Archives for July 2014

Governor Patrick Signs Campaign Finance Bill

Updated August 14, 2014:  Governor Deval Patrick signed H.4366, an Act Relative to Campaign Finance Disclosure and Transparency, into law on August 1.  The sections of the new law that address Independent Expenditure PACs take effect immediately, while other sections do not take effect until next January.

Posted July 31, 2014:  Disclose Bill on Campaign Finance Passes

The Massachusetts legislature took a major step in campaign finance reform, passing the Disclose Act during the final day of the legislative session to combat the rise of “dark money,” spending by outside groups on elections.

The bill, H.4366, passed the House on a 140-10 vote and the Senate, 38-1, July 31.  Gov. Deval  Patrick is expected to sign it.  An “emergency preamble” attached to the bill will put the disclosure provisions in force for this fall’s election.

The Disclose Act will require SuperPACs 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.

In addition, 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.

The bill also doubles the amount of money individuals can contribute to campaigns for state offices and the legislature, from $500 to $1,000, but that increase does not become effective until 2015, after the current election cycle.

Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races under this bill.

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

8/1/2014

Governor Patrick Signs Safe Access Bill

Posted July 30, 2014  Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law a bill designed to ensure that those seeking the services of reproductive health facilities will have safe and unimpeded access.  The bill, An Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities, was passed by the Massachusetts Senate on July 16 and by the Massachusetts House of Representatives on July 23.  The bill gives police the authority to disperse protesters who are substantially impeding access to a clinic and requires those protestors to stay at least 25 feet from the clinic’s entrances for up to eight hours. The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts submitted testimony to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of the bill.

The bill followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision in  McCullen v. Coakley, which held that the Massachusetts buffer zone law was unconstitutional. A 2007 law established a 35-foot protest-free buffer zone to protect the safety of patients and staff at reproductive health care centers.

The new law is effective immediately.

 

June 2014 Awards to Three Local Leagues

Posted Jul 14, 2014

Congratulations to the three Leagues awarded Daniel Scharfman Citizen Education Grants: Hamilton-Wenham, Acton Area, and Needham. The total amount dispersed in this cycle for the four grants was $750.

For information on the grant program click here.

The grant program offers funds to help Leagues carry out events and projects in the areas of citizen education and voter service. Generous contributions to the Lotte E. Scharfman Education Fund have made this successful grant program possible. Please consider donating to the fund. Donations can be made through the website, lwvma.org, and a big thank you to those of you who have donated in the past, making this grant program possible.

Hamilton-Wenham put updated “Know Your Town” information on its website, along with information about town meeting in the two towns. It is printing basic town information and links to further information on a card to be mailed to all residents, and the grant will go toward that effort.

The Acton Area League grant goes toward its annual Civics Bee.

Needham will use its grant to update its large public signs used to promote candidate forums, to purchase pitchers and League mugs to replace plastic water bottles for candidates at the forums, and to purchase League buttons to identify members working at the forums and other League events.

LWVMA Positions on Nov 4, 2014 Ballot Questions

Posted Jul 7, 2014

Four ballot questions will be on the statewide ballot Nov. 4. The Massachusetts League has positions on three of them.

Here are the questions, in the order they will appear on the ballot, and our positions.

Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing.   This proposed law would repeal a law passed in 2013 and eliminate the requirement that the state’s gasoline tax be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.   LWVMA opposes this question and urges a NO vote. We believe indexing the gasoline tax to the CPI provides funding needed to maintain and improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law. This question would update the state’s current deposit law, the Bottle Bill, to include most non-carbonated beverages. It would also increase the handling fee and make other changes to the existing law. LWVMA supports this question and urges a YES vote.   We believe an expansion of the Bottle Bill will greatly increase the rates of recycling and reduce litter.

Question 3: Expanding Prohibitions on Gaming. This question would prohibit casinos, any gaming establishment with slot machines, and wagering on simulcast greyhound races, even if licenses have already been granted. LWVMA supports this question and urges a YES vote. We have long opposed casinos and other gambling in Massachusetts, arguing the costs in services needed and social impact outweigh projected gains in tax revenue and employment.

Question 4: Earned Sick Time for Employees. This question would entitle employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time according to certain conditions. The League has no state or national positions that would enable LWVMA take a stand on this question and so we neither support nor oppose this question.

Detailed information on each of the ballot questions is available on the Secretary of State’s website.