By Bob Katzen
Sponsors of possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election got the news today from Attorney General Maura Healey about whether their proposal met the requirements outlined in the constitution and can proceed to the next step in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot.
There were 28 initiative petitions filed and 21 of them proposing laws were given the green light by the attorney general. The next step is for supporters to gather 64,750 voter signatures by December 6, 2017. Their proposal would then be sent to the Legislature and if not approved by May 2, 2018, proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot.
Among those certified were providing paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers; reducing the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent while also establishing an annual sales tax holiday; prohibiting any state facilities from using electric shock therapy on individuals with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability; and increasing the minimum hourly wage to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022.
Seven of the 28 petitions filed got the thumbs down including ending all tolls on the state’s highways; requiring insurance coverage for holistic health care; and allowing law-abiding citizens to purchase small, buildable, city-owned vacant land at a fair market price.
Two proposals to amend the state’s constitution were also filed. The procedure for getting proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot is different than the one for getting a proposed law on the ballot. Sponsors must still gather 64,750 voter signatures by December 6, 2017. The proposal then goes before the Legislature and goes on the 2020 ballot only if approved by 25 percent (50 members) of the 2017-2018 Legislature and the 2019-2020 Legislature.
The proposed constitutional amendment that was certified declares that nothing in the Massachusetts Constitution requires the public funding of abortion.
The one that failed would have declared that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as individuals and that money is not free speech and may be regulated. That proposal was in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that decision, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting corporations, unions and individuals from donating unlimited funds to Super Political Action Committees (PACs) that do not donate directly to candidates or political parties.
In the 2016 election, 35 proposals were submitted, with only four ultimately collecting sufficient signatures to make it to the ballot. Only two of those were approved by voters and are law today. One legalized the possession, growing and sale of marijuana. The other one prohibits any farmers from confining any pigs, calves or hens in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs or turning around freely.
A complete list and summary of each of the petitions filed and whether they were certified can be found online by clicking on “Petitions Filed” at http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/initiatives-and-other-ballot-questions/