Potential 2016 Ballot Questions Find Out Their Fate
Some of the prospective 2016 ballot questions that passed the constitutional scrutiny of Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday are your typical initiative petition fare involving taxes, education, and marijuana while others are a bit more unusual like a mysterious effort not to repeal but expand the state’s gaming law, a constitutional amendment seeking a ban on public funding for abortion, and a push to change the pricing of health care services.
Of the 32 submitted to Healey’s office, 20 regular initiative petitions and two constitutional amendments survived the vetting process. Ballot questions seeking the legalization of fireworks in Massachusetts, a study on radiation’s health affects on people, and some weird constitutional amendment about regulating corporations did not survive Healey’s review. Successful ballot questions now move forward in the process to the signature gathering phase while the unsuccessful campaigns are left with the option of appealing Healey’s decision in court or starting over.
Two groups attempting to legalize marijuana for recreational use, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Bay State Repeal, found themselves on the good side of Healey’s review when their dueling petitions were approved. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s petition is of a replica of successful legalization efforts that created a regulatory framework for pot in places like Colorado and Washington while Bay State Repeal’s campaign is more of a wide open elimination of the state’s current marijuana laws. It’s unclear what will happen if both ballot questions obtain the necessary number of certified signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
Activists behind the paid sick time campaign in 2014 are pushing a constitutional amendment that would poke holes in the state’s often challenged but never changed flat income tax. The group, Raise Up Massachusetts, wants to see an additional four percent tax levied on individuals with earnings of $1 million in what amounts to a backhanded way to get a graduated income tax in Massachusetts. All previous efforts to implement some form of a graduated income tax have failed miserably at the ballot box in Massachusetts due to the hard work of anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson.
On the always reliable animal rights front, two separate groups are moving forward with initiatives to protect whales and animals in shelters. Richard Maximus Strahan, a longtime activist/gadfly in the Boston area is pushing a ballot question that would require fishermen in Massachusetts to change the kind of nets and lines they use. His initiative would block the state from issuing licenses to commercial fishermen that use equipment “known to historically cause the entanglement of any whale or sea turtle.”
Pearl Cohen submitted ballot questions that if passed would reform the way animal shelters keep records and attempt to curtail euthanasia in said shelters.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State William Galvin’s public records ballot question was approved by Healey but there is still time for the legislature to pass the reform package he wants and save Galvin from being in the unusual position of gathering signatures for something he could not pass on Beacon Hill.