Looking Ahead to Ballot Issues

A handful of ballot initiatives have passed constitutional muster and, if backers gather enough signatures, you’ll vote on them next fall.

The first round of signatures are being counted and verified now.

Each petition needs 57,500 certified signatures. Then, if legislators don’t pass similar legislation by next May, proponents will have to gather another 9,517 names to get on the ballot.

Originally there were 24 proposed initiatives for the 2002 ballot. But the Attorney General whittled it down to just 16 proposed laws and two constitutional amendments. The latter would have to be approved by 25 percent of the legislature in two consecutive sessions, so they couldn’t become law until 2004, when they’d finally appear on the ballot.

Some of the issues disqualified included universal health care, election of Massport board members, and recall elections for sheriffs.

Initiative petitions, by the way, can’t authorize expenditures, interfere with the judiciary branch or religion, or violate constitutional rights like freedom of speech

You could, however, be asked to decide about everything from speed limits to eliminating the state income tax. And, you will be.

As well as a few more difficult things. Like the so-called Protection of Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman, thus preventing the courts or legislature from considering same-sex unions a marriage.

There’s a petition–the first to turn in over 100,000 signatures–that would limit bilingual education to one year, thus mainstreaming students into regular English-speaking classrooms. But another would mandate alternatives to this plan.

Horsemeat? The Brown’s Beauty Bill would ban the slaughter of Massachusetts horses for human consumption. With horsemeat a delicacy in foreign markets, it’s become a profitable business here. The meat, by the way, goes for about $20 a pound abroad.

Other bills would provide paid family leaves for birth and adoption, with benefits of half their weekly wage for up to 12 weeks, increase the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7 and tie the minimum wage to changes in the Consumer Price Index.

There are four petitions called the Small Government Act to Reduce Taxation, which would establish a state tax revenue limit, forcing the state to find ways to cut taxes and limit revenue growth. They just use various and different calculations.

Another would require that coal ash be regulated like other forms of solid waste and repeal the law that allows them to be used in products like concrete blocks and the base for road construction.

Still another would allow local zoning boards of appeal to impose regulations regarding size, setbacks and parking for developments. They could also prevent developments physically or environmentally unsuitable for the parcel in question.

There is also an act that would protect children during divorce proceedings, by keeping siblings together in custodial situations, preventing custodial parents from moving more than 50 miles apart from the other, and taking parental rights away from any parent that falsely accuses the other of being unfit.

It’s your chance to make a law. Through the initiative petition. Don’t ask me my opinion–this is your chance to make law.

If you need more information on any of the suggestions, call me after the first of the year. By then, we’ll know which petitions are still alive, and which failed in the signature phase.

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