Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Saturday, July 17, 1999


Today, the good news is good and the bad news is bad. Very bad in fact.

First, the good news: Massachusetts set a new record for revenue collections this year, exceeding last year by 1.4 percent even on top of last year's personal exemption increase that kicked in this year. Though Beacon Hill is still sitting on all our extra money and won't give it back, it's good news for our ongoing effort to someday soon "keep the promise" and roll back the income tax rate to 5 percent.

The bad news, as reported here yesterday when it broke, is of course the ridiculous decision by our state Supreme Judicial Kangaroo Court (SJKC) on the initiative petition process.

If there was ever any doubt, now we know for sure that the primary qualifications to be a SJKC justice is dumb and dumber. Really, they've simply got to take off those foolish robes, step down from their lofty dias, and take a walk out into the real world where the rest of us live and breathe.

The SJKC decided that: "[T]he rule imposes a burden on petition proponents to make exact copies of the original and on circulators and signers to not 'scribble,' 'doodle,' highlight, underline, or write extraneous information on petitions ... This burden is not onerous."

No marks whatsoever -- NONE -- on their "pristine" petitions else all the signatures on that sheet will be rejected! No doodles, no scribbles, no marks, NO NOTHING WHATSOEVER AT ALL, or toss the whole sheet and disenfranchise every signer on it, because the signatures will not count!

It's rather obvious now that a Cabal contract has been put out to "hit" the initiative and referendum process here in the People's Republic, to "eliminate it with extreme prejudice" as they say.

There's been just a little too much democracy going on around here for too long.

This means the next time a petition drive is undertaken, either we'll have to hire a few hundred full-time lawyers and pay them just to collect signatures according to these new legal hurdles, or collect so darn many more than the requirement -- twice, maybe three times as many more than is required by the constitution. This way, even after the predatory teachers union's inevitable challenge, we'll still have enough to stick it to the oppressors!

CFord-Sig2.gif (4854 bytes)

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Saturday, July 17, 1999

State sets record for tax revenue
By Christy Casey
Globe Staff

Massachusetts set a new record for revenue collections this year with the total surpassing the previous year's collection by 1.4 percent.

State officials credited a robust economy and tax cuts with helping bring in $14.28 billion during the 12-month period that ended June 30.

"The fact we closed fiscal year 1999 above the benchmark of $14.160 billion is significant and is evidence that the economy in the Commonwealth continues to remain strong," said Revenue Commissioner Frederick A. Laskey.

Preliminary figures show withholding tax revenues totaled $6.75 billion, up 6.6 percent from last year, an indication that wages grew statewide. Income tax revenue increased 1 percent to $8.04 billion. Sales and use tax revenue increased by 10.4 percent, totaling $3.27 billion.

Corporate tax revenue, however, dropped 5.5 percent to $1.01 billion because of decreased corporate profits, Laskey said.

"The growth we experienced last fiscal year was on top of one billion dollars in tax cuts which resulted in larger refunds for taxpayers," Laskey said.


Associated Press
Friday, July 16, 1999

SJC orders clean iniative petitions
By Jean McMillan

BOSTON (AP) The state's highest court on Friday ruled that initiative petitions cannot be marked by doodles, highlighting or stray marks.

"This burden is not onerous," stated the court in its decision.

The court said alterations could be construed as advocacy and mislead signers as to the intent of a petition.

Secretary of State William Galvin said the decision will make it extremely difficult for people to get a question before the voters.

"It's going to be a real challenge to the signature gatherers, it's going to have to be a real professional effort," Galvin said.

Galvin said he agreed that highlighting and additional messages on petitions shouldn't be allowed, but he didn't think stray markings should be enough to disqualify whole pages of signatures.

He had suggested that the court allow his office and the State Law Ballot Commission have discretion in making those calls. For example, someone shouldn't be allowed to sabotage a petition by scribbling on it after it has been properly circulated, he and others had argued.

The court rejected that recommendation.

"We think the appropriate test is whether the copy is an exact copy of the original form provided by the Secretary," wrote Justice Ruth Abrams in a 10-page decision.

The decision stemmed from a successful move by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to thwart a school voucher movement.

The MTA successfully challenged enough signatures on petitions submitted by the Committee for Parental Choice in Education. The Committee wanted to remove a state prohibition against the use of public money for private schools.

"What this decision means is for any group that wants to start a petition drive is you have to have $60,000 that's the cost of paying paid signature gatherers for the required number of signatures," said committee chairman Cornelius Chapman.

Chapman said his group was considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court and planned to start another petition drive this fall.

The MTA applauded the decision.

"We disagreed with the petitioners about the process they followed and we continue to disagree with them on the merits of their proposed constitutional amendment itself," said MTA President Stephen E. Gorrie in statement.

But Galvin said the ruling will effect all referendums, including one being proposed by Gov. Paul Cellucci to roll back the state income tax to 5 percent.

In fact, Citizens for Limited Taxation, which has been fighting for such a ballot question, joined the court suit on the side of the Committee.

"We will have to collect at least twice as many signatures as we would have had to collect had the SJC decision been more reasonable," said CLT in a statement.

More than 57,000 valid signatures are required in the preliminary stage of an initiative petition. Those wished to get questions on the 2000 ballot need to get those signatures between September and December, Galvin said.

The Boston Globe
Saturday, July 17, 1999

SJC ruling toughens ballot petitions' chances
By William F. Doherty
Globe Staff

In a unanimous ruling that will make it more difficult to get initiative petitions on the Massachusetts ballot, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that any extraneous markings - even inadvertent doodles -- on a ballot signature sheet will disqualify the signatures on that sheet.

The high court, in an opinion written by Justice Ruth Abrams ruled against a school-choice group seeking to change the state constitution to permit aid to private and parochial schools. The group filed the initiative petition last year, but 3,507 of their signatures were disallowed because they were on sheets that had extraneous markings. The disallowed signatures left the group short of the 57,100 signatures needed.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the court's ruling "puts a great burden on collectors to keep the papers pristine."

In the future, he said, proponents of initiative petitions will need more signature collectors, and the ruling might even spur the growth of a cottage industry of professional signature collectors, which has already been started.

Among the markings on the challenged sheets are the names of towns and cities where the signatures were collected, the name of the signature collector, underlining of text in the summary of the proposed petition, and highlighting of instructions.

Galvin wanted the court to permit state officials to rule on the validity of such signature sheets on a case-by-case basis. He said neutral marks that neither mislead nor advocate should not invalidate a petition. But Galvin maintained that the court's "bright line" rule places too great a burden on the initiative process.

The court was emphatic, however.

"The statute does not permit any alterations of forms whether by copying machine, petition circulator or petition signer," Abrams wrote. "This burden is not onerous."

Petitioners are allowed to make copies of the original signature form issued by Galvin's office, but they must be exact copies.

"Exact copy means exact copy," the court said, rejecting the argument that it was restraining the right to file a petition or have one's signature counted.

The court said the law requires "circulators and signers not to scribble, doodle, highlight, underline or write extraneous information on petitions."

The court noted that the signature forms issued by Galvin's office contain a warning: "Do not alter this petition form in any way. Additional markings on this petition will disqualify any signatures on this page."

Attorney Michael C. Gilleran, who represents the school-choice group, said the ruling was a temporary setback, but it will galvanize his group to go out this fall and seek even more signatures.

He agreed with Galvin that the ruling might lead to more groups hiring professional signature gatherers who "know all these arcane rules."

"They will be carrying their petitions around in glass jars so that not a raindrop or coffee stain will fall on them," he said.

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