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Healey Clears Most Proposed State Ballot Questions

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts attorney general cleared the way on Wednesday for supporters of more than 20 proposed ballot questions, including ones calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana use, to proceed with efforts to place the measures before Massachusetts voters next year.

Attorney General Maura Healey issued her rulings on the constitutionality of initiative petitions filed earlier this summer by residents seeking new laws or changes in the state's constitution.

Read: Rulings On Proposed Ballot Questions

Among a handful of proposed laws rejected by Healey was one that called for legalizing fireworks sales in Massachusetts. In a letter to the measure's sponsor, former state Rep. Richard Bastien, Healey said the language of the proposal runs afoul of requirements for initiative petitions by containing portions that were not related or mutually dependent.

Others that were rejected included a proposed question that sponsors said would make the Legislature more accountable, and another that called for a ban on state or municipal governments working with groups that deny the Holocaust.

Four questions were submitted by two separate groups seeking to allow adult recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts. Healey opposes marijuana legalization, but her decision on whether to allow any question to go forward was required to be based on legal and not philosophical grounds.

Voters in 2012 approved a law allowing pot to be used for certain medical conditions.

Also certified was a petition filed by a coalition of animal rights groups aiming to effectively prohibit farm animals such as breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens from being confined to small cages or crates where they are barely able to move. Supporters of the measure call the practice "torture," but a group representing farmers says nearly all producers in Massachusetts already conform to higher standards.

Other proposals certified includes one seeking to expand charter schools, make public records more accessible and lowering tobacco taxes.

Sponsors of certified questions must now gather at least 64,750 signatures statewide by Nov. 28. If the Legislature fails to adopt the question by May 3, sponsors would then have to collect another 10,792 signatures to secure a spot on the November 2016 ballot.

In recent election cycles about three or four questions have typically make it all the way to the ballot.

Sponsors of rejected petitions can challenge Healey's ruling in court — as gambling opponents did when former Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled that a proposal to repeal the state's 2011 casino law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Judicial Court ultimately allowed the question to go on the ballot, but voters defeated it last November.

In addition to the proposed new laws, Healey also ruled on several proposed constitutional amendments, certifying two but rejecting several others that largely dealt with political spending by corporations.

Constitutional amendments follow a different route to the ballot, and the earliest that any proposed this year could go before voters is 2018.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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