Ballot questions covering issues from legislative audits to classifying rideshare drivers as independent contractors cleared a major hurdle Wednesday when organizing groups said they had enough signatures to advance toward potential placement on the 2024 ballot.
Attorney General Andrea Campbell certified 34 ballot questions and proposed constitutional amendments in September, kicking off a roughly three-month race to collect more than 75,000 signatures to hand into local election officials.
An industry-backed group looking to classify rideshare drivers working for companies like Uber and Lyft as independent contractors eligible for some benefits collected enough signatures, a spokesperson said.
“We will have more to say after Thanksgiving but we have plenty of signatures,” a spokesperson for the ballot question campaign told the Herald. “Well over the threshold.”
Another question that would grant drivers for Uber and Lyft the right to unionize also cleared the signature hurdle, according to representatives of the United for Justice ballot initiative committee. Supporters are also pushing lawmakers to pass a related proposal on Beacon Hill.
“The ballot initiative and the related Rideshare Driver Justice bill currently before the Legislature both deal specifically with making sure rideshare industry drivers have the right to collective bargaining, just as the state has granted to home care and childcare workforces who similarly may not report to a single worksite but do the same work everywhere,” United for Justice said in a statement.
After the signatures are turned in to local election officials, they are due to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by Dec. 6. Galvin certifies the signatures and then passes the questions on to the Legislature, which has an opportunity to pass the proposal, amend it, or take no action.
If lawmakers do not pass the proposal by May, ballot question campaigns need to collect nearly 12,500 more signatures to file with local officials in June and state officials in July to make it onto the 2024 statewide ballot.
A proposal that would grant the state auditor the power to audit the Massachusetts Legislature also cleared the 75,000-signature hurdle Wednesday, handing Auditor Diana DiZoglio a win after a legal effort to force the Legislature to open its books was stymied by Campbell.
DiZolgio said her ballot question committee submitted “the necessary amount of signatures.”
“Our campaign resonates with the people of Massachusetts because they want our leaders to fix the numerous, simultaneous crises our Commonwealth is facing – whether that’s in housing, healthcare, transportation, mental health, addiction or others,” DiZoglio said in a statement. “Beacon Hill cannot continue its closed-door, opaque operations with so much at stake.
Campbell certified the ballot question in September but ruled earlier this month that the Massachusetts state auditor does not have the legal authority to audit the Legislature without consent.
In the education world, the state’s largest teacher’s union said it collected more than 130,000 signatures for a ballot question that would remove the state’s MCAS test as a graduation requirement for high school students.
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Max Page said the number of signatures gathered “underscores a growing discontent with the current educational assessment system and a collective call for change.”
“With over 130,000 signatures, the public’s voice is loud and clear: They stand with educators against high-stakes testing,” Page said in a statement.
Another question that would legalize the use of psychedelics for people 21 and older also cleared the signature threshold but may run into issues after local elections officials found “union bugs printed” on their signature sheets.
“Signatures on sheets with extraneous markings or alterations are disallowed,” a spokesperson for Secretary of State William Galvin said in a statement.
Backers of a ballot question that would allow tipped workers to earn the minimum wage in Massachusetts, $15 an hour, said they gathered over 100,000 signatures ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.
But a proposal that would have repealed the state’s 1994 ban on rent control fizzled out earlier this month, with the ballot question’s main supporter, Rep. Mike Connolly, saying the campaign had only collected 10,175 signatures, well short of the nearly 75,000 needed to advance.
The end of the ballot question push came after Connolly said he faced opposition from the Homes For All Coalition, a group that includes a local union and advocacy groups.
“Leaders of the coalition spoke out against our decision to file the petition and called on elected officials, donors, and local leaders to not support our effort,” Connolly said in a statement. “They maintained that rent control cannot win at the ballot box in 2024, and they publicly demanded that we withdraw our petition.”