Mass. Voters Examined Four Referendum Questions On Election Day

The choice between between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker in the gubernatorial race captured much of the Massachusetts population’s attention this fall, but it was far from the only decision made by voters on Election Day.

Specific to this year’s Massachusetts general election were four statewide ballot questions, covering topics that ranged from gas taxes to gambling.

Since 1919, there have been 72 initiatives, only 32 of which have been approved by the electorate—about a 45 percent rate of approval.

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The first question voters saw on Tuesday regarded the repeal of the 2013 initiative to automatically adjust the state gas tax. Termed “indexing,” this process adjusts the tax on gas and diesel fuel every year based on the previous year’s price change. Although prediction polls were fairly close, the question was approved with about 53 percent of the vote, meaning the gas tax will stay at 24 cents per gallon and will no longer rise based on the Consumer Price Index.

The ballot’s second question also dealt with the details of a previous statute—the Beverage Container Deposit Law, otherwise known as the Bottle Bill. Before the election, Massachusetts imposed a five cent deposit on the purchase of cans and bottles that a consumer would get back if he or she returned them to a retail store or redemption center. The purpose of the original initiative was to provide an economic incentive for recycling, and it covered of all beer, malt beverage, soft drink, and mineral water containers.

Tuesday’s vote was not, in effect, a decision on whether to repeal the law but on whether or not it should be extended. Citizens voted no on Tuesday, which left the existing Bottle Bill as is.

The third question on the ballot carried significant weight going in to the elections, as it decided whether or not to continue the plans for three resort casinos to be built in Massachusetts.

In 2011, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Expanded Gaming Act that allowed for casinos to be built in three different state regions. The initial legislation focused on an increase in revenue and infrastructure as well as the potential benefit of creating new jobs. The measure, however, has stirred substantial controversy, with many arguing that casinos are ultimately bad for local economies.

Plans have already moved forward on the construction of resorts in Springfield and Everett, and on this question voters decided in favor of the casinos, striking down the repeal of the gaming law and thus allowing the previous plans to move forward.

The fourth and final question posed to voters on Tuesday related to employee sick time. Currently, the policy on sick time and allotted leave is determined by the employer. This proposal, however, would require companies with more than 11 employees to maintain that workers could earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year.

This proposal was approved, granting the benefit of earned sick time to Massachusetts workers.

On Election Day, the electorate also decided on Democrat Maura Healey for attorney general, Democrat Edward Markey as a U.S. Senator, and Democrats Seth Moulton, Nikis Tsongas, and Bill Keating as U.S. Congressmen.

Although the gubernatorial election was an important one—in which Baker defeated Coakley in one of the tightest races in modern Massachusetts politics—each choice made on Tuesday will potentially have a substantial effect on upcoming state and federal legislation.

Featured Image – AP Photo / Josh Reynolds

About Sarah Moore 76 Articles
Sarah Moore is the Assistant Metro Editor for The Heights. She is a Junior, English Major at Boston College. She is proud of her new Brighton address, but not that crazy about her new Brighton landlord. You can follow her on Twitter @SMooreHeights.