Yes, these are the tidings of citizen joy: that citizens, distracted by so much going on in their lives, still took time to stop and sign initiative petitions. Whether we agree with the subject of the petitions or not, we can celebrate participation in democracy.
Next steps: the state Constitution requires that all the petitions have a public hearing and a required up or down vote, no changes, by the first Wednesday in May. If the Legislature enacts it, the petition becomes law. If the Legislature votes No, or doesn’t vote, petitioners must get another 11,485 certified signatures, from different voters, before their issue can be placed on the November 2014 statewide ballot with the legislators who didn’t like it.
This will be especially interesting with the gas tax issue, since those legislators will have to explain their position that future gas tax increases should be automatic, relative to inflation, never again requiring a roll call vote. I am hoping that they all have opponents who will disagree with this theory and argue that all taxation should have representation with a visible roll call vote.
My personal concern is that the concept might catch on, and future legislatures will make income, sales and property taxes automatically increase with inflation, without any politician voting for any tax hike ever again. Special kudos to those Republican legislators who voted No on the original tax package, then helped lead the petition drive to repeal this outrageous automatic section themselves.
To add drama to the 2014 election, the petitions will be on the ballot with governor candidates. It’s safe to say that Charlie Baker and his lieutenant governor candidate, Karyn Polito, will be opposed to automatic tax increases; I’m eager to hear how the Democrats feel about this.
If she wins the nomination, Martha Coakley will also have to defend her opposition to letting voters decide the casino issue. As nearly as I can understand her argument, she thinks there’s some kind of contract with potential casino operators that since they got started with the process of approval, perhaps buying some land, they are entitled to actually build the casinos.