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Marijuana Legalization Harmful to Business

Posted by Rick Lord on Oct 19, 2016 10:30:00 AM

A proposed law on the November ballot to legalize and commercialize marijuana in Massachusetts would reverse decades of hard-won progress by employers to create safe and drug-free workplaces.

VoteHereSign.jpgQuestion 4 would place employers in the untenable position of determining whether an employee who tests positive for marijuana, used legally under state law, is too impaired to operate a machine or drive a company vehicle safely. It would also create a legal nightmare for employers caught between a state law that permits private use of marijuana and a federal law - often the overriding jurisdiction in employment scenarios - that prohibits marijuana use.

That’s why the Board of Directors of AIM has joined an extraordinary coalition of public officials, civic leaders and businesses urging a “no” vote on Question 4. The coalition includes Governor Charlie Baker; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Attorney General Maura Healey; Members of Congress Joe Kennedy, III, Stephen Lynch, Nikki Tsongas and William Keating; Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts; the Massachusetts Hospital Association; the Massachusetts Medical Society; and the Massachusetts Municipal Association

A survey conducted by AIM earlier this year indicates that employers oppose Question 4 by a wide margin.

Sixty-two percent of employers said they would vote “No” on the pot legalization referendum due to appear on the November 1 ballot. Thirty-eight percent were in favor.

The proposed ballot law would authorize individuals 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their home and up to ten ounces of marijuana in their residences. It calls for taxes on marijuana sales and creates a Cannabis Control Commission to handle regulation and licensing.

If approved, the new law would take effect on December 15.

“We’re not surprised by the poll results given the concerns being expressed to us by member employers,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“How will an employer respond to a worker operating heavy equipment on a job site under the influence of marijuana? Many jobs, particularly those in safety-sensitive fields like transportation or manufacturing, must adhere to federal regulations that still prohibit the use of any substance that creates impairment.”

In fact, no breathalyzer-type technology exists to measure the degree of impairment suffered by a marijuana user. Question 4 not only fails to establish an enforceable legal standard as exists in other states, but also fails to establish a standard by which employers may terminate or discipline an employee who may have used marijuana and could be a safety risk on the job.

The potential consequences are significant.

In Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2010 and recreational marijuana in 2012, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent between 2006 and 2014. Emergency room hospital visits that were “likely related” to marijuana increased by 77 percent from 2011 to 2014; and drug-related suspensions/expulsions increased 40 percent from school years 2008/2009 to 2013/2014, according to a September 2015 report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a collaboration of federal, state and local drug enforcement agencies.

Recent surveys have also indicated an increase in general marijuana use when states approve the legalization of marijuana. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2012 and 2013 (when marijuana was legalized but states had yet to implement a regulatory framework) the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana jumped by more than 20 percent in Washington and Colorado.

Employers remain concerned that much of the increased marijuana usage in these states has come from high-potency edibles - THC-infused candy bars, gummies, cookies and soda – many packaged to look like candy and snacks. Almost half of all marijuana sales in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize, now come from edibles and concentrates.

The appeal of edible marijuana products to teen-agers is an issue for medical and behavior health organizations like the Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare.

“The research shows that marijuana poses a risk for the young brain — those 25 and under — that is predisposed to emotional and mental health issues,” said NAMI Mass Executive Director Laurie Martinelli.

Marijuana legalization is among a handful of November ballot questions with implications for employers. AIM favors a proposal to lift the cap on charter schools and opposes questions that would end the use of Common Core educational standards and impose de-facto government price controls on hospitals.

AIM also opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 4 percent surtax on income more than $1 million that could reach the ballot by 2018.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Ballot Questions

Attorney General Certifies Graduated Tax Amendment

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Sep 2, 2015 12:53:56 PM

Massachusetts employers are profoundly disappointed that Attorney General Maura Healey today certified an ill-considered proposed amendment to the state constitution that would impose a surtax on incomes of more than $1 million.

statehousedomeAssociated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) believes the proposal would cripple a state economy that relies heavily on tens of thousands of subchapter S corporations and other entities that pay taxes at individual rates. The association also argued before the attorney general that the proposal violates the state constitution’s prohibition against ballot questions creating specific appropriations.

An Initiative Petition for an Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth to Provide Resources for Education and Transportation through an additional tax on incomes in excess of One Million Dollars represents an appropriation, according to AIM, because it requires the legislature to use revenues from the surtax exclusively for transportation and education. The proposal could appear on the statewide election ballot in 2018.

Healey certified one other constitutional amendment and 20 referendum questions this morning. The referendum proposals, which could appear on the 2016 ballot, include ones calling for the expansion of dysfunctional renewable-energy targets and financial penalties for retail stores or fast-food restaurants that change an employee’s schedule within 14 days of a shift.

The attorney general did not certify several versions of a proposed constitutional amendment specifying that corporations are not people and asserting the right of the courts to limit political contributions.

Proponents of the $1 million earnings surtax will have to collect 64,750 signatures from registered voters to move the process forward. Then one-quarter of the state Legislature must vote to advance the proposal, in two consecutive legislative sessions, before it can go to the voters in November 2018.

The initiative would scrap Massachusetts’ current flat income tax under which everyone pays at a rate of 5.15 percent — and create a two-tiered system, with all income above $1 million taxed at four percentage points more. The result would be an 80 percent tax increase on that income.

Massachusetts voters have repeatedly rejected efforts to impose a graduated income tax. The last effort, in 1994, lost by a two-to-one margin.

“We believe that ballot questions are a clumsy and inefficient way to make public policy,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at the association.

“Employers remain particularly concerned about a constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of employers to create jobs by draining investment capital out of the private sector and into bureaucratic government programs.”

Proponents argue that the tax will target people whose paychecks top $1 million annually. But the change will also effect capital gains, interest, wages, business and other types of taxes on individual company owners. Among the companies affected would be partnerships, limited liability corporations, sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations.

The amendment would make Massachusetts’ top rate one of the highest in the country, according to figures compiled by the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington.

Promoters of the initiative include some of the most powerful unions in the state: SEIU, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

AIM members interested in learning more about the proposed amendment may contact AIM Government Affairs at 617.262.1180.

 

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Taxes, Ballot Questions

Employers Face Flood of Ballot Questions

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Aug 10, 2015 9:59:51 AM

Massachusetts employers face a potential flood of statewide ballot initiatives in the next several years that could fundamentally alter the role of government in regulating private enterprise.

VoteHereSignTwenty four groups filed 35 initiative petitions with the attorney general’s office last Wednesday for proposed laws or constitutional amendments to go before voters in 2016 or 2018. The proposals range from mandating paid maternity leave to expanding dysfunctional renewable-energy targets to levying financial penalties for retail stores or fast-food restaurants that change an employee’s schedule within 14 days of a shift.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 4 percent surtax on income more than $1 million could reach the ballot by 2018. The change would boost the overall tax rate by 80 percent on any income more than $1 million, which could have devastating consequences for the large number of Massachusetts businesses organized as subchapter S corporations or limited liability corporations.

The Wednesday filing deadline started a long process by which initiative petitions qualify for inclusion on the statewide election ballot. The attorney general will initially review the petitions to determine whether they meet constitutional requirements. Decisions on certifications will be released on Sept. 2.

The number and variety of potential questions impacting employers would be unprecedented if even a portion of the proposed laws and amendments make it to the ballot.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) will participate in discussions with the attorney general as an opponent of the parental leave, surtax, scheduling and solar energy questions. The association’s Board of Directors will review the remaining employer-related questions shortly and determine the positions that AIM will take.

AIM opposes ballot questions generally as an inefficient and clumsy method of resolving complex economic policy decisions.

Progressive groups, emboldened by their success in securing approval for paid sick time last November, are increasingly taking workplace social policy issues directly to voters.

“These initiatives, taken together, represent a broad assault on the ability of employers to create jobs and economic opportunity here in Massachusetts. It appears that social causes now trump economic policy,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The parental leave question would require employers to pay women who take leave to give birth or to adopt a child for at least two weeks of that leave. The law would require notice to be posted in any workplace in which females are employed.

One of the renewable energy questions would require that Massachusetts meet all of its electricity needs with renewable power by 2050. The second would increase subsidies to developers of solar power.

Here are all the proposed employer-related ballot questions that have been filed, with links to the text:

15-03 Constitutional Amendment Corporations Are Not People and May Be Regulated.  Money is Not Free Speech and May Be Regulated.

15-04 Constitutional Amendment Corporations Are Not People and May be Regulated.  The General Court May Limit Political Spending and Contributions.

15-06 Paid Parental Leave (AIM opposes)  

15-12 Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to Ending Common Core Education Standards.

15-17 An Initiative Petition for an Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth to Provide Resources for Education and Transportation through an additional tax on incomes in excess of One Million Dollars.

15-18 Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to Renewable Energy.

15-19 Massachusetts Fair Health Care Pricing Act.

15-20 Massachusetts Equitable Health Care Pricing Act.

15-26 Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to Solar and Renewable Energy.

15-31 An Act to Allow Fair Access to Public Charter Schools.

15-35 An Initiative Petition for a Law Relating to Fairer Scheduling for Workers

A list of all 36 petitions may be found on the attorney general’s Web site.

 

Topics: Energy, Ballot Questions, Mandated Paid Leave

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