We Massachusetts voters
can look forward this fall to there being more proposed legislative
petitions on our street corners than there are Republicans running
petitions were just certified by the attorney general as being in
proper form for a ballot question. Some of these were different
versions of the same issue filed by groups who wanted to make sure
their language was acceptable, so there are actually 17 proposed
laws and/or constitutional amendments for us registered voters to
sign. As of my deadline, there are still 15 candidates, after Scott
Walker just dropped out.
As political activists
prepared to go to the streets with their petitions, a woman on talk
radio complained that itís such an imposition to be approached by
petitioners. I guess sheíd rather not get her property tax, auto
excise and income tax breaks, have access to the open meeting law
and medical marijuana, see hazardous waste sites identified, and
English language required to be taught in the public schools, just
to name a few ballot questions I voted for myself since moving to
In fact, I worked on some
of them Ė lots of people have, not just as paid staffers but as
volunteers, giving up weekends for two months to give this woman a
chance to make laws when legislators refuse to act. Well, maybe itís
too much effort for her to vote, also.
I know it takes a few
moments for responsible people to actually read the official summary
at the top of each petition, so maybe it will help if I give you a
heads-up on what you may encounter by telling you which ones I plan
to sign and not sign.
This is not the same as
saying how Iíll vote. For one thing, the initiative petition process
is so difficult that most of the certified petitions wonít make it
to the ballot; this is why you usually see only a few there with
that yearís candidates. For another, final decisions donít have to
be made until we have a chance to hear the pro and con arguments
during the election year. Some of us, I included, will sign a
petition just because we want to hear more about the subject.
First Iíll mention the
petitions for a state constitutional amendment. It takes four years,
and some legislative compliance, before we can amend the state
constitution, so these wonít be on the ballot until 2018.
One declares that the
state constitution may not be construed to require public funding of
abortion. Iíve thought for years that the federal government, as
well as Massachusetts, doesnít allow taxpayer funding for abortion,
but the new discussion about Planned Parenthood makes me wonder if I
missed something. Iím ďpro-choice,Ē but canít imagine why anyone
wants to force people who are ďpro-lifeĒ to pay for what they see as
murder. Iíll sign this one.
Wonít be signing the
petition to use a higher income tax rate on incomes in excess of $1
million, mostly because I find it both deceptive and dumb.
Deceptive, because the summary says that the extra money will be
used for education and transportation, and readers might miss the
phrase ďsubject to appropriation,Ē which means it will go wherever
the Legislature wants to spend it. One of the rules of the
initiative petition process is that you canít use it to appropriate
money for any specific expenditure.
Dumb, because if
millionaires get fed up with plans to tax them for any number of
government projects or more government waste, those now living in
Massachusetts might decide to leave for one of the eight states that
donít even have an income tax. If they do, our commonwealth wonít
even get the money from the present income tax rate for itself.
Moving on to petitions for
statutes, i.e. laws, which if roughly 70,000 signatures of
registered voters are collected by Thanksgiving, can be on the 2016
Here are some I like and
Ending Common Core
education standards. Massachusetts was doing just fine with its own
education reform, doesnít need the federal government telling it
what to do.
More access to public
charter schools. More choice for parents. Arenít we all in favor of
choice? Donít we care about better education for lower-income
children? Why then wonít the Legislature raise that cap on charters?
It might be nice to have
horse racing in Massachusetts again, so Iíll sign ďan act relative
to expanded gaming,Ē wait to hear the arguments pro and con.
Yes, I am signing ďan act
to prevent cruelty to farm animals.Ē Iím already eating only
cage-free chicken eggs, trying to eat less meat, or at least trying
to buy only meat from animals that are treated well until their
slaughter, odd though that sentence may seem. I hate to think of
animals caged and barely able to move for most of their lives.
However, I am cautious
about telling animal shelters what to do, so I need to learn a lot
more about the petitions on animal shelter record-keeping and
euthanasia levels. Our local shelters seem to do the best they can
with what they have to deal with: limited resources, and again,
inconsiderate, irresponsible, cruel, sick human beings.
Iím also cautious about
telling our health care system, energy suppliers and employers what
to do, though Iím curious about the fairer scheduling of workers.
I will sign my friend
Steve Epsteinís petition to legalize marijuana; though Iím inclined
to dislike the idea of getting high/stoned as much as I dislike the
idea of getting drunk, it is odd that we allow the latter and not
the former. Not sure how Iíll vote though; will ask my son, who runs
a family drug and alcohol therapy group.
Though I feel the same way
about tobacco, Iíll sign the petition to eliminate double taxation
of tobacco products because voters recently voted against double
taxation of wine.
I know Iím going to be
torn by the Whale Safe Fishing Act. I really want to save the
whales. I also want to save the fishermen. So need to hear a debate
on this before I sign.
Finally, I trust Secretary
of State Bill Galvin, long a friend of the initiative petition
process, to have done the best he can to draft a law relative to
public records. Iíll sign that one.
Unlike the woman on the
radio, I appreciate the effort that goes into direct democracy here.
Hope I see the petitions I want to sign when I am out and about in
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is a weekly columnist for the Salem News and
Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.