Two years ago, after Donald Trump’s headline grabbing win over then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, we wrote a very humble roundup of some very significant local ballot measures that had gotten far less airtime than the big contest. We called them the ballot b-sides.
We did so in part as a reminder that happenings in Washington, D.C., while often frothy, can sometimes feel totally detached from how the local wins and losses actually change the way we think about, produce, shop for, and eat food. At the time, minimum-wage increases, marijuana measures, and right-to-hunt-and-fish laws got top billing on local ballots, while the 2018 farm bill seemed little more than a hazy future scenario we could probably put off worrying about for another few months.
That was then. Now, two days after the Democrats secured control of the House in the midterm election, the farm bill may finally be on the fast track to a deal. Here’s what else you may have missed:
Soda shake-up. Ahead of the election, soda companies hoped to pass initiatives that would effectively ban soda taxes up and down the West Coast. Our reporter Jessica Fu wrote about the tactics they used to push them through. The tax ban passed in Washington state but failed in Oregon—Coke and Pepsi are breaking out the bubbly.
Even more carbonated. Washington state also voted against a carbon tax after the oil industry spent $31 million fighting the effort. More from Wired here.
Payday. Both Arkansas and Missouri voted overwhelmingly in favor of increasing statewide minimum wages, Eater reports. The states will increase the minimum wage to $11 and $13, respectively, over the next few years. The new rules will not apply to tipped workers, who make less than $4 an hour under the states’ tipped minimum laws.
Ann Arbor haze. Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the 10th state to do so, NPR reports. Missouri and Utah both turned out in favor of medical use. And Democrats won control of the New York state legislature, so NFE HQ is expecting a start-uppy chain of dispensaries to tour our WeWork any day now.
Chicken run. California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 12, a measure which guarantees farm animals more space. The state passed a similar initiative in 2008, but critics said the language was too vague to make a big difference for animal welfare. The new law mandates one square foot of floor space per laying hen by 2022. Veal calves will get 43 square feet, and breeding pigs will be guaranteed 24 feet. KQED has more.
Oil: 1. Salmon: 0. The Stand for Salmon initiative in Alaska failed by a wide margin, Alaska Public Radio reports. Had it passed, the rule would’ve increased protections for the state’s fish. It also would’ve made it much more difficult for developers to get permits for construction near salmon habitats. Friends of the salmon spent $2 million, and friends of the oil and mining industries spent $12 million. Sensing a pattern?
Water warrior. Michigan’s new Attorney General Dana Nessel campaigned on relaunching the state’s investigation into the Flint water crisis, Mother Jones reports. Now that she’s won, she’s expected to take a long, hard look at her predecessor’s work.
The last straw. Cook County, Illinois voted to ban straws, The Chicago Sun Times reports. There’s a reason we haven’t written much about straw bans before. Incrementalism is important, but it’s just really hard to see straws as anything more than—sorry—straw men when just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions. Personal consumption is a very neat scapegoat for giant corporations unwilling to change their ways. Guess we’ll have to … um … suck it up.
Skimming off the top. Remember the notorious Alabama rule that allowed county sheriffs to keep (and then pocket) any food money they didn’t spend on feeding inmates? Talk about a perverse incentive structure. At least two local officials have gotten in trouble for feeding inmates on pennies a day and spending the remainder on new condos. Tuesday’s election ended that practice in two Alabama counties, though the rules have no impact on the remaining 65. The Associated Press has more.