By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- Ballot activists can start getting their slogans on now that this year's statewide ballot questions have been assigned numbers.
Secretary of State William Galvin, the state's elections chief, held a press conference Thursday to announce the numbers for the initiative petitions, with the elimination of gas tax inflation indexing at the top as Question 1.
The proposed expansion of the bottle deposit law will be Question 2.
The ballot initiative aiming to repeal the 2011 casino law will be known as Question 3.
The ballot initiative looking to guarantee earned sick time for employees has been set as Question 4.
The general election is set for Nov. 4.
"I'm consciously hopeful that the diversity of the questions will contribute to a greater turnout in November," Galvin said at a press conference. "I think they're easily understood for the most part, they've wide public interest, in certainly the casino question, and the gas tax group has certainly been vigorously advocating for their position."
>>> For video of Galvin's press conference, go to: http://www.statehousenews.com/video/14-07-03galvin/ <<<
Galvin said the bottle bill expansion is something many voters are familiar with, since the bottle bill has previously been before voters.
The casino question, which was placed on the ballot after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it could be certified, will likely draw intense interest. "Just the number of people who have asked me, anecdotally, about the casino question since it was ordered on by the court, tells me that there's interest," Galvin said.
"Some ideological crosscurrents" could lead to the boost in turnout, he said.
Backers of the gas tax indexing repeal question tilt conservative, while backers of expanding the bottle bill will likely lean liberal, he said. Labor groups will be backing the earned sick time question, he added.
As for the casino repeal question, he said, "This sort of cuts across all groups."
Arguments for and against the ballot questions will be printed in a voter information booklet that will be mailed to Massachusetts households after the September 9 primary election.
There is currently no organized committee to oppose Question 3, the casino repeal law proposal, so Galvin said he chose the mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno, to write the argument in opposition to the question. Springfield has voted to host a casino and state gaming regulators last month awarded a casino license to MGM Springfield.
Asked whether he expects a group opposed to the casino question to form, Galvin said, "I expect there will be for purposes of spending money but I couldn't wait for them to get their act together, to be candid."
The deadline for question proponents and opponents to file final versions of their arguments is July 14.
Galvin said he chose Sarno to write the argument because he was an intervener in the SJC case and is an "articulate spokesman" for his city.
Asked how he arrived at the numbers for the questions, Galvin said some ballots, which will be printed in multiple languages in some communities, will also include local questions and non-binding questions, so his office has to be "as economical as possible" in the layout of the questions.
Groups pushing to place the questions on the November ballot had to file 11,485 signatures with Galvin's office by July 2, after receiving signature certifications