Massachusetts voters have spoken, and the results are in. MPHA endorsed NO on Question 1, saying no to unsafe roads and bridges, and YES on Question 4, ensuring that all MA workers have access to earned sick time. With the narrowest margin of all the ballot questions, voters passed Question 1, repealing the 2013 law automatically adjusting the state’s gas tax based on the rate of inflation.The great victory of the campaign season was the approval of Question 4, granting sick time to nearly 1 million MA workers who currently do not have access to this. MPHA took a stand on these questions for the important public health implications they represent. With the election over, what do the results mean for the public health of the Commonwealth?
We are disappointed to report the passage of Question 1. MPHA advocated to maintain the gas indexing law, which helps fund necessary road and bridge infrastructure maintenance and repair. Prior to this election, the Massachusetts’ gas tax had not changed in 21 years. Allowing the gas tax to depend on inflation would have funded necessary repairs to roads and bridges; however, Tuesday’s results mean that the gas tax will remain at 24 cents per gallon until the legislature votes to change it. This defeat only proves that we need to remain active as advocates for safer roads and bridges, and we know that over 960,000 people in the Commonwealth (47% of voters) agree that more money should go towards infrastructure repairs. This is an issue MPHA cares about deeply and we will need your help to continue to advocate for Complete Streets and other built environment programs and funding that will be affected by the results of this ballot measure.
Despite the work that lies ahead surround the implications for Question 1, MPHA is proud to announce the passage of Question 4. Massachusetts has said “yes” to earned sick time for MA workers. This law will go into effect July 2015, ensuring that the 1 million employees who do not currently offer sick time will be able to earn it. For every 30 hours worked, an employee will earn 1 hour of sick time, with a maximum of 40 hours of sick time earned. Companies with 11 employees or more will have to pay employees when they take sick leave. Employees working at companies with 10 or fewer employees will have access to unpaid sick leave and job security, but do not have to be compensated for this time. Leave time can be used to take time off for an illness or domestic abuse situation for oneself or a family member. The thousands of MA workers that are forced to decide between the health and well-being of their families and income no longer have to worry. Implementation and enforcement of earned sick time, especially for part-time employees and for employees of companies with limited staffing, will require continued support and diligence from the public health community.
We are proud to have been a part of both No on 1 and Yes on 4’s campaigns, and thank all of you who joined us in emphasizing the public health messages and implications of these measures. With or without a win from a public health standpoint, both campaigns have increased efforts to improve the health of communities, bring awareness to important public health issues, and inspire a call to action. The results of these ballot questions reinforce the need for everyone to encourage voter registration, get out the vote, and advocate for the public health of the Commonwealth.