Massachusetts: Big Slate of Possible Ballot Questions Certified

Big Slate of Possible Ballot Questions Certified

By Colin A. Young and Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

SEPT. 6, 2023…..[Coverage Developing] The road to the November 2024 ballot continues for the most closely-watched initiative petitions, dealing with the role of the MCAS test as a graduation requirement, the rights and benefits for drivers on app-based platforms, rent control, voter identification and the auditor’s ability to audit the state Legislature.

Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office Wednesday said that it had certified almost all of the 42 potential ballot questions (proposing 38 laws that could be decided at the 2024 ballot and four constitutional amendments that could be decided in the 2026 election) that had been filed by the August deadline. Thirty-four proposals (in some cases representing multiple proposed versions of a potential question) were certified, seven were not certified and one was withdrawn by its sponsor, according to Campbell’s office.

Cleared to continue moving towards next year’s ballot was a question filed by Rep. Mike Connolly that would grant cities and towns a range of new “tenant protection” options, including the ability to impose rent control, which voters banned statewide via a 1994 ballot question.

Campbell’s office is already entangled in Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s attempts to audit the Legislature and on Wednesday her office certified a proposed question that would establish a state law explicitly permitting the auditor’s office to audit the Legislature.

DiZoglio has been pushing for months to audit the House and Senate, both of which she was once a member of. Top Democrats have resisted, arguing she does not have the authority and that doing so would violate the “separation of powers” required by the Constitution. In late July, DiZoglio appealed to Campbell for the attorney general’s support in a move toward litigation.

Two potential questions that would remove the MCAS exam as a high school graduation requirement were also given the green light Wednesday, as were measures that would gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to the same as the general minimum wage, decriminalize psychedelic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, and halt the state’s gas tax when gasoline prices are above a certain threshold.

Campbell’s office also approved multiple versions of a revived app-based driver question and a proposed law requiring voter identification. Petitioners often file multiple versions of a question for review in hopes of getting at least one certified by the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s office did not certify questions that would limit political spending by “foreign-influenced businesses,” establish a “Non-Partisan Top Five Election System,” change voter registration laws, and affirm a “Constitutional Birthright to be a Person.”

The decisions are based on whether the questions comply with a set of requirements in the state constitution governing initiative petitions.

Questions have to be “in proper form for submission to the people,” can only contain subjects that are “related” or “mutually dependent,” and cannot feature a proposal “substantially the same” as anything that went before voters in either of the two most recent biennial statewide elections. They also can’t touch certain topics, like religion, judges, specific state appropriations and portions of the state’s Declaration of Rights.

The campaigns that got the green light Wednesday will need to collect 74,574 signatures — 3 percent of the total votes cast for candidates for governor, excluding blanks, in the most recent election — and file them with local officials by Nov. 22, and then with the secretary of state’s office by Dec. 6.

Ballot questions with enough certified signatures will head to the Legislature in January 2024, where lawmakers can approve them, propose a substitute or decline to take action. If lawmakers opt against action by May 1, 2024, campaigns must collect another 12,429 signatures and file them with local officials by June 19, 2024, then the secretary of state’s office by July 3, 2024.

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