EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 1, 2012

Editorial: Our views on Mass. and N.H. ballot questions

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Voters Tuesday in Massachusetts and New Hampshire will, in addition to their candidates, find a number of questions on their ballots.

In Massachusetts, the questions result from initiative petitions, a process designed to give voters a means to advance legislation on their own. There are three such questions on the 2012 ballot.

Question 1: Availability of motor vehicle repair information.

This initiative would require car manufacturers to provide to car owners or their preferred repair provider the same motor vehicle repair information they supply to their dealer networks. The auto industry would have to turn over code information to independent repair shops immediately and would have until 2015 to satisfy a mandate that all new cars sold in the state include an onboard diagnostic and repair system that can be accessed with a standard laptop computer. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a compromise measure that puts off the mandate to 2018 and protects some manufacturers’ proprietary information, such as security systems and the like.

We encourage a “No” vote. Let the compromise work.

Question 2: Prescribing medication to end life. This measure would allow doctors to prescribe, at a patient’s request, life-ending medication to allow “death with dignity.” The patient would have to be diagnosed as incurable, with death predicted within six months. The patient would have to be mentally and physically capable of making health decisions and have expressed a wish to die.

While the measure sounds compassionate, it is anything but. The bill lacks necessary safeguards. There is no requirement that a patient receive a psychological screening for depression, nor must a doctor be present when the pills are taken.

The measure is opposed by the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents more than 23,000 physicians statewide. We recommend a “No” vote.

Question 3: Medical use of marijuana. This measure would eliminate civil and criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. The patient, with a doctor’s certification, could possess a 60-day supply of marijuana from a state-licensed treatment center.

This proposal is little more than an effort, financed by out-of-state backers, to lay the groundwork for the legalization of marijuana for all uses. Medical marijuana has been a fiasco in states like California and Colorado, where it has boosted the illegal drug trade. We urge a “No” vote.

A fourth question on ballots in some communities concerns “corporate personhood.” This question calls on state senators to vote for a resolution asking Congress to pass a constitutional amendment denying corporations the same rights as people and allowing states to impose campaign finance restrictions. Stemming from the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, this proposal is misguided. There is long precedent in American law that corporations and other groups enjoy the same rights and privileges, including free speech, that individual citizens do. Don’t support a measure that seeks to strip free speech and other rights from any group of Americans. Vote “No.”

In New Hampshire, there are three constitutional questions on the ballot. Adopting a constitution amendment requires a two-thirds approval from voters.

Question 1: Prohibiting the legislature from enacting an income tax.

Writing an income tax ban into the state constitution violates a number of principles that ought to guide a constitutional democracy. First, the actions of a legislature today should not tie the hands of a future legislature. There may come a time when New Hampshire wants to enact an income tax. Second, it is a legislature’s duty to have a reasoned and rational debate over the issues of the day. A legislature must not abdicate its responsibility to have these debates by encoding one position into the state constitution. We urge a “No” vote.

Question 2: Giving legislative statutes precedence over court-imposed rules.

The separation of powers among branches of government is an important democratic principle. Here, the legislative branch seeks an upper hand over the judiciary. We recommend a “No” vote.

Question 3: Calling a constitutional convention.

There is no need to amend the constitution at this time. Vote “No.”