Mass. AG gives OK to 28 proposed ballot questionsBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Sep. 4, 2013 7:31 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — Attorney General Martha Coakley has given a constitutional OK to the majority of proposed ballot questions activists are hoping to put before voters next year, including a minimum wage hike and a cut in the state sales tax.
Coakley said all but five of 33 proposed questions met the constitutional requirement. The 28 certified petitions cover 14 topics, with some activists submitting more than one version of a question on the same topic, Coakley said.
Among the five that failed were proposals that would have repealed the state's casino gambling law, outlawed casino gambling in Massachusetts and required labels on genetically modified foods. Another disqualified question sought to create a constitutional amendment declaring that "corporations are not people, money is not speech."
Among those questions moving forward are proposed nurse-patient staffing ratios and a repeal of a new tax on computer software services.
Coakley, a Democrat, said her office's ruling on questions "do not reflect any opinion on the merits or values of the petitions, but simply that the constitutional requirements were met."
The minimum wage question would raise the wage from $8 to $10.50 per hour over two years. The lead petitioner U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also a Democrat. The proposal is backed by labor groups.
Another lead petitioner, Fall River resident Linda Mae Pittsley, said she was thrilled the question cleared the hurdle.
"Employees who put in a full day of work should earn enough money to support their families," Pittsley, who has worked low-wage jobs, said in a statement.
Labor activists also are backing a second question that would create a statewide earned sick time policy. That question also was ruled constitutional by Coakley.
A number of questions taking aim at tax policy also got an OK from Coakley.
One would reduce the state's sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent, repealing an increase that went into effect in 2009. Voters in 2010 rejected a question that would have lowered the rate to 3 percent.
Another question would repeal a new law that applies the sales tax to computer and software technology services while another would undo a portion of a new transportation law that automatically links future hikes in the gas tax to increases in the rate of inflation.
Environmentalists are pushing an initiative that would expand the types of bottles covered by Massachusetts' 1982 bottle bill. The original law created a 5-cent deposit on carbonated drinks. The question, which also cleared the initial hurdle, would expand the law to include non-carbonated drinks such as water, tea and sports drinks.
Another question seeks to protect whales and sea turtles from commercial fishing gear while another initiative, dubbed the Massachusetts Family Sunshine Protection Act, would make daylight saving time the year-round standard time for the state.
The questions face a tough road to the 2014 ballot, with supporters required to collect more than 80,000 voter signatures. Last year, only three of 31 proposed initiative petitions made the ballot.