Pocketbook issues will dominate as voters around the nation decide more than 200 ballot issues in November. Three states in the West may cut taxes, four others may turn to lotteries to raise revenue, and California may vote to slash auto insurance rates.
Three states may declare English their official language, and three will consider anti-abortion measures.Among the more interesting issues: Nevada City, Calif., will weigh a ban on steel-jaw leg traps; voters in Fort Collins, Colo., will consider a homosexual-rights amendment; Oregonians will vote on a measure that would impose the nation's toughest statewide smoking ban; and Bostonians may choose to create a city within its borders named Mandela, comprising mostly black neighborhoods. A similar effort to honor the imprisoned South African black leader Nelson Mandela was defeated in 1986.
By far the costliest and hardest-fought battle will center on a jumble of five conflicting referendums that could require California auto insurers to cut their rates to at least 20 percent below November 1987 levels and freeze rates until November 1989.
Insurance companies are backing two propositions establishing a no-fault policy for car accidents and limiting lawyers' contingency fees.
Money matters are also uppermost in Arkansas, Colorado, South Dakota and Utah.
A proposed "Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights" amendment would require voter approval to raise state or local taxes and would restrict property and other taxes and limit increases in state spending. But the signatures that put the measure on the ballot face a challenge this month that could knock it off.
South Dakota Proposition II would limit property taxes to 1 percent of 1984 values for agricultural property and 21/2 percent for non-agricultural. Supporters contend that property taxes have gotten out of hand, and they believe the state should introduce other forms of taxation. Opponents contend the measure would imperil school districts.
In Utah, three initiatives could roll back state and local taxes by a combined $320 million. One would cut sales, gasoline and cigarette taxes. Another would limit property taxes. A third would provide an estimated $3.5 million in tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools.
In Arkansas, the secretary of state is to decide in the next several weeks whether to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot making it harder to raise sales taxes and easier to raise the income tax. Gov. Bill Clinton is a leading supporter.
Abortion opponents will take their case to voters in Michigan, Arkansas and Colorado. Arkansas' secretary of state will rule shortly on whether to certify a proposed constitutional amendment to ban the use of state funds for abortions except to save a mother's life. Voters narrowly defeated a similar measure two years ago.
In Michigan, anti-abortion groups and pro-choice advocates both plan heavily financed campaigns over whether to end state Medicaid funding of abortions. Early polls show anti-abortion forces leading by a 2-1 margin.
Colorado voters will decide whether to repeal a section of the state constitution prohibiting use of state funds for abortion.
Colorado, Arizona and Florida have amendments aimed at declaring English the official state language. It is unclear what such amendments would accomplish, but opponents, especially Hispanics, call the measures bigoted and vindictive.
Among other contests:
-In Massachusetts, voters will consider a measure that could effectively end production of nuclear power in that state. Gov. Michael Dukakis opposes it, and utilities insist they would sue to block what they say would amount to an illegal taking of their property.
-Voters in Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota will decide whether to clear the way for lotteries despite opposition from religious groups and others. Minnesota would use gambling proceeds to protect the state's natural resources.
In South Dakota, a proposed amendment would allow limited gambling in Deadwood, the Black Hills town where Wild Bill Hickok was shot while playing poker.
-Californians will weigh Proposition 102, which would impose tough guidelines for screening and controlling the spread of AIDS, including ending the state's ban on AIDS testing for insurance and employment.
-The Oregon Lung Association is campaigning for what would be the nation's toughest smoking ban, prohibiting tobacco use in virtually all public buildings and work areas except taverns, tobacco stores, hotel rooms and offices in private homes.
State law already bans smoking in most public buildings except in designated areas.
-An initiative in Washington state would impose a tax on hazardous materials such as petroleum and pesticides to provide for their safe disposal. A rival issue backed by the Legislature and business would exempt petroleum products shipped out of state and offer covenants not to sue polluters if they take steps to clean up hazardous waste sites.
-Montana residents will consider whether to become the 10th state to enact a bottle return bill.
-In Maryland, a ballot measure would repeal that state's stiff gun control law.
-A proposed amendment in Rhode Island would effectively deny bail to those who manufacture or possess illegal drugs.