Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CLT testifies on tax, initiative amendment bills

CLT’s Associate Director Francis "Chip" Faulkner submitted testimony at two overlapping State House hearings yesterday.  Because he had not yet been called at the Revenue Committee hearing on Governor Patrick’s new taxes, he left testimony with the committee with information about the Massachusetts tax burden and CLT’s opposition to any new taxes including local option taxes.

We are gratified that our position reflects that of Speaker DiMasi; that this is the year to give cities and towns more management tools in the pension and health insurance areas.

Faulkner testified at the Judiciary Committee hearing, focusing on CLT opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment that would change the legislative vote requirement on initiative petitions for constitutional amendments.  He told the committee that other states which have the initiative amendment process do not give the legislature any input at all; in California, Colorado and other initiative states, proponents of an amendment go directly to the ballot after collecting sufficient signatures.

In Massachusetts, proponents must first collect signatures then get at least 50 votes in the Joint Constitutional Convention two sessions in a row.  If the requirement was a majority, there would be no advantage to petitioners for having collected thousands of signatures:  If they had the support of a majority of the Legislature, they could just file a legislative amendment with no additional effort at all.  The clear intent of the founders of our constitutional amendment process was to provide for some legislative input but give the advantage to the citizens who worked hard for ballot access.

When asked by the committee about other proposals to change the initiative petition process, Faulkner said that CLT thinks the initiative petition process should be left alone.

Rep. Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) testified in favor of the constitutional amendment he filed for CLT, to clearly define the eminent domain process as one that cannot be used for private gain or any reason but clearly essential public use.

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