Voters approve Question 2 in Massachusetts, AP projects; driver’s license questions, liquor sales still undecided

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Voters have approved a change to dental insurance regulations, known as Question 2, according to an Associated Press projection.

The news agency had not yet expected rulings on Question 3, about expanding liquor licensing, and Question 1, about whether the state should change its flat-rate income tax. 5% to add a surtax on the highest incomes.

Hours before the polls closed, Tom Smith of Neighbors United for a Better East Boston went door to door asking people to vote yes to questions 1 and 4.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Regarding question 2, voters decided to require dental insurers to spend at least 83% of insurance premiums on patient care rather than administrative costs. Question 2 indicates that if insurers do not spend enough to meet the threshold, they should return the money to Massachusetts patients through rebates. Voters approved the measure by a wide margin of more than 735,000 votes with just under 70% of the constituencies, according to the AP.

No minimum threshold is currently imposed on the industry.

The ballot measure was backed by dentists and opposed by insurance companies, who said insurance premiums would rise if passed. They say insurers would still have largely the same administrative costs as before, but would now only be allowed to use 17% of the premium they collect to pay them.

Proponents have argued that dental insurance should have minimum requirements on how much to spend on patient care, similar to those already imposed on other health insurance providers. Under state law, medical insurers in Massachusetts must spend 88% of the premiums they collect on patient care.

Question 4, pushed by a GOP-led group and largely funded by auto parts official and GOP activist Rick Green, centers on an existing law that will go into effect next summer, if voters vote for it. respect. The law allows people without legal immigration status to obtain a driver’s license by providing two documents proving their identity, such as a foreign passport, birth certificate or marriage certificate.

The law, which passed earlier this year over the objections of Gov. Charlie Baker, was backed by immigrant rights groups, insurance companies, the attorney general, the majority of sheriffs and district attorneys. of the state and the chiefs of police of the large cities of Massachusetts, which represent the cities of more than 40,000 inhabitants.

It was signed into law in June after Massachusetts lawmakers voted to override a veto by Baker, who said the proposal could threaten election security, among other concerns.

Under the new law, the state is required to ensure that people who do not have proof of legal residency are not automatically registered to vote under state law that registers those applying. a driver’s license and who are of voting age.

The idea, which has been fiercely debated for years, would affect much of the estimated quarter-million undocumented people living in Massachusetts – and, according to its proponents, the millions of drivers they share the roads with. . Critics say it rewards people who break the law by living in the country without legal status and encourages others to do the same.

Luis Medina, 56, knows the power of a driver’s license. When he fled Columbia to Boston in 1985, he drove a car to work as a chef and landscaper, and took his children to school. But that was before he had legal status, so he was not allowed to legally acquire a driver’s license.

“I had no choice,” said Medina, who now lives in Malden and works as a janitor. Medina spent election day canvassing for the Question 4 campaign as a member of the Service Employees International Union.

“Forty years ago I was worried,” he said. “We don’t want that anymore.”

For Gladys Ortiz, the new law would mean the difference between safety and harm for the immigrant community, especially undocumented victims of domestic violence. Ortiz is an advocate and director of the organization REACH Beyond Domestic Violence.

Ortiz, a Colombian immigrant, said that without a legal means to drive, many of the victims she works with will have to “stay in the shadows.”

“It’s a big deal,” said Ortiz, who has spent the past decade championing the new law. “[Driving] is a tool for them to escape. . . . It will give them freedom. As a defender, it’s so important.

Some Republicans, however, have challenged the concept for a number of reasons and have drawn on themes of electoral integrity and a lack of national immigration policy to persuade voters to vote “no.”

Jim Lyons, chairman of the state’s Republican Party, said the issue was “crucial” in Massachusetts.

“The rule of law matters,” Lyons told reporters on election night for Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl. “You know, I remember when I was young and getting my driver’s license was a privilege. So why do we reward people for bad behavior? They are in the country illegally. They shouldn’t get their license.

Voters at the polls appeared to side with their dentists on Tuesday and threw their support behind Question 2, which will require dental insurers to spend at least 83% of patient premiums on dental care, rather than administrative costs.

According to unofficial results reported shortly before 11:40 p.m., around 71% of voters voted in favor of the measure. Nearly 29% voted against the measure. About 50 percent of constituencies had reported results.

The ballot measure is backed by dentists and opposed by insurance companies, who say insurance premiums would rise if passed. They say insurers would still have largely the same administrative costs as before, but would now only be allowed to use 17% of the premium they collect to pay them.

Proponents argue that dental insurance should have minimum requirements on how much to spend on patient care, similar to those already imposed on other health insurance providers. Under state law, medical insurers in Massachusetts must spend 88% of the premiums they collect on patient care.

In a Tuesday night statement from the Massachusetts Dental Care Providers for Better Dental Benefits Committee, the group hailed what looked like a successful vote. The group predicted that similar measures would be replicated in other states.

“Massachusetts voters appear to have overwhelmingly approved Question 2 of the ballot, which would bring about the nation’s first dental insurance reform that will ensure patients’ dollars are spent on patient care, protect consumers from sharp increases in dental insurance premiums and will provide increased transparency and accountability for dental insurers’ spending,” the statement said.

Voters rejected question 3 at the ballot box. The measure asked voters whether the state should gradually increase the number of locations where a single business can sell beer or wine, from nine to 18. A change in the law would also have lowered the cap on all-alcohol licenses, or the number of places a business can sell hard liquor, from nine to seven.

The question failed with around 55% of voters in opposition. Yes, the votes totaled around 45%, according to unofficial results, with around 50% of constituencies reporting around 11:40 p.m.

A sign outside a store in Newton about question 3 on the ballot.
Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Team

The ballot measure is not the first time such a problem has arisen. In 2011, small independent liquor stores and large retail chains worked out a compromise in the state legislature that gradually raised the liquor license limit from three to nine. In 2019, convenience store chain Cumberland Farms announced plans for a ballot measure that would lift the liquor licensing cap entirely for grocery stores like theirs.

In response, the Massachusetts Package Stores Association offered a compromise in the form of a ballot initiative.

Sahar Fatima and Daniel McDonald of Globe staff and Globe correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.


Samantha J. Gross can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross. John Hilliard can be contacted at [email protected]

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