Each election the state of Massachusetts adds to the ballot several questions for voter approval. These questions include policy suggestions, bills to become law, or financing programs. Each question will lead to passage of a bill or state constitutional amendment with a yes vote, or no action with a No vote.
Question 1: Earlier redistricting for State Legislator and Governor's Councilors. Approval of this question will amend the state constitution to redraw district lines 2 years after the census, rather than the current policy of 4 years. Every ten years, after the census is taken, state districts are re-apportioned so that each office represents an equal number of Massachusetts's citizens. Since people move into and away from the state, or within the state, these lines improve fair representation in state matters.
Question 2: Voting by Incarcerated Felons. A Yes vote would approve an amendment to the State constitution prohibiting imprisoned felons from voting during elections. This prohibition would affect elections for statewide officers (governor, lt. Governor, etc) and MA federal positions such as Senator, Representative and President. A No vote would allow incarcerated felons to vote in future elections. Massachusetts is one of only 3 states where incarcerated felons are allowed to vote.
Question 3: Dog Racing. This bill was not approved by either state house before recessing, and has been placed before voters. A Yes vote would prohibit greyhound racing in the state. Two greyhound racetracks in the state would have to close or engage in other legal forms of gambling or wagering. A No vote would continue the current practice of licensed, legal dog racing and betting.
Question 4: Income Tax Rate Reduction. This bill was not approved by either of the state's houses before recessing. A Yes vote would reduce the State income tax to 5% within three years. This would occur in steps, from its current level at 5.9% to 5.6% next year, 5.3% in 2002, and 5.0% in 2003. A No vote would continue the current personal income tax rate of 5.9%.
Question 5: Health Insurance and Health Care. This bill was not approved by either state house before recessing for the summer. A Yes vote would prohibit the conversion of non-profit HMO's, health insurance companies, and hospitals to for-profit entities until universal health care is available to all Massachusetts residents. It would also restrict revenue spending by such corporations and limit the percentage increase of costs allowed each year. A No vote would allow hospital and insurance company conversions as well as prevent price controls from taking effect.
Question 6:Tax Credit for Tolls and Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes. This bill was not voted on by the state legislature. Voting Yes would allow a personal income and corporate tax credit for Massachusetts's tolls and car taxes. This tax credit would equal the amount of tolls paid each year on the Turnpike and in the Ted Williams Tunnel, in addition to several other freeways in the state. This will not affect the financing of the Big Dig. A No vote would continue the current policy of no tax credit for toll costs, and is supported by the Joint Committee on Taxation..
Question 7: Tax Deduction for Charitable Contributions. A Yes vote would create an income tax deduction for charitable contributions on the State income tax form. These contributions need to meet federal guidelines as to procedure and maximum limits. A No vote would continue the state's current policy of not allowing such deduction on the state return. Massachusetts has one of the lowest per capita charitable donation rates in the United States.
Question 8: Drug- Dependency Treatment and Drug-Crime Fines and Forfeitures. This bill was not voted upon before recess. Approval would allow the State Legislature to create a Drug Treatment Trust Fund with money from appropriated by the legislature and collected from drug-related fines and seizures. This fund would allow convicted criminals to attend rehabilitation centers in addition to or in lieu of prison. This bill also alters the state law on seizure of property bought with or connected to drug dealing. A Yes vote would increase this Fund by adding money collected from sales and auctions of drug related seizures, in addition to restricting seizure laws. A No vote would continue the current system, by which the state appropriates certain tax monies to rehabilitation and revenue from drug related seizures is not used .
Information on all official ballot questions is available in pamphlets and booklets from the Secretary of State's office, Election Division. This information is also available online at http://www.state.ma.us/sec/ele/elebq/bq00idx.htm.
For those students from another state, information on formal ballot questions can be obtained from your State or County Election Division. Many states mail informational booklets to the home address of registered voters.