Californians voted Tuesday to spend $3 billion on stem cell research, putting the state on the cutting edge of a field questioned by conservatives and the Bush administration. Arizonans approved a crackdown on illegal immigrants, adopting a measure that would deter them from voting or obtaining certain government services.

Elsewhere, Florida voters approved a $1-an-hour hike in the state minimum wage, Montana became the 10th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, and Oklahoma voters approved a state lottery, leaving only nine states without one.

In all, 163 measures were on the ballots in 34 states. Eleven states were considering constitutional bans on same-sex marriage; the bans were approved in the first 10 states to report results.

Backers of California’s Proposition 71, which will support human embryonic stem cell research, said the measure was needed because the Bush administration has restricted funding to about $25 million a year.

The campaign became a battle of Hollywood stars after actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke Republican ranks to line up in support with late “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve and “Family Ties” actor Michael J. Fox.

Actor and director Mel Gibson was among high-profile foes of the measure.

The Arizona immigration initiative – the first of its kind in the nation – was touted by supporters as a way to curtail fraud by requiring people to produce proof of immigration status when obtaining certain government services. It would punish state workers who looked the other way.

Arizona is the busiest illegal entry point on the U.S.-Mexico border, and spends millions annually to provide food stamps, welfare and other social services to illegal immigrants.

Floridians voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage. A similar measure was on Nevada’s ballot.

Florida voters also approved a measure limiting the privacy rights of girls seeking abortions, meaning the Legislature can now pass a law requiring parents to be notified. Lawmakers had been stymied in efforts to pass such a law by court rulings that say they violated the privacy provision of the state constitution.

Many of the most noteworthy ballot items were in Western states, including a potentially history-making proposal to legalize marijuana in Alaska. Federal drug czar John Walters denounced the measure; supporters defended it as a sensible alternative to existing drug policies.

In Oregon, voters were deciding whether to expand their state’s existing medical-marijuana program.

Colorado defeated a measure would have allocated its electoral votes proportionally, based on the popular vote for president, and would have applied to this year’s race between President Bush and John Kerry.

With defeat of the measure, either Bush or Kerry will get all nine of the state’s electoral votes, which otherwise might have split 5-4.

In California and Washington, voters could replace party primaries with open primaries in which the top two finishers, regardless of affiliation, would advance to the general election.

Other issues around the country included:

-Taxes. Voters in Maine and South Dakota both declined opportunities to lower taxes. South Dakotans defeated a bid to scrap the sales tax on groceries, while a measure to cap property taxes lost in Maine after opponents said it would force layoffs of teachers and firefighters.

-Medical malpractice. Doctors and trial lawyers were on opposite sides in bitter debates in Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Florida over whether to impose limits on pain and suffering awards and attorneys’ fees in malpractice cases.

-Gambling. California and Washington voters decided whether to create more competition for tribal casinos by expanding non-Indian gambling. Other measures would move toward allowing slot machines at South Florida race tracks, and legalize casinos in Nebraska.

AP-ES-11-02-04 2348EST



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