Image by Scott Murry
This November, Mass is set to have a relatively sleepy election, despite the race for the governorship. Midterms usually go that way, but this year’s lack of local fireworks in either federal or state races is building up to be an overall snooze fest, and a poorly attended one at that.
If people stay home this November though, it won’t be for a lack of important things to vote on. The commonwealth is one of 25 states that allows residents to enact laws through popular referendum—that’s how we got marijuana decriminalization in 2008, and a repeal of our alcohol sales tax in 2010—and this election cycle packs a promising menu of measures.
Historically speaking, 54 percent of questions put to Bay State voters have been approved since 1990. This time, after much speculation and signature wrangling—and in one case a court intervention—four initiatives remain from an initial field of 33. So there are really only two questions left: Which ones will pass, and which will flame out? (Ed. note: Odds are not based on polls or exact science.)
Q1: Repeal of 2013 Gas Tax Indexing
Function: Would do away with the gas tax increase/Consumer Price Index tie-in passed in the summer of 2013. You know, the one that helps pay for public transportation.
Groups Supporting: Republicans, people who are too lazy to ride the train.
Groups Opposing: Democrats, conservationists, transit advocates.
Odds of Passing: Even. We’re a state that loves to pass new taxes almost as much as we like to repeal them (see: the Alcohol Sales Tax in 2010, and the Computer Services Tax that was passed then repealed by the legislature last year). With the midterms being relatively quiet and GOP hopeful Charlie Baker bringing conservatives out, the anti-tax crowd thinks it has the numbers—but we shall see.
Sexiness: 1 flaming ballot doused in crude oil.
Q2: Updating the Bottle Bill
Function: Would allow new types of bottles to be redeemed in Mass, and tie the redemption value of bottles to the Consumer Price Index.
Groups Supporting: Environmentalists, MassPIRG, Earth lovers in general.
Odds of Passing: 3-2. Bay State residents are among the few in the nation with any kind of Bottle Bill, and as such have come to see its benefits firsthand for over three decades. This minor expansion has a solid shot, even though opponents have blanketed the airwaves with repulsive lies and smears.
Sexiness: 3 flaming ballots.
Q3: Law to Prohibit Casino Gambling
Function: Would repeal the law passed in 2011 to expand legal gambling in Mass, and block plans to establish casinos near Boston, Springfield, and elsewhere in the state.
Groups Supporting: The activist organization Repeal the Casino Deal, communities where moguls want to build casinos.
Groups Opposing: Casino developers, the American Gaming Association, guys with bad hair.
Odds of Passing: 10-1. Despite all the bad press, cronyism, corruption, and NIMBYism compromising the initial licensing process, most people are still secret ballers and want casinos in Mass.
Sexiness: 21 flaming ballots.
Q4: Law Relative to Earned Sick Time
Function: Would mandate paid sick days for all workers statewide—the first system of its kind in the country. All employees would be entitled to a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, and could earn up to 40 hours per calendar year.
Groups Supporting: Unions, religious and community organizations.
Groups Opposing: Business groups, capitalist monsters.
Odds of Passing: 4-1. Even though instituting mandatory paid sick time (and being first in the country to do) would be an incredible step forward for workers, the proposal’s chances suffer from its companion—a proposal to raise the minimum wage—being withdrawn in early July.
Sexiness: 1 snot-filled ballot.
BONUS: NOTABLE REJECTED MEASURES
*A Constitutional Amendment to Declare that “Corporations are not people, money is not speech.” This one was disqualified by Attorney General Martha Coakley for allegedly conflicting “with certain constitutional rights.”
*A Law Raising the Minimum Wage. This effort was withdrawn after Beacon Hill lawmakers got off their asses and enacted their own hike in June.
*Genetically Modified Food Right to Know Act. This one would have created a labeling requirement for all products containing GMOs, but was also rejected by the Attorney General early in the process for vague reasons.