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Mass. Ballot Questions Face Signature-Gathering Deadline

This article is more than 5 years old.

Supporters of questions aimed at hiking the state's minimum wage, creating nurse-patient staffing ratios and instituting a statewide earned sick time policy say they have cleared a key signature-gathering hurdle on their way to next year's ballot.

Backers of two other proposed initiatives — an expansion of the state's bottle deposit law and a repeal of the casino law — also say they've collected more than enough signatures, but were more cautious about declaring victory.

Wednesday was the deadline to deliver voter signatures in support of ballot questions to local city and town clerks. At least 68,911 signatures are required, although the groups pushing the questions typically collect significantly more.

Two of the questions — one to create nurse-patient ratios and a second that would limit hospital CEO salaries and "require hospitals to be transparent about their financial holdings" — were backed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union representing registered nurses.

The minimum wage question would raise the wage from $8 to $10.50 per hour over two years and is backed by Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

That question could become moot if state lawmakers approve a higher minimum wage. The state Senate on Tuesday voted to increase the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over three years and link future hikes to the rate of inflation. The House hasn't taken up the measure.

The group behind the minimum wage question, Raise Up Massachusetts, is also pushing the earned sick time question, endorsed by Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

Supporters of an initiative that would repeal the state's casino law said Wednesday they had collected 90,000 signatures and are hopeful the effort will result in the measure being placed on the 2014 statewide ballot.

The signatures need to withstand any potential challenge.

"Our teams are out there today working hard across the commonwealth to get every last signature," David Guarino, a spokesman for Repeal the Casino Deal, said earlier Wednesday.

The casino law has come under scrutiny recently after voters in Milford, East Boston and Palmer all rejected proposed casino plans.

Activists pushing a question to expand the types of bottles covered by Massachusetts' 1982 bottle deposit law said they've delivered about 129,000 'raw' signatures to clerks' offices, but were also cautious about declaring victory given possible hurdles ahead.

The original law created a 5-cent deposit on carbonated beverages. The ballot question would expand the law to include non-carbonated beverages such as water, tea and sports drinks. Critics say the measure would drive up the costs of beverages for working families.

"There's tremendous public support out there for updating the bottle bill, and we beat our goal for signature collection," said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG.

Not every ballot question crossed the signature threshold.

Supporters of The Massachusetts Family Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time the year-round standard time for the state, conceded they'd fallen far short of the signature goal.

An effort to reduce the state's sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent also failed to collect the needed signatures.

Wednesday isn't the final deadline in the process. Another 11,485 new certified signatures are needed by early July to secure a spot on the 2014 ballot if lawmakers fail to act on the questions.

This program aired on November 20, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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