LWVMA Scores Legislative Wins with Automatic Voter Registration, Women’s Issues, Criminal Justice Reform, Gun Control

The formal part of the 2017-2018 session of the Massachusetts legislature ended July 31, with passage of a number of bills LWVMA strongly supported, but also some keen disappointments.

A top League priority, automatic voter registration, passed both houses in the final hours and was signed into law by Governor Baker Aug. 9. It goes into effect before the 2020 election year. Massachusetts becomes the 14th state to enact automatic voter registration.

Another major priority, a strong criminal justice reform package, won approval in the legislature and the Governor’s signature earlier this year.

Three key bills affecting women became law: the pregnant workers’ fairness act; the ACCESS bill to provide contraceptive coverage without co-pays or deductibles; and the repeal of archaic laws targeting abortion and contraception.

In the important area of clean energy and climate change, after the Senate passed a bold, comprehensive energy bill in June, advocates had high hopes for strong, comprehensive energy legislation. However, the bill that passed on the last day of the session was a variation on several less-comprehensive House bills. This clean energy bill, which was signed by the Governor, did not include such important reforms as carbon pricing, but did include these provisions LWVMA supported:

  • An increase to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (2% rather than 3%)
  • Establishment of a 1,000 megawatt energy storage target for 2025
  • An additional 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind resources, including new offshore wind transmission systems
  • Improvements to energy efficiency programs
  • Direction to utilities to explore ways to upgrade their distribution networks that do not involve building large transmission projects
  • A requirement that the Department of Public Utilities more effectively manage and quantify natural gas leaks.

A project-based civics education proposal which we supported was passed by both houses. The Governor sent the bill back to the legislature with amendments, and a committee is working to resolve those issues and return the bill to the Governor.

The extreme risk protection order or “red flag” gun control bill to enable family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to remove guns from people considered a likely threat to themselves or others passed following the highly-publicized school shooting in Parkland, FL.

A health care bill to require that insurance documents with confidential health information be sent only to the patient was signed into law.

Legislation aiding low-income and moderate-income people which passed included a bond bill to preserve and to create additional moderate-income and affordable housing; and an earned income tax credit, included in the budget.

A measure to repeal the “cap on kids” banning welfare payments for children conceived after a family qualifies for aid was inserted in budget, then the Governor returned that provision to the legislature with an amendment. The legislature did not accept the amendment, and the Governor vetoed the “lift the cap on kids” provision in the budget.

We were disappointed that another League priority, the Safe Communities Act, to make sure local law enforcement officials and local resources are not used to identify, register and deport undocumented immigrants who pose no known threat, did not pass as filed and that a Senate provision added to the budget to protect the rights of immigrants was eliminated from the final version of the budget. LWVMA hopes the legislature takes up bills to protect the immigrant community at the very beginning of a new session in January.

Here is what happened with other legislation LWVMA followed this session:

Bills which were active until the end of the session but were not enacted:


  • Modernize Foundation Budget school funding formula; competing versions did not get out of conference committee
  • Healthy Youth Act for accurate, age-appropriate sex education; passed Senate, stalled in House

Energy & Environment:

  • Carbon pricing
  • Ban toxic flame retardants on furniture and other products sold in Massachusetts
  • Increased funding for Community Preservation Act
  • Tax credits for donating land for conservation

Health Care:

  • New classification of advanced dental hygiene therapists
  • License midwives practicing in out-of-hospital settings


  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety omnibus bill

Water Resources:

  • Authorize municipalities to assess a “water-banking” fee on large-scale water users to mitigate the impact of major new and increased developments on water resources

Women’s Issues:

  • Require gender-neutral individual disability insurance


Bills which did not get out of committees and did not reach the floor for a vote:

Affordable housing:

  • Zoning bill to permit construction of more low and moderate income housing

Children’s issues:

  • Require training in domestic violence recognition for child advocates

Elections & Voting:

  • Election Day registration
  • Disclosure of tax returns before presidential candidate can be on Massachusetts primary ballot
  • Allow overseas/military voting by email (LWVMA opposed)
  • Require photo ID to vote (LWVMA opposed)


  • Require producers to be responsible for discarded electronics
  • Prohibit consumers from being charged for “lost gas” from leaks
  • Repeal bottle deposit system (LWVMA opposed)

Good Government:

  • Bar establishment of government registries based on identity or citizen monitoring

Health Care:

  • Establish single-payer health care
  • Study costs of single-payer vs. conventional health care systems


  • In-state tuition at state colleges and universities for certain non-citizen students

Basic Human Needs:

  • Repeal requirement that homeless families spend one night in an inappropriate location before qualifying for shelter
  • Establish a common application for social safety-net services
  • Bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness

Water Resources:

  • Regulations to maintain streamflow and water levels to protect aquatic life
  • Authority to require water conservation during a drought
  • Require a Massachusetts water quality and pollution control program report
  • Transfer administration of the pollutant discharge elimination system from federal EPA to state Department of Environmental Protection (LWVMA opposed)

In total, our Legislative Action Committee of 19 legislative specialists followed more than 75 bills during this current legislative session, submitting written testimony on all the bills and testifying in person at hearings on many of them. You can see a list of that legislation and our written testimony here.

To mobilize League members across the state to contact their own legislators in support of these bills, LWVMA sent out 19 Mass. League Action newsletters and 22 separate Action Alerts. We organized two lobby days in support of automatic voter registration with our partners in the Election Modernization Coalition and participated in lobby days organized by other coalitions we work with, particularly on women’s issues and energy and environment issues.

A special thanks at the formal end of this legislative session to the members of the Legislative Action Committee over the past 18 months:   Nancy Brumback, chair, and Clare Gordon, Louise Haldeman, Palma McLaughlin, Colleen Kirby, Terry Yoffie, Karen Mazza, Pat Costello, Linda Freedman, Launa Zimmaro, Loring Schwarz, June Michaels, Carolyn Lee, Jennifer Muroff, Sue McCalley, Janice Goodell, Karen Price, Lois Levin, Tanya Roy and Jess Sullivan.

Clean Energy Roadmap Webinar May 24

The LWVMA Climate and Energy Solutions Series continues with a WEBINAR
The Clean Energy Roadmap: Pathways to a Clean Energy Future.

Watch the webinar.

View the webinar presentation.

Roadmap flyer





Cooler Smarter Webinar February 27

The LWVMA Climate and Energy Solutions Series continues with a WEBINAR
Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps to Low-Carbon Living.

Registration is required, click here.


Climate and Energy Solutions Series Moves to Cape Cod November 4

Almost 100 people came to hear Dr. Ellen Douglas’ frank discussion of sea level rise and climate change, a topic of particular interest to coastal communities such as Falmouth. Two Cape-based speakers, Stephanie Madsen and Max Holmes, joined her in a panel discussion to provide the local perspective.

This event is the last of five forums of LWVMA’s Climate and Energy Solutions Series.

Click here for an event flyer.

Click here for the slide presentation.

The event was co-hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Falmouth and LWV of Massachusetts.

For a list of partnering organizations for the Climate and Energy Solutions Series click here.


Strong Showing at Day on the Hill

The League showed up on Beacon Hill Tuesday, October 24 to “move the needle” on our legislative priorities—automatic voter registration, carbon pricing/energy, safe communities and immigration, and criminal justice reform, with presentations on those bills from Nancy Brumback, Launa Zimmaro, Karen Price and Colleen Kirby.

Sen. Cynthia Creem and Rep. Patricia Haddad lauded the League for its commitment to voting rights and citizen action.  Creem, who is the sponsor for AVR and a criminal justice reform bill repealing mandatory minimums, urged League members to continue their pressure on the legislature to pass those bills.  Haddad noted the voting reforms, including early voting, that the League was instrumental in passing in the past and noted that AVR is the next step in making it more convenient for people to vote.

LWVMA also saluted Carole Pelchat, legislative director, who was at her final Day on the Hill before she moves to North Carolina.


Great Time at the 2017 League Leaders’ Lunch

This fall’s League Leaders’ Lunch in Worcester offered more than fifty leaders from around the state an opportunity to learn, network, and share.  The day’s agenda included an update on what’s been happening at LWVMA and LWVUS, a presentation on League advocacy (how it works and what you can do), and a panel discussion with League leaders from three of our new units in Franklin County, Central Berkshire County and Greater Lowell.

“Ordinary women and men doing extraordinary things” summed up the comments from three of our new League units at the League Leaders lunch.  The panel included Marge Michalski, Treasurer, Franklin County unit; Kathie Penna, President, Central Berkshire unit; and Sabrina Heisey, leader of the Greater Lowell unit.  Each shared their impetus for forming a League unit and identified the League’s non-partisanship and focus on issues as two of the most important reasons why they chose the League as a vehicle for their engagement.

The new League units shared their perspectives about how they got started, and why forming a League was the channel for their activism.  Their enthusiasm was infectious; their facile use of communications and social media gave all of us some ideas to energize our own League members.

After lunch, everyone had an opportunity to share in small groups one idea that their League has done to engage new and existing members.  LWVMA staff offered a quick overview of the resources that the website and the office have to offer all our members.

Many thanks to our co-host Worcester League, who made us feel welcome in a great venue in a central location.


What’s new at LWVMA and LWVUS – Year of Growth
League Advocacy: How It Works and What You Can Do
Sharing Roundtable Notes
LWVMA Staff: Who We Are, What We Do, and How We Can Help You


Local League Basics
LWVMA Information and Links
Tools for Local Leagues
Field Service Regions
The Citizen Lobbyist Handbook
Legislative Envoy Program
2017 LWVMA Advocacy Agenda
Priority Bills
League Supported and Opposed Legislation
Voter Service Committee Update
LWVMA Funding Chart
What Would Alice Paul Do Flyer
Upcoming Events in 2017

Climate and Energy Solutions Series continues with Winchester Forum October 4

The forum addressed the sources and dramatic health impacts of air pollution.  A summary of Dr. Buonocore’s research related to the impact of carbon pricing on health benefits can be found at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website.

This event was part of LWVMA’s Climate and Energy Solutions Series. It was free and open to the public.

Click here for an event flyer.

Co-hosted by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Winchester and LWV of Massachusetts, Wright-Locke Farm Conservancy, and Winchester Farmers’ Market Community Hub.

For a list of partnering organizations for the Climate and Energy Solutions Series click here.

Jonathan Buonocore, Sc.D., is the program leader for the Climate, Energy, and Health program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Jonathan’s research topics range from improving understanding of the health and environmental risks of pipelines, underground gas storage, and other midstream oil and gas infrastructure, to understanding health “co-benefits” of the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan and different energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, to understanding the health implications of fires in Indonesia. Jonathan received his doctoral degree from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Environmental Science and Risk Management in November 2013.

Jonathan also holds a Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from Clarkson University.

Climate and Energy Solutions Series: Greening the Grid October 19

Speakers: Ariel Horowitz, PhD, Synapse and Megan Herzog, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation, MA.

The electric grid is an essential part of the energy infrastructure that will support increased clean energy sources. In order to successfully transition to clean energy, the grid must be able to handle the increased demand.

The Forum addressed:

  • What is the electric grid and who runs it?
  • Why is the grid important as we transition to clean energy?
  • How can the grid be modernized to support the transition?

A Question and Answer session followed.

This event was part of LWVMA’s Climate and Energy Solutions Series. It was free and open to the public.

Click here for an event flyer.

Presented by The League of Women Voters of Lexington and the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. Co-sponsored by Conservation Law Foundation, MA.

For a list of partnering organizations for the Climate and Energy Solutions Series click here.


Ariel Horowitz is an expert in data analysis and energy systems and technologies. At Synapse, she performs technical and policy analyses and performs detailed electric sector modeling. Dr. Horowitz also drafts testimony and reports related to resource planning, grid modernization, and other electric industry issues. She has provided technical assistance and expert commentary to the Puerto Rico Energy Commission on topics including integrated resource planning, revenue requirements, and utility performance issues. Dr. Horowitz has also drafted comments and reports on utility resource plans as well as on policies such as the Clean Power Plan, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, renewable portfolio standards, and others, on behalf of the State of Michigan and a variety of environmental clients.

Before joining Synapse in October 2015, she was involved in modeling the feasibility, cost, and carbon savings associated with significant scale-up of energy storage technologies as a research fellow at the Project Drawdown Coalition. This built on the work she did for her doctoral thesis on the field of energy storage. While pursuing her degree in chemical engineering, Ariel also performed research for the Fletcher School Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, where she analyzed the health and economic impacts of nitrogen pollution.

Dr. Horowitz’s many publications have appeared in Chemical Communications, Angewandte Chemie, Green Chemistry, and the Journal of Materials Chemistry. She holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Tufts University and a BS in engineering from Swarthmore College.

Megan Herzog is a Staff Attorney at Conservation Law Foundation in Massachusetts, where she works in the organization’s Clean Energy & Climate Change and Ocean Conservation programs. She also coordinates CLF’s work to electrify transportation in New England.

Megan joined CLF in 2016 after four years as the Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law & Policy at UCLA’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment. She worked with the Emmett Institute on advancing climate change policy, promoting urban sustainability, and other environmental law issues. Prior to that, Megan was a Fellow at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.

She has published on a range of environmental law topics, including coastal climate change adaptation, pollution control, and greenhouse gas regulation.  Megan is also a part-time Lecturer in the Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Megan holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School, where she served as Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Journal of Law, Science & Policy.  She earned an M.S. in Environment & Resources from Stanford University and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Mount Holyoke College.

Hundreds Attend “Extreme Events and Climate Change” Forum at New England Aquarium

September 14, 2017–A sold-out crowd filled the Aquarium’s Simons IMAX® Theatre for “Extreme Events and Climate Change: What We Know and What We Can Do,” co-hosted by LWVMA and LWV-Boston, the New England Aquarium, and UMass Boston School for the Environment.

Dr. Ellen Douglas of UMass Boston laid out the evidence for the causes of climate change, its impact on sea level rise in Massachusetts, and efforts to overcome the devastating changes in store for the region through mitigation and adaptation.

This event is part of LWVMA’s 2017 Climate and Energy Solutions Series and can be viewed at this link.

The slide presentation may be viewed here.

To see her presentation in person, Dr. Douglas will be speaking at the final forum in the LWVMA Climate and Energy Solutions Series. LWV-Falmouth and LWVMA will co-host “Extreme Events and Climate Change Boston Area and Cape Cod: What We Know and What We Can Do” on November 4 at 1 p.m. at Falmouth Public Library. Speakers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Woods Hole Research Center will provide a local perspective.

Click here for a Falmouth forum flyer.

Carbon pricing gaining advocates and momentum!

Putting a price on carbon is the most effective way to reduce emissions and change consumer behavior.

With increasing pressure to address climate change, and carbon pricing bills from both the Massachusetts Senate and House, there is growing momentum in the legislature to pass a carbon pricing bill this session.

Three webinars from the LWVUS Price on Carbon team highlight the importance and value of pricing carbon.