NEXT New England
About This Show
NEXT is a weekly radio show and podcast about New England, one of America’s oldest places, at a time of change. It’s hosted by John Dankosky at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut. Through original reporting and interviews, we ask important questions about the issues we explore: where are we now? How did we get here? And what's next?
Most Recent Episode
Episode 68: Referendum
3 days ago
This week, we’re talking ballot questions. Why are more of them showing up in voting booths in states like Maine and Massachusetts, and how much power do elected officials have to tinker with citizen-passed laws? Plus, a Puerto Rican family is reunited in Holyoke, Mass., and a Vermont veteran with PTSD finds a way to heal, through farming. Listen to the end, and we’ll take you to the most peaceful place in the universe.
Marijuana plants are harvested and hung in a processing facility in Franklin, Mass. Currently only medical cannabis sales are legal in Massachusetts. A referendum passed in 2016 set the date for legal recreational sales to begin at January 1, 2018. But a law passed this summer by the state legislature pushed the date to July 1, 2018. Photo by Jesse Costa for WBUR
Power to the People?
Mainer Kathleen Phelps speaks in favor of expanding Medicaid at a news conference in Portland. Me. on Oct. 13, 2016. Photo by Patti Wight for Maine Public
Maine voters earlier this month approved a ballot measure that would expand the Medicaid program, making it available to more than 70,000 Mainers. But Governor Paul LePage — who used his veto power to block past legislative attempts to expand Medicaid — has said he won’t implement Medicaid expansion until the statehouse appropriates funds to pay for the state’s share of the program.
Last year, Maine and Massachusetts voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana through a referendum — but in both states, lawmakers have altered the legislation, raising taxes and pushing back the start date for legal weed sales.
Looking forward to 2018, Boston public radio station WBUR recently polled Massachusetts residents on three questions proposed for next year’s election. Respondents showed overwhelming support for initiatives to institute paid family leave, raise taxes on millionaires, and lower the sales tax.
All this left us thinking: how powerful are ballot questions when the will of the people is later overhauled by their legislators? And why are they showing up more frequently in states like Maine and Massachusetts in recent years? Joining us to help answer those questions are Steve Mistle