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190th Legislative Agenda - MIDSESSION UPDATE

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One Year into the Session, Is the Legislature Advancing a Progressive Agenda?

February 7 was so-called “Joint Rule Ten Day,” the deadline for joint committees in the MA Legislature to report out bills favorably--or not.

That creates a perfect opportunity to take stock of the status of our 2017-2018 Legislative Agenda, which is built around the goals of our Progressive Platform.

Of our 17 priorities, the Legislature has done as much as they can, working hard and making progress*!! (*…. on exactly two of those bills).

Successes (click to read more): ACCESS Bill and the Fair Share Amendment

NOT PASSED YET (click to read more): 

Legislation from Our Shared Prosperity Agenda

Legislation from Our All Means All Agenda for Racial and Social Justice

Legislation from Our Good Government/Strong Democracy Agenda

Legislation from Our Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment Agenda

APPENDIX

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Successes

ACCESS Bill

The ACCESS bill, which guarantees copay-free contraception, sailed through the House 140-16, passed the Senate on standing vote, and then was signed by Governor Baker in November. Drafted--and passed--directly in response to the threats to healthcare at the federal level (Trump and Congressional Republicans’ commitment to dismantle and destroy the Affordable Care Act), the ACCESS bill illustrates how decisively the Legislature can move, both in defense and with a proactive move to guarantee policy stability, when there is political will. (Keep that in mind as we talk about the bills that haven’t advanced as far).

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Fair Share Amendment

Back in the summer, the Legislature overwhelmingly voted to send the Fair Share amendment to the November ballot (House: 105-48; Senate: 29-7)--the rest of the work for final passage is, because it is a state Constitutional amendment, up to us (📋📋📋📋).

Quick refresher: The Fair Share amendment (Do you remember collecting signatures for it back in the fall of 2015?) would create a graduated income tax (additional 4%) on income over a one-million dollar threshold. The revenue generated would be designated for and invested in transportation and education. Having a “millionaire’s tax” could raise up to $1.9 billion a year, helping counter our decades of underinvestment and structural deficits.

But on to the other 15.

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Shared Prosperity

To advance a Shared Prosperity agenda, we need to raise the minimum wage, implement fair tax policy, create a truly universal health care system, guarantee paid family and medical leave, provide more affordable housing, better fund our public schools, and guarantee debt-free higher education for all.

Labor

Last summer and fall, Progressive Massachusetts members around the state collected more than 13,000 (!) signatures to put a $15 minimum wage (H.2365 / S.1004) and Paid Family and Medical Leave (H.2172 / S.1048) on the November 2018 ballot.

The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on the two ballot initiatives, on January 31st. Negotiations are ongoing, and the Legislature has until May 9th to pass these bills. If they don’t, back to collecting signatures (📋📋📋) and on to the November ballot.

Take Action 

Hubdialer will be running every Tuesday and Thursday morning and evening. Hubdialer is an automated call system that allows you to target voters and then patch them through to their legislator's voicemail. To join a hubdialer phonebank, click here. 

Postcard collection is designed to collect data at events from voters in support of these two bills, and the postcards will be delivered by the campaign to each legislator. To request postcards, please email jdimauro@progressivemass.com.

Community Briefings are gatherings by coalition members and volunteers with elected officials where we will hear testimony, educate the public about the bills, and ask for support from our legislators. These briefings will be happening around the state. Find the closest one to you here: http://raiseupma.org/communitybriefing/

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Housing

S.81, which upgrades state’s zoning laws to encourage more affordable housing and transit-oriented, walkable development, and promotes inclusionary zoning practices, was moved to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, which has until March 7th to make a decision. Senate President Harriette Chandler is the bill’s lead sponsor, and it passed the Senate last session. The main question will be whether the House takes action as well.

Take Action

Sign the Great Neighborhoods petition.

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Public Education

The 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission found that Massachusetts is underestimating the cost of K-12 education by $1-2 billion each year because of an archaic funding formula for local aid that dates back to 1993. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s S.223 would authorize a multi-year phase-in of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations in order to properly account for health care and special education costs and provide districts with adequate resources to help close the achievement gaps for low-income students and English Language Learners. 

It was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Education and, indeed, has the support of all 40 senators. Given the Legislature’s historic hostility to raising additional revenue, will it punt again? Our schools can’t wait.

Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), the the two bills on debt-free higher education (H.633 / S.681) were transformed into a commission on college affordability. Will that commission ever meet? Who knows? Either way, the bills will come back next session.

Take Action

Call your senator and representative and ask them to urge Leadership (including Ways & Means Chairs Karen Spilka and Jeff Sanchez) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. If you’re a parent, organize some fellow parent friends for a sign-on letter to the Ways & Means Committee. Make sure to stress the importance of including all four recommendations (health care cost, SPED, ELL rate, and low-income rate).

Want to take the next step? Encourage your legislators to support Sen. Chang-Diaz’s S.220 as well, which fixes part of the Foundation Budget formula that disservices cities like Boston.

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Health Care

Massachusetts led in health care reform, and with the momentum behind Medicare for All growing (which is supported by both Sen. Markey and Sen. Warren), we could lead again.

Alas, the Medicare for All bills (H.2987 / S.619) were sent to further study. (Spoiler: The study will never happen -- but the bills will be back again next session.)

That said, the health care bill passed by the MA Senate last fall included a Mass Health buy-in (a public option) and a provision requiring the establishment of a “single payer benchmark,” i.e., annual reports detailing a comparison of the actual health care expenditures in the commonwealth for 2016, 2017, and 2018 with those under a single payer system. If the “single payer benchmark” outperforms actual costs, then the Health Policy Commission has to propose a single payer plan.

Take Action

The House may take up health care reform this spring, and it would be a major win to see the single payer benchmark bill get into the House bill. Email your representative to stress the importance of including H.596 to keep health care reform moving forward.

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All Means All

To advance an All Means All agenda of racial and social justice, we need to reduce sentences for nonviolent crimes, invest in jobs instead of jails, end the criminalization of poverty in our justice system, protect the rights of immigrants, and ensure women’s reproductive freedom.

Criminal Legal System Reform

Last fall, the House and Senate both passed comprehensive criminal legal system reform bills (click the links for our write-ups of the amendment process for both bills). 

Our criminal justice priorities were included in those bills to various degrees. A six-person Conference Committee (Senators Brownsberger, Creem, and Tarr; Representatives Cronin, Mariano, and Harrington) will determine the shape of the final bill.

Strong, comprehensive legislation that makes real strides toward ending mass incarceration needs to include ending mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses and solitary confinement for punitive purposes. We need to end the prosecution of young children and raise the age of adult to 19. The felony theft threshold should be raised to $1500, and we need to end the incarceration of primary caretakers of young children for nonviolent offenses. You can read our full letter to the conference committee here.

Take Action

Call your state legislators and ask them to write to the conference committee members urging them to report out a comprehensive criminal justice bill that will end mass incarceration in Massachusetts, as outlined above. If your state legislator is in the conference committee, your calls and emails are especially important. (Know people in those districts? Pass the message on!)

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Safe Communities Act

The Legislative Session--and the Safe Communities Act--started off in Jan. 2017 with massive, spontaneous public demonstrations and outcry against the new Trump administration’s travel bans (clearly racist in their intent) and promises to terrorize our communities with a supercharged deportation agenda with raids and sweeps that have pushed our families, friends and neighbors into the shadows.

The need for “Safe Communities” legislation could not be more urgent. The stakes could not be plainer. The public’s support for resisting this toxic, supremacist agenda could not be clearer.

Only because of public activism, funneling the rage and dismay on the streets into targeted political pressure, the Safe Communities Act has moved farther and has more momentum than at any other time in its 5 years on the Hill (previously, as the “Trust Act”).

Yet--it still has not passed. Leadership on Beacon Hill continues to make soothing statements of generalized support, but no commitments to bring it to a floor. For seasoned legislation-watchers, this is usually where we start to hear “such and such bill is dead.” You will hear these words from some legislators about SCA, too. But we want to assure you that Safe Communities absolutely is not “dead,” and that, indeed, there is extraordinary political will to push this bill through, despite the intransigence from the top.

With political pressure from the outside, we can sustain and grow the political will inside (with our lawmakers) to get this vital legislation passed. Be assured, and please stay tune for emerging and changing actions. 

Take Action

  • Sustained Calling: help get a steady stream of calls into State House Leadership, thru February 23.
  • Share your events: there are many, many people working for a strong Safe Communities Act. Get the word out among other Safe Communities advocates by plugging in your events here:
  • Connect/Coordinate with Other Grassroots Organizers:

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Good Government & Strong Democracy

To advance a Good Government /Strong Democracy agenda, we need to reduce the hurdles to voter registration and make voting as convenient as possible, such as by enacting automatic voter registration.

Automatic Voter Registration

Did you know that 700,000 Massachusetts residents who are eligible to vote are unregistered? The mantra of “all means all” captures the promise of democracy well: our democracy isn’t strong unless everyone is able to participate.

Automatic voter registration (AVR) can change that. AVR (H.2091 / S.373), which was reported out favorably by the Joint Election Laws Committee, would require that every eligible citizen who interacts with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Mass Health be automatically registered to vote, unless they opt-out. It would make our voter rolls more comprehensive, accurate, and secure. These bills would also add Massachusetts to the Electronic Registration Information Center, a multi-state clearinghouse sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts designed to remove ineligible voters and identify new voters, increasing voting security.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have already embraced AVR. Massachusetts should be next.

Take Action

Call your senator and representative and ask them to urge Leadership (including Ways & Means Chairs Karen Spilka and Jeff Sanchez) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Want to help build momentum behind the bill? Sign up to write a letter to the editor here.

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Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment

To advance a Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment agenda, we need to ramp up our plans for mitigating climate change, scale up solar power, prevent new fossil fuel infrastructure, and put a price on carbon emissions.

Sen. Marc Pacheco’s S.1880 (An Act creating 21st Century Massachusetts clean energy jobs) started as an omnibus bill, which would establish a climate adaptation and management program, set greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030 and 2040, accelerate the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and increase commitment to offshore wind.

That omnibus bill has been superseded by the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change’s new omnibus bill An Act to promote a clean energy future, which includes most, if not all, of the content of our four priority bills.

The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy extended the reporting deadline for our priority solar bills (H.2706 / S.1846), which would accelerate the state’s commitment to clean energy (RPS increase) and sets a 25% by 2030 solar target, to March 9th.

H.3400 / S.1847 (An Act clarifying authorities and responsibilities of the Department of Public Utilities), which would hold gas companies to a high standard with regards to new infrastructure and prevent massive public subsidy of new interstate gas pipelines, was sent to further study but lives on in the Senate omnibus, An Act to promote a clean energy future.

The two carbon pricing bills (H.1726 / S.1821) saw different fates. In the House, Rep. Jen Benson’s revenue-positive carbon pricing bill, which would have invested funds in green infrastructure, was sent to further study, i.e., the graveyard. But Sen. Mike Barrett’s revenue-neutral carbon pricing bill was reported out favorably. Carbon pricing also remains alive in the aforementioned omnibus bill, which would direct the Baker administration to set up a market based approach for reducing emissions, which, of course, could mean carbon pricing.

The Environmental Justice bill (H.2913/S.426), which is on our “To Watch” list, was reported out favorably. That bill would codify the MA executive order on Environmental Justice, which forces each Secretariat to promote EJ participation in each of its programs. Environmental Justice communities are areas with low-income, minority and non-English speaking populations--demographic populations that frequently face additional burden of pollution and less access to decision-making processes in government.

Take Action

Call your senator in support of the Senate’s clean energy omnibus. Call your representative in support of the EJ bill and ask your rep to urge Leadership to take up bold clean energy legislation as well. More info here.

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APPENDIX

 YOUR Legislators: Check On Their Support

Are your legislators on record supporting these bills? Check out the co-sponsorship pages of our scorecard.

  • Don’t already have your legislators phone #s plugged into your phone? Look them up here.

Round-Up: All Actions

  1. Shared Prosperity
    1. TAKE ACTION for LABOR: Hubdialer will be running every Tuesday and Thursday morning and evening. To join a hubdialer phonebank, click here. 
      1. Postcards: to be delivered by the campaign to each legislator. To request postcards, please email jdimauro@progressivemass.com.
      2. Community Briefings: happening around the state. Find the closest one to you here: http://raiseupma.org/communitybriefing/
    2. TAKE ACTION for Housing: Sign the Great Neighborhoods petition.
    3. TAKE ACTION for PUBLIC EDUCATION:
      1. Call legislators, ask them to urge Leadership (including Ways & Means Chairs Karen Spilka and Jeff Sanchez) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
      2. Parents: organize parent friends for a sign-on letter to the Ways & Means Committee. Stress the importance of including all four recommendations (health care cost, SPED, ELL rate, and low-income rate)
      3. Extra: Encourage legislators to support Sen. Chang-Diaz’s S.220 as well, which fixes part of the Foundation Budget formula that disservices cities like Boston.
    4. TAKE ACTION for HEALTH CARE: The House may take up health care reform this spring, and it would be a major win to see the single payer benchmark bill get into the House bill. Email your representative to stress the importance of including H.596 to keep health care reform moving forward.
  2. All Means All
    1. TAKE ACTION for CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM REFORM: Call legislators, ask them to write to the conference committee members urging them to report out a comprehensive criminal justice bill that will end mass incarceration in Massachusetts, as outlined above. If your state legislator is in the conference committee, your calls and emails are especially important. (Know people in those districts? Pass the message on!)
    2. TAKE ACTION for IMMIGRATION JUSTICE/Mass. Defense Against Trump (Safe Communities)
      1. Sustained Calling: help get a steady stream of calls into State House Leadership, thru February 23.
        1. Help with call mobilization: safecommunitiesact.com/grassroots#5
        2. Calling Tools: numbers, scripts, reporting: safecommunitiesact.com/calls
      2. Share your events: there are many, many people working for a strong Safe Communities Act. Get the word out among other Safe Communities advocates by plugging in your events here:
        1. safecommunitiesact.com/calendar
      3. Connect/Coordinate with Other Grassroots Organizers:
        1. Plug in here: safecommunitiesact.com/grassroots#plugin
        2. Questions: contact Harmony (slack preferred or safecommunities@progressivemass.com)
  3. Good Government / Strong Democracy
    1. TAKE ACTION for AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION: Call your senator and representative and ask them to urge Leadership (including Ways & Means Chairs Karen Spilka and Jeff Sanchez) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
    2. Want to help build momentum behind the bill? Sign up to write a letter to the editor here.
  4. Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment
    1. TAKE ACTION for ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: Call your senator in support of the Senate’s clean energy omnibus. Call your representative in support of the EJ bill and ask your rep to urge Leadership to take up bold clean energy legislation as well. More info here.

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PROGRESSIVE MASS 2017-18

Legislative Agenda
more info: progressivemass.com/agenda

 

Dear Legislator,

Progressive Mass grassroots members believe the Commonwealth should and can be the national leader in creating a future where there is shared prosperity and truly justice for all.

The bills in the agenda would keep Massachusetts moving forward in areas such as education, workers’ rights, affordable housing, health care, civil rights, economic and racial equality, climate action, and voting access, while also fighting back against the troubling right-wing corporate agenda of Pres. Trump and the Republican Congress.

We ask our representatives in the Legislature to ally with us as champions of these bold, progressive priorities to make our Commonwealth the beacon that it can, and should, be.

PLEASE SUPPORT A BOLD 2017-18 PROGRESSIVE AGENDA, with your advocacy on our goals and your vigorous support for these bills, including co-sponsorship*:

  • 2172/S.1004: An Act to improve the Commonwealth’s economy with a strong minimum wage and a strong tipped minimum wage (Donahue-Donnelly)
  • 2365/S.1048: An Act establishing a paid family and medical leave insurance program (Gordon-Spilka)
  • 81: An Act promoting housing and sustainable development (Chandler)
  • 223: An Act modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st century (Chang-Diaz)
  • 3269/S.1305: An Act to protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents (“Safe Communities Act”) (Matias-Eldridge)
  • 2091/S.373: An Act automatically registering eligible voters and enhancing safeguards against fraud (Kocot-Creem)
  • 2302 An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future (Pacheco / Senate Omnibus Bill)
  • 2706/S.1864: An Act relative to solar power and the green economy (Mark-Eldridge)
  • 2913/S.426: An Act relative to environmental justice and toxics reduction in the Commonwealth (DuBois - Vincent -- Eldridge)
  • 1821: An Act combating climate change (Barrett)

Progressive Massachusetts is a strong advocate of taking bold steps to reduce mass incarceration. In the ensuing Conference Committee negotiations to determine the final shape of H.4043 and S.2200, which passed last fall, we urge the inclusion of the following:

  • Ending mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses as well as not creating new, or expanding existing, mandatory minimums
  • Ending the use of solitary confinement for punitive purposes
  • Ending the prosecution of young children
  • Raising the age of criminal majority to 19
  • Raising the felony theft threshold to $1500
  • Providing community-based alternatives for the sentencing of primary caretakers of young children

*More info on these bills appear on the following pages and at ProgressiveMass.com/agenda. We look forward to learning about your position on these issues and actions on these bills.

Respectfully submitted by your constituents,

 

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published this page in Our Legislative Agenda, 2017-2018 (190th Session) 2018-02-26 15:05:54 -0500
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