The Legislature Is Busy—And So Are We

After a slow start to this two-year session of the state legislature and budget negotiations, joint committees are now holding hearings on bills almost every day.   And LWVMA is there, testifying on the bills we have chosen to follow this session.  You can take a look at those bills and read our written testimony on the website here.

Clare Gordon got things started in April with testimony supporting the Earned Income Tax Credit, waiting in Gardner Auditorium from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to present the League’s position.  And it appears some version of that tax credit will be in the final budget, though the financing is still being debated.  In May, Carolyn Lee testified in favor of a bill to improve access to public records– Massachusetts ranks almost last among states in this area.  The joint committee recently reported this bill out favorably, but it faces a fight on the floor of the legislature if it makes it out of the House Ways and Means Committee, the reason we issued an Action Alert July 20.  Read more…

Since the beginning of June, LWVMA has testified in person on mandatory minimum sentencing and bail reform. Colleen Kirby and Carole Pelchat attended the hearing, Colleen holding out until 8:30 p.m. to present the League’s statements. Abandoning mandatory minimum sentencing for drug-related crimes received overwhelming support, led by testimony from the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.  Colleen testified later in June at a hearing in support of the restorative justice program.

Lynn Wolbarst spoke at a June 18 hearing supporting a bill banning certain toxic flame-retardant chemicals in furniture, reporting strong support from firefighters who suffer when these chemicals burn, and a hearing on a similar bill before a different committee was scheduled July 28.  Terry Yoffie presented testimony supporting a bill for sexual health education and attended a rally before that hearing, as well as submitting testimony supporting a dropout prevention bill that was just reported favorably by the joint committee and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Carole Pelchat spent most of Tuesday, July 21, at the State House, testifying in the morning in support of a bill for gender equality in disability insurance, then moving on to an afternoon hearing to support the pay equity and the pregnant workers fairness bills.  Palma McLaughlin testified July 22 supporting a bill to require child advocates be trained to detect domestic violence.  Carolyn Lee submitted testimony supporting bills raising the dollar amount for a felony larceny from $250 to $1,300 and stopping the suspension of driver’s licenses for drug-related charges, both part of the move to reform the criminal justice system.

Now that the Joint Committee on Transportation has reported its version of the transportation bill out of committee and LWVMA has voted to support that bill, Robin Roberge is preparing testimony based on LWVMA’s transportation position adopted in 2013.

The Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, a coalition working on carbon pricing legislation, is developing a website and educational information expected to be ready in August in preparation for a hearing this fall.  Launa Zimmaro is representing us on that coalition and will have more information on this crucial and complex subject on the League website shortly.

Our specialists on the Legislative Action Committee can use your help now.

Please take a look at the legislation we are following on our website here.  If there are bills you would like to follow more closely, ask a specialist to add you to her mailing list by emailing

Click the bill number on the website to access information.  You will see under Status the name of the committee considering that bill.  Click on the committee and then click on members’ names for their contact information. If your Senator or Representative is on that committee, an email or phone call asking your legislator to support the bill would be most helpful.

When your Senator and Representative hold office hours in their districts, that’s a great time to pick two or three bills you are concerned about, and go talk to them.  Nothing beats an in-person plea from a constituent.

As these bills are reported out of committee and come to the floor of the legislature for a vote, LWVMA will often send out an Action Alert.  This is another point when your email or call to your legislator can influence the outcome, and we urge you to respond to these Action Alerts.

Finally, the LAC is thrilled to have three new specialists:  Colleen Kirby, courts and criminal justice; Palma McLaughlin, child safety; and Karen Price, immigration, giving us the ability to cover additional legislation that the League has positions on.