Voters on Tuesday said no to stricter limits on the number of patients a single nurse can care for at one time and yes to taking the first step to regulate corporate political spending and upholding a state law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places, including bathrooms and locker rooms.
Question 1 on the ballot would have established nurse-to-patient ratios in various hospital units and set penalties for hospitals that failed to comply.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association supported the question, while hospitals and doctors’ groups opposed it. The two sides combined had spent more than $30 million to make their case to voters.
Supporters said the nurse staffing requirements would make patients safer, but opponents said it would create an overly rigid system that could result in hospitals being forced to turn away some patients.
California is the only other U.S. state with mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.
Question 2 on the ballot stemmed from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate political spending.
The measure will create a 15-member commission that will be charged with advancing a constitutional amendment to reverse the 2010 Citizens United decision. The ruling prohibits the government from limiting political spending by corporations, unions and other groups.
Critics say the ruling has paved the way for corporations and wealthy special interests to spend freely and exert undue influence on political campaigns.
The unpaid commission would have until Dec. 31, 2019, to make recommendations.
Opponents of the question said amending the constitution would be “dangerous and misguided.”
The yes vote on Question 3 Tuesday rejected an effort by opponents to repeal the 2-year-old law. It was the first statewide referendum in the U.S. on transgender rights.
Supporters of the law feared a vote to repeal would prompt a wave of similar efforts to roll back protections in other states. Massachusetts was the first to legalize gay marriage and is viewed as one of the most LGBT-friendly states.
Activists on both sides of the debate watched the Massachusetts vote carefully. National LGBT rights groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union, offered financial support and other resources for the ballot campaign, helping supporters of the law outraise and outspend by a wide margin those who wanted to repeal it.
The National Center for Transgender Equality called Tuesday’s vote “a stunning rebuke of anti-transgender lies and prejudice.”
Nineteen other U.S. states have similar laws or legal precedents protecting transgender people, but the vote in Massachusetts was the first statewide referendum on the issue.
“We are deeply disappointed that the people of Massachusetts will continue to be forced to sacrifice their privacy and safety in the name of political correctness,” said Andrew Beckwith, legal analyst for No On 3- Keep MA Safe.
The stakes appeared to rise even higher last month following a report that the Trump administration was considering adoption of a new definition of gender that would effectively deny federal recognition and civil rights protections to transgender Americans. The New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services was circulating a memo proposing that gender be defined as an immutable biological condition determined by a person’s sex organs at birth.
Critics say the 2016 law allows sexual predators to invade private spaces for women by claiming female gender identity. No such incidents have been reported in Massachusetts since the measure took effect.
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