From gig economy to TCI, 30 ballot questions filed

Most are unlikely to come before voters in 2022

PROPONENTS FILED 30 ballot questions with the attorney general’s office on Wednesday in an attempt to circumvent Beacon Hill and win approval directly from voters in 2022 for laws dealing with the gig economy, voting, hospital operations, newborn babies, the Transportation Climate Initiative, smoking, the sale of alcohol, and assorted other matters.

Most of the proposals are unlikely to make it on to the ballot because, even if they pass muster on constitutional grounds with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, they would still require the gathering of more than 93,000 voter signatures, a time-consuming and expensive process. Several of the proposals were filed in multiple forms in an effort to increase their chances of gaining approval from Healey’s office.

One proposal with a lot of corporate muscle behind it would allow companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart to continue classifying their workers as independent contractors instead of employees.  Many expect the question will pit tech companies against labor groups in a battle over the future of the gig economy. The companies have a huge stake in the outcome; Healey is already suing Uber and Lyft for their treatment of workers.

Three state lawmakers and Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl filed a proposed ballot question to block the state’s participation in the Transportation Climate Initiative, a regional carbon emission reduction program pushed by Gov. Charlie Baker that would require fuel distributors to purchase allowances permitting them to sell gasoline.

The initiative petition filed on Wednesday stipulates that “the supply of gasoline, diesel fuel, special fuels or similar motor fuels available to meet consumer demand shall not be reduced or restricted by the imposition of any tax, fee, other revenue generating mechanism, or market-based compliance mechanism.”

The Massachusetts Nurses Association filed three questions. One would assess civil penalties on hospital income above a certain level with the penalties going into a fund that would be used to support struggling hospitals. A second question would ban hospital CEOs from serving on the boards of or receiving compensation from a company that develops, manufactures, or sells medical services or products such as devices or pharmaceutical drugs.

The third ballot question from the nurses association would combine the redistribution and CEO sections of the other two with additional language requiring hospitals to report financial assets held outside the United States.

Two questions were put forward by Republicans. One would require that, “if a child is born alive, all reasonable steps, in keeping with good medical practice, shall be taken to preserve the life of the child born alive.” The other question would direct that “no teacher shall present our country’s history to his or her elementary school or high school students with the specific intent of making any such students feel personally responsible, at fault or liable, either individually or as a member of a racial or ethnic group, for the actions or omissions of others.”

Other proposals would require all elections in Massachusetts to use hand-counted paper ballots, implement voter ID requirements, legalize the sale of consumer fireworks, issue more liquor licenses to food stores, require the state to make legal assistance available in eviction proceedings, ban smoking in multi living units, and once again permit certain “happy hour” drink specials that have been banned since 1984.

This story was compiled using material from the State House News Service.