Weekly Mass Political Summaries – Week Ending December 9, 2011

Attorney General Coakley Rejects Anti-Casino Initiative Petition
Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled this week that a proposed referendum filed by anti-casino activists to repeal the recently enacted casino law could not be included on the 2012 statewide ballot. Coakley rejected the initiative petition on the grounds that the law includes budgetary appropriations, which are exempt from voter repeal efforts. The law appropriates $15 million from Massachusetts’ Rainy Day fund and $500,000 for the Division of Gaming Enforcement. In order to overturn the Attorney General’s decision, anti-casino activists would need to collect 34,456 signatures by February 20, 2012.

Changes in Massachusetts House Leadership
House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) made a series of leadership changes this week at a tense Democratic Caucus following Rep. Charley Murphy’s (D-Burlington) decision to resign his leadership post as House Majority Whip.  Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) will take Murphy’s place as the House Majority Whip and Rep. Michael Moran (D-Boston), who authored the legislative and congressional redistricting plans, moves into Rep. Rushing’s slot as a Floor Division Leader.  Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) was also promoted to fill Rep. Moran’s position as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws.

Two Ballot Questions Clear First Hurdle to 2012 Vote
Secretary of State William Galvin announced this week that two initiative petitions met the deadline for securing 68,911 signatures, one of the first major milestone in advancing proposals to the 2012 statewide ballot. The Auto Repair initiative, which will require auto manufacturers to disclose additional diagnostic information to auto mechanic shops, submitted 81,803 certified signatures to Secretary of State’s office. The “Death with Dignity” proposal, which would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients, submitted more than 86,000 certified signatures. Two additional petitions appear on track for the ballot in 2012, with supporters appearing to submit enough locally certified signatures by Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline. This includes proposals to legalize the medical use of marijuana, and to reform public school policy by de-emphasizing teacher seniority and strengthening teacher evaluations.

Lawmakers have until May 2012 to approve the proposals. If the proposals are rejected or the legislature does not take action, each campaign must collect an additional 11,500 signatures to advance their questions to the November 2012 ballot.

Growth in Business Confidence for Massachusetts
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) business confidence index rose 3.7 points in November. Despite the increase, the index is still barely above the 50-point mark where confidence is considered neither positive nor negative.

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