Legalization of happy hours, fireworks among approved ballot questions

Voter ID, gig workers, higher zero emission vehicle rebates also move ahead

ATTORNEY GENERAL Maura Healey’s office allowed 17 proposed laws and constitutional amendments dealing with a wide variety of public policy issues to keep moving toward the ballot on Wednesday.

Assuming sponsors can gather 80,239 signatures, Massachusetts voters will be asked in 2022 to decide whether fireworks and turbocharged happy hours should be legalized. They will decide whether retailers should be able to hold more liquor licenses, whether much higher rebates on zero emission vehicles should be offered, and whether to prohibit taxes, fees, and other measures “that would reduce or restrict the supply” of motor fuels – a question filed by Republican Rep. David DeCoste of Norwell that appears to be targeted at blocking Gov. Charlie Baker’s transportation climate initiative.

Healey’s office also approved questions requiring voters to show government-issued photo IDs in order to vote, giving state officials the power to ban any fishing equipment that could entangle whales or sea turtles, and barring hospital CEOs from serving on boards or being paid by companies that sell medical services or pharmaceuticals.

Even though Healey is suing Uber and Lyft for failing to treat their workers as employees, her office approved a ballot question backed by those companies and others that would require the workers to be treated as independent contractors.

Happy hours were banned in Massachusetts in 1984 in a bid to reduce the number of drunken driving accidents. The ballot question on happy hours would revive the practice in eight ways, including allowing restaurants and bars to offer two-for-one specials, free drinks, discounted drinks, unlimited drinks for a set time, and drinking games.

The question dealing with zero emission vehicle rebates would set them at $25,000 or half the price of the vehicle, whichever is lower. The current rebate is $2,500.

Healey’s office rejected 13 questions, including proposals limiting hospital profit margins, preserving the lives of children born alive, and assorted other odds and ends.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

While Healey’s office approved a simply worded question requiring voters to present government-issued IDs when they vote, the office rejected other questions with the same intent but with additional provisions. Healey’s aides concluded the rejected questions placed too many barriers between voters and the voting booth, including the time and inconvenience of obtaining a photo ID and requiring IDs of those with religious beliefs opposed to having their picture taken.

The question dealing with children born alive was filed by Bernadette Lyons, the wife of Jim Lyons, who heads the Massachusetts Republican Party. The question said 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.Healey’s office concluded the intent of the question was too vague. “We cannot determine with certainty what the proposed law means or would do,” the office said in its decision.