SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 5, 2014

Anderson: Checking in on Massachusetts: gun controls, welfare and more

(Continued)

Supporters of the Tank the Gas Tax petition are now collecting the second round of signatures required to place it on the ballot; if you haven’t already signed it, go to that website to learn where they will be petitioning until the deadline of June 18.

I’d been very concerned about a provision in the Senate version of the Election Laws bill that would have made it even more difficult to win a ballot question in the future. Sen. Stan Rosenberg, long an opponent of the initiative petition process, had inserted language that would require the governor’s Secretary of Administration & Finance to write a paragraph with his opinion of a ballot question, to be inserted in the red voter information booklet provided to every household by the Secretary of State.

Not hard to imagine what would be written about a tax limitation petition of which a governor didn’t approve: “If this ballot question passes, civilization as we know it will end. Paying this costs taxpayers only a slice of pizza a day. This tax is an investment in whatever. And what about the children?”

In the Senate bill as written, the requirement for this paragraph wouldn’t take effect until next year, but I could imagine a change in date being inserted at the last minute, letting it apply to this year’s ballot questions. “If you repeal the annual automatic gas tax increase, roads will crumble. A bridge will fall on your head. Prove that it won’t.”

I hadn’t expected an assault on ballot questions in an Election Laws reform bill; was alerted by Sen. Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth), who’d been appointed to the conference committee on the different House and Senate versions. I contacted House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill), along with the House Minority Leader, Brad Jones (R-North Reading), hoping that the House Democratic leadership would join Republicans in rejecting the Senate language. Finally, I called Secretary of State Bill Galvin, asking for his help in protecting the initiative petition process.

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