Massachusetts ballot measures: What passed and what didn’t?

By Chelsea Cabral, Staff Writer
With election season finally over, we officially welcome—or vilify—our new president-elect, state representatives, local leaders, and equally as important, acquire which Massachusetts ballot initiatives made the cut to become statutes reinforced by our state legislature. Last Tuesday, November 8, two of the four ballot measures had passed to become state laws: question three, the prohibition of farm animal confinement, and the sale of meat or eggs produced from animals in confinement, and question four, the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. Meanwhile, question one, which would have allowed for a second slots license in Massachusetts, and question two, which would have lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in the state and expansions in those existing schools, had failed overwhelmingly. So what do these results actually entail for the future of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? Let’s start off with question one. This measure would have granted the Massachusetts Gaming Commission the ability to issue an additional slots license. Voters rejected this measure with 61 percent of ‘No’ votes and 38 percent ‘Yes’ votes. This is good for a number of reasons. The first is that there is really no need for another slots casino in Massachusetts. Following the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act of 2011, the Gaming Commission has already approved up to three resort casinos and one slots parlor spread across the state. Not to mention this ballot measure was filed by only one developer—Eugene McCain—for one site, and one purpose only: his own financial gain. In situations like these, the rising number of casino permits being granted in Massachusetts is only giving casino lobbyists power within state legislation. If this measure had passed, it would’ve been used in support of more campaigns for new casino licenses, with broken promises of creating jobs and profits. The bottom line is that Massachusetts’s new casino industry is growing before we’ve even had the chance to assess the impacts it can have on our communities and state. Next we turn to question two, which deals with the issue of public education. This initiative sought to authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education per year. It was rejected with 62 percent ‘No’ votes and 38 percent ‘Yes’ votes. I personally don’t think we should be putting such a stern focus on charter schools. We should in fact be putting in all of our energy in improving Massachusetts’s public school system as a whole. Education in Massachusetts is a public good that is rightfully guaranteed to all. Allowing an increase of charter schools would increase privatization, and crafting the education system into a market system. Now we arrive at question three, which lays out the ban against breeding pigs, calves, and egg-raising hens being held in confined spaces. That “confinement” is defined as such which prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely. The law also applies to business owners who knowingly sell pork, veal, or eggs from animals held in this manner. This measure passed by an exceedingly large margin, with 78 percent ‘Yes’ votes and just 22 percent ‘No’ votes. With this initiative’s passage, the state attorney general would administer this new law, which would enforce a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. The passage is granting these animals a better quality of life and prohibiting the needless suffering of animals that are already being raised for eggs and slaughter. On industrial farms, livestock are confined to crates measuring only slightly larger than their own bodies. They are so tightly confined that they can’t even turn around for months at a time. Not only is it cruel and inhumane, but it also increases the risk of food safety problems like Salmonella. While this measure would surely raise the cost of eggs and pork (70 or 80 cents per dozen eggs, or even more) and affect taxpayer funded assistance programs and low-income individuals, it also gives a voice to those animals that are unable to defend themselves. When it does come to raising the cost of food by essentially any amount, it shouldn’t be taken lightly because it is the people and families of lower income that are most vulnerable and that are most affected by those kinds of changes. But with question three, and keeping the animal’s welfare and well-being in mind, it is definitely a price worth paying. And finally we look at question four, which concerns legalizing recreational marijuana throughout the Commonwealth. This very controversial ballot measure passed by a very close margin, with voters casting 53 percent ‘Yes’ votes and 47 percent ‘No’ votes. This new statute will take effect December 15. Residents who are at least 21 years old will be able to keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their homes and less than one ounce of marijuana on them in public. The law will also allow residents to grow six plants inside their homes. Actually regulating marijuana will replace the dangerous underground market that exits with a system of licensed businesses that ask for ID, only sell to adults, and track what they’re selling and to whom they are selling to. In this manner, products will be tested, packaged, and labeled to guarantee that consumers know exactly what they are getting. In this light, the initiative is targeting and destroying an underground market that benefits cartels or gangs and guartenees unchecked marijuana access to younger individuals. Also, it’s objectively less damaging than alcohol or tobacco and is less addictive, less damaging to the body, and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior. Not to mention that taxing marijuana will raise millions of dollars in new revenue each year and create thousands of good jobs for Massachusetts residents. With this brand new market, the state will be able to utilize the products and services of other Massachusetts businesses as well. The results of these key ballot initiatives have displayed an educated vote within the Commonwealth, a vote that will surely defend our communities, increase employment, generate revenue, and better our community’s well-being.

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