In the upcoming election, voters will be asked to vote on four very different binding ballot questions. If approved, the laws would take effect on July 1, 2015. There are also two additional non-binding questions for voters in Representative Kay Khan’s and Representative Ruth Balser’s districts. Information on each is below, along with recommendations from the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts on the first three questions, based on its study of the issues surrounding each. For more information on each of these questions, please visit LWVMA.org.
The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts also has a Voter’s Guide to the Candidates for six statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and auditor.
Ballot Question #1, about Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing
This proposed law would repeal a law passed in 2013 that requires the state gasoline tax to be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
The LWVMA urges a NO vote on this ballot question. Gas tax revenues are essential to financing the Commonwealth’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Without this revenue source, the Commonwealth cannot possibly even maintain roads and bridges as they are, much less improve their overall condition We believe indexing the gasoline tax to the CPI provides funding needed to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Ballot Question #2, about Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law
This proposed law, which has been pending in the State legislature for 12 years, would update the state’s existing Bottle Bill to include most non-carbonated beverages. It would increase the handling fee and make other changes to the existing law. This bill has never been brought to a vote in the House of Representatives, but the Senate has passed it twice – during each of the last two legislative sessions. It has been strongly resisted by bottlers and supermarkets, despite polls showing widespread public support.
The LWVMA urges a YES vote on this ballot question. The League worked hard to collect signatures to put this question on the ballot, because the expansion of the Bottle Bill will greatly reduce litter and increase the rates of recycling, which means significant “source reduction.” The original bottle bill, passed in 1983 and championed by then state senator from Newton Lois Pines, led to a 7% reduction in the solid waste stream. About 80% of containers with a deposit are redeemed or recycled now, whereas only 23% of containers without a deposit are redeemed or recycled. There is much interest in capturing those items for recycling in many of our communities today.
The proposed law would allow the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to adjust the deposit amount every 5 years to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index as well as changes in redemption center costs. The value could not be set below five cents. A state Clean Environment Fund will be established to receive unclaimed deposits and will be used to support projects related to improving the environment.
Ballot Question #3, about Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming
The law would prohibit casinos, any gaming establishment with slot machines, and betting on simulcast greyhound races, even if they have been granted licenses to operate.
LWVMA urges a YES vote on this ballot question. The LWVMA has long opposed casinos and gaming in MA, because the social impact and the cost in human services outweigh projected gains in tax revenue and employment. Legalization of gambling will not generate sufficient tax revenue, tourism or employment to justify the financial costs of increased municipal services, police protection and the establishment of a regulatory body, or the social costs of increased gambling addiction and the mental health services needed to treat it. Supporters strongly believe that casinos will provide a big economic boost, but the evidence for this is weak.
Ballot Question #4, about Earned Sick Time for Employees
LWVMA neither supports nor opposes this ballot question. This ballot question would entitle private and public employees in MA to earn and use sick time according to certain conditions. Workers in companies with 11 or more employees would earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, and workers in companies with 10 or fewer employees would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.
Ballot Question #5 (Non-Binding)
LWVN neither supports nor opposes this ballot question. This ballot question instructs the state representative to support legislation that would require an election to approve the sale of municipal real estate greater than 7500 sq. ft.
Ballot Question #6 (Non-Binding)
LWVN neither supports nor opposes this ballot question. This ballot question directs the state representative to support legislation allowing local elected officials input into 40B projects under review by the local zoning Board of Appeals.