Ballot Questions Breakdown: What You Need to Know


This coming Tuesday, November 8th will be Election Day in Massachusetts! Thousands will be drawn to polling locations to cast their ballot for the 2016 Presidential Race, but what about the 5 ballot questions? Besides the local, statewide and national candidates on the ballot, there will be 4 statewide questions and 1 question solely for Boston residents, and here is what you should know about them: 

Ballot Question 1

Ballot Question 1 would allow the Gaming Commission to issue an additional slots license. Essentially. this law would allow the state Gaming Commission to issue another category 2 license, which would allow a gaming establishment with no table games and not more than 1,250 slot machines. It would authorize the Commission to request applications for the additional license to be granted to a gaming establishment located on property that is:

  • at least four acres in size
  • adjacent to and within 1,500 feet of a race track, including the track’s additional facilities, such as the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, amphitheatre, and bleachers
  • where a horse racing meeting may physically be held;
  • where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted; and
  • not separated from the race track by a highway or railway.

A YES VOTE would permit the state Gaming Commission to license one additional slot-machine gaming establishment at a location that meets certain conditions specified in the law.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws regarding gaming.

Read more information.

Ballot Question 2

Ballot Question 2 would authorize the approval of up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education per year.

Approvals of up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions under this law could expand statewide charter school enrollment by up to 1% of the total statewide public school enrollment each year. New charters and enrollment expansions would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them, and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them.

New charter schools and enrollment expansions approved under this proposed law would be subject to the same approval standards, and would be subject to annual performance reviews according to standards established by the Board.

A YES VOTE would allow for up to 12 approvals each year of either new charter schools or expanded enrollments in existing charter schools, but not to exceed 1% of the statewide public school enrollment.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to charter schools.

Read more information.

Ballot Question 3

Ballot Question 3 would prohibit certain methods of farm animal containment. If passed, this law would prohibit breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens from being held in confined spaces. Confined spaces are anywhere that “prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely.”

This law would also apply to business owners who knowingly sell pork, veal, or eggs from animals held in this way, even if the source of food is outside of Massachusetts.  The maximum fine for a violation is $1,000.

A YES VOTE would prohibit any confinement of pigs, calves, and hens that prevents them from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs, or turning around freely.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to the keeping of farm animals.

Read more information.

Ballot Question 4

Ballot Question 4 would legalize recreational marijuana for individuals at least 21 years old. If approved, this initiative would legalize and create a commission to regulate marijuana in Massachusetts. Marijuana is currently only allowed for medicinal purposes. This the new law would allow individuals at least 21 years old to be able to use it, grow it, and possess it. Eligible individuals would only be allowed to possess less than ten ounces of marijuana inside their homes and under one ounce in public. With a limit of growing six plants in their homes.

The Cannabis Control Commission would be created to act as the regulatory body which would oversee marijuana legalization and issue licenses to firms that seek to sell marijuana products.

Retail marijuana would be subject to the state sales tax with an additional 3.75 percent excise tax, with the option for local municipalities to add another 2 percent tax. Revenue from excise taxes, license application fees, and fines for minor violations of this law would be placed in a Marijuana Regulation Fund, which would help to pay for administrative costs of the new law.

A YES VOTE would allow persons 21 and older to possess, use, and transfer marijuana and products containing marijuana concentrate (including edible products) and to cultivate marijuana, all in limited amounts, and would provide for the regulation and taxation of commercial sale of marijuana and marijuana products.

A NO VOTE would make no change in current laws relative to marijuana.

Read more information.

Ballot Question 5

Ballot question 5 is for Boston residents only.

This ballot question is in regards to the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which would add a 1% property tax surcharge to residents’ tax bills. The funding would be put towards affordable housing, open space (parks) and historic preservation. State Law allows each city or town to make their own determination as to whether to adopt the CPA surcharge.

The CPA law allows municipalities to add a real estate tax surcharge that’s earmarked for a local community preservation fund. The elderly, people below certain income levels and owners of industrial land would be exempt of this increase.

Proponents, including Mayor Walsh and the Boston City Council, say that for an average increase of just $24 per year, the CPA would raise nearly $20 million per year and leverage other public and private funding for affordable housing, park improvements and to preserve Boston’s historical buildings and memorials. Opponents argue that this tax will only add another burden to homeowners who are already facing skyrocketing property-tax bills.

A YES Vote would have the City of Boston adopt the Community Preservation Act and add a 1% surcharge to the annual amount property owners have to pay to create a fund used to support affordable housing, park improvements and preservation of buildings and memorials.

A No Vote would not have the City of Boston adopt the Community Preservation Act tax surcharge.

Read more information.

20 Replies to “Ballot Questions Breakdown: What You Need to Know

  1. Question5 and property tax surcharge.

    Do developers pay a yearly property tax surcharge for local community preservation?

    1. All the questions are about the state and city raising revenues. It’s just a sneaky way of raising taxes without having say they raised your income tax.

  2. Thank you so much Matt for posting & explaining each of these 5 Questions. I appreciate it & I am
    sure others do too.

  3. I voted at City Hall last week so I have already seen the actual ballot.

    Two things bothered me about Question 5;

    1. It was the only question on the back of the ballot, a place where many voters might not think to look.
    2. It was the only question without a summary. The other four questions had a brief summary at the bottom, a yes vote means this and a no vote means that. Question 5 didn’t have that so a voter would have to read the entire narrative which is in small print.

    I asked one of the city hall workers about this and she said she didn’t know why question 5 lacked these useful summaries.

      1. There is no current test that can be done to determine weather or not someone is high. I for one don’t want MORE people driving around high

        1. Blood tests. Denver police were forced to refine procedures, such that certain actions imply inebriation and the officer can require a blood test. Some states require blood tests already in accident scenes.

          1. That would be great if police officers were also doctors and could administer a blood test and get the results while they have someone pulled over on the side of the road!!

            1. Actually they can’t do that now since it is a violation of civil rights. They can pull you over for a traffic violation and ask you to get out the car and take a motor skills test. If you fail, they can take out in and ask you to voluntarily submit to a blood or urine test.

              1. Apparently you do not know how things work when someone gets pulled over. Anyone who wants to refuse a field sobriety test can do so without penalty. The only requirement is the breathalyzer, which doesn’t test for marijuanna.

              2. Actually, I don’t advocate one way or the other, but I believe that the bill is likely to pass and mainly on the basis that people believe that there will be a huge tax bonanza. Based on what has already happened in places where the same measure has passed, police needed to change their procedures to adapt to more drivers driving while intoxicated. I don’t think that it will necessarily mean more intoxicated drivers since many use the the drug now anyway. Before when you were pulled over and appeared intoxicated, the arrest would be based on possession of an illegal substance. And the driver will be off the road. If this passes, Massachusetts will need to change its procedures to determine DUI. But I pretty much know from experience that if you enter Maine or New Hampshire with a Massachusetts plate at night, you get pulled over automatically.

    1. Has more to do with tax collections. All states with this on the next ballot are also collecting a tax on sales. Massachusetts plans to earmark the taxes into the General Fund.

      Regardless, don’t expect a tax decrease.

  4. I have my Marijuana License and I am voting NO on 4. Why? I know my limitations under
    Marijuana & Alcohol, and we certainly don’t need anymore people on the road driving under the influence than we already have.

    The only ones that make out on this deal is the Government, another form of Taxation.

    Medical Marijuana is the better way to go, in my opinion

  5. Wait a minute, question 3 isn’t really prohibiting or regulating treatment of farm animals. It is penalizing retailers for selling goods. Who the hell knows where the meat comes from or what they knew or when they knew it. Looks like a law that proposes hurt the neighborhood level vendors because the politicians didn’t have the courage to stand up to the likes of Con Agra.

    1. t. Mobile. Question 3 deals with the cruel treatment of farm animals. They are in tight cages all the time. Read it through again. Leave politics out of this and look at the photos…..rather sad photos…..of farm animals before they are slaughtered.

      1. You had better read it again. Fines apply to anyone who SELLS, not raises the livestock. Some one who sells meats may not necessarily raise the animal. The way that this is worked, even restaurants could be liable. For instance, anyone who sells eggs that originated from Decoster egg farms would potentially be liable. That would make almost every place in in New England bait for fines. They are the biggest egg producer in the Northeast and have been subject to a litany of fines from sanitary conditions, cruelty to hiring illegals. I’m amazed that they still exist, however, they strayed outside their northeast safe haven and expended into Iowa where the creeps have finally been put in jail.

        This law puts sellers guilty until until proven innocent. Not a political discussion, just constitutional.

  6. Make no mistake about it question 4 will be approved and Marijuana will be sold legally in MA. Look at the revenue {taxes] that the state of Colorado is raking in since they made pot legal.That is what the state is looking at ,public safety & more zombies walking the streets & driving isn’t a priority money is.

    1. That is true. All the states with this legislation on the ballot have financial problems. Thinking that this will solve them is a myth. Look what happens as you pay more property tax. You get service cutbacks. Too few taxes going to the state isn’t the problem. Lack of fiscal restraint is the problem.

      Legalization on Colorado was mainly tax related. However, they did find they needed more police for public safety and facilities for people who became addicted. Surprisingly high school usage stayed about the same. Adult usage increased. Pot tourism increased, but so did tourism to other Rocky Mountain states. Driving under the influence increased and that was fairly evident when I was there. There is a real danger in food product. These are made from concentrated oil. They had a rash of deaths due to high schoolers from other states eating an entire block of fudge and killing themselves. These things should be eaten in small quantities. They are dangerous because there is no immediate affect. They eat more until they get the affect despite warning labels. When they feel the affect it is too late. It was still illegal to smoke in public, so you didn’t see this. I notice it more in Boston than what I saw in Denver. What I did see was a lively sex trade. Strip clubs and hookers all over the place. Might have had something to do with the influx in tourism. Pot is still illegal on the federal level, so I don’t think these retailers can accept credit cards. Also, outsourcing to offsite workers is up because many places require drug tests as part of their business. So a lot of the financial firms in Boston, most require urine analysis now, may find it hard to find people who don’t have an illegal substance in them. I heard that marijuana stays in the blood for a couple of weeks?

      It will take a while for this to take affect. There is more bureaucracy needed and retailer registration fees, plus agencies need to enforce both registration and the sale of product. Think of it as though you were seeking a liquor license.

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