NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

September 14, 2013

Taking the initiative no easy task

(Continued)

Petitioners for a statute need “only” collect 80,000 signatures (100,000 if proponents expect a challenge of their signatures by opponents) this fall, then, if the Legislature doesn’t enact their petition next May, they must collect roughly another 20,000 signatures to take them to the November 2014 ballot. Because of the difficulty of all this, don’t expect to see all 12 proposed new laws when you go to vote.

There are petitions relative to earned sick time, to keep daylight savings time year-round, and a “new hire incentive” that I don’t understand; the latter is filed by the same person who filed a reduction in the sales tax to 5 percent, so I hope he chooses to do only that one. Getting signatures on two petitions in the same drive is much harder than you’d think. The Nurses’ Association also has two: one on “excessive hospital operating margins” and another on “patient safety” (setting by law the nursing staffing numbers).

Other unions are getting behind the increase in the state minimum wage; they can usually field petitioners. MassPIRG has experience petitioning, so might get its update of the bottle bill to the ballot.

The two petitions I’m planning to sign would repeal two sections of Gov. Deval Patrick’s new tax increase for “transportation funding.” The first doesn’t address this year’s hike in the gas tax, but repeals the section that says the gas tax can increase every year after 2014 by the consumer price index, without a further vote of our legislators. This campaign is called “Tank the Gas Tax.”

The second petition is called the “Act to repeal the 2013 sales tax on computer and software technology services,” and is filed by those businesses that were told they had one week after Gov. Patrick’s tax hike package passed to start collecting this tax, even though no one in government knows exactly which services are taxed and which companies the law applies to, but whoever they are they must collect it before they even get a chance to bill the customer, and there’s a penalty if they don’t do it whoever they are and whatever it does. The Department of Revenue has been trying to write regulations to clarify all this.

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