Our recommendations on questions facing Massachusetts voters

Early voting in Massachusetts has proved popular in its inaugural run, and as many as a third or more of eligible voters have already cast their ballots in some communities. For the rest of us, Tuesday is the last chance. While we can’t believe there are many voters still undecided about the hard-fought presidential contest, there are four ballot questions that deserve thought before you head to the polls. Allow us to review our recommendations.

 Question 1

 Five years ago, the state Legislature legalized casino gambling, establishing a process for authorizing three full casinos and one slots parlo, spread across the state. Voters endorsed the law in 2014, rejecting a move to repeal it by a strong margin.

Question 1 aims to change that structure for the sole benefit of a developer who wants to build a slots parlor next to Suffolk Downs in Revere. His project’s location, close to the Wynn casino now being built in Everett, would undermine the state’s plan to create a sustainable gaming industry spread around the state. There’s simply no good reason to support Question 1, so we urge a No vote. (Full editorial here)

 Question 2

 The most contentious issue on the ballot would authorize more charter schools to open in struggling school districts where they are now capped by law. Charter schools are public schools, open to all students, controlled by independent boards and supervised by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

For the proponents of Question 2, it’s all about the kids - specifically, the 32,000 mostly urban, mostly low-income students stuck on waiting lists for charter schools in the cities where the cap has prevented charter expansion. For the opponents, it’s been all about the money - specifically, the state aid that follows the students to the charter schools.

We find the money argument unpersuasive. A Mass. Taxpayers Foundation report found that 3.9 percent of public education funding goes to charter schools, which educate 3.9 percent of the public school population. Meanwhile, per-pupil spending has risen in every school district, notably Boston’s, which now spends more per pupil than Wellesley.

Charter schools spend significantly less per pupil, while delivering better results - especially for low-income students, English language learners and special needs students. Independent researchers have found two years in a charter school is often enough to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.

Public charter schools have a mixed record nationally, but here in Massachusetts, where for-profit charter schools are prohibited and state education officials set high standards for awarding and renewing charters, they are changing lives for the better for the state’s neediest children.

On their behalf, we urge a YES vote. (Full editorial here)

 Question 3

 If approved, Question 3 would require all eggs and meat sold in Massachusetts be produced in humane conditions, specifically that hens and livestock be kept in pens large enough so they can turn around, stretch their legs and extend their wings. Proponents argue that other states have already adopted similar rules, and that major purchasers of agricultural products, including McDonald’s, Walmart and Dunkin’ Donuts, have already committed to selling only humanely-raised products.

Opponents argue that conscientious consumers can already choose to purchase only humanely-raised products, and that the new rules will drive up the cost of food. We find that the evidence from other states indicates such changes aren’t all that expensive, and the long phase-in period in Question 3 will give producers plenty of time to adapt.

We recommend a YES vote. (Full editorial here)

 Question 4

 Four states have already legalized the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use, and Massachusetts is one of five states considering proposals to to do the same on Tuesday’s ballot. Question 4 would create a Cannabis Control Commission empowered to regulate marijuana products and marketing, with local control over siting and signage, and an option to ban facilities through a vote in a local election.

Some opponents of Question 4 have fallen back on Reefer Madness hysteria, warning of poisoned pets and children, carnage on the highways and neighborhoods overrun with lurid pot shops. Others have said the state Legislature should produce its own legalization bill, and that it’s just too soon to take such a big step.

Our position is that marijuana is already widely used and here to stay. There are legitimate public interests involved - keeping adult intoxicants away from children, highway safety and consumer protection, for starters - but a regulated market of licensed dealers is much better suited to protect those interests than the black market that has been supplying the Bay State with marijuana for 50 years. We doubt the Legislature could - or would - produce a better bill, and lawmakers will have ample opportunity to address any problems that arise from legalization that the Cannabis Control Commission can’t handle.

We recommend a YES vote. (Full editorial here)