Limited Taxation
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CLT Update
Saturday, November 27, 1999

"The biggest harvest of signatures, [Secretary of State Galvin] said, appears to have been collected by the campaign to roll back the income tax from 5.95 percent to 5 percent...."

Associated Press
Nov. 27, 1999

Thanks to the hard work and support of so many of you, it now appears that we will have enough signatures not only to qualify, but to preclude any challenge but the most frivolous by the Massachusetts Teachers Association -- the rapacious teachers union -- and its Gimme lobby front-group, the so-called Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts (TEAM).

To qualify, 57,100 certified signatures must be turned in to the Secretary of State by 5:00 PM on Wednesday.

The Secretary of State and the city/town clerks use a statewide computer network to continuously log in certified signatures on all petitions; they keep a running total. The last time we checked on Wednesday, our tax rollback petition showed an unofficial total of 107,327 signatures had been certified across the state, and the number has continued to mount ever since!

We may have learned a hard lesson the last time, but we seem to have learned it well indeed. "That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."

Of course, they don't count if they're sitting in a city or town clerk's office after the deadline. We've still got to pick them up for our final count and deliver them. Our volunteer drivers have already begun that task and will complete it by Tuesday. On Tuesday we will be totaling up the certified signatures, and on Wednesday we will deliver them to the Secretary of State.

Thanks so much to each and every one of you who participated in this tremendous effort. We certainly couldn't have done it without your contribution, and your activity appears to have been a good investment for all taxpayers!

Thank you one and all. What a team!

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Chip Ford

Associated Press
Saturday, November 27, 1999

Ballot questions near key deadline
By Martin Finucane

BOSTON (AP) With the deadline looming for submission of signatures on petitions to the secretary of state, it looks like there may be a host of referendum questions heading for the 2000 ballot.

Voters could be asked to decide at the polls whether the state should have universal health care, tax cuts, restrictions on pesticide use at schools, or a ban on dog racing just to name a few.

The ballot could stretch "from here to Chelsea," said Secretary of State William Galvin.

But there are powerful forces both proposing and opposing questions and there will likely be stumbling blocks in the way before the questions are placed on the ballot.

City and town clerks have been checking over the petition signatures and activists are supposed to bring in bundles of the certified petitions to the secretary of state by Wednesday.

Activists need 57,100 certified signatures to clear the first hurdle in the race to the ballot.

Then, if the Legislature doesn't act on their proposal by the first Wednesday in May, they need to collect another 9,517 petition signatures by July 5 before getting it on the ballot.

The course of getting a proposal on the ballot often doesn't run smoothly, however.

Opponents can appeal to the State Ballot Law Commission or go to state court, questioning the validity of a proposed law or the validity of the petitions containing the signatures.

"I would anticipate objections on several of these, based on the fact that the opposition is extremely well-financed," said Galvin.

Galvin, whose office has until the end of the year to examine the petitions, has early indications of how well the signature gatherers have done.

The biggest harvest of signatures, he said, appears to have been collected by the campaign to roll back the income tax from 5.95 percent to 5 percent, which has been run by anti-tax activists with the help of the state Republican party.

In second place was a proposal to ban dog racing, followed by a group of proposals that are in "reasonably good shape":

A proposal that would expand drug treatment, use forfeited assets to pay for the expansion, and change the law on seizing assets related to drug crimes;

A proposal to give a tax break to people who pay tolls or auto excise tax;

A proposal to open up cable TV networks to Internet service providers;

A proposal to increase the tax deductions for charitable giving; and

A proposal to eliminate the use of most chemical pesticides in schools, day care centers and child care programs in the state.

A proposal that would provide universal health care for Massachusetts residents is "close" to the required number ofsignatures, Galvin said, and looks as if it will make it.

A proposal easing the current restrictions on state aid to religious or other private schools also looks to have collected the required signatures, he said.

But the validity of the proposal, which would require a constitutional amendment and wouldn't be placed on the ballot until 2002 even if all went well, is still being decided in federal court.

The losers include a proposal allowing the Sunday sales of alcohol, proposals that would decriminalize marijuana, and a proposal to strengthen family and parental rights.

Some of the ballot battles are expected to be intense. Tax-cutters and unions are expected to go head-to-head over the tax cut proposals; cable TV companies and Internet providers are expected to clash over the cable TV-access question.

Chemical companies may jump in the fray to oppose the school pesticide ban.

State Ballot Law Commission challenges may be followed by legal cases. And if the technical challenges fail, the opposing sides will likely take to the airwaves to convince voters of the righteousness of their causes.

Massachusetts voters will cast ballots for a president, a senator and state lawmakers next November, true. But some of the hottest races may be over issues, rather than people.

Martin Finucane is a reporter in the AP's Statehouse bureau.

State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON ... The end of a year many lawmakers would like to forget is fast approaching, and the main political questions of next year will be framed in major measure by ballot questions due in Secretary William Galvin's office Wednesday. Many ballot initiatives address matters that legislators have rejected or ignored for years.

Two repeat campaigns launched two years ago but tossed out by the courts before they could reach voters. They are drives to lower the income tax rate from 5.95 to 5 percent and give a fiscal break to Massachusetts Turnpike users.

It appears seven or eight of the 13 possible referenda will make it to the next stage in the process. That means that by Wednesday's 5 pm deadline, they will have left with Secretary of State William Galvin's office enough signatures (57,100) to be filed for action when the new legislative year begins in January.

If the House and Senate fail to pass laws addressing ballot-bound issues by the first Wednesday in May, sponsors next year have until the end of June to collect another 9,517 signatures to guarantee a spot on the Nov. 7 ballot.

In 1998, sponsors of a question to end turnpike tolls were stymied when the courts ruled their plan was unfair to agency bondholders. It was a tough pill to swallow after a long, arduous signature-gathering process. This year they have a new scheme -- a tax credit to turnpike travelers and auto excise taxpayers.

Citizens and Limited Taxation and Government faced a different challenge. Enough signatures were collected but teachers unions and progressive tax policy advocates challenged the validity of signatures and got the question disqualified. This year's signature gatherers face a new hurdle -- a recent SJC ruling requires gatherers to meticulously accumulate scribble-freepetition forms.

THE COUNT ... "These are the cleanest petitions I've ever seen," said Jack McCarthy, chief of staff to Secretary of State William Galvin. Over the past two weeks, local registrars of voters have checked voter names and addresses and stamped sheets, noting how many certified signatures each contained.

Sponsors were urged to file early this year since the recent court decision has complicated the process. ...[T]he Supreme Judicial Court said the Secretary of State must disallow all signatures on any sheet containing a blemish, or any other marks not contained on the original document. For that reason, Galvin's office reports, many sheets are arriving with only one signature on them, adding more paper to the workload of local and state officials. And some sheets have already been disqualified, said McCarthy, most because parts were illegally highlighted, marked or doodled upon in a way that is considered objectionable in the wake of the SJC decision.

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