Vote for president and down-ticket pols Tuesday, Nov. 8! And don’t forget: 4 referendum Qs. Mind them! pic:R.T.
By Steven R. Maher
In the November 8, 2016, election voters will decide four statewide referendum questions.
Question 1 would allow the Stating Gaming Commission to license one additional slot machine parlor.
Question 2 would lift the cap on the number of charter schools.
Question 3 would create more humane living conditions for farm animals.
Question 4 would legalize marijuana.
Question 1 – Expanded Slot Machine Gambling
Question 1 was drafted to narrow down the location of the slot machines parlor to one site:
• The location has to be “at least four acres in size”;
• It has to be “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”
• It has to be “where a horse racing meeting may physically be held”;
• The site has to be “where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted”; and
• The site cannot be “separated from the race track by a highway or railway.”
All these references to horse racing suggests that the beneficiaries of the ballot question would be the owners of the Suffolk Downs racetrack. Opponents of Question 1 deny this.
“Suffolk Downs itself would have no ownership interest in the proposed casino, and would receive no direct benefit from it,” says the Vote No website.
According to the website of “The Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee” the slots parlor will bringing the following benefits to the Commonwealth (www.Massachusettsquestion1.net)
• “Over $80 Million Dollars in new Revenue to the State per year”;
• “$12 Million Dollars to support Horse Racing in Massachusetts”;
• “1000’s of new jobs both Direct and Indirect for Massachusetts citizens”;
• “$5 million dollars in guaranteed new revenue to the Host City.”
The website of the “Committee for Responsible and Sustainable Economic Development”, MaCasinos.net urges a no vote for the following reasons:
•”Legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth is too new and unproven to expand at this time”;
• “Only one slot parlor has opened in Massachusetts, and it is significantly underperforming”;
• “Five casinos are expected to open in Massachusetts by 2019. The Wall Street Journal warns that New England already has more casinos than the market wants or needs”;
• “Proponents of the ‘Act Relative to Gaming’ have traveled across the globe to exploit the Commonwealth and send a message to other casino developers – they can come to Massachusetts and do the same”;
• Urges a no vote “to postpone the question of gambling expansion until a review of the costs and benefits of existing Massachusetts gaming establishments is completed.”
Both sides dispute that state taxpayers, on the whole, will benefit or not benefit from passing the question. The proposed slot parlor would be built in Revere. Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, and Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle all have come out against the proposal.
As the Secretary of State noted in an information circular mailed out to Massachusetts voters (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepdf/IFV_2016.pdf): “As required by law, statements of fiscal Consequences are written by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.” The Statement of Fiscal Consequences states on Question 1: “The fiscal consequences of this proposed measure for state and municipal government finances could range from 0 dollars to an unknown positive amount. Under the Expanded Gaming Act, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has the discretion to determine whether a gaming license should be issued and when that determination would be made. If the Gaming Commission did award the proposed license, a new analysis of the casino market would be needed to determine the amount of revenue from this license, based on proposed size and operations, and the potential impact of competition from other gaming establishments in Massachusetts and surrounding areas.”
Question 2 – Charter School Expansion
This is arguably the most controversial question on the ballot. This question would allow the State Board of Education to approve up to “twelve new charter schools a year or expanded enrollments in existing schools, but not to exceed 1% of the statewide public school enrollment.”
Arguing that Bay Staters should vote “Yes on 2”, advocate website Yeson2.MA states:
• “Charter schools are public schools open to any child, free of charge. If more children want to “enroll in a school than it has space for, a random lottery determines who gets in—there are no admission hurdles, no entrance exams, and no tuition.”
• “Public charter schools do no harm to school districts. Education funding is assigned to a student, not to a school. So when a student opts for a public charter school, the money to educate that student simply follows her from one public school to another, exactly how it would if she moved from one district school to another. Additionally, school districts are given additional state aid whenever a student moves to a public charter school.”
• “Charter public schools are under the same state and federal obligations to provide services to special needs children and English Language Learners as other public schools, and indeed take on a similar percentage of such students.”
• “Charter schools are PUBLIC schools open to all children. They offer longer school days and more individual attention, and have a proven record of closing the achievement gap for kids trapped in failing school districts.”
• “Today, almost 33,000 children are stuck on waiting lists for public charter schools because of the legislature’s arbitrary cap on enrollment. Voting YES would give more children the opportunity to attend these great public schools — especially in the state’s lowest-performing school districts.”
Those who urge a no vote on Question 2 (saveourpublicschoolsma.com) contend:
• “Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded schools with no local oversight. They are funded by diverting money from local school districts. The 71 charter schools operating in Massachusetts educate just less than 4 percent of Massachusetts children—only 32,000 students—yet they will siphon off more than $450 million this year alone. This money would otherwise stay in neighborhood public schools and be used to improve learning for all students.”
• “The ballot question could allow charters to expand into areas where they don’t exist now, taking millions of dollars away from successful district public schools.”
• “Under the proposed ballot question, 12 new charter schools enrolling up to 1 percent of the school-age population could be approved every year, forever, with no limit. These charters could open anywhere in the state, and there are no restrictions on how many charter schools could be opened in a single community or how much money any one district could lose to these new charter schools.”
• “The amount of money lost will grow: $100 million more the first year, more than $200 million the next year, more than $300 million the year after that, crippling our school system with every passing year.”
• “Even if a number of students leave from different classrooms across a district, the cost of operating a community’s entire school system is essentially unchanged. Our neighborhood schools are left with less money to cover the same operating expenses, such as maintenance, utilities and transportation costs. To put it another way, one student leaves a classroom to a charter school, the district doesn’t save money because it can’t lay off 1/25th of a teacher.”
• “In cities and towns such as Boston, Holyoke, Randolph, New Bedford, Gardner and Lynn, charter schools can already take as much as 18 percent of a school district’s budget. That jeopardizes our public schools—the schools most families choose for their children—and it causes the elimination of classes – such as music, art technology and foreign language courses– and leads to larger class sizes in district public schools. Lifting the cap to allow more charters would only make things worse.”
The Statement of fiscal Consequences, written by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, states on Question 2: “This proposed measure would make no changes to the current funding formula, which mandates that state and local per-pupil funding follow students who enroll in public charter schools. School districts that experience annual increases in payments to public charter schools receive transitional state education aid.”
Question 3 – Humane Living Conditions for Farm Animals
Question 3 “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.”
The yes on Question 3, Citizens for Farm Animal Protection (www.citizensforfarmanimals.com) state on the Secretary of State’s ballot information mailer:
• “A YES vote prevents cruel treatment of animals in Massachusetts by ending the practice of cramming farm animals into cages so small they can’t turn around or stretch their limbs, and will remove inhumane and unsafe products from the Massachusetts marketplace.”
• “Endorsed by the MSPCA, Animal Rescue League of Boston, The Humane Society of the United States, and 400 Massachusetts veterinarians because no animal should be immobilized in a cramped cage.”
• “Endorsed by the Center for Food Safety and Consumer Federation of America because cage confinement increases food safety risks, and a YES vote protects Massachusetts consumers.”
• “Endorsed by Massachusetts family farmers and the United Farm Workers because proper treatment of animals is better for farmers. From McDonald’s to Walmart, retailers are switching to
cage-free eggs—the right thing to do at the right cost.”
Question 4 – Legalizing marijuana
The group favoring legalization, www.regulatemass.com, states:
• “[O]piate addiction is causing the real drug crisis in Massachusetts. And there’s a reasonable way to slow the epidemic down: legalizing and regulating marijuana. By avoiding opiates, reducing painful addiction, and protecting families, patients can use marijuana to prevent hitting rock bottom. • “Marijuana cases cost taxpayers by clogging our legal system.”
• “Marijuana arrests ruin lives. Too often young people and people of color can’t find a job or take care of their families because they have a petty arrest record for possessing marijuana.”
• “Marijuana is here, no increased police presence is going to change that.”
• Unnamed experts “say that taxing marijuana sales will create $100 million in new tax revenue for vital essential services in our communities. We can use the money to strengthen our schools — smaller classes, more books, and newer technology for our children.”
• “People of color are 3x more likely to be arrested. Instead of keeping us safe, the “War on Drugs” has ruined the lives of countless people. In Massachusetts, people of color are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession — a problem that has been getting worse, not better.”
Opponents of legalizing marijuana state (www.SafeAndHealthyMA.com):
• “Massachusetts has already decriminalized marijuana possession and authorized medical marijuana. People are not being jailed for marijuana use, and have access to it for health reasons. This ballot question is about allowing the national marijuana industry to come into Massachusetts and market and sell marijuana products in our communities.”
• “It [legalization] incorporates the laxest ‘home grow’ provision in the country, allowing individual households to grow up to 12 marijuana plants at a value in the tens of thousands of dollars. This provision will have a significant impact on public safety, and has led to the creation of an entirely new black market in Colorado.”
• “It specifically authorizes marijuana edibles (products like candy bars and gummy bears), oils and concentrates.”
•The new statute “specifically limits communities’ ability to restrict the locations and growth of pot shops. Two years into legalization, Colorado has more marijuana stores than Starbucks and McDonalds combined—and the numbers keep growing.”
•”Today’s Marijuana is much more potent than it was even a generation ago. Marijuana for sale in Colorado averages 17% to 18% THC, which is several times more potent than was common in the 1980s.”
• “Since becoming the first state to legalize, Colorado has also become the #1 state in the nation for teen marijuana use. Use by teens aged 12-17 jumped by over 12% in the two years since legalization, even as that rate declined nationally.”
• “Commercial legalization has led to more fatal car crashes. In Washington, the number of fatal car crashes involving marijuana doubled in the one year since legalization.”
• “The marijuana edibles market is dangerous for kids, and a huge part of the commercial industry’s profit model. Marijuana infused products such as candies, cookies, and ‘cannabis cola’ account for nearly 50% of the sales in Colorado, and that number is growing. These products are often indistinguishable from traditional products and attractive to children, placing them at significant risk of accidental use.”
The Statement of fiscal Consequences, written by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, states on Question 4: “A March 2016 report from the Special Select Committee on Marijuana concluded as follows: ‘Tax revenues and fees that would be generated from legal sales may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs (including regulation, enforcement, public health and safety, and substance abuse treatment.’)”