By Bob Katzen
The clock is ticking away as sponsors of several possible ballot questions for the November 2018 election now face their final deadline in the long process to get their proposed law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. The Legislature did not act on any of the proposals by the May 2 deadline which means proponents must gather another 10,792 signatures by July 4, 2018, in order for the question to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The questions include:
HIKE MINIMUM WAGE – Increases the minimum hourly wage from $11 per hour to $12 in 2019, $13 in 2020, $14 in 2021 and $15 in 2022.
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE – Creates a program to provide paid family and medical leave to Massachusetts workers.
REDUCE SALES TAX TO 5 PERCENT AND ESTABLISH A PERMANENT SALES TAX HOLIDAY – Reduces the state’s sale tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and at the same time establishes an annual two-day permanent sales tax holiday in August that allows consumers to buy most products that cost under $2,500 without paying the sales tax.
LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PATIENTS PER NURSE – Limits how many patients can be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other healthcare facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care.
CORPORATE CAMPAIGN DONATIONS – Creates a citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the U.S. Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and that corporations’ campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.
The proposal is in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. the 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.
Two other questions have already been certified to appear on the 2018 ballot:
4 PERCENT TAX HIKE ON MILLIONAIRES – Proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4 percent income tax, in addition to the current flat 5.10 percent tax, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million.
REPEAL TRANSGENDER RIGHTS – Repeals the new law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations by adding “gender identity” to existing Massachusetts law which already prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.
In the 2016 election, only four questions ultimately made 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 prohibited 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.