Which Ballot Questions Got Enough Signatures To (Possibly) Go To Voters?

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/12/07/which-ballot-questions-got-enough-signatures-to-possibly-go-to-voters/

By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON — Questions dealing with the minimum wage, sales tax, paid family and medical leave, nurse staffing and a campaign finance commission may be one step closer to coming before voters next year, after their backers submitted signatures to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office.

Campaigns backing seven ballot questions turned in their paperwork by a Wednesday deadline, according to Galvin’s office, though the petitions have not yet been certified as having enough signatures from registered voters — 64,750 were required — to move on to the Legislature, the next step in the process.

Signatures were submitted on behalf of two versions of the nurse staffing question. Backers of a petition seeking a constitutional amendment that would allow the exclusion of abortion from state-funded health care programs submitted signatures Wednesday but they did not submit a sufficient number of signatures, according to Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

Attorney General Maura Healey in September had certified 21 potential ballot questions, allowing them to move on to the signature-gathering phase. In 2016, only four of the 35 petitions filed ultimately ended up on the ballot, three of which survived court challenges along the way.

Opponents of a constitutional amendment already cleared for next year’s ballot, which would impose a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million, have filed a lawsuit seeking to keep it from coming before voters.

The Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition, which is behind the surtax proposal, is also backing ballot questions that would gradually raise the hourly minimum wage from $11 to $15 and institute a paid family and medical leave insurance program. Its members collected 139,055 signatures to advance the minimum wage question and 135,597 to advance the question that could give workers up to 16 weeks of job-protected paid leave for family illnesses.

The group aiming to reduce the sales tax to 5 percent and establish an annual tax-free weekend, the Massachusetts Main Street Fairness Coalition, said it turned in 117,638 signatures in support of its question.

“There exists significant support for reducing the state sales tax and creating an annual sales tax holiday with the voters, as evidenced by recent public polls and the ease at which we were able to collect signatures,” said Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst, who is also serving as coalition chairman.

While the Democrat-controlled Legislature leans against major reductions in broad-based taxes, Hurst has said he would be willing to work with lawmakers on a compromise that would prevent the need to take the sales tax question to the ballot.

The two nurse staffing questions, backed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, seek to put limits on the maximum number of patients that can be assigned to one nurse at a time. Proponents drove more than 100,000 signatures to Beacon Hill in the back of an ambulance and then wheeled them to Galvin’s office on gurneys.

The final question that may still be on track for the ballot at this point would ask voters to establish a non-partisan “Citizens Commission” to advance a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court ruling in the campaign finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The People Govern Not Money campaign says it turned in more than 85,000 certified signatures in support of the question.

If ballot question proponents are unable to advance their initiatives in the Legislature in 2018, campaigns will have until June 19 to file an additional 10,792 signatures with Galvin’s office, with a maximum of 2,698 from any one county.

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