EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 15, 2013

Column: Comfort and joy: Citizen petition movement is reborn

Oh tidings of great citizen joy. Last week several groups of activists from across the political spectrum managed to collect enough signatures to get their initiative petitions heading for the 2014 ballot.

Each petition needed 68,911 certified signatures, which means that the signatures collected through the fall had to be validated by city and town clerks as belonging to registered voters before they were turned in to the Secretary of State’s Office on Dec. 4. This means that petition groups aim to collect 100,000 signatures, since many would be either invalid, duplicates or in violation of some regulation. If you’ve never run one of these drives, you can’t imagine how much time and energy they consume.

Because I’ve been involved in several, I am amazed that one campaign, named “Tank the Automatic Gas Tax”, filed 87,620 signatures. Since it was responding to a tax increase package that passed in mid-summer, its amateur supporters had a very short time to put together a viable statewide effort. Another group, formed to prohibit casino gambling, had an even tougher row to hoe, as its 1petition was ruled improper by Attorney General Martha Coakley so it had to proceed in the hope of getting her decision overruled by the state Supreme Judicial Court sometime after the drive.

Unions usually have an easier time organizing anything so they collected plenty of signatures for a minimum wage increase, paid sick leave, nurse staffing and hospital administration petitions.

MASSPIRG, an old hand at initiative petitions, filed 105,000 signatures for its expanded bottle bill. I could support this if I didn’t think it unfair to expand grocery stores’ responsibility for accepting and storing even more items, of many different sizes.

I do really like what MASSPIRG’s Janet Domenitz told the State House News Service after the announcements of the victorious drives: “This is a sacred process,” Domenitz said. “We’re all honored to be a part of it.”

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