February Opportunities for Action
Ask Congress to Reintroduce and Pass HR1
HR1 is the most expansive democracy reform legislation since the Voting Rights Act, but in 2019 it never got out of the U.S. Senate. With the start of the 117th Congress it is imperative that the For the People Act once more become a top priority. It would restore the Voting Rights Act, modernize our voter registration system, update the public financing of elections through small donor matching funds, end partisan gerrymandering, and make campaign contributions more transparent. Contact your Representative in Congress here and ask for support for the reintroduction of the For the People Act.

Nominate Someone to LWVMA!
The Nominating Committee is seeking suggestions for nominations to the 2021-2023 LWVMA Board and the Nominating Committee. This is an opportunity for League members to step up and help carry us into the new decade. Contact the Nominating Committee at nominating@lwvma.org to suggest yourself or another League member or for more information. The deadline for receiving nominations is Friday, February 19th. 

Transparency in the New Legislative Session
We’ve had several inquiries about efforts to revise the legislature’s rules to improve transparency. The legislature will adopt its rules for the 2021-22 session as the new session gets started.  Here is an update.

We are encouraged that the new Speaker of the House is open to rules changes. He has already made two changes that are improving the bill filing process by extending the filing date from January 15 to February 19, and allowing legislators to sign on as co-sponsors of House bills until those bills are reported out of joint committee rather than cutting off the co-sponsor opportunity at the filing deadline. The Speaker has also ordered the House Rules Committee to study the chamber's rules "to ensure efficiency and transparency in the legislative process and in the administration of the House of Representatives." The committee is to report back with suggested changes by July 1. LWVMA will submit our recommendations for such changes to the Rules Committee, drawing from our support of rules changes in January 2019 (below) and our testimony and that of Common Cause and the ACLU to a select committee evaluating rules in 2018. 

We encourage our League members to let us know what they want to see in the LWVMA recommendations by emailing Kathy Leonardson, Chair of the Legislative Action Committee. We will send our recommendations to all members and local Leagues, and at that point, let you know how to add your individual and League voices to ask the Rules Committee to propose the suggested changes.

Once the Rules Committee issues its recommendations, we will alert you to ask your own Representatives to support those changes if the League considers them adequate and appropriate.

League members or local Leagues are welcome to talk to their Representative now and express your support for more transparency and accountability in the way the legislature works and your hope that the Rules Committee recommends meaningful changes.

LWVMA advocated for these changes in the rules in January 2019:
  • Provide 72 hours for legislators to read bills before floor vote
  • Provide 30 minutes for legislators to read amendments before floor vote 
  • Provide 24 hours for committee members to read bill redrafts before committee vote
  • Allow for the discharge of bills that have substantial legislator support from joint committees
  • Require that written testimony and other documents provided to committees be made available to lawmakers and the public
  • Require that all committee votes are publicly available within 48 hours of votes taken
  • Create standards for staff, office, and resource allocations and make the standards publicly available

We’ve particularly been asked if we are working with Act on Mass and if local Leagues can work with them. We are not working with Act on Mass in order to maintain our non-partisan position. Their pledge includes endorsements of both legislators and candidates for office. Our Leagues run many candidate forums for state legislature, and we issue the nonpartisan VOTE411 voters' guide. To do that, we have to be seen as absolutely impartial. If we were to support such an issue pledge, it would be logical to infer that we also support candidates and legislators who agree to the pledge and oppose those who do not. Other groups such as Progressive Massachusetts and, obviously, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, endorse candidates, so we are not working directly with them.  

It is fine for League members to participate in Act on Mass and other organizations as individuals, but not as League representatives.

Join Statewide DEI Peer Discussion Group
Join your LWV colleagues across the state to learn more about what your local League can do to further its work on issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The group will meet online several times a year to share ideas, experiences, and resources. It is coordinated by Patty Shepard (Winchester) and Amy Cooper (Central Berkshire County), both of whom are members of the LWVMA DEI Committee. If you would like to participate, please email Patty Shepard and/or Amy Cooper.

Plan for LWVMA Program Planning
Are there issues you consider especially important? Winter is the time for local Leagues, Units, and Members-at-Large to participate in planning what LWVMA will focus on in 2021-2023. 

Every other year, the LWVMA Board, with the help of the Legislative Action Committee, proposes 4 or 5 main areas of action and advocacy. This year the Board is suggesting possible goals within these main action areas. Local Leagues are asked both to approve or suggest changes to the proposed action priorities, and to prioritize the specific goals listed in these areas. All members should have received a list of the proposed priorities and goals this month; the full Guide to Program Planning was sent to League and Unit leaders and Members-at-Large (MALs). All materials are now available on the LWVMA Program Planning page here.

Studies of possible new positions, reviews and updates of current positions, and concurrences with the positions of other states can be proposed during Program Planning. Local League leaders will schedule program planning activities for your League with responses due to LWVMA by Mar. 25. Check with your local League to see when program planning is scheduled.

Learn Why Climate Change Legislation is So Difficult
A Brown University report from the Climate Social Sciences Network “Who’s Delaying Climate Action in Massachusetts? Twelve Findings” examined the influence of a variety of advocacy groups on climate change legislation. Our own LWVMA legislative specialist Launa Zimmaro provided information. The study, released last month, examines why legislation in Massachusetts to combat climate change and promote clean energy frequently stalls, despite major public support. A Brown press release with the 12 major findings of the report is here . The full study is here.

Watch LWVMA Webinar: "How Does the MA Legislature Work?"
The new two-year Massachusetts legislative session began Jan. 6. To advocate for bills effectively, we need to understand the process. You can watch this briefing by current legislative staffers who comprise Beacon BLOC—Building Leaders of Color here.

Celebrate Galentine's Day Feb 13, Say "Thanks"
Galentine’s Day, the holiday invented for Feb. 13 by the Parks and Recreation TV series, provides the opportunity for women to celebrate women, particularly those who have made a difference. We honor V.P. Kamala Harris and the young inauguration poet Amanda Gorman. We also recognize these heroes in our midst: members of the LWVMA Legislative Action Committee who strive to make a difference in our Commonwealth through their advocacy; LWVMA Board and leadership of our state organization; our local Leagues that seek to improve our home communities. Thanks! 

Legislation Progress
What happened to our bills in late December and January as the 2019-2020 session ended:
Signed by Governor:
H.5250 - An Act enabling partnerships for growth: The economic development bill which included provisions from several bills we supported, including: changing zoning laws to allow local officials to approve zoning changes with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority; many zoning changes to make it easier to build housing, especially the multifamily housing most needed across the state; $626 million in bonding to support all types of new housing; and providing $500,000 for menstrual products in shelters.
H.5164 - The FY2021 General Appropriations act. Outside sections:
  • Incorporated most of the provisions of the Roe Act to expand abortion access.
  • Extended the pandemic-related election reforms including no-excuse mail voting to March 31, 2021 from the Dec. 31, 2020 expiration date. 
S.2963 - An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth: The policing reform bill.
H.4818 - An Act to reduce racial inequities in maternal health: Creates a commission of public health experts, researchers, community leaders, advocates, and groups impacted by these inequities to recommend policies to the legislature. 
H.4921 - An Act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters
S.2979 - An Act relative to sexual violence on higher education campuses
H.4900 - An Act to protect children, families, and firefighters from harmful flame retardants
Vetoed by Governor
S.2995—An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy, the climate change bill (The bill has been refiled in the new session as S.9, has passed both the House and Senate, and has again been placed on the governor’s desk.)

All other bills became inactive when the session ended; we will consider those that are refiled in the new session.
How to Contact Your Legislator: You can find phone numbers, email addresses and office addresses on the legislature’s webpage for your Senator and Representative. Go to www.malegislature.gov and click on the Legislators tab. If you don’t know who your legislators are, click here.
The LWVMA Action Newsletter is distributed to all LWVMA members. Anyone can request the Action Newsletter by clicking here. Please review this Newsletter for articles of interest to your League and include them in your local Bulletin.
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