bonds and State General Obligation State Transportation Project Bonds—totaling $226,719,500.

California: PASSED: Proposition 50—Authorizes $3.44 billion in bonds for various clean water and drinking water projects. FAILED: Proposition 51—Reallocates 30 percent of certain state revenues to a trust fund for transportation improvement. The money would be earmarked and used only for construction and reconstruction of a variety of different modes of transportation.

Louisiana: FAILED: Number 10: 1233—Would create programs to assist farmers for the development and enhancement of surface water resources, and create the Drought Protection Trust Fund.

Maine: PASSED: Question 2: Bond Issue—Would authorize general bonds for water pollution control and other assorted environmental issues. PASSED: Question 3: Constitutional amendment—Would allow loans to be repaid with federal transportation dollars.

Montana: FAILED: I-145—Would acquire hydroelectric dams and operate them for the benefit of Montanans.

Nevada: PASSED: Question 1—Asks voters to determine if the state be authorized to issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $200 million in order to preserve water quality; protect open space, lakes, rivers, wetlands and wildlife habitat; and restore and improve parks, recreational areas, and historic and cultural resources. PASSED: Question 10: (Clark County)—Authorizes the Board of Clark County Commissioners to implement a Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada 2002 Fair Share Funding Program which will generate approximately $2.7 billion over 25 years from taxes on developers, aviation fuel, and retail sales to fund improvements in local transportation, including additional street and highway projects, new and expanded transit, added transit services for senior citizens, and air quality improvements, and to make southern Nevada eligible to receive up to an additional $3 billion in state and federal funding for transportation and air quality.

New Mexico: PASSED: General Obligation Bond D—Would authorize the issuance and sale of state facilities improvement and equipment bonds. FAILED: General Obligation Bond E—Would authorize the issuance and sale of water project bonds.

Oklahoma: PASSED: State Question 693—Would exempt storm shelters from ad valorem tax, therefore encouraging the installation. Storm shelters are extremely useful in areas subject to high wind hazards.

Oregon: PASSED: 15—Would authorize certain bonds for seismic rehabilitation of public education buildings. PASSED: 16—Would authorize certain bonds for seismic rehabilitation of emergency services buildings.

Rhode Island: PASSED: Question 3—Would authorize the state to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes in an amount not to exceed $563,500,000 to match federal funds. Would provide direct funding for improvements to the state’s highways, roads and bridges; replace and repair transportation maintenance facilities and purchase buses; and rehabilitate existing buses. FAILED: Question 4—Would authorize the state to issue general obligation bonds, refunding bonds and temporary notes in an amount not to exceed $11,000,000 for road and utility infrastructure, building demolition, site preparation and pier rehabilitation at the Quonset Point/Davisville Industrial Park.

Virginia: FAILED: Residents of several counties in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads area will vote on proposals to raise the sales tax one-half cent, with the money to be used for transportation improvements for their respective areas.

Washington: FAILED: Referendum 51—Would impose a nine-cent-per-gallon increase in the state’s gasoline tax. The money would be used to fund transportation improvements across the state.