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    Extra tax on wealthy, paid leave for workers clear ballot hurdles

    Attorney General Maura Healey certified 21 petitions Wednesday for the 2018 ballot.
    Attorney General Maura Healey certified 21 petitions Wednesday for the 2018 ballot.

    In addition to choosing their next governor and US senator, the state’s voters might have a chance to decide whether to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the presidential ballot here — one of 21 petitions that Attorney General Maura Healey certified Wednesday for the 2018 ballot.

    All of the initiatives validated Wednesday still have to clear a number of benchmarks, but receiving Healey’s sign-off on their constitutionality represents a major step.

    Voters might get a chance to establish paid family and medical leave, a measure opposed by employer groups. Another qualifying question would limit the ability of animal shelters and rescues to euthanize abandoned or stray animals unless they are seriously ill.


    A proposed ban on state regulators licensing commercial fishing gear that could entangle whales or sea turtles could appear on the ballot. A fourth would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.

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    Healey’s office said the proposed questions covered 18 topics, with some groups submitting multiple petitions. For instance, the state’s retail lobby submitted separate measures — one to reduce the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent, another to mandate the same cut but also require a sales tax holiday weekend every August.

    From here, petition backers must collect and file signatures from 64,750 registered voters by Dec. 6, after which the proposals head to the Legislature. Lawmakers have until May to enact them.

    Advocacy groups sometimes use ballot questions as cudgels to shape the legislative process. For measures that don’t receive legislative approval, proponents have until July 2018 to gather another 10,792 registered voters’ signatures. Those that qualify will be headed for the November 2018 ballot.

    The approved presidential ballot question, inspired by President Trump’s refusal to make the traditional financial disclosures by candidates for the White House, has received much of the attention in advance of Healey’s required certification.


    But other measures headed for the 2018 ballot have the potential to mold the electorate, with implications not just for state policies but also for individual candidates. Both Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren are expected to stand for reelection next year.

    For instance, a plan to change the state Constitution to impose an additional 4 percent income tax on annual taxable income above $1 million — a so-called millionaire’s tax — has animated the bases of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

    That measure was certified two years ago, but because the threshold for rewriting the state Constitution is higher, it must wait for the 2018 ballot.

    Both the paid leave and minimum wage initiatives are also expected to bloom into major political fights, drawing heavy outside spending.

    Under the plan for paid leave, covered workers would be allowed up to 16 weeks of family leave or 26 weeks of medical leave and receive 90 percent of their average earnings, up to $1,000 per week.


    The wage petition would bolster the state’s minimum from its current $11 to $12 in 2019, and a dollar thereafter until 2022. Tipped employees would also see a graduated boost in their minimum cash wage, from $3.75 this year to $9 in 2022.

    Beginning in 2023, both the minimum wage and minimum cash wage would be indexed to the cost of living.

    Seven proposals that did not receive certification fell short of constitutional requirements, Healey aides said. They included a proposed ban on “all tolling” in the state, which was rejected because it amounted to an “uncompensated taking of property,” according to Healey’s office.

    One qualifying constitutional amendment would permit blocking public health care programs from funding abortions, but that would not go before voters until 2020.

    According to Healey aides, then-attorney general Martha Coakley certified 28 of the 33 petitions filed in 2013.

    In 2014, four questions ultimately landed on the statewide ballot. Voters repealed an automated gas tax increase lawmakers had passed and upheld a law sanctioning casino gambling.

    In 2015, Healey received 35 petitions initially, but two were withdrawn and one deferred. She approved 32 of the measures that year, and four made it onto the 2016 ballot. Voters rejected a measure to raise the limit on the number of charter schools in the state, but they approved the use of recreational marijuana.

    Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.