Ballot question backers deliver needed signaturesBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Dec. 3, 2013 3:49 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — Supporters of ballot questions that would raise the minimum wage, create a statewide earned sick time policy and update the state's bottle deposit law say they've delivered more than enough certified signatures to put the issues before voters next year.
The labor-backed Raise Up Massachusetts Coalition held a rally in front of the Statehouse before dropping off what they said were a quarter million certified signatures at Secretary of State William Galvin's office.
At least 68,911 certified signatures are required this election cycle, although activists typically try to collect significantly more to fend off potential challenges.
The minimum wage question would raise the wage from $8 to $10.50 per hour over two years and link automatic future hikes to the rate of inflation.
That question could become moot if state lawmakers approve a higher minimum wage. The state Senate has approved an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over three years, also tying future raises to inflation. The House hasn't taken up the measure.
The sick time question would require Massachusetts employers to provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked. Workers would begin accruing sick time when they are hired, but wouldn't be able to being using it for 90 days.
The coalition has political heavyweights supporting both questions.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is the lead petitioner on the sick time question while fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the lead petitioner on the minimum wage question.
"No one working long and hard hours in a full-time job should be living in poverty. But right now, that's the reality for far too many Massachusetts families working in minimum wage jobs," Warren said in a statement.
Backers of the question that would expand the types of bottles covered by Massachusetts' bottle deposit law said they delivered more than 105,000 certified signatures. The landmark 1982 law created a 5-cent deposit on carbonated beverages.
For more than a decade, activists have been pressing state legislators to expand the law to include non-carbonated beverages like water, tea and sports drinks, arguing it would encourage consumers to recycle the bottles.
"It defies logic, why the Legislature has sat on such a popular, common-sense and money-saving bill for so many years," Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG said in a statement.
Critics said expanding the law would cost voters and businesses more with little benefit for the environment.
Massachusetts should instead focus on expanding and improving curbside pickup and making it easier to recycle on the go, said Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association which represents the supermarket and grocery industry.
Wednesday is the deadline for certified signatures to be delivered to Galvin.
Other proposed questions would repeal the state's 2011 casino law, undo a new law linking future hikes in the gas tax to inflation, and create nurse-patient staffing ratios.
Wednesday isn't the final deadline in the process. Another 11,485 new certified signatures are needed by July to secure a spot on the 2014 ballot if lawmakers fail to act on the questions by then.