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Voters OK Minimum Wage Hike, Casinos, Marijuana

While election winners like Bill de Blasio and Chris Christie took center stage on Tuesday, voters around the country voted on dozens of key referendums that will help to shape the future of the economy, rights, and environment.

Drawing the most attention was a New York state constitutional amendment that authorizes seven new casinos to be built in New York, outside of the existing five casinos which are all located on Indian reservations. The amendment was supported by 57 percent of voters after a strong push by Governor Andrew Cuomo who promoted the project as a major opportunity to improve employment and economic opportunities in a struggling upstate region.

Marijuana also drew a lot of attention on Tuesday as the nation’s prohibition of the drug continues to wane. Portland, Maine, the state’s largest city, voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana for all adults over the age of 21 with a maximum amount of 2.5 ounces. Voters in the Michigan cities of Ferndale, Lansing, and Jackson also voted to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Meanwhile, voters in Colorado, who legalized recreational marijuana use in the last election, voted to tax the drug 25 percent to increase funding for school construction.

Voters in New Jersey voted for a growingly popular minimum wage increase bill that not only increases the state’s minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 but includes an automatic cost-of-living increase every year. Ten other states have already passed similar cost-of-living increase bills, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Fracking is a growing issue with environmental groups pushing hard to increase limitation on the gas drilling practice that has been shown to taint water supplies. Restrictions on fracking were on the ballot in four Colorado counties and three Ohio cities but received mixed results. Three of the four Colorado counties and one Ohio city voted to keep restrictions while one Colorado county and two Ohio cities voted to lift the regulations.

In Texas, on the other hand, voters took a pro-water stance, voting in favor of a $2 billion project to fund anti-drought measures. Droughts have hit the south hard in the last several years, causing billions of dollars in losses.

(Image courtesy of Pat Arnow)

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Igor Derysh is the Managing Editor of Latest. com and a syndicated columnist whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, and Orlando Sun Sentinel, and AOL News. His work has been criticized in even more publications. Follow him on Twitter @IgorDerysh