Gambling question among 6 that appear to have cleared hurdle
Certified signatures delivered to secretary
Published 5:30 AM EST Dec 03, 2015
Massachusetts voters could be getting another chance to expand gambling in the state.
A ballot question that would allow Massachusetts to issue a second slots parlor license -- apparently for a site near the Suffolk Downs race track -- could be headed for the 2016 ballot.
Massachusetts Secretary William Galvin said the question is one of six whose supporters appear to have delivered a minimum of 64,750 certified signatures of registered voters to his office by Wednesday's deadline.
Other questions that could land on next year's ballot would legalize the recreational use of marijuana; prevent farm animals from being kept in overly restrictive cages; lift state caps on charter schools; remove Massachusetts from requirements adhering to Common Core curriculum standards; and level the playing field between large hospital chains and small community hospitals.
Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow people who earn more than $1 million a year to be taxed at a higher rate also appear to have filed enough signatures. Because constitutional amendments follow a different path to the ballot, the earliest the question could go before voters would be November 2018.
Galvin said his office still must verify the signatures.
An email sent to the person listed as the contact for the slots parlor question was not immediately returned.
The question doesn't specifically mention Suffolk Downs but says the slots parlor must be located near a horse race track. The state's only other horse race track is in Plainville, the site of the slots parlor created under the law.
The 2011 law that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts authorized the licensing of three casinos and a single slots parlor.
The group Citizens for Farm Animal Protection said it submitted 130,000 signatures to support a ballot measure that would phase out what it called extreme confinement and lifelong immobilization of animals on factory farms as well as the sale of goods produced under those conditions.
"It does make a significant difference for thousands of animals here in Massachusetts," said Stephanie Harris, state director of The Humane Society of the United States.
Critics said the proposal could drive up the cost of eggs, veal and pork.
The Campaign for Fair Care said it collected nearly 132,000 signatures to support a question to overhaul the state's hospital payment system by reining in medical centers and boosting support to community hospitals.
Backers of a question that would lift limits on the number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts say they filed more than 73,000 signatures.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said it collected more than 100,000 signatures for a question that would let Massachusetts residents 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. It would also create a 3.75 percent state excise tax on retail marijuana sales on top of the state's 6.25 percent sales tax.
The head of a group that hoped to place a second marijuana legalization question on the ballot that did not call for an excise tax said he doesn't believe his group had collected enough signatures.
Once the signatures are verified by Galvin, he will refer the questions to lawmakers who have until May 3 to decide whether to approve the question. If they choose not to, supporters will need to collect at least an additional 10,792 signatures to secure a spot on the November, 2016 ballot.