Archives for June 2014

LWVMA Criticizes SCOTUS Decision in McCullen “Buffer Zone” Case

6/26/2014 BOSTON—The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is deeply disappointed by today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of McCullen v. Coakley, striking down as unconstitutional the Massachusetts law that establishes a 35-foot, content-neutral buffer zone around the entrance to reproductive health facilities.

“With this ruling, the Supreme Court has severely compromised the right of women to access reproductive health facilities without the threat of fear, intimidation, or physical harm.” said Anne Borg, co-president of the state League. “Today’s decision puts thousands of women and healthcare providers at greater risk.”

The law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone at reproductive health facilities was passed in 2007 to combat harassment and violence at Massachusetts clinics. Two clinic employees in Brookline were murdered in 1994.

“The Court’s decision in McCullen sends the wrong message to other states and may, unfortunately, embolden those who seek to prevent women from seeking reproductive health care,” said Borg.

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts joined an amicus brief in this case, along with 31 other organizations, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Massachusetts law establishing the buffer zone around reproductive health facilities.

The LWVMA’s position on women’s reproductive rights dates back to 1972. The League has joined several amicus briefs in abortion rights cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and was a co-plaintiff in a case against Operation Rescue for physically blocking clinics.

House Passes Massachusetts Disclose Act

The House of Representatives passed the Massachusetts Disclose Act shedding light on political campaign financing Wednesday, June 25, by a 143-4 vote.

The bill, renumbered H.4226, would require superPACs to publicly disclose the source of their funding and to do it in a timely manner, combatting the rise of “dark money,” spending by outside groups on elections.

Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races, as well as the sources of their funding, within seven days of the expenditure, which could be an advertising buy.   The top five donors to an independent expenditure group would have to be listed in any TV advertisement or newspaper advertisement, according to the provisions of the bill.

The bill also increases the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate annually from $500 to $1,000.

While recent U.S. Supreme Court decision have removed many of the limits on contributions to campaigns and on outside spending in elections, this bill will at least make those sources of funding more transparent in state, county and local elections in Massachusetts.

The Disclose Act now goes to the Senate for a vote.

6/26/2014

2nd Annual League of Women Voters Night at Fenway Park–Order Your Tickets by August 5th!

red soxThe second annual League of Women Voters’ Night at Fenway Park is on Aug. 20, 2014The game against the Los Angeles Angels will begin at 7:10 p.m., but plan to arrive at 6:45 for pre-game ceremonies saluting the League.

Ticket prices for this event will be $35 for covered outfield grandstand seats (price includes a handling charge and a donation to LWVMA). The Red Sox will reserve a section so that Leaguers and their friends can sit together. To order tickets by mail, please click here for the order form. To order tickets online, please click here. Please contact Brynne Gorman at 617-523-2999 or bgorman@lwvma.org for further information.

 

LWVMA Delegation Attends LWVUS Convention

LWVMA Co-President Anne Borg addresses LWVUS Convention

Posted June 15, 2014

Listen to Anne Borg, Co-President of LWVMA, as she addresses the LWVUS Convention on Saturday, June 7, 2014 in Dallas TX. Click the play button on the bar below.

 

The LWVMA held a caucus on Friday, June 6 in support of its resolution.  Over 100 people attended.

Becky Shannon and Launa Zimmaro led the caucus

Becky Shannon and Launa Zimmaro led the caucus

On Saturday, June 7, LWVMA co-Presidents Marilyn Peterson and Anne Borg welcomed members and guests at the LWVMA breakfast. There were 27 delegates from MA.

On Sunday, June 8, Becky Shannon introduced the resolution in the plenary session. The resolution was debated and passed on Tuesday, June 10.

Also, on June 8, the three winning videos from our “Dear Future Governor” Student Video Contest were shown to a full house on the big screens in the convention hall.

On Monday, June 9, LWVMA Campaign Finance Study Committee members Kathy Campbell and Launa Zimmaro were presenters at a workshop on Money and Politics attended by 200 people. They presented the Primer and Presentation/Script, currently available here.

On Tuesday, June 10, Karen Price gave Guidance to the Board.

Daily reports of convention action are posted on the LWVUS website.

During the 5-day convention, LWVMA gave out 700 buttons in support of a strong position on Money and Politics.

LWUS-14 button

 

 

 

 

Take Action On Gun Bill

House Speaker Robert DeLeo unveiled the long-awaited gun violence prevention bill May 27.  The bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security by a very narrow margin, 7-6, and will need an outpouring of support from gun safety advocates to pass.  Please contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to vote in favor of the strong provisions in this bill. You can find their contact information here.

LWVMA and its partners in the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence applaud the bill’s provisions to reduce gun violence in our state, including background checks on secondary gun sales, expanded police chief discretion in issuing gun licenses for rifles and shotguns, reporting of all required information to the national instant background check system, and improved data collection about guns used in crimes and suicides.   We hope the legislature will add an amendment to restrict bulk gun purchases as well.

The National Rifle Association and its Massachusetts affiliate will make a strong showing in opposition to this bill. Theirs must not be the only voice our legislators hear. Make your voice heard loud and clear in support of stronger gun laws.

The House bill, H.4121, contains four of the five provisions that the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence has been advocating for:

  •  Background checks on secondary gun sales, including for all private sales. Such sales would have to take place with a licensed firearms dealer present.
  •  Massachusetts coming into compliance with the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS). There are provisions to protect the privacy of the submitted information.
  •  Expanded police chief discretion in issuing gun licenses for rifles and shotguns in addition to handguns. This gives police chiefs discretion to not issue when there are known dangerousness issues.
  •  Improved data collection about guns used in crimes and suicides, tracing the ownership history of all guns used in and recovered from crime scenes to help determine the source of these guns.

The bill does not include the Coalition’s fifth priority, a limit on handgun purchases per month in order to minimize trafficking and straw purchases and reduce urban violence.   We expect that provision to be introduced as an amendment.

The bill also contains numerous provisions dealing with school safety and mental health issues. It is important that the legislature include funding for any of these provisions to avoid burdening our schools and mental health facilities with unfunded mandates.

6/14/14

LWVMA Collects 4400 Signatures for Bottle Ballot Question

Posted June 14, 2014

Once again the League made a major contribution to the signature collection effort, with 4,426 signatures to contribute to the over 27,000 signatures collected by the coalition. This number gives us confidence that we will have the required 12,000 certified signatures. This was a tremendous team effort, congratulations to everyone involved!

We are heartened to see a recent Boston Globe’s editorial in support of the bill and a front page article,

Many thanks to these eighteen Leagues and the coordinators who contributed signatures:

500-1000 SignaturesUBB Groton

  • Concord-Carlisle
  • Sharon-Stoughton
  • Needham
  • Lexington

200-500

  • Shrewsbury
  • Sudbury

100-200

  • Wellesley
  • Amherst
  • Plymouth Area
  • Newton
  • Cape Cod Area
  • Hamilton-Wenham
  • Winchester

Less than 100

  • Brookline
  • Falmouth
  • Greater Haverhill
  • Williamstown
  • Northampton Area

If you have any questions on the LWVMA updated bottle bill campaign, email updatedbottlebill@lwvma.org.

Campaign Finance Reform

Recent Posts on LWVMA Action on Money in Politics

“Restore Democracy” takes on money in politics and wins LWVMA high school video contest.

button for convention 3 inThe pernicious and distorting effect of money on our political system at every level is a matter of grave concern to the League of Women Voters, particularly since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unprecedented amounts of outside spending in elections and catalyzed the formation of “dark money” groups that do not have to disclose their donors.

The Massachusetts League has been deeply committed to reforming the federal campaign finance system. Beginning in 2010 with a local League endeavor that soon grew into a statewide Campaign Finance Study Committee, LWVMA has played an especially active role bringing attention to the urgent need for federal campaign finance reform through public educational programs, online materials, and strong public opposition to decisions that create loopholes in campaign finance protections, such as McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014).  The Massachusetts Committee also focused its efforts on garnering support from League members across the country for action at the national League level on campaign finance reform, culminating in the formation of an LWV Money in Politics Committee to update the national League position on campaign finance regulation and to shape the contours of the League’s future advocacy on this important issue. In April 2016, LWVUS announced this new position statement, broadening the scope of the League’s campaign finance reform advocacy.

In addition, LWVMA has long played a key role reforming the rules governing the campaign finance system here at home in Massachusetts.

  • In 1975, LWVMA helped ensure passage of the state’s Campaign Finance Act that established the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to monitor compliance with reporting rules.
  • We were at the forefront of efforts in the late 1990s to pass the state’s Clean Elections legislation (which enjoyed overwhelming public support, but was later repealed by the legislature).
  • And, most recently, our advocacy helped pass the Disclose Act to combat the rise of “dark money” spending by outside groupson elections. Signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in August 2014, the Disclose Act requires Super PACs to reveal the sources of their funding no more than seven days after making an expenditure, such as placing a television ad.  The reporting deadline changes to within 24 hours for the 10 days before an election. Groups placing television, print and internet ads must list their top five donors in the ad and include the website of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, where voters can find a list of all contributors. Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races under this bill.

We are proud of our work. But much more needs to be done.

 You can help us drive reform of our campaign finance system, both at the federal and the state level. Remember: Advocating for state level reform while we work on change at the federal level is an important part of the reform effort. In order to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics, we need to:

Strengthen Regulations on Coordination: Although independent groups such as Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, in practice this prohibition is routinely circumvented at both the federal and state level.

Improve Disclosure: The Massachusetts Disclose Act was a step forward, but Congress has failed to pass a federal Disclose Act mandating disclosure of donations and spending to shine a light on secret money. The League is a longtime supporter of this important piece of legislation.

Establish a Public Financing System: The League believes that public financing of elections is the best long-term solution to getting big money out of politics.

What can individual citizens do?

  • Be informed. Information on our campaign finance position can be found at our state and national websites
  • There is strength in numbers. Connect and be an active member of organizations dedicated to campaign finance and fair elections like the League of Women Voters.
  • Urge your state and congressional legislators to pass legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws. Constituent in-district meetings are a particularly effective option. Be prepared by reviewing state and national positions regarding the issues you care about.
  • Attend candidate events and talk to candidates and legislators at every level about campaign finance reform and your concerns as
    a voter.
  • Write letters-to-the-editor for your local paper.
  • Vote! Voting is the most powerful form of expression available to individual citizens and the single best way to drive money out of politics. We must improve voter turnout and engage with our communities to combat the undue influence of money in our political system.  Register and participate in election 2016!

 

Civic Education and Civil Discourse

    Civic education and civil discourse are at the very core of the League’s work. An active and informed citizenry is the foundation of a well-functioning democracy, and the League devotes much of its activity to ensuring that citizens have access to the information, skills, and resources to play an active role in their government.

    The League is well recognized for its ability to make complex and controversial issues accessible to the non-expert citizen in a balanced manner; for its ability to gather citizens with diverse views; and for its expertise as a trainer of community leaders and activists. While the League is proud to be nonpartisan–neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government–League members have always worked to educate the public about issues of vital concern.

    The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts Citizen Education Fund currently provides programs, publications and forums on major public policy issues and disseminates information and training that help citizens of Massachusetts to thoughtfully engaged in the democratic process.  More information about the fund and its programs is available on the Citizen Education Fund page.

    LWVMA also works to ensure that the youngest residents of the Commonwealth are informed about our nation’s history, our electoral system, and issues of public importance.  We advocate for more civic education in schools, identify books on U.S. history and voting appropriate for children and teens, and sponsor an annual video contest designed to encourage high school students to engage in civic life.