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Liberals are bypassing lawmakers — moving their agenda through ballot measures

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Democrats who have been trying without success to pass their liberal agendas in state legislatures have been stymied by one basic fact of life — a majority of the state legislatures are controlled by Republicans.

So, taking a cue from President Obama, they’re trying something different — bypassing the lawmaking bodies. But they’re not doing so through executive order. Instead they’re taking their case directly to the voters by pushing ballot measures.

“As more and more states are controlled by Republicans, you see more of these progressive measures getting on the ballot through initiatives,” said Josh Altic, a Lucy Burns Institute researcher, according to The Hill.

Ballot measures are the avenue of last resort for progressives — especially after elections in the past six years having handed the GOP control in an unprecedented number of state legislatures.

Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion in only eight states.

Compare that to the GOP, which controls more than two-thirds — 68 — of the 98 partisan legislative chambers.

In Florida, for example, the House, Senate and the governor’s office are in the hands of Republicans, even though Sunshine State voters cast ballots for Barack Obama as president in both 2008 and 2012. It’s long been considered a swing state.

In response to GOP legislative control, ballot initiates are springing up all over the country.

After Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, vetoed a substantial minimum wage hike, liberals collected a sufficient number of signatures to get a $12 minimum wage proposal on this year’s ballot.

Similarly, Nevada voters will decide this year whether to expand background checks on firearm purchases — a measure that Nevada’s Republican-controlled Legislature and GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval nixed.

But conservatives aren’t sitting by idly. Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, for example, signed into law a measure that requires signatures for ballot initiatives to be collected within a 180-day window.

However, conservatives have used the same strategy in the past.

“There were a lot of conservative measures maybe 15, 20 years ago. The conservative movement was using these to enact tax restrictions, taxpayer protections, term limits,” Altic said. “What we’ve seen is a lot more progressive issues coming up on the ballots.”

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