Another emotionally charged measure in Massachusetts would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts would join Oregon and Washington in allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal doses of medication if doctors say they have six months or less to live.
The measure raises "the most profound questions that an individual can wrestle with," said the Rev. Tim Kutzmark, of Reading, Mass., a Unitarian Universalist minister who shifted from a foe of assisted suicide to a supporter after watching a close friend slowly die from Parkinson's disease in 2002.
As is often the case, California has numerous attention-getting measures, including one that would abolish the state's death penalty. If approved, the more than 720 inmates on California's death row would have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty, and they later reversed themselves to reinstate it.
Another contentious measure in California would require most genetically engineered processed foods and produce sold in supermarkets and other outlets to be labeled as such. These GMO foods also will be prohibited from carrying the term "natural" on their labels.
Consumer groups and the organic food industry support the measure as a way of giving shoppers more information about what they purchase and consume, while many retailers are opposed, saying grocery bills would increase. Food and chemical conglomerates, including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., have contributed nearly $41 million to defeat the measure â¿¿ close to 10 times what its supporters have raised.
California's epic budget problems also are on the ballot, in the form of rival tax-increase proposals.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30, aimed at averting $6 billion in budget cuts, mostly to education, would raise income taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year for seven years and raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. Proposition 38, sponsored by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on nearly all earners and send the money directly to local school districts, bypassing the Legislature.