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CLT&G Update
Tuesday, December 8, 1998

The bloody stake was driven through the heart of the initiative/referendum process by the state Supreme Judicial Kangaroo Court.

Last year's decision against the electric utilities deregulation referendum's signatures, in a challenge brought by the electric utilities of course, has come home to roost.

In that challenge, first the state ballot law commission then the SJKC tossed out thousands of signatures (some 12,000) on very specious grounds . . . like that the proponents had stamped their return address on the petition forms, or had underlined or highlighted text in the summary, etc.

Though many thousands of certified signatures more than required were collected, Question 4 only limped onto the ballot with a few signatures to spare.

What the SJKC ruled was that nothing -- N-O-T-H-I-N-G -- can be put on the petition sheet but signatures, and I'm beginning to expect that even voter signatures will be targeted as "unconstitutional" next by the state's highest court -- if anyone ever again manages to somehow get that far.

Any mark whatsoever other than a voter's signature on a virgin white petition form is now grounds enough to toss the whole page of thirty or forty signatures of registered voters.

Remember how you used to write a town name at the top of the page, just so you could find it quickly, or write your name at the top? Today that would doom that entire page under the SJKC's convoluted new interpretation of the Constitution!

In the school choice initiative, below, an entire petition sheet was disqualified for such petty foolishness as an ink doodle on the sideline to get a ballpoint pen to write.

Any group will need an army of legal scholars out there collecting signatures in order to pull off a successful petition drive, and even that might not be enough!

Petitions certified by city and town clerks on which the clerks themselves had made their own notes (ie., the name of the petitioner who had turned in the petition, or a sheet number or date filed) were rejected by the Secretary of State's office unless the clerk provided a letter claiming the marks as their own. According to what passes today for SJKC wisdom and jurisprudence, the petitions could otherwise have been corrupted by marks that may have confused or influenced signers!

Due to low voter turnout in November, the required number of certified signatures for an initiative petition has been eased by about 8,000. But for all practical purpose, we have lost our constitutional right to the initiative and referendum process, seized from us by the black robes of Beacon Hill.

It will in fact remain lost at least until and unless some federal court comes down on the Cabal with both feet and reinstates democracy and constitutional intent here in the Peoples Republic.

We'll keep you posted as this obnoxious situation evolves.

Chip Ford --

PS. For a more positive message, be sure to read today's Boston Herald editorial, "A good argument for state tax cut," following the SHNS report, below.

Monday, December 7, 1998


SHNS . . . TH . . . DECEMBER 7, 1998 . . . The Secretary of State's office today tossed out a constitutional amendment allowing public dollars to be spent on private schools, ruling that many voter signatures of support had been gathered on invalid petition forms.

After reviewing the 58,932 signatures submitted by the Committee for Parental Choice last week, Secretary William Galvin invalidated 3,507 signatures gathered on petition sheets that had been marked with highlighters or underlining.

Galvin's decision dropped the CPC 1,832 signatures short of the 57,100 necessary to place the constitutional amendment before the Legislature.

A CPC spokesman said his group would likely challenge the ruling in either state or federal court.

Galvin's decision follows a June 1998 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that prohibited initiative petitioners from marking the petition forms. In the ruling, the SJC said, "the petition must be an exact copy of the official form, nothing less and nothing more."

In Hurst vs. O'Connor [the recent referendum on electric utilities deregulation] a case involving highlighted address boxes that had been added to signature petitions -- the SJC said the alterations could distract petition signers.

Today, CPC chairman Cornelius Chapman said the SJC's decision in the Hurst case was of "dubious" quality.

"At this point, we have not decided whether we will be appealing this in state or federal court," said Chapman, a lawyer who said he is working for free. "We feel that (Galvin's) decision frustrates the will of 58,932 voters in Massachusetts."

Chapman said CPC would likely bring a case to overturn Galvin and the SJC using the federal voting rights act. That law prohibits public officials from invalidating votes or petition signatures for "immaterial defects," Chapman said.

"The question isn't whether the Secretary of State is correctly interpreting the SJC's ruling," he said. "The question is whether the SJC can rule as it did, and be consistent with federal law."

In fact, Galvin and Attorney General Scott Harshbarger had argued in the Hurst case thatminor extraneous markings would not distract signers. The court overruled them.

On several CPC petition sheets thrown out by Galvin today, only the town and the filing date were highlighted. Some signatures were tossed because they were on poorly photocopied -- but generally readable -- sheets.

The CPC measure has already sparked a lawsuit because the state Constitution specifically prohibits amendments that divert public dollars to private schools. In September, a judge allowed CPC to gather signatures, even though the effort is still technically barred.

The suit challenges that so-called anti-aid amendment that critics say is rooted in century-old anti-Catholic bigotry. Today, Chapman said the Catholic Church is not funding his efforts.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Teachers Association said the union would likely fight any appeal by CPC.

"As far as we're concerned, the petition is D.O.A. unless Mr. Chapman and his group do something to revive it," said MTA general counsel Ann Clarke. "We think that it's clear that the initiative petition process cannot be used to amend the anti-aid amendment. It's clear as a bell that over time any anti-religious flavor this had has been eliminated. This is a provision that's aimed at protecting and preserving public education."

The Boston Herald
Tuesday, December 8, 1998

Lead Editorial:

A good argument for a state tax cut

A new report on the Massachusetts economy calls attention to a loss of workers to other states because of our high cost of living. The best immediate countermeasure is the long-stalled cut in the state's income tax rate.

The worker exodus spotlighted by the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth has slowed dramatically since the depths of the last recession, but still ought to be a cause for worry that it continues in good times. More than 70,000 people moved out in 1990-1991; in 1996-1997 the departures were only about 10 percent as many. The inability to find enough workers is a real threat to our economy.

The biggest components of our high cost of living are housing and taxes. Housing costs take a long time to do anything about. But taxes can be changed by a vote of the Legislature. The income tax rate was raised from 5 percent to 5.95 percent in 1989 to help keep the state solvent; the Legislature has resisted all proposals to lower it even though the increase was billed at the time as "temporary."

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University estimates that reducing the rate to 5 percent would generate $560 million in new spending by business on buildings, machinery and equipment and an additional payroll of $3.9 billion for some 92,500 new jobs (the state has about 3 million jobs).

The institute estimates that about 69,000 jobs would be filled by residents not now in the labor force -- and about 23,500 by people moving in from other states.

That's more than three times the recent annual out-migration. For the sake of our prosperity, this tax reduction is one to pass as soon as possible next year.

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