2016 ballot questions

Dear State Com Members,

As you may recall, the GRP Platform Committee was requested by State Com to research the 2016 ballot questions and make recommendations.  There will be four ballot questions that will be voted on in the November 2016 election.  Below are the Platform Committee's recommendations, which includes our reasoning.  These are recommendations only, and it will be up to the State Committee at the July 17, 2016 meeting to vote as to what the GRP's position should be.  Keep in mind, that besides recommendations to vote "Yes" or "No", the State Committee can vote against taking a position ("No Position") and may also draft comments that explain our position, including areas in which the GRP might propose other courses of action besides only voting 'Yes' or 'No'.

To summarize, our proposed recommendations are:

An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Animals    YES

The Legalization, Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana  YES

An Act to Allow Fair Access to Public Charter Schools   NO

An Act Relative to Expanded Gaming NO

But please--don't stop reading here! So that we can have an informed conversation on 7/17 or before, please read our full comments below about each ballot question.

Thanks especially to Bill Ashley who led this work, to Mike Heichman whose original State Com proposal began this journey, and to all of the Platform Committee members who took part in deliberations.

GRP Platform Committee

(Certified) Petition Number 15-11

An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals

This Petition was filed by Thomas O. Bean, a Partner in the Boston law firm ‘Verrill Dana L.L.P.’. Neither the person nor the entity seem to be lobby-connected in 2015.
Attorney General’s Summary

This proposed law would prohibit any farm owner or operator from knowingly confining any breeding pig, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen in a way that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending its limbs, or turning around freely. The proposed law would also prohibit any business owner or operator in Massachusetts from selling whole eggs intended for human consumption or any uncooked cut of veal or pork if the business owner or operator knows or should know that the hen, breeding pig, or veal calf that produced these products was confined in a manner prohibited by the proposed law. The proposed law would exempt sales of food products that combine veal or pork with other products, including soups, sandwiches, pizzas, hotdogs, or similar processed or prepared food items.

The proposed law’s confinement prohibitions would not apply during transportation; state and county fair exhibitions; 4-H programs; slaughter in compliance with applicable laws and regulations; medical research; veterinary exams, testing, treatment and operation if performed under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian; five days prior to a pregnant pig’s expected date of giving birth; any day that pig is nursing piglets; and for temporary periods for animal husbandry purposes not to exceed six hours in any twenty-four hour period.

The proposed law would create a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation and would give the Attorney General the exclusive authority to enforce the law, and to issue regulations to implement it. As a defense to enforcement proceedings, the proposed law would allow a business owner or operator to rely in good faith upon a written certification or guarantee of compliance by a supplier.

The proposed law would be in addition to any other animal welfare laws and would not prohibit stricter local laws.

The proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2022. The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.
Findings from GPUS Platform

Page 53: “5. End the abuse of animals, including farm animals, and strengthen our enforcement of existing laws. “
Findings from GRP Agenda/Platform

No mention of farm or animals.
Comments from Platform Listserv Members

Elie Yarden: "Why does the law take effect so late, 2022?  What happens in the 7 -year interim."

Response from Stephanie Harris, Humane Society: "This phase-out time period mirrors that of other states that have implemented similar laws. It gives an ample but realistic time frame for compliance."

Danny Factor: It should be of note that the Green Party this year approved creation of an Animal Rights Committee, which I think is demonstrative of a new enthusiasm of many GP members about this issue. As an animal rights activist and vegan myself, while respecting the rights of others to disagree, I find it harder and harder to be publicly silent about issues of animal rights, given our ten key values which so clearly embrace the dignity of all life and oppose unnecessary harm and pain for the sake of profit.  The GP and GRP have a history of calling for the inclusion of groups who are not seen as worthy of legal status at a time when many people do not appreciate that point of view.  The GRP supporting this ballot item and taking a stronger stance in general in favor of animal rights would be consistent with the history and values of the GP and GRP.  I thank Elie for raising the issue of the phase-in period. I think that the GRP should add that would support a faster phase-in period and there could be further consultation with the GP Animal Rights Committee in regard to further actions we could call for."
Based on Listserv comments and GPUS reference:
Recommended position: For.


(Certified) Petition Number 15-27

The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act

This Petition was filed by Will Luzier, Campaign Manager for ‘Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’. No sign of 2015 lobbying activity by this person or organization.
Attorney General’s Summary

The proposed law would permit the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana in limited amounts by persons age 21 and older and would remove criminal penalties for such activities. It would provide for the regulation of commerce in marijuana, marijuana accessories, and marijuana products and for the taxation of proceeds from sales of these items.

The proposed law would authorize persons at least 21 years old to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their residences; possess up to ten ounces of marijuana inside their residences; grow up to six marijuana plants in their residences; give one ounce or less of marijuana to a person at least 21 years old without payment; possess, produce or transfer hemp; or make or transfer items related to marijuana use, storage, cultivation, or processing.

The measure would create a Cannabis Control Commission of three members appointed by the state Treasurer which would generally administer the law governing marijuana use and distribution, promulgate regulations, and be responsible for the licensing of marijuana commercial establishments. The proposed law would also create a Cannabis Advisory Board of fifteen members appointed by the Governor. The Cannabis Control Commission would adopt regulations governing licensing qualifications; security; record keeping; health and safety standards; packaging and labeling; testing; advertising and displays; required inspections; and such other matters as the Commission considers appropriate. The records of the Commission would be public

The proposed law would authorize cities and towns to adopt reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of operating marijuana businesses and to limit the number of marijuana establishments in their communities. A city or town could hold a local vote to determine whether to permit the selling of marijuana and marijuana products for consumption on the premises at commercial establishments.

The proceeds of retail sales of marijuana and marijuana products would be subject to the state sales tax and an additional excise tax of 3.75%. A city or town could impose a separate tax of up to 2%. Revenue received from the additional state excise tax or from license application fees and civil penalties for violations of this law would be deposited in a Marijuana Regulation Fund and would be used subject to appropriation for administration of the proposed law.

Marijuana-related activities authorized under this proposed law could not be a basis for adverse orders in child welfare cases absent clear and convincing evidence that such activities had created an unreasonable danger to the safety of a minor child. The proposed law would not affect existing law regarding medical marijuana treatment centers or the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence. It would permit property owners to prohibit the use, sale, or production of marijuana on their premises (with an exception that landlords cannot prohibit consumption by tenants of marijuana by means other than by smoking); and would permit

employers to prohibit the consumption of marijuana by employees in the workplace. State and local governments could continue to restrict uses in public buildings or at or near schools. Supplying marijuana to persons under age 21 would be unlawful.

The proposed law would take effect on December 15, 2016.
Findings from GPUS Platform

Page 35, under the category “End the War on Drugs:
“c. Legalize possession of cannabis/marijuana.
d. Strike from the record prior felony convictions for marijuana possession.
e. Grant amnesty and release from confinement without any further parole or probation, those who have been incarcerated for the use of marijuana in federal and state prisons and in county / city jails ….”.
Nothing specific found pertaining to the regulation or taxation of any drug.
Findings from GRP Agenda/Platform

Nothing specific found pertaining to the legalization, regulation or taxation of any drug.
Comments from Platform Listserv Members

Danny Factor: "I believe that this GRP support off this ballot item is consistent with the GRP's  public health policies, criminal justice reform policies/ I believe that recreational marijuana should be legal without fear of penalties, over-prosecution, or interacting with a black market."
Based on Listserv comments and GPUS findings above:
Recommended position: For.


(Certified) Petition Number 15-31

An Act to Allow Fair Access to Public Charter Schools

This Petition was filed by Eileen O’Connor, Partner at Keyser Public Strategies and wife of its founder Will Keyser. Neither she nor her employer are listed as involved in lobbying activities in 2015. In a Keyser website panel describing its efforts for a client named ‘Retailers Association of Massachusetts” (itself a lobbying client), among the company’s efforts for this client: “

“Build awareness of, and support for, legislative action among editorial writers, columnist, and business writers and editors. Support lobbying efforts with targeted outreach to media in key legislator districts.”
Attorney General’s Summary

This proposed law would allow the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools each year. Approvals under this law could expand statewide charter school enrollment by up to 1% of the total statewide public school enrollment each year. New charters and enrollment expansions approved under this law would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them, and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them.

If the Board received more than 12 applications in a single year from qualified applicants, then the proposed law would require it to give priority to proposed charter schools or enrollment expansions in districts where student performance on statewide assessments is in the bottom 25% of all districts in the previous two years and where demonstrated parent demand for additional public school options is greatest.

New charter schools and enrollment expansions approved under this proposed law would be subject to the same approval standards as other charter schools, and to recruitment, retention, and multilingual outreach requirements that currently apply to some charter schools. Schools authorized under this law would be subject to annual performance reviews according to standards established by the Board.

The proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2017.
Findings from GPUS Platform

Page 28:   “We also call attention to the results of a quarter century of corporate funding from the likes of the Bradley and Wal-Mart Family Foundations and a decade of No Child Left Behind — a vast, well-endowed and lucrative sector which seeks to dismantle, privatize, or militarize public education and destroy teachers unions. Regimes of high-stakes standardized testing and the wholesale diversion of resources away from public schools are provoking crises for which the bipartisan corporate consensus recommends school closings, dissolution of entire school districts and replacement by unaccountable, profit-based charter schools. The Green Party is unalterably opposed to the dissolution of public schools and the privatization of education.
Findings from GRP Agenda/Platform

Paragraph under "1 - Healthy Communities":

"Public Schooling: We propose to improve public schooling, making sure that all schools are funded to meet the needs of their children, are run democratically, and are staffed with teachers who are able to cultivate in children a sense of autonomy, a spirit of cooperation, critical thinking, empathy, and an appreciation for diversity. Such schooling, free from the influence of private corporate agendas and militarism, should encourage students to develop practical understandings and skills for living in the wider world."
Comments from Platform Listserv Members
(much comment about this CP, some of it off the mark (which is - expanding charter schools).  Below are some discussion excerpts to be considered)

Jed Stamos(his 1st email):

The question in my mind: is a charter school truly a public school? Charter schools claim to be public schools, but they also receive private funding. So charter schools are certainly in the direction of the privatization of education, especially given that charter teachers are not in teachers unions.

In my opinion, charter schools are part of the slippery slope leading to the eventual abolition of the public school system altogether. Many Republicans have long had this goal: privatize education, take it out of the realm of government. This is why Baker supports lifting the cap.

If there were no charter schools in MA my school would have enough money for an additional science teaching position, $700,000 more for the district. The amount of money being diverted from non-charter public schools is astounding. Millions of dollars in small cities, even more in big.

The issue here is our statement does not speak to the conflict that exists between federal, state and local levels regarding decision-making power. At all 3 levels, various people have hands in the pie. What results is a political-legal cluster mess. The real issues are not discussed, and no real decisions are made.

The solution, as I see it, is to really "meet the needs of the children," and "run democratically." So we should ask ourselves, what are the children's real needs (in 2015) and what would a democratic school look like. Ironically, my sister is a teacher at a charter school that decided to function as a democracy with teacher involvement into admin matters. (Most charters do not do this, and have admins even more dictatorial than public-public school admins. Her school is an exception.)

Charter supporters will say that they are good because they encourage experimentation. However, I have worked at two charter schools, and they were both exactly the same, top-down, hierarchical model that neglected the concerns of parents, students, and teachers. In my conversations with others in education, I have found most charters are run this way. There are exceptions, those well-run, democratic schools that supporters will point to as positive examples. However, I think most analysts agree those schools are the exception, and not the rule.

I feel the GRP should support more democracy / teacher / community decision making in public schools.  That's the real issue. The charter school issue divides politically because one is forced to put all charters in one bag and judge them together. If one does so, the grade is an F, but there are some A charter schools.

Response by Mike, to Jed:

 "Of course there are good charter schools and bad public schools.  The research is in. Charters have a bad record of inclusion-very few students whose primary language is not English, students with special needs-especially severe) which requires more resources and $. Charters have different ways that they cherry pick and press students who are not performing to leave the school, especially just before the time to take the standardized tests. Charters are seldom democratically run and almost never have unions. Charters have more flexibility in hiring teachers that would not have the credentials to work in the public schools. Sometimes that’s OK, but most of the time this is an indication of a lack of training. Charters burn out their teachers more quickly than most public schools. Your experience of leaving the charter and becoming a public school teacher is not unusual.  How can we fight for more democracy in the private/corporate schools? I don’t see a path. I do see a path for fighting for more democratic and accountable schools, because I have been living this path most of my life.  Charters are private schools. Charters are part of the bipartisan corporate agenda.  I do understand why many parents want to send their children to charter schools.   However, for our party, opposition to charters is part of our opposition to the power of the corporatocracy in running our schools and our lives."

Excerpt from second statement by Jed:

Everyone has a bias. I've been working as a physics teacher since 2002. I've worked at one private, 2 charter and 2 public schools. The private school did incorporate better policies, but they struggled financially, so teacher pay was low. In my experience, the charter schools were not as good as public. Yet, I do not think the GRP should ask successful charters to close. Public schools are mostly based on the same political model, which is non-democratic and authoritarian (via the principal). (Of course, there are examples of other models, and I recognize that. There is something to be said for experimentation. The state (and federal) government have a lot of power regarding how schools are organized. The GRP could make suggestions about changes. We could advocate for states and localities giving communities the power to organize their school in another way, in which there is more democracy and consensus decision making among teachers, and less admin control. And there should be dialog between communities, parents and students and teachers regarding what the exact policies should be (esp. regarding discipline). State control is more than just MCAS; it extends to the way in which schools are run. Charter schools are under less state control, but only to the benefit of the administration. If we give teachers (and students and guardians) more decision-making power, I feel the schools would be greatly improved.  

From Elie:

"I really do wonder why Green-Rainbow Party members are so dominated by traditional interest politics.  Certainly the late capitalist operation of seeking new continents as required for unlimited growth of profits, targets public schooling as a potential investment.  Diane Ravitch has documented this thoroughly.

But what happens if a group of individual teachers, each of them wishing to realize a shared goal of providing children with an education for moving beyond the social status quo, a vision of a free society whose members seek and cherish the common good, form a co-op that attracts many parents from all walks of life.  By what means can such a school survive other than as a charter school financed by the state, through vouchers?"

Bill Ashley, responding to two descriptions by Jed:

"Charter supporters will say that they are good because they encourage experimentation."  To the extent that this statement is true - there are approximately 100 charter school right now, why does experimentation need to keep expanding?  And if the goal is true experimentation, why aren't charter schools distributed evenly around the Commonwealth (only one in Berkshire County, at Adams)?"

"Charters have a bad record of inclusion-very few students whose primary language is not English, students with special needs-especially severe) which requires more resources and $"  Sounds more like cherry-picking to get good scores than experimentation.

If the goal was truly to be experimental, to uncover techniques that work - such techniques are needed for special needs students, students just learning English, as well as for those who are achieving well.  For true experimentation, perhaps the policy for charter schools should be: (1) even geographical distribution around the state (possibly different techniques in different regions); (2) student body should be truly diversified; and (3) 100 charter schools are enough; each new charter school should only be authorized to replace another that is being closed down.

Danny Factor:  "In addition to the concerns stated above about Charter schools not educating  the entire child,  (e.g. a corporate model that is more focused on children being profitable than democratically educated) I also have great concerns about charter schools being exempt from the kinds of teacher and staff protections from issues of job security, staff benefits (e.g. salary, healthy insurance) and the ability to be in a union. There are additional reasons that I would vote  'no' ."
Based on GPUS/GRP positions and Listserv comments:
Recommended position: Against.


(Certified) Petition Number 15-34
An Act Relative to Expanded Gaming

This Petition was filed by Eugene McCain. There is no 2015 lobbying activity associated with this person.
Attorney General’s Summary

This proposed law would allow the state Gaming Commission to issue one additional category 2 license, which would permit operation of a gaming establishment with no table games and not more than 1,250 slot machines.

The proposed law would authorize the Commission to request applications for the additional license to be granted to a gaming establishment located on property that is (i) at least four acres in size; (ii) adjacent to and within 1,500 feet of a race track, including the track’s additional facilities, such as the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, amphitheatre, and bleachers; (iii) where a horse racing meeting may physically be held; (iv) where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted; and (v) not separated from the race track by a highway or railway.
Findings from GPUS Platform

Page 60: opposition to “giveaways for new sports stadiums and casinos.”, but no other mention of casinos or gambling establishments.
Findings from GRP Agenda/Platform

No mention of gambling or casinos.
Comments from Platform Listserv Members

Danny Factor:  "FYI below is a November 4, 2013 statement by the Greater Boston Chapter (approved in an on-line vote by a vote of 9 to 0) opposing the establishment of a casino in East Boston. It contains many arguments as to why most Greens oppose casinos and other gambling establishments. It contains many reasons that are still valid today as to why I recommend a 'no' vote."

The Greater Boston Chapter of the Green-Rainbow Party joins citizens activist groups like Friends of East Boston, No Eastie Casino and many others in calling for East Boston residents to vote "NO" on a $1 billion resort-style casino at Suffolk Downs on November 5th.
Gambling casinos are job killers and community killers. Casinos depend on-- and prey upon-- people who have problems resisting their lure.  They suck money out of a community without producing any product of value.  The social costs of increased gambling-- such as crime, and the destruction of families due to gambling addiction--- are greater than any tax revenues they produce. In fact, throughout America, casinos have hurt nearby businesses and lowered property values in their host communities. As a source of income for a state or a community it is among the most regressive.  Casino's tactics have only become more devious: they now primarily consist of slot machines which today are sophisticated computers engineered to create fast, continuous and repeat betting, carefully designed to ensure that the longer you play, the more you and your community loses.   
Meanwhile, with Caesars having pulled out as the operator of the casino, developers have not yet found a casino operator at Suffolk Downs that can meet minimal standards of decency. The Commonwealth refuses to release publicly its report that Caesars which is alleged to state that Caesars pulled out due to it's association with organized crime and that revenues from two of Caesars casinos were fueled by alcohol and painkillers the casinos provided. Is this not enough of a red flag that this is not healthy industry?
As a result, we feel the same sentiment as pastor Don Namstad of East Boston's  Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church who at an anti-casino rally recently stated "Beware of false prophets that come dressed in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves,”
Sadly, we cannot rely on many of our elected officials to do the right thing on this issue since the issue of casinos inevitably corrupts the political system, and Massachusetts has been no exception.  Democratic and Republican politicians know that the casino operators always are big contributors to campaign warchests, and that is a large reason why so many Boston candidates support them, even though they are so harmful to our community. It is because of this risk of political corruption that we hold citizens referendums. This is why it is so important that the voters of East Boston speak out loudly to vote NO on November 5th. We in our communities are the only hope.
In voting no, the citizens of East Boston we are saying that we supports a different kind of infusion into our communities-- one based on values which  emphasize the ability of human beings to work together to revitalize our communities so every person can be a creative contributor, have a decent life, and be free from fear, discrimination, and hopelessness. This means creating healthy communities where our basic rights to food, heath care and housing are met, where schools teach cooperation are funded to meet the needs of their children, and where the enterprises which we allow are community owned, cooperatively run, serve the healthy needs of our community  and environmentally sustainable. This is the vision that the Green-Rainbow Party supports.
Based on Listserv comments and GPUS position:

                                                                                                                                               Recommended position: Against.

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Showing 4 reactions

  • Nancy Slator
    commented 2016-07-10 11:24:23 -0400
    Sorry to post twice on the same subject, but this is the article I was looking for on the farm ballot question. It was sent to me by a friend who does community outreach at Just Roots farm in Greenfield. http://farmvalues.net/diemand/
  • Nancy Slator
    commented 2016-07-09 16:26:01 -0400
    Regarding the “Cruelty to Animals” question, it affects one farm in the whole state, the small family-owned Diemand Farm from my neighboring town of Wendell. They are not factory farmers. Here’s a good article on the situation. http://www.recorder.com/Archives/2015/12/DiemandChickens-GR-121015
  • Nancy Slator
    commented 2016-07-09 16:01:39 -0400
    The question with any school reform always has to be “who is left behind?” Charter schools allow private groups of parents to organize schools and command involuntary funding from the local schools. True public schools have publicly elected school boards and budgets approved by taxpayers. Charter schools take public funding but that doesn’t make them public institutions any more than Halliburton is.

    There will always be stories of students who thrived at charter schools, and individual parents have to do what is right for their own child. But public policy has to take into account all students, including the ones charter schools counsel out to keep their test scores high and the ones whose schools are impoverished so that a parallel duplicative system of charter schools can exist.

    There is a provision in the charter law for public Horace Mann Charter Schools under the auspices of local school boards. Teachers and parents who wanted to start a new school with union protections and true public involvement can use that mechanism. There have never been as many Horace Mann schools open as the law allows.
  • David Spanagel
    commented 2016-07-09 09:18:56 -0400
    I have always been out of step with the party on its blanket opposition to charter schools. Elie hits the issue squarely with his question – where but via the charter school mechanism can an independent group of parents and educators in any community organize to form a democratic school?

    Our son Paul attended the Parker charter essential school in Ayer (there is another in Fitchburg) – where he and other children thrived in the absence of letter grades, the presence of mixed-age classes, and interdisciplinary theme-based curricula. Each student graduated with a portfolio of work, no GPA. Paul’s first experience of a “test” in a classroom occurred in undergraduate school at Vassar, where he also flourished. He just completed his Master’s degree in informal education at U. Pennsylvania, and his thesis research focused on democratic schooling models and how teacher training would need to be structured to prepare teachers to function in such an environment.

    I credit the Parker charter school with having provided something like that kind of environment for Paul and his classmates. Call it an “experiment” if you must, but the handful of essential schools in Massachusetts (and the hundreds elsewhere) DO PROVIDE a functioning student-centered alternative to top-down, fragmentary disciplinary curriculum-driven, high stakes testing institutions.