Flood of Policy Petitions Could Mean Long Day in the Voting Booth

Posted by John Regan on Aug 9, 2013 11:48:00 AM

If political ads give you a headache, better schedule a long vacation around November 4, 2014.

Ballot QuestionsThat’s when as many as 18 – yes 18 - statewide ballot questions may be competing for your attention and your vote.  Get ready for a cacophony of radio and television spots on everything from whale safe fishing to nurse staffing ratios to repeal of the recently enacted sales tax on computer software and services.

Advocates of nearly every political stripe filed 33 petitions with the Attorney General’s office Wednesday to place issues before voters on the 2014 election ballot. Boil away the multiple versions of the same petition (supporters often submit three or four versions and decide later which one to pursue) and several constitutional amendments, and you’re left with 18 issues that could make for a long day in the voting booth.

The real number will actually be less than 18 as petitions traverse the long and circuitous road to the ballot. The attorney general is likely to disallow several because they do not conform to the state constitution. Others will be unable to garner the required 68,911 voter signatures by late November. And others are likely to disappear as supporters and opponents reach compromise agreements.

Even so, experts predict an unusually heavy menu of petitions will make it to Election Day. And an unusually high percentage of the issues voters will decide are of interest to Massachusetts employers.

At the top of the list is a petition seeking to repeal the newly approved tax on computer and software technology services. The tax, part of a $500 million tax increase passed by the Legislature in June to address transportation needs, has ignited a backlash among those who believe that the tax may impede growth in the innovation sector.

Another section of the transportation tax package that indexes the gasoline tax to the rate of inflation would also be repealed under a separate ballot petition.

Other potential questions would:

  • Create a law that would require employers of 11 or more people to provide 40 hours of earned, paid sick time to workers.
  • Expand the state’s 5-cent bottle redemption deposit to water, juice, sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverages.
  • Raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $10.50.
  • Lower the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent.
  • Establish a tax credit for employers who hire new workers.
  • Establish staffing ratios for nurses at medical facilities.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts frequently represents the interests of employers on ballot questions. Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer, said the AIM Board of Directors will decide in the coming months which questions the association will support or oppose.

“AIM generally believes that the initiative petition process is an awkward and inefficient way to make public policy. Nevertheless, the process exists and it remains our responsibility to seek the best outcome for employers,” Lord said.

The Massachusetts Constitution requires that proposed initiatives be in the proper form for submission to voters, not be substantially the same as any measure on the ballot in either of the two preceding statewide elections, contain only subjects that are related to each other or mutually dependent, and not involve a narrow set of subjects that are specifically excluded from the ballot initiative process by the Massachusetts Constitution.

For example, a petition cannot be approved if it relates to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; the powers, creation or abolition of the courts; the appointment, compensation or tenure of judges; a specific appropriation of funds from the state treasury; or if it infringes on other protected constitutional rights, such as trial by jury, freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Topics: Issues, Employment Law, Taxes, Election

What Do Massachusetts Employers Want from their Senator?

Posted by Andre Mayer on Jun 25, 2013 1:39:00 PM

Massachusetts voters are today dutifully trooping to the polls – or, more likely, reluctantly straggling to the polls – to choose a new United States Senator.

VoteWhat are AIM members looking for in a senator? We asked, in a Special Question on our Business Confidence Survey.

AIM is a non-partisan organization, so we didn’t ask about the candidates themselves. We didn’t even ask whether it was important to elect a longtime congressman or a former Navy SEAL.

Here is our question and the responses.

Massachusetts will elect a new United States Senator on June 25th. What we need MOST is a senator who will:

  • Speak his mind and take firm positions - 10 percent
  • Focus on addressing key national issues - 23 percent
  • Work to build bipartisan consensus - 33 percent
  • Represent the specific interests of the commonwealth, its people and its businesses - 34 percent

This looks like a hope that Congress will break out of its ideological deadlock, avoid posturing, and get down to business – work together to make progress on matters that have real day-to-day impact on people’s lives and on doing business.  It’s in line with what we’ve been seeing in the responses to the regular portions of the monthly Business Confidence Index, and with AIM’s positions on federal issues – most recently, Rick Lord’s call for fixing federal health care reform.

With today’s election, Massachusetts will have had seven different United States senators in less than four years, which is perhaps disadvantageous in a body that rewards seniority.  On the positive side, we will probably not have to face another senatorial election until 2016.

Topics: U.S. Senate, Issues, Election

Register to Vote - Employers Must Take Charge of their Future

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Oct 17, 2012 11:33:00 AM

Last night’s presidential donnybrook provided the perfect warm-up to today’s deadline for Massachusetts residents to register to vote in the November 6 election.

VoteThe single most important action that you as an employer can take to strengthen the business climate of Massachusetts is to cast a ballot for the people who will determine public policy during the coming years. The outcome of the races for president, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, and state legislator will determine the people who will set public policy on taxation, trade, employment law and health care.

Your vote will help to determine whether Massachusetts continues to balance its budget without raising taxes on small businesses and workers. Your vote will determine whether the Massachusetts Legislature freezes unemployment insurance rates early next year and averts hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary levies. And your vote will determine who makes appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and other key regulatory agencies.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) is a non-partisan employer association and does not endorse candidates for public office. But AIM encourages its thousands of member employers to participate in the political process guided by the belief that only a vibrant, private-sector economy creates opportunity that binds the social, governmental, and economic foundations of our commonwealth.

Looking to evaluate the candidates?

The first step is to determine who is running. Visit the Secretary of State’s Web site to view a static list or go to the AIMVoice information system, enter your business address and find out who is on the ballot in your district. The usual names may not be seeking your vote this time around since Massachusetts recently went through redistricting.

Then visit candidate Web sites and engage the candidates directly in the community on issues that impact job creation.  Here are three key employer issues to ask candidates for elected office:

  1. Tax & Fiscal Policy – Ask candidates if they support having a predictable, responsible, and long-term state fiscal and tax policy.  Some candidates have a dedicated a spot on their Web sites for “Revenue.”
  2. Mandated Benefits – Ask candidates if they reject adding mandatory health-care benefits to insurance or if they reject legislation mandating that all employers provide paid sick days.  Massachusetts legislators added two mandated benefits this year, making small and mid-size companies pay higher premiums – just a month after a health-care cost containment bill became law.  Mandates don’t allow for flexibility in benefit design and ultimately increase premiums.
  3. Competition – Ask candidates if they support efforts to make Massachusetts competitive against other states.  Reforming the unemployment insurance system, the independent contractor law, the mandatory treble damages law, or protecting existing legal protections for intellectual property by rejecting legislation to weaken non-compete agreements, are key points.

What other key employer issues are you talking about with candidates?  Please leave your comments below or email me directly,

Employers may register to vote:

  • in person or by mail, by completing a mail-in registration form and delivering it to your city or town election office, or
  • at any local election office in any city or town in the state and at any registration event you encounter anywhere in Massachusetts, or
  • when applying for or renewing your driver's license at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or when applying for service at a designated voter registration agency. Registration forms are also available at all colleges, universities, high schools and vocational schools.

The Secretary of State provides full instructions online.

Topics: Issues, Massachusetts employers, Election

Unlikely Voters Hold Key to Presidential Election, Pollster Says

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 21, 2012 11:25:00 AM

The presidential election may be determined as much by people who do not vote as those who do, Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos told the AIM Executive Forum today.

Paleologos.Good.SmallDrawing from a survey he conducted with USA Today during the summer, Paleologos estimated that between 90 and 95 million eligible American adults will not cast ballots for president in November, far more than the 70 million people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008. The unlikely voters tilt heavily Democratic and are disillusioned with the economy, creating a challenge for the president to bring people who were once ardent supporters back into the electoral process.

The ultimate object for President Obama is to use the support of the unlikely voters to boost his 47 percent poll ratings to 50 percent.

“That is why President Obama decided in April and May to take money out of television … and put it into getting people to the polls,” Paleologos told several hundred business leaders at the Executive Forum.

“This is a treasure trove for President Obama, but the problem is that the president does not have the key to open the treasure trove.”

Who are the people who will not vote? Fifty-two percent believe the United States is going in the wrong direction, while 34 percent believe it is on the right track.  Seventy-eight percent believe that the recession is not over. Forty-three percent would vote for President Obama, while 14 percent would vote for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

A key point for the president, Paleologos said, is that 80 percent of Obama supporters and 70 percent of Romney backers say they would vote if their ballot could swing a close election.

“Ironically, if they think you are going to win, it serves as one more reason in long list of reasons they won’t vote,” Paleologos said.

The electoral map for the presidential race, according to Paleologos, will depend in large measure on Romney’s ability to win the key states of Florida and Ohio. And even if the former Massachusetts governor pulls upsets in those states, he still faces challenges in Virginia and Colorado, where third-party candidates could affect the outcome.

In the Massachusetts Senate race, a new Suffolk poll indicates that support from Democrats, women and minorities, along with a strong performance at the Democratic National Convention, has pushed challenger Elizabeth Warren slightly ahead of incumbent Republican Scott Brown.

Paleologos said the poll, released on Monday, found Warren in front of Brown by 48 percent to 44 percent. The gap was within the poll’s margin of error, but marked a reversal from Suffolk polls in May and February showing Brown with a slight lead.

Warren is being helped, the poll shows, by widening support among traditional constituencies such as women (52 percent to 38 percent), Democrats (81 percent to 13 percent), supporters of President Barack Obama (72 percent to 19 percent) and minority voters (70 percent to 22 percent). Brown continues to enjoy a significant advantage with independent voters ( 55 percent to 34 percent).

The statewide Suffolk University survey was conducted September 13- 16, beginning a week after the Democrats completed back-to-back conventions with the Republicans. The poll of 600 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The findings mirror two other polls released over the weekend and contradict a separate poll conducted by the Boston Herald.

“We’ve got a race here,” Paleologos said.


Topics: Issues, Election

2012 Election Equation - Economy Creates Difficult Math for Obama

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 1, 2011 3:06:00 PM

Nigel GaultNote: The following article was written by Nigel Gault and Erik Johnson. Gault (right)  is Chief US Economist for IHS Global Insight and will speak at the November 18 AIM Executive Forum in Waltham.

Based on the expected state of the economy, President Obama faces an uphill battle to win reelection in 2012. He will need a combination of an economic rebound over the next 12 months and an ineffective Republican candidate if he is to retain the White House.

Over the years, statistical attempts to explain and predict U.S. presidential election results have yielded two overarching themes.

First, Americans tend to vote their pocketbooks. If the economy is growing strongly and unemployment is low, the incumbent party has a very good chance of retaining office. When the economy is faltering, U.S. voters will more likely vote for change.

Second, Americans tend to favor an incumbent president running for reelection. If the economy is weak enough, however, an incumbent president can lose, as Jimmy Carter learned in 1980 and George H. W. Bush did in 1992.

Based on the likely state of the economy in 2012, President Obama faces a steep uphill task to secure reelection.

Based upon our forecast for the economy, our election equation projects just a 43.5 percent share of the two-party vote for the president, i.e., a heavy defeat. This does not mean that the president's re-election campaign is doomed, though. The economy might perform better than we expect, and if voters perceive the economy to be on the mend, the president still could win even if unemployment is still very high (as seems inevitable).

Just as important, if not more so, the election equation takes no account of the identity of the candidates—a Republican opponent lacking broad appeal could tilt the balance back in favor of the president. But it does appear that this is an election that is the Republicans' to lose.

How Could President Obama Win Reelection?

Despite the results of our election equation, the Republicans are not guaranteed the White House in 2012.

It may be that voters will respond to economic factors in a different way than in the past. Having seen the unemployment rate climb as high as 10.1 percent a year into Obama’s presidency, voters may be more tolerant of an unemployment rate around 9.0 percent as the election nears.

Some voters may discount Obama’s accountability for the current state of the economy and still assign much of the blame to his predecessor, George W. Bush. If the president can deliver faster income growth over the next year, voters may assign more weight to income growth and less weight to the unemployment rate than in past elections, opening the door for the president to win a second term.

In addition, non-economic factors also matter. The equation assumes that the only factors influencing the election result (other than objective, predetermined political factors) are income growth and unemployment. It ignores factors such as foreign policy and social agendas, as well as any qualifying data about the candidates on either side. The topic of electability has become increasingly relevant in recent years, and the equation is built to predict election results based on the average Republican or average Democrat, making no special considerations for African-American, female, or politically extreme candidates (or for their vice-presidential nominees).

The Republicans do not yet have a candidate who commands anything close to majority support in their party. Front-runner Mitt Romney has not decisively separated himself from the rest of the field, suggesting that Republicans are seeking an alternative but have not found it. And their candidate must win broader appeal in the general election. The traditional unwritten rules say that candidates swing to the right or left in the primaries to capture their party base, and then swing to the center in the general election to capture independents and disaffected members of the other party. President Obama must hope that the Republican candidate, whoever that may be, cannot make that transition.

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Topics: Economy, Election

Cahill Calls State Financial Incentives 'Upside-Down'

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Apr 29, 2010 3:18:00 PM

State Treasurer and independent candidate for Governor Timothy Cahill argued today that Massachusetts state government maintains an "upside-down" system of fiscal incentives that punishes conservative financial management and rewards irresponsible spending.

Mr. Cahill told business leaders attending the second of three AIM/Denterlein Worldwide gubernatorial candidate forums that he would stimulate job growth by lowering both corporate and individual taxes.  The commonwealth can cut taxes and maintain services, he said, in much the same way that the school building program overseen by his office has used efficiencies to expand school construction through lean financial times.

"We are not a competitive state when it comes to the cost of doing business ... But not many people on Beacon Hill know that," Mr. Cahill said.

Asked about his status as an independent candidate, Mr. Cahill responded, "The message is that the two-party system is no longer solving our problems. People are fighting from the left and from the right and bickering is not helping the economy, which is the number one concern."

Mr. Cahill opposes the Cape Wind project approved Wednesday by federal regulators on the grounds that it will increase electricity costs for Massachusetts consumers and employers. He believes that resort casinos represent the most reasonable method for extending the gaming that has taken place through the Massachusetts lottery for the past 30 years.

On this issue of controlling health care costs, Mr. Cahill drew a parallel to the Big Dig construction project - when consumers don't know the cost of a service, the price generally increases.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Candidates, Election, Timothy Cahill

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