Midterm elections are coming up here in Massachusetts and in addition to a range of state and local elections for public office, Massachusetts voters will also be deciding on three ballot initiatives.
Question one is a limit on how many patients can be assigned to registered nurses in hospitals and other health care facilities. The limits imposed by the law vary based on the type of unit and level of care. For example, in psychiatric or rehabilitation units, there would be a five-patient limit per one nurse. If the law passes, facilities would be required to comply with the limits without reducing their level of nursing or other staff.
Senior nursing major, Margaret Berenson, is concerned about the amount of time that medical facilities are being given to comply with the policy. The law would go into effect in January of 2019. “It takes a lot of time to train nurses and there’s no way we could train nurses by that time,” she said. “New nurses usually require a certain amount of training by another nurse before they can be on the floor.” The two months between election day and the effect date are not long enough to train new staff that will be hired to comply with the law, according to Berenson.
For Junior nursing major, Kelsey Hammond, the benefits that the patient limits will have on nurse stress levels far outweigh any consequences. “I went into nursing because I wanted to help people and I think passing question one will help increase patient safety and decrease nurse burnout and stress levels.
Hammond is aware that this law would force hospitals to spend money hiring new staff. “Hospital executives have been kind of caught up in their own greed and they know they’re going to lose money” she said. “They’re going to have to hire more nurses and that’s the point.”
Berenson agrees that nurse to patient ratios in emergency departments are too high. Yet she is concerned changing the ratios without adequate research would result in patients not getting the care they need.
The second ballot initiative would establish a 15-member commission on limiting election spending and corporate rights. The committee would consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same rights as individuals and that campaign contributions and expenditures from corporations should be regulated.
The committee would be required to create a report by December 31st 2019, that analyzes the state of corporate and other entities’ political spending within the state.
The governor, secretary of the commonwealth, state attorney general, speaker of the house, and senate president would each appoint three members to the commission. Any Massachusetts resident who is also a United States citizen can apply to be appointed.
Coordinator of Community and Government relations and adjunct professor in the political science department, Christopher Wilkinson, is very much in favor of question two.
“The current state of campaign finance should embarrass and disgust voters” Wilkinson says. “Without financial contribution limits on these groups, we’ll see political dynasties rooted in corporate and moneyed interests.”
Wilkinson’s support for the commission stems from his firm disagreement with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case which ruled that restrictions on corporate expenditures in elections violate freedom of speech. The commission would essentially be aiming to overturn this decision.
I believe this was a major step in the wrong direction and the only way to correct this is an amendment to the US Constitution” he said.
Sophomore economics major and WUML intern for the Thursday Morning Drive By, Jonathan Meister, agrees that the Supreme Court decision should be overruled. “It would get money out of politics” he says.
However, Meister does not believe that the establishment of a commission is the correct way to go about doing so. “A constitutional amendment is extremely hard to get put in place and would seem like a waste of resources” he says.
The third and final ballot question is a referendum on a current Massachusetts law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places. The law requires that, in places with separate areas of use for males and females, such as bathrooms and changing rooms, individuals be allowed to choose which area is consistent with their identity. A yes vote keeps the current law the same while a no vote would repeal the provision.
The law also directs the state Attorney General to issue regulations on legal action against anyone who falsely asserts a specific gender identity for inappropriate purposes.
Associate Director of Residence Life and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Resources division of student affairs, Marshall Greenleaf, says that the division wants students to be aware of all aspects of the proposed law and its implications.
“We want people to understand what the law is and what the issue is so that folks can make informed decisions” he says. “We want all members of our community to feel safe and included and like who they are is important.”
Midterm elections in Massachusetts take place on Tuesday November 6th. Polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting is also available for this election until Friday, November 2nd.