All Massachusetts initiative campaigns to submit signatures on June 18

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June 18, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

Seven Massachusetts ballot initiatives, which happen to all be initiated state statutes, survived the state's first signature deadline on November 20, 2013. The Massachusetts General Court had the opportunity to either reject or approve them by May 7, 2014. The legislature took up a number of the initiatives, including the Minimum Wage Initiative and the Bottle Deposits Initiative, but failed to adopt any of them by May 7.[1][2] Therefore, all seven of the ballot initiative campaigns entered a second round of signature gathering. Round two required 11,485 additional signatures to be submitted to local registrars by June 18, 2014.[3] On June 18 or prior, all seven initiative campaigns stated their intent to file gathered signatures for the second and final round of submissions.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) submitted signatures for two initiatives, the Nurses to Patients Ratio Initiative and the Regulation of Hospital Operating Margins and CEO Compensation Initiative. Approximately 25,000 signatures were collected for both proposed measures. David Schildmeier of the Massachusetts Nurses Association said, “We’re ready and willing to sit down and talk to get something done legislatively, but we’re ready to go to the ballot. Our polling shows there is public support of it.”[4]

Raise Up Massachusetts, another organization sponsoring two ballot measures, filed signatures for the Paid Sick Days Initiative and the Minimum Wage Increase Initiative. About 80,750 total signatures were submitted for the two proposals.[5] On the 18th, however, the state legislature agreed to a bill to increase the hourly minimum wage to $11. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is expected to sign the legislation.[6] Raise Up Massachusetts' plan calls for a slightly lower minimum wage at $10.50. Yet, the group spent the day turning in signatures. Raise Up Massachusetts, in response to the new legislation, stated, "We are continuing to turn in signatures to local cities and towns, and the bill would need to be signed by the Governor before our signature gathering deadline in order for us to consider withdrawing our ballot question."[7]

Supporters of the Expansion of Bottle Deposits Initiative, which is sponsored by the Coalition for a Litter-Free Massachusetts, announced that they intended to submit over 27,000 signatures on Wednesday the 18th.[8] The measure, upon voter approval, would expand the state’s beverage container deposit law to require deposits on all containers of nonalcoholic drinks, except beverages derived from dairy, infant formula or medications.[9]

Tank the Gas Tax's Automatic Gas Tax Increase Repeal Initiative stated their intention to submit over 18,500 signatures to local officials.[10] A 2013 law that ties gas tax increases to inflation, allowing for automatic annual increases in the state's gas tax, would be repealed with voter approval of the measure.[11]

One initiative, known as the Casino Repeal Initiative, faces not only the signature verification challenge, but a court battle before the referendum can be placed on the ballot. Over 26,000 signatures are expected to be submitted on the signature due date.[12] Opponents are contesting the measure, however, saying the repeal would jeopardize the constitutional property contract rights of casino developers. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will make the final decision on the measure's legality.[13]

The outcome of these seven initiatives will be known after local officials file their certifications with the Massachusetts Secretary of State on July 2, 2014.

See also