Massachusetts Voters Reject Nurse Staffing Ratio Bill

BOSTON – After an expensive campaign that sharply divided health care professionals, Massachusetts voters have rejected strict limits on the number of patients a single nurse can care for at one time.

The ballot question 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.

Bay State voters have approved a ballot question stemming from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on corporate political spending.

The measure calls for creation of a 15-member commission that would be charged with advancing a constitutional amendment that would 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.”

A state law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations, including bathrooms and locker rooms was upheld.

The yes vote on the ballot question Tuesday rejects 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.

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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