3 Mass. Ballot Qs Set: Keeping Transgender Protections, Citizens United, Nurse-To-Patient Ratios

A dog waits by the voting booths at the Hellenic Cultural Center, Watertown, Mass. in 2016 (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A dog waits by the voting booths at the Hellenic Cultural Center, Watertown, Mass. in 2016 (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Massachusetts voters will decide three questions on the November ballot, including one that asks whether anti-discrimination protections for transgender people should be kept in place.

Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday assigned numbers to the questions after certifying that sponsors had completed all necessary steps to qualify for the Nov. 6 statewide election.

Other initiative petitions that earlier appeared headed to the ballot, including paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage and a reductions in the state sales tax, were withdrawn by sponsors after Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed a so-called "grand bargain" to address those issues.

The referendum on the transgender law passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed by Baker in 2016 will appear as Question 3 on the ballot.

A "yes" vote would keep in place the law, which prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including public restrooms and locker rooms. A "no" vote would repeal the law. A WBUR poll in late May found that a slim majority of voters want to preserve the law.

Galvin noted the potential for confusion among voters as to what a yes or no vote means because of the process that was followed to get the question on to the ballot. Opponents of the law filed a referendum petition which, under the state constitution, requires voters to say if they approve or disapprove of a law, with a yes vote signaling approval.

By contrast, a failed 2014 effort to undo the state's casino gambling law reached the ballot as an initiative petition. In that instance, a no vote meant the law stayed in place.

Question 2, if approved, would put Massachusetts voters on record as opposing the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that opened the door to greater political spending by corporations and labor unions. The November ballot measure calls for the creation of a commission that would seek a potential amendment to the U.S. Constitution to override Citizens United.

Any such amendment would have to be approved by three quarters of U.S. states.

Question 1 on the ballot would impose stricter nurse-to-patient ratios in Massachusetts hospitals. It is supported by unions that represent nurses but opposed by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association which argues it could lead to cuts in other critical services.

With additional reporting from the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on July 09, 2018.



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