Hallelujah! Having addressed public employee
health insurance reform earlier this year, the Massachusetts
Legislature is now addressing public employee pension reform.
If done responsibly over union objections,
this will be good news for taxpayers, especially future
taxpayers who are stuck with the unfunded liabilities; it is
also good, long-term, for public employees who otherwise could
lose more retirement benefits if the commonwealth goes bankrupt.
It seems as if Beacon Hill is starting to
face fiscal reality — and the reality that hit home when voters
replaced several legislators at the 2010 election, thereby
earning the respect of those remaining. Why, I hear that the
Legislature might actually start to roll back the income-tax
rate, which voters mandated be phased down to its traditional 5
percent in the 2000 election and legislators froze at 5.3
percent in 2002.
It would be only a .05-percent cut, but
nevertheless, it shows a certain beginner respect for voters
that could give heart to activists who have filed initiative
petitions this fall.
These activists will be getting the petition
forms from the Secretary of State this week, so you may see them
on a street-corner, at a shopping center, post office or town
I myself sign for issues with which I agree,
or that I just want to see on the 2012 statewide ballot for
public debate and decision.
I won't be signing the constitutional
amendment for universal health insurance, an earlier version of
which was supplanted by RomneyCare.
For all its costs and problems, the new
health insurance law passed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and the
Legislature stopped the socialized medicine initiative in 2006.
So I can't think why we need this petition now, with most of us
I also won't be signing the petition
repealing the individual mandate in RomneyCare, until proponents
also oppose the federal mandate to treat everyone whether they
have insurance or not, at the expense of those of us who do.
I understand people don't want to be told
they must buy health insurance, but are they willing to wear a
med bracelet saying, "Don't treat me"?
Better to put effort into cost control —
repealing the broad areas of mandated coverage and allowing more
industry competition for more affordable basic policies.
But on the subject of health, I like the
petition to allow the humanitarian medical use of marijuana in
Massachusetts. Why a sick person can't get relief from various
symptoms by using marijuana, when he can be given other,
stronger drugs like morphine, has always been a mystery to me.
I also never understood how the state could
overrule me on my right to die when I want. I had hoped someday
to do a petition myself, asserting the right to choose "death
with dignity" at the end of life. Now that I'm an age when the
issue might arise, I'm glad someone is doing it, with a proposed
law drafted to avoid abuses — by having it apply only to people
who are already in the final stages of dying.
So let's have a ballot discussion on "whose
life is it, anyhow?"
Speaking of choice, there's a petition for
excellence in education, that seems focused on defining good
teachers. Why not just encourage more charter schools, where
parent/consumers choose those that have what they perceive to be
good teachers, because their kids are learning?
One petition that puzzles me is the one
limiting the amount by which water and sewer rates may be raised
only 2½ percent a year. It's drafted with language similar to
Proposition 2½, with an override provision.
I remember battles in the past over water and
sewer rates, but after these costs were removed from the
property tax in most communities, and replaced by user fees, I
haven't heard many complaints. I tried to find out who is
sponsoring it, but the contact answering machine is in Georgia
and no one has returned my call. Something is fishy here; stay
MassPIRG has a petition to expand the bottle
bill to include juice and other containers. I love recycling,
but never liked the government forcing grocery stores to bear
the recycling burden, or the state getting the money from
unreturned cans and bottles. Better to encourage more local
Speaking of grocery stores, once again
there's a petition to allow them to sell wine. I just bought a
nice Yellowtail chardonnay at Crosby's Market to take to a
dinner party, so what's the problem?
All initiative petitions must follow certain
rules in order to be certified by the attorney general. One that
was rejected this year would require voters to show
identification when they vote — the AG's office saw a problem
with the fact that an official Massachusetts ID costs money, and
that would interfere with our constitutional requirement for
Fine, so long as the AG's office is prepared
to prosecute anyone caught voting in November 2012 who isn't a
Massachusetts citizen, or caught voting more than once.
There are more petitions this year than I can
cover here. It's good to participate in Massachusetts' version
of direct democracy, but be sure to read the official summary at
the top of the petition sheet before you sign.
Petitions filed with the state Attorney General's office
and their status