Tagmassachusetts

Stories about Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters will decide measure in 2022 creating additional income tax on income above $1 million

On June 9, the Massachusetts General Court convened a joint session and passed Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) by a vote of 159-41, which sent an increase in the state’s income tax for top earners to state voters in 2022.

SB 5 is a constitutional amendment that would create an additional 4% income tax on income above $1 million, increasing the rate from 5% to 9%. The additional tax revenue would be dedicated “to provide the resources for quality public education and affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.” Currently, Massachusetts is one of nine states with a flat income tax rate (5%).

The amendment would also authorize the $1 million threshold to be adjusted according to any changes in the cost of living in Massachusetts using the same method used to establish federal income tax brackets. The tax would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The amendment is identical to a 2018 citizen initiative that initially qualified for the ballot but was later removed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court following a lawsuit where they ruled that the measure violated a provision of the state constitution that requires an initiative “contains only subjects … which are related or which are mutually dependent.” The ballot initiative, according to the ruling, encompassed two subjects—a tax and a dedication of revenue, which were not mutually dependent in their judgment. The state’s single-subject rule does not apply to legislative referrals.

Representative James O’Day (D) introduced House Bill 86 (HB 86) during the 2019 legislative session. In Massachusetts, both chambers of the state General Court meet as a single convention to vote on amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. An amendment needs to receive the vote of 101 of 200 state legislators during two successive sessions to appear on the ballot. During the 2019 legislative session, the bill was approved by a vote of 147 to 48 with five Democratic members absent or not voting. During the joint session convened Wednesday, the bill was approved by a vote of 159-41. All but one Republican, Sen. Patrick O’Connor, voted against the amendment, and all but nine Democrats favored it. The sole Independent member, Rep. Susannah Whipps, voted in favor of it.

On the eve of the vote, Democratic Representatives James O’Day and Jason Lewis wrote, “The reason why the Fair Share Amendment is so popular is that most people recognize that our wealthiest residents can afford to pay a bit more in taxes to help fund investments that expand opportunity and make our Commonwealth more just and equitable for all. … In fact, investments in a stronger education system and improved transportation infrastructure will strengthen our economy, expand opportunity, and make Massachusetts an even more desirable place to live, work, raise a family, and build a business.”

Raise Up Massachusetts, the non-profit coalition that sponsored the 2018 amendment, tweeted after the vote Wednesday, “We applaud the state legislature for their vote and thank our many grassroots partners for making this possible.”

In opposition to the amendment, Christopher Carlozzi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Massachusetts, said, “A millionaire’s tax could also send wealthy people fleeing the state and leave Massachusetts with less revenue, which would place a financial burden upon the remaining residents who would see taxes go up, small business owners included.” 

The amendment is the first ballot measure to be referred to statewide ballots in Massachusetts. Between 1962 and 2020, Massachusetts voters decided on 11 ballot measures related to state income tax. Nine measures were defeated, and two were approved.

Additional reading:



Massachusetts, Ohio end face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 29 and June 4.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) ended the statewide mask mandate on May 29, along with other COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and individuals. The state will still require masks in state offices open to the public, schools and childcare centers, on public transportation, and in health care settings. Baker recommended unvaccinated individuals continue wearing masks in public settings.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) ended most statewide COVID-19 restrictions including the statewide mask mandate on June 2. The state left mask requirements in place in nursing homes and residential care settings. DeWine recommended unvaccinated individuals continue wearing masks in public indoor settings.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Fifteen states had statewide mask orders as of June 3, including 13 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two out of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 15 states, at least 13 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 24 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 14 have Republican governors and ten have Democratic governors. Twenty-one states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Kim Janey sworn in as acting mayor of Boston

Kim Janey was sworn in as the nonpartisan acting mayor of Boston on March 22. Janey became acting mayor after former Mayor Martin Walsh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the secretary of labor in President Joe Biden’s (D) administration. Janey is the first Black person and the first woman to serve as Boston mayor.

Janey will serve as acting mayor through the next election on Nov. 2. Janey has not yet announced whether she will run for re-election.

Janey will remain a non-participating member of the Boston City Council, representing District 7. Janey was elected to the council in 2017. 

Boston is one of the 100 largest cities by population in the United States. Of the mayors of the country’s 100 largest cities, there are currently 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

Additional Reading:



Massachusetts voters to decide state House special election on March 30

A special election is being held on March 30 for the 19th Suffolk District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Jeffrey Turco (D), Paul Caruccio (R), and Richard Fucillo (ind.) are running in the general election. Turco advanced to the general election after defeating Juan Jaramillo, Alicia DelVento, and Valentino Capobianco in the March 2 Democratic primary with 36.2% of the vote

The special election became necessary after Robert DeLeo (D) resigned his seat on December 29, 2020, to take a job at Northeastern University. DeLeo had represented the district since 1991. He faced no opposition in his bid for re-election in 2020.

Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Senate by a 37-3 margin and the state House by a 128-30 margin with one independent and one vacancy. Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2014.

As of March, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

Additional reading:



Voters to decide special primary election in Massachusetts House district

A special election primary is being held on March 2 for the 19th Suffolk District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Valentino Capobianco, Alicia DelVento, Juan Jaramillo, and Jeffrey Turco are running in the Democratic primary. Paul Caruccio is unopposed in the Republican primary. The general election will take place on March 30.

The seat became vacant on Dec. 29, when Robert DeLeo (D) resigned to take a job at Northeastern University. DeLeo had represented the district since 1991.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 128-30 majority in the Massachusetts House with one independent member and one vacancy. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of February, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

Additional reading:



Who funded the campaigns for and against ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020?

Voters in Alaska and Massachusetts decided statewide ranked-choice voting ballot measures in 2020. Alaskans approved an initiated statute to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and establish ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election. Voters in Massachusetts rejected an initiative to adopt ranked-choice voting statewide.  

The top-two donors to the campaigns behind the ballot initiatives were the non-profit organizations Action Now Initiative and Unite America. Action Now Initiative was a top donor to ranked-choice voting measures in previous years, such as Maine Question 5 (2016) and New York City Question 1 (2019). Unite America also contributed to campaigns in prior years but did not break into the lists of top-five largest donors. In 2020, Unite America was the largest donor to Alaskans for Better Elections and the third-largest donor to Voter Choice Massachusetts.

The Action Now Initiative provided $6.59 million to the statewide ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, including $2.93 million in Alaska and $3.66 million in Massachusetts. John and Laura Arnold founded the Action Now Initiative as a 501(c)(4) organization in Huston, Texas, in 2011. Besides ranked-choice voting ballot measures, the Action Now Initiative has supported ballot initiatives related to redistricting commissions and criminal justice changes.

Unite America contributed $3.84 million to the ranked-choice voting campaigns in 2020, $3.40 million of which was donated to Alaskans for Better Actions. While Unite America provided $445,000 to Voters Choice Massachusetts, the organization’s board co-chair, Kathryn Murdoch, donated $2.50 million and board member Katherine Gehl contributed $250,000. Unite America, founded in 2014 as the Centrist Project, is based in Denver, Colorado, and has the stated purpose of electing officials and enacting electoral laws that reduce partisanship and achieve better governing outcomes. Unite America has a federal hybrid political action committee (PAC) and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Opponents of the two ballot measures did not have overlapping donors. In Massachusetts, an opposition PAC raised $8,475. In Alaska, opponents received $579,426, including $150,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization that seeks to elect down-ballot, state-level Republicans, and $50,000 from the Alaska Republican Party. 

In 2020, voters in five cities—two in California, two in Minnesota, and one in Colorado—also decided ranked-choice voting ballot measures. All five measures were approved.

The next scheduled vote on a ranked-choice voting ballot measure is March 2 in Burlington, Vermont. Former Gov. Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party) are co-chairing the support campaign Better Ballot Burlington.

Committees registered to support or oppose all 129 statewide measures on the ballot in 2020 reported a combined total of $1.23 billion in contributions.

Additional reading:



Right to repair supporters and opponents raise $51.5 million in contributions, making it the most expensive ballot measure in recent Massachusetts history

The Right to Repair Coalition and the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data received a combined $51.5 million in contributions this election cycle, making Massachusetts Question 1 the most expensive measure in the state for at least the last 15 years. Final campaign finance reports for Massachusetts 2020 ballot measure committees were filed on Jan. 20.

Question 1 amended a 2013 “right to repair law.” The amended question required manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized system beginning with model year 2022. Vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access the standardized system to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application. It was approved with a margin of 74.97% to 25.03%.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsor of Question 1, reported $24.9 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • Auto Care Association ($4.6 million)
  • Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($4.2 million)
  • AutoZone ($3 million)
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Advance Auto Parts ($3 million)
  • Genuine Parts Company ($3 million)

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data registered in opposition to Question 1 and reported $26.6 million in contributions. The top donors to the campaign included:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America Inc. ($2.4 million)

The Right to Repair Coalition sponsored a 2012 initiative. The measure led to a legislative compromise in 2013. A legislative alternative to the initiative was approved on July 31, 2012, after the July 3 initiative signature deadline, so the initiative still appeared on the ballot and received 87.7% of the vote. The 2013 legislative compromise was approved on Nov. 26, 2013. The committees registered in support of the 2012 initiative reported $2.3 million in contributions, and those registered in opposition reported over $307,000.

The top five most expensive measures by total contributions (support and opposition) in Massachusetts since 2006 are as follows:

  • $44.3 million for Question 2, Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion (2006)
  • $37.2 million for Question 1, Nurse-Patient Assignment Limits Initiative (2018)
  • $15.8 million for Question 3, Casino Repeal Initiative (2014)
  • $10.7 million for Question 2, Expansion of Bottle Deposits Initiative (2014)
  • $10.2 million for Question 2, Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative (2020)

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose all of the 129 statewide measures reported a combined total of $1.2 billion in contributions and $1.02 billion in expenditures. Massachusetts ballot measure campaigns raised the third largest amount in contributions compared to other states with a total of $61.6 million. California campaigns raised the most with $739 million, and Illinois campaigns raised the second most with $121.2 million.

Additional reading:



Filing deadline approaches in Massachusetts state House special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Massachusetts House of Representatives Nineteenth Suffolk District have until January 26, 2021, to file. The primary is scheduled for March 2, and the general election is set for March 30. 

The special election was called after Robert DeLeo (D) resigned on December 29 to seek a position at Northeastern University. DeLeo served from 1991 to 2020.

As of January 2021, 23 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts held 45 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Massachusetts has a divided government, meaning that no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Senate by a 37-3 margin and the state House by a 128-30 margin with one independent member and one vacancy. Charlie Baker, the governor of Massachusetts, is a Republican.

Additional reading:



Wendlandt sworn in as Massachusetts supreme court justice

Image of the John Adams Courthouse in Massachusetts

On December 4, 2020, Dalila Wendlandt was sworn in as a new justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s court of last resort. Wendlandt was nominated by Governor Charlie Baker (R) on November 3, 2020, and was the governor’s sixth nominee to the seven-member court. 

Wendlandt succeeded Barbara Lenk, who retired on December 1, upon reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. Lenk was appointed to the court in 2011 by Gov. Deval Patrick (D).

Prior to joining the state supreme court, Wendlandt joined the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 2017. She was nominated to the court by Baker and confirmed by the Governor’s Council. From 1997 to 2017, Wendlandt was an attorney with Ropes & Gray LLP. Wendlandt previously served as a law clerk to the Hon. John M. Walker Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements. As of December 8, 2020, 15 of the 22 vacancies have been filled. 

Additional reading: