Millions of voters across the United States went to the polls on November 8, 2022, for the midterm elections, but as of November 9, 2022, control of both chambers of Congress for the second half of President Biden’s first term still hangs in the balance.
Power in the Senate could shift with tight races that major media organizations have yet to call in Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. Still, Democrats were able to pick up one seat in Pennsylvania, where Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz for the seat left open after Sen. Pat Toomey chose not to seek another term.
The Senate race in Georgia seems headed for a runoff in December as neither candidate, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock nor Republican candidate Herschel Walker, have gained a majority of the vote. Libertarian Party candidate Chase Oliver pulled in more than 2 percent of the vote with 97.5 percent of the vote tallied, according to unofficial results as of early November 9 released by the Georgia Secretary of State. Under Georgia election rules, if no candidate in a general election receives a majority of the votes cast, there must be a runoff election between the top two candidates.
The House of Representatives also remains up for grabs, though it seems possible that it could flip to Republicans with a slight majority. Should the Republicans take control, many are predicting Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California will be elected as the new Speaker of the House. A divided Congress could make it more difficult for President Biden to continue his agenda and slow his judicial nominations.
McCarthy released a wide-ranging set of policy proposals prior to the midterms, called the “Commitment to America,” signaling what the priorities may be in the House under his leadership. The document centers around four big issues: (1) strengthening the economy; (3) being tougher on crime; (3) advancing individual freedom; and (4) conducting oversight of the Biden administration.
Rising Minimum Wage
Amid concerns with inflation and the strength of the economy, measures to increase the minimum wage garnered mixed support from voters. In Nebraska, the minimum wage will increase to $15.00 per hour in January 2024 after voters approved Measure 433 with 58 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results from the Nebraska Secretary of State on November 9.
Washington, D.C. approved Initiative 82, known as the District of Columbia Tip Credit Elimination Act, to eliminate a separate minimum wage for employees classified as “tipped workers.” Under the change, the minimum wage for tipped workers will gradually rise to the general minimum wage, which is $16.10 per hour, by 2027. The initiative passed with nearly 75 percent of the vote, according the unofficial results released by the District of Columbia Board of Elections.
At the same time, voters in Portland, Maine, the state’s most-populated city, shot down a referendum to eliminate the minimum wage credit for tipped workers and increase the minimum wage to $18.00 per hour over the next three years.
A measure in Nevada, Question 2, to remove the two-tiered system of minimum wage for employers who offer health benefits and those who do not and increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2024 was too close to call as of November 9.
Expanding Marijuana Legalization
Marijuana legalization was on the ballot in five states—Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota—but measures only passed in Maryland and Missouri, suggesting concerns with the drug, which is still illegal under federal law, remain in certain parts of the country. Meanwhile, a measure in Colorado to legalize psychedelic mushrooms and other naturally occurring psychedelic drugs was too close to call the day after the election.
Maryland voters approved Question 4 by a wide margin with 65.5 percent voting for and 34.5 percent voting against with most of the vote counted, according to unofficial results from the state board of elections early November 9. The question called for an amendment to the state constitution to allow for recreational marijuana uses by those 21 years of age or older.
Accompanying legislation passed by the state legislature would allow possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana or 12 grams of concentrated marijuana beginning on July 1, 2023 and will provide for the expungement of criminal marijuana offenses for conduct made legal under the act.
Missouri became the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana after voters approved Amendment 3 with 53.1 percent in favor and 46.9 percent against, according to the Missouri Secretary of State’s unofficial results on November 9, 2022. The measure amends the state’s medical marijuana provisions and allows those 21 years old and older to legally possess, purchase, consume, and cultivate marijuana for recreational purposes, effective December 8, 2022. The Missouri measure is significant because it provides employment protections for medical marijuana.
Stay tuned for Friday’s Beltway Buzz, our weekly newsletter summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway, which will provide commentary on the results from the midterm elections. Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments related to the midterm elections and will post updates on the Insights blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.