By Meredith McCulloch
Voters are starting to see advertising on either side of the ballot questions on this year’s November 4 ballot. There are four binding questions plus one non-binding question. All have been placed on the ballot by initiative petition. The non-binding question instructs the Representative of the 6th District (For the legal description of all questions and more details, see the sample ballot at https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Sample-Ballot-2014.pdf.
Simply put, here are the issues.
Question 1 – Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing: Currently the gas tax is raised annually based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index.
- A YES vote would eliminate this requirement end the annual increases.
- A NO vote would make no change in the laws regarding the gas tax.
Supporters of the question believe that this tax increase is burdensome to residents. Opponents want to keep the tax increase because it provides revenue for construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.
Question 2 – Expanding Beverage Container Deposit Law: This question asks whether the Bottle Bill deposit requirements should be expanded to non-carbonated beverage and non-alcoholic containers such as those for juice, bottled tea, energy drinks, etc. Milk, infant formula and biodegradable containers such as juice boxes would be exempt. In addition the law would provide for the handling fee for distributors and allow review of the fees every five years. It would set up a Clean Environment Fund for unclaimed deposits. Funds from that account could be appropriated by the Legislature to support environmental projects.
- A YES vote would expand the state’s beverage container deposit law to require deposits on containers for all non-alcoholic, non-carbonated drinks with certain exceptions, would increase the associated handling fees, and would make other changes to the law regarding dealers and redemption centers.
- A NO vote would make no change in the laws regarding beverage container deposits.
Supporters point to the success of the bottle bill in reusing plastic and metal in bottles and a decrease in littering. Opponents say that most consumers can participate in local recycling programs and that returning deposit bottles an inconvenience.
Question 3 – Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming: This question is generally described as voting “No on Casinos” It would also prohibit the licensing of slot machines, game tables and greyhound racing
- A YES vote would limit gambling as described.
- A NO vote would make change in current laws.
Proponents claim that gambling has many social costs as well as associated financial impacts on the state. Opponents argue that people should be free to gamble if they wish and that revenue from casinos now goes to other states and doesn’t stay in Massachusetts.
Question 4 – Providing Sick Time for Employees: This question would require employers with eleven or more employees to provide hours of paid sick leave for their employees. Smaller businesses, fewer than 11 employees, would be required to provide hours of unpaid sick leave. The bill would take effect July 1, 2015. Furthermore, sick leave could be use just for illness, but also for doctor appointments including those of the worker’s child, spouse or parent.
- A YES vote would require sick leave for employees with expanded uses for family medical needs.
- A NO vote would make no change in current requirements.
Question 5 – A non-binding question regarding campaign finance: If approved, this question will instruct the U.S Representative from Bedford (6th Middlesex district) to support a resolution to Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. It would define a citizen as a “natural person” i.e. not a corporation. In addition it would allow both the states and Congress to set limits on campaign contributions.