- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Several questions proposed for the 2016 ballot have been cleared to proceed, or stopped in their tracks, as a result of rulings Wednesday by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Supporters of certified questions still face several more obstacles, including the collection of nearly 65,000 signatures by the end of November. Here are some of the proposals.



LEGALIZING POT - Four proposed questions all seek to lift the state’s ban on recreational marijuana use. One of the questions calls for the state to regulate marijuana more like alcohol and to impose a 3.75 percent excise tax on retail sales of marijuana. It is possible that groups supporting legalized marijuana will eventually settle on one question to pursue for the ballot. Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia currently allow recreational pot use. Healey, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker are among those who oppose legalization in Massachusetts.

CHARTER SCHOOLS - While not explicitly repealing state caps on charter schools, the proposal would authorize up to 12 new or expanded charter schools each year with preference given to the state’s lowest performing school districts. Baker has said he backs the proposed ballot question but has also promised to file his own legislation on the matter. Opponents of charter schools argue the schools siphon off financial resources from traditional public schools.

COMMON CORE - The proposed law seeks to end the use of Common Core education standards in Massachusetts. Opponents of Common Core, including many Republicans, view the standards as an infringement on state’s rights. The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which supports Common Core, said Wednesday it was disappointed that Healey certified what it called an “improper and legally dubious question.”

ANIMAL RIGHTS - Several questions dealing with animal safety and the cruel treatment of animals got the green light to move forward. Among them is one that would prohibit the sale of food products from farms that keep animals in tiny, restrictive cages. Critics say the measure could have the effect of driving up the price of eggs in Massachusetts, most of which come from farms outside the state. Other proposals would prohibit use of fishing gear associated with whale entanglements and two seek limits on euthanasia in animal shelters.

HOSPITAL COSTS - A measure called the Fair Health Care Pricing Act aims to level the playing field between large hospital chains and small community hospitals. Supporters say larger companies, such as Partners Healthcare, are able to use their substantial market clout to drive up health care costs.

TAXING THE RICH - The proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to impose additional taxes on the rich - people who earn more than $1 million a year - and use the revenue for education and transportation improvements. Constitutional amendments are rare in Massachusetts and follow a different path to reach voters, meaning the earliest this proposal could make the ballot is 2018.

ABORTION FUNDING - This proposed amendment seeks to add language to the constitution declaring that the constitution does not specifically require public funding of abortions. It would not itself end public funding for abortions.



FIREWORKS SALES - A proposed ballot question that would lift the state’s ban on consumers’ fireworks sales was disapproved by Healey because it contained provisions that were not “related or mutually dependent,” as required by state law. She specifically cited sections that dealt with the regulation of fireworks sales and storage of explosives as being unrelated. Former state Rep. Richard Bastien, the prime sponsor of the measure, disagreed with the ruling. He said the language was necessary to assure that prohibitions on more powerful explosives, such as dynamite or pipe bombs, were not inadvertently removed from state law.

CORPORATE POLITICAL SPENDING - Healey declined to certify six proposed constitutional amendments dealing with corporate political spending and stating that “corporations are not people.” The attorney general said the measures were “inconsistent with certain constitutional rights.”

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