the season of crispy air and apples, red and golden leaves,
back-to-school, football, ragweed allergies, initiative petitions
seem to have outgrown my ragweed allergy. I also seem to have
outgrown the compulsion to stand on street corners with an
drives were fun at the time, but intense. Since a petition needs
roughly 100,000 signatures and the petition drive lasts only six
weeks, one felt one should be out there every free minute.
didn't care back then if I stood for three hours at the post office,
and I didn't get tired sitting at a fair or mall table all day. I
knew that if we made it to the ballot, and won, the Legislature
would honor the will of the voters.
time I stood at the post office was in 1999, holding a petition to
roll back the "temporary" Dukakis income-tax hike of 1989. This
ballot question passed 59 percent to 41 percent in 2000 and was
partly implemented until the Legislature "froze" the rate at 5.3
percent in 2002.
got older, and the tolerance of voters for legislative misbehavior
got old, too. It didn't seem fair to ask volunteers to work getting
signatures through the fall just to have their winning efforts
dismissed by politicians who were then handily re-elected.
next few years, few groups petitioned, which was perhaps just as
well since the media stopped doing in-depth coverage of ballot
issues and voters stopped paying close enough attention to make wise
decisions on either issues or candidates. The initiative petition
process, so hard-won by activists in 1918, seemed to be dying.
then, in the spring of this year, all over America, voters
stretched, yawned and woke up. They began paying attention to issues
at the federal level, and in August several groups filed initiative
petitions again in Massachusetts.
voters are ready to defeat some misbehavin' incumbents at the same
time they pass a ballot law, the process may yet be saved.
streets as I write this are 10 initiative petitions, seven to create
a law, three to amend the state Constitution. The latter, if they
get enough signatures, must run a complicated legislative gauntlet
before getting to the ballot in 2014.
them makes "health care for all" a constitutional guarantee and
raises taxes on business; I'm not signing that one.
petition titled "Enhanced Representation" would change the structure
of the Legislature; can't hurt to sign it as long as voters don't
think it would take the place of "enhanced defeat of incumbents"
"People's Rights to Self-Government" would create a "Commonwealth of
Democratic Nations," as if Massachusetts voters alone could
accomplish that. Too silly to sign.
enough signatures are collected, the following petitions for
statutes (laws) could be on the 2010 ballot.
Reduce the sales tax.
Howell couldn't convince voters to support income tax repeal last
year, but this year's petition follows an outrageous sales-tax hike
from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. If the petition passes, and some
legislators who voted for tax hikes are defeated, the Legislature
may let it stand — especially if it's obvious by then that the high
sales tax is seriously hurting small businesses near the New
would lower the sales tax to 3 percent. The best argument for going
that far is that we were promised when the sales tax was originally
hiked in 1974 that the increase was temporary.
Repeal the sales tax on alcohol.
has its own legislative poster child —
Rep. Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport — who, after voting for this
new tax on already taxed Massachusetts alcohol, was caught in New
Hampshire buying booze. Sign it in his honor.
Eliminate tolls in Massachusetts.
with the "broken promise" theme, as we were told when the
Massachusetts Turnpike was built that the tolls would disappear once
the original bonds were paid off. Yes, the government lied about
"temporary" here, too! When will we stop letting it get away with
petition by citizens who want to give more parents a chance to
choose a better school if the teachers union-ruled government
schools aren't working for them. This time, "for the children" and
"choice" can be celebrated by all voters as real values.
Comprehensive permits and planning.
to have a long-overdue public discussion on Chapter 40B zoning laws.
Limit carbon dioxide emissions.
Instant run-off voting.
intriguing concept, and worth signing as long as voters don't think
it takes the place of running off incumbents at the same time.
petition-weary as I am, I do have petitions for sales-tax reduction
and toll repeal myself. Their proponents are trying a new technique,
asking people to download the petition from their computers and send
the campaign at least 10 signatures. I can do that much.
sign a charter school petition and the "shame Rodrigues" petition,
year, it will be good to have some issues — as well as legislative
challengers — on the ballot, as long as voters keep focused on
defeating enough bad incumbents to scare the rest.