2018 Potential Ballot Questions

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts State Legislature voted to permit a proposed constitutional amendment to appear on the November 2018 state election ballot. The proposed amendment would add a 4 percent surcharge on incomes over $1 million (called the “Fair Share Amendment” by supporters).

The Fair Share Amendment will not be the only question facing Massachusetts voters next fall.  If you’ve been following State AG Insights, you know that we have been closely following the 2018 ballot question process. In a previous post, we outlined the timeline to place an Initiative Petition on the 2018 ballot. The deadline for submitting an Initiative Petition to the Attorney General’s Office is now just over one month away, and there is an increasing amount of attention on potential issues, in addition to the Fair Share Amendment, that could be facing voters in 2018.

The issues currently being proposed address a range of issues – some of which are familiar to Massachusetts voters and others are unlike previous questions. A few potential Initiative Petitions include:

  • The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has stated that it is considering an initiative to lower the state sales tax from its current 6.25 percent to between 4 and 4.5 percent
  • One proposal currently being discussed would prohibit the Secretary of the Commonwealth from placing any presidential candidate onto a primary or general election ballot if the candidate did not release his or her tax returns
  • Senate President Stan Rosenberg has suggested that a ballot question creating a paid family and medical leave policy could be drafted if the Legislature fails to enact a similar proposal this session
  • The Attorney General will review petitions that are filed a year in advance of the submission deadline (in this cycle in August 2016 for placement on the November 2018). Although Initiative Petitions are rarely submitted on this earlier time table, one Initiative Petition, The Whale Safe Fishing Act, which would license the commercial use of fishing gear known to entangle whales or sea turtles, was submitted last year and has already been certified by the Attorney General. The same petition was filed in the 2016 election cycle, but failed to obtain the necessary signatures to make the ballot.

In a post earlier this month, we also discussed a Referendum Petition to repeal the transgender public accommodations law that was signed by Governor Baker in July 2016.

Navigating a question onto the state election ballot is challenging, and most proposals fail to ever reach the ballot. In the 2016 election cycle, 35 petitions were filed with the Attorney General’s Office, 22 of which were certified by the Attorney General as meeting the requirements to appear on the ballot, but only 4 of these certified petitions eventually made it to the ballot. Most of the certified petitions failed to obtain the necessary number of signatures or were eventually withdrawn. In addition, our team at Foley Hoag LLP successfully represented a group of ten citizens in challenging the Attorney General’s certification of one of these petitions at the SJC.

As we approach the August 2 deadline for filing Initiative Petitions, we will continue to follow the 2018 ballot question process. We encourage you to check back for additional updates on what you can expect as we approach Election Day 2018.

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