Here's What You Can Do This Week for Civil Rights & Housing Stability

It's been quite the 24 hours. And if you're like us, you're thinking, "How can I take action, including right here in Massachusetts?"

Here are some ways.

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These Bills Passed in July. Why Are They Still in Conference Committee?

In July, the MA House and MA Senate both passed police reform bills (of varying ambition). And the House passed a climate bill (the Senate had done so back in January).

In each case, there are six-member committees of state senators and state representatives ("conference committees") working to come up with a final bill.

So where are they?

The short answer: We don't know.

The long answer: Conference committees are incredibly secretive processes. But the more your legislators hear from you about the need for the strongest bills possible on both fronts, the better the odds are that we will see better final products -- or any final bills at all.

Can you contact your state legislators this weekend with four key asks for each bill?

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2020 Primary Election Debrief

Tuesday's primary broke records, with more than 1.5 million people casting ballots. By contrast, fewer than 1 million people voted in the 2018 state primaries.

What accounts for the difference? A hotly contested Senate race drove turnout for sure. But a major driver was the expansion of vote-by-mail and early voting, which alerted more people to the fact that an election was even happening and made it easier for them to participate. As the next legislative session nears, it will be important to make these reforms not just a pandemic-induced one-off but a part of how we do elections in Massachusetts.

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Vote for Ed Markey and Downballot Progressives!

You may have already voted, but we're sure that even if you have, you still know people who haven't yet.

TOMORROW -- Tuesday, September 1st -- is the last day to cast your ballot for the primary.

Polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm. Find your polling location at (Note: Some polling locations have changed, so make sure to double check.)

If you still have your mail-in ballot, the best thing to do would be to drop your ballot off at the secure dropbox in your city/town. You need to do so by 8 pm tomorrow (the earlier, the better). You can find dropbox locations here. You cannot drop your mail-in ballot at a polling location tomorrow instead, but you can still vote in-person if you have not submitted your mail-in ballot.

Check if your mail-in ballot has been processed here. If it has not been, you can still vote in-person.

If you have any issues casting a ballot, or see clear issues like long lines or closed polling places, call the Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE.


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The Primary Is Just Over Half Weeks Away. Here Are Some New Endorsements.

The Massachusetts primary is just over two weeks away. We've made some endorsements already this spring and summer, and we're ready to announce a few more.

Do you have questions about voting safely this fall? Check out

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One Month Until Primary Day: Our New State Legislative Endorsements

The Massachusetts state primary is just one month away: Tuesday, September 1st. And the general election just three months and two days.

The basics for getting prepared for the next month:

But beyond just being registered, we want you to be informed. Read questionnaires from candidates running for State Legislature across the state here.

There are a lot of questionnaires, so we decided to break up our endorsements into multiple batches as in years past.

Our Elections Committee reviewed questionnaires, spoke with allies, and made recommendations for our second round of endorsements, and then our members voted.

And we're proud to endorse the following candidates, who will be progressive champions in the MA House and Senate.

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Fight for Housing Justice & Immigration Justice

On Monday, the House voted on key housing amendments to its economic development bill.

State reps overwhelmingly ignored housing justice activists, voting AGAINST allowing municipalities to impose real estate transfer fees to combat speculation and raise money for affordable housing, AGAINST allowing municipalities to pass rent-stabilizing regulations, and AGAINST making it easier for municipalities to pass inclusionary zoning ordinances.

Some of these state reps -- embarrassingly -- voted against the text of bills they co-sponsored earlier in the session.

Was your representative one of the few who stood up for housing justice? Find out here.

The Senate will be taking up its version of an economic development bill tomorrow, so that means there is another opportunity to fight for housing justice and immigration justice.

Can you call your senators in support of the following amendments? 


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Fight for the Strongest Police Reform Bill

House and Senate Leadership have appointed a conference committee to reconcile their respective bills. The conference committee -- Sen. Brownsberger, Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz, Sen. Tarr, Rep. Cronin, Rep. Gonzalez, and Rep. Whelan -- will work on a consensus bill, which will have to be voted on and then sent to the Governor.

Please urge your legislators and Governor Charlie Baker to support the strongest bill possible.

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Massachusetts House Votes Down Proposals to Help Renters, Promot Affordable Housing

When Governor Charlie Baker sent an economic development bill to the MA Legislature, he included his "Housing Choices" legislation, which had been stalled as a standalone bill. The "Housing Choices" bill addresses one aspect of Massachusetts's affordable housing crisis: the fact that new construction is relatively rare in the suburbs due to the prevalence of single-family zoning. If you can only build one housing unit per lot, it makes it more difficult to respond to a growing population or growing demand. Currently, zoning changes (such as those that would approve multifamily housing construction) require a 2/3 approval from local government. Baker's bill, which the MA House retained in their economic development package, would lower that to a simple majority.

The need for more supply, though, is just one part of the problem. There is no guarantee that the new supply would be affordable, nor that the new supply would not push up rents for current tenants, thus running the risk of displacement. There isn't even a guarantee that any new housing will be built at all (it's a removal of a barrier rather than promise of new construction).

That being said, as an MIT researcher recently noted in CommonWealth Mag, all this means is that we need to think comprehensively when we approach the affordable housing crisis: we do need zoning reform, but we also need stronger protections for existing tenants. Tenant protections will not address the need for supply: only new construction can. Zoning reform will not address displacement: you need tenant protections for that. This was also an essential takeaway of the book Golden Gates by Conor Dougherty on the housing crisis in San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the MA House voted down efforts at striking such a balance.

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Housing Stability Is an Essential Part of the Cure for COVID

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Housing.

Thank you chairs and members of the committee for reading our testimony.

As municipal leaders scramble desperately to find solutions to the onslaught of evictions they know are headed their way, the people must turn to the state legislature to quell the oncoming tsunami of homelessness that will destroy families and traumatize children if the state legislature does not act.

We urge you to pass S2831/H.4878 in order to end the threat of evictions posed by the sudden end of the current eviction moratorium in October. If families are required to pay back rent for almost half a year, there is no way those living paycheck to paycheck will be able to stay in their homes. If we don't provide a solution to this problem, we will have a catastrophe unlike any we have confronted before, as families are turned out of their homes en masse.

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