You can have a gay union or a global federal union.
You can save dogs, bring the troops home, and do something about health
insurance. You can expand unionism into the home care and child-care
For change in government, you can abolish gerrymandering and create more
And as if all that weren't enough, you can get permission to buy wine in
a grocery store.
All you have to do is sign the petitions that you see outside your local
convenience store or church, at the mall, or when visiting the town dump
over the next two months. If you really like what a particular petition
would accomplish, you can volunteer to collect signatures yourself.
Come November 2006, you may see your issue go before voters on the
statewide ballot and get a chance to play legislator; or you might
choose to amend the state Constitution in 2008.
The global government, anti-gay marriage and anti-gerrymandering
petitions require not only signatures, but also at least 50 legislators'
votes in two consecutive constitutional conventions, in order to get on
You may be familiar with this process because of the ongoing debate over
gay marriage. Opponents collected the necessary signatures back in 2001,
but were denied their vote in the Constitutional Convention by
then-Senate President Tom Birmingham, so their petition died.
Instead, the Legislature allowed a vote on a legislative, not an
initiative, constitutional amendment, which requires 101 votes rather
than 50. This amendment forbade gay marriage, but allowed civil unions.
Personally, I thought it was a fair way to deal with an issue that
requires such a major change in traditional values, giving society a
chance to get used to it.
But that bill pleased neither side of this passionate debate, so it,
too, died this month.
Now there's another petition drive that would ban both gay marriage and
civil unions, but won't change the status of gay couples who were
married prior to the vote. As a proponent of the initiative process, I
was appalled by the way the original petition was ignored, and hope
these petitioners get another chance for let the voters have their say.
I usually sign a petition when I see it, unless I know for sure I don't
support the issue. If I'm unsure, I look forward to the ballot campaign,
when both sides are aired and debated.
The issues aren't as simple as the titles imply, of course; but you can
and should read the official summary from the attorney general's office
at the top of the sheet. The people who once signed a petition
forbidding gay marriage thinking it was a petition to save horses
obviously didn't read the readily available language. Unless you can't
read — in which case you probably aren't reading this column anyway —
you cannot make a mistake.
I'm pretty sure I'm not signing anything that creates a global federal
union. The United States government is big enough for me. My forefathers
came here to escape the rest of the globe, and with good reason. I'll
wait for the petition to get us out of the United Nations.
I'm open-minded on the petition letting a governor recall the
Massachusetts National Guard from overseas, or requiring that the
Legislature approve sending it abroad in the first place. I support
attacking evil dictators, but had always thought that was the job of the
regular military, while the National Guard's mission was defending us on
our own turf. On the other hand, in the new world order, defending
ourselves seems to require offensive strategy. A good subject for a
So is the wine debate. My libertarian self thinks that any store should
be able to carry any legal substance it wants, and I admit one-stop
shopping is convenient. But let's have a discussion about cherishing the
small-business specialty shops before they all disappear.
You will see that the "act to protect dogs" is another attempt to phase
out greyhound racing, though it also creates new protections for service
dogs, while strengthening laws against dog-fighting. I should note that
it's sponsored by two organizations to which I contribute: The MSPCA and
the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
Citizens for Limited Taxation is supporting the constitutional amendment
establishing an independent commission and criteria for legislative
redistricting. Living in a town that named a street after Elbridge
Gerry, I take gerrymandering personally, and am eager to change the
political policy of creating legislative districts in the shapes of
lizards and snakes to benefit incumbents.
The ballot choice issue might be interesting, but I'm suspicious of its
union endorsers, who also have petitions concerning home care and
child-care providers. I think we should have less collective bargaining,
not more. Massachusetts is not suffering from a lack of unions.
As for the health care issue, legislators often say that some things are
too complicated for voters to decide. Fine. They have a whole year to
deal with this subject before we voters step in, so they should get to
Petitioners are working now. We should encourage their efforts by
signing anything we might ourselves like to vote on, come
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.