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Stories about Massachusetts

Special election primary to be held in Massachusetts Senate district

A special election primary is being held on Dec. 14 for the First Suffolk & Middlesex District of the Massachusetts State Senate. Anthony D’Ambrosio and Lydia Edwards are running in the Democratic primary. No Republican candidates filed. The general election is scheduled for Jan. 11, and the winner of the special election will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant on Sept. 9 when Joseph Boncore (D) resigned to become CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 36-3 majority in the Massachusetts Senate with one vacancy. Massachusetts has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The Republican Party controls the office of governor, while the Democratic Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

To date, 10 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2022 in seven states. So far in 2021, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts held 42 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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State signature deadline for Massachusetts 2022 initiatives was Wednesday

Three initiative campaigns submitted more than the required number of validated signatures (80,239) to the Massachusetts secretary of state on Dec. 1. This means that the initiatives will go to the Massachusetts General Court. If the general court does not enact the initiatives, a smaller second round of signatures will be required to put the measures on the 2022 ballot.

The preliminary deadline to submit signatures for verification to local registrars before submitting them to the secretary of state was Nov. 17.

One initiative would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and enact several labor policies related to app-based companies. One initiative would incrementally increase the number of alcohol licenses an establishment could hold and prohibit self-checkout sales of alcohol. The third initiative would enact a medical loss ratio for dental benefit plans of 83%.

Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work is sponsoring the app-based drivers initiative and reported submitting over 130,000 signatures to local registrars. The final number of certified signatures submitted to the secretary of state on Wednesday is unknown.

The Massachusetts Package Stores Association (MPSA) is sponsoring the alcohol retail licensing initiative and reported submitting 109,000 certified signatures to the secretary of state.

Dr. Mouhab Rizkallah filed the dental medical loss ratio question and reported submitting 104,000 validated signatures to the secretary of state. 

The power of initiative is indirect in Massachusetts, which means the Massachusetts General Court must consider any successful initiative petitions.

Once enough valid signatures are submitted, proposed statutory initiatives are presented to the legislature. Statutes may be adopted by the legislature by a majority vote in both houses. If a statute proposed by a valid initiative petition is not adopted, proponents must collect another, smaller round of signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. For the first round of signatures, the required number is equal to 3% of the votes cast for governor or 80,239 signatures. The second round total is equal to 0.5% of the votes cast for governor or 13,374 signatures.

Once the secretary of state certifies the initiative petitions to the state legislature, they have until May 4, 2022, to pass them or send them to the 2022 ballot. The deadline for the second round of signatures would be July 6, 2022.

Between 2016 and 2021, 109 initiatives were filed in Massachusetts. Of that total, 72 were cleared for circulation, and nine were certified for the ballot.



Belsito (D) defeats Snow (R) in Massachusetts House special election

A special general election was held for the Massachusetts House of Representatives 4th Essex District on Nov. 30. Jamie Zahlaway Belsito (D) won the special election with 2,504 votes, or 55.4% of the total, defeating Robert Snow (R).

Belsito is the first Democrat to win election to the district since 1858.

Special Democratic and Republican primary elections were held on Nov. 2. The filing deadline passed on Sept. 28.

The special election was called after Bradford Hill (R) resigned from office on Sept. 15 to be appointed to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Hill represented the 4th Essex District from 1999 to 2021.

As of December, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts has held 45 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Entering the special election, the Massachusetts House of Representatives had 129 Democrats, 29 Republicans, and one independent. A majority in the chamber requires 81 seats. Massachusetts has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The Republican Party controls the office of governor, while the Democratic Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

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Campaign behind initiative in Mass. to classify app-based drivers as independent contractors submits 260,000 signatures to county administrators

On Nov. 16, the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work announced that they had submitted a total of 260,000 signatures to local clerks in their bid to place a ballot initiative on the 2022 ballot that was modeled after 2020’s California Proposition 22. The total number of signatures is split between two different versions of the initiative. The initiative would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors,

In Massachusetts, citizen-initiated laws are indirect ballot initiatives meaning they can be enacted by the state legislature or be sent to the ballot. For the 2022 ballot, initiative campaigns are required to submit an initial round of signatures equal to 3% of the votes cast for governor (80,239 signatures) to local registrars on Nov. 17 before submitting the petition to the secretary of state on Dec. 1. If enough signatures are submitted in the first round, the legislature must act on a successful petition by the first Wednesday of May. The measure goes on the ballot if the legislature does not pass it and if a second round of signatures is successfully collected. The second round of signatures equals 0.5% of the votes cast for governor (13,374 signatures) and is due July 6, 2022.

The ballot initiative would define app-based drivers as independent contractors if they meet the following criteria:

  1. couriers of a delivery network company (DNC) or drivers of a transportation network company (TNC),
  2. companies that do not prescribe the time and days worked by the courier or driver,
  3. contractors with DNC or TNC that cannot be terminated for rejecting service or delivery requests, and
  4. couriers and drivers that are not captive to any specific DNC or TNC and are not restricted from performing other work.

Examples of companies that hire app-based drivers include Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

The initiative would also enact labor and wage policies that are specific to app-based drivers and companies. These policies would include a net earnings floor, healthcare subsidies, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick time. Version A of the initiative would also require paid occupational safety training that would include:

  1. recognizing and preventing sexual assault or misconduct,
  2. learning collision avoidance and defensive driving techniques, and
  3. maintaining food safety for grocery or meal deliveries.

Supporters of the initiative include the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), DoorDash, InstaCart, Lyft, Massachusetts High Technology Council, Postmates, and Uber.

Prossie Namanda, a Massachusetts Instacart shopper, said, “It feels incredible to have this level of support from voters across the state. As a single mother doing this work, I’m so excited to see this progress and am grateful that people in Massachusetts recognize that drivers and shoppers should have the flexibility we want and need, with access to more benefits too.”

Opponents of the initiative include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), NAACP New England Area Conference, ACLU Massachusetts, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and SEIU-Massachusetts.

Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said, “Big Tech should follow the same laws as everyone else, pay their taxes, contribute to Social Security, and treat their workers with basic fairness.”

In 2020, California voters approved a similar initiative, Proposition 22, by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4%. It was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California’s history according to available records with the support campaign receiving over $200 million in contributions, including donations from Uber, Doordash, Lyft, InstaCart, and Postmates. On Aug. 20, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that two sections of Proposition 22 were unconstitutional and that the measure as a whole was unenforceable. Proponents announced that they would appeal the ruling.

In September, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) announced that 17 ballot initiatives of the 30 filed in 2021 were cleared for signature gathering. The 17 initiatives included 16 initiated state statutes for the 2022 ballot and one initiated constitutional amendment that would appear on the 2024 ballot. 

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Iowa, Massachusetts enact new district maps

Iowa enacted new congressional and state legislative maps, and Massachusetts enacted new state legislative maps, on Nov. 4.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 444 of 1,972 state Senate seats (22.5%) and 1,243 of 5,411 state House seats (23.0%).

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed new congressional and state legislative maps into law after the state’s Legislative Services Agency had proposed them on Oct. 21. The Iowa legislature approved the maps on Oct. 28 by a vote of 48-1 in the state Senate and 93-2 in the state House. The legislature could only vote to approve or reject the maps and could not make any amendments. These maps take effect for Iowa’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.

Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux said about Iowa’s congressional redistricting plan, “The map, drafted by the state’s nonpartisan legislative agency, created three districts where Donald Trump would’ve narrowly defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 election and a fourth that’s heavily Republican…The map paired the homes of Reps. Cindy Axne (D) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) in the politically competitive 3rd District, which takes most of its population from Axne’s current district in and around Des Moines.”

The Iowa Legislative Services Agency prepares the state’s redistricting plans and is assisted by a five-member advisory commission consisting of one person each appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate. The fifth member of the commission is selected by the other four. All five members cannot hold a partisan public office or be an officer in a political party, nor can they be related to or an employee of either the legislature or any individual legislator.

Upon signing the maps, Gov. Reynolds said, “Today I signed the bipartisan redistricting maps into law. I am confident in how the process played out—just as the law intended, and I believe these new districts will fairly and accurately represent the citizens of Iowa for the next decade.” After the legislature approved the maps, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) said, “Despite years of fear-mongering about gerrymandering and claims the first map could not be improved, the Iowa Senate followed the process outlined in Iowa Code, and a more compact map with better population differences has been approved.”

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the state’s new legislative redistricting plan into law. The state House passed the maps by a vote of 158-1 on Oct. 21. The state Senate approved the legislative plans on Oct. 27 by a vote of 36-3. The legislature began consideration of the state’s redistricting plans on Oct. 19. These maps take effect for Massachusetts’ 2022 legislative elections. 

After the legislature approved the maps, State Sen. William Brownsberger (D) said, “It’s a quality final product. We have used every minute we’ve had to keep vetting, to keep adjusting . . . and to respond to input that we’ve received.” After the redistricting plans were enacted, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D) issued a statement expressing concern regarding how the maps would be implemented: “I am extremely disappointed that these bills were signed into law in their current form and I think it is a devastating blow to the voters of Massachusetts. With local precincts divided multiple ways, it will inevitably lead to chaos at the polls and make it impossible for voters to understand who their elected representatives are.”

In Massachusetts, state legislative district lines are drawn by the legislature with committee work performed by the state’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. State statutes require that state legislative district boundaries be contiguous and “reasonably preserve counties, towns, and cities intact, where otherwise possible.” Redistricting plans are subject to veto by the governor.

Ten states have adopted congressional district maps, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 34 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 99 of the 435 seats (22.7%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Twelve states have adopted legislative district maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates, which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 36 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

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Special election primary to be held in Massachusetts House district

A special election primary is being held on Nov. 2 for the 4th Essex District of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Darcyll Dale and Jamie Zahlaway Belsito are running in the Democratic primary. Lisa-Marie Cashman and Robert Snow are competing for the Republican nomination. The general election will take place on Nov. 30, and the winner will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant on Sept. 15 when Bradford Hill (R) resigned after being appointed to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Hill had represented the district since 1999.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 129-29 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 October, 64 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts held 42 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Special election for vacant Massachusetts Senate seat called for 2022

A special election has been called to fill the vacant Massachusetts State Senate seat in the First Suffolk & Middlesex District. The seat became vacant on Sept. 9 when former state Sen. Joseph Boncore (D) resigned to become CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio).

The special general election is set for Jan. 11, 2022, with the special primary election scheduled for Dec. 14, 2021. The Secretary of State’s Elections Division reports it will issue a calendar and nomination papers for the election during the week of Sept. 20.

To date, three state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2022 in two states: two in Alabama and one in Massachusetts. So far in 2021, 60 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Wu and Essaibi George advance from Boston mayoral primary

Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George advanced from Boston’s mayoral primary election Tuesday night. As of Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST, Wu received 33.4% of the vote to Essaibi George’s 22.5%. Eight candidates were on the ballot.

Wu and Essaibi George are both at-large city councilors. They defeated fellow city councilors Andrea Campbell and Kim Janey (who received 19.7% and 19.5% of the vote, respectively) along with three other candidates to advance to the Nov. 2 general election. Janey is also the city’s acting mayor, having succeeded Marty Walsh in March 2021 when he became secretary of labor in President Joe Biden’s (D) administration.

Media outlets have described Essaibi George as the more moderate of the leading candidates in the primary and Wu as one of the more progressive candidates. A former teacher and a member of the council since 2016, Essaibi George has emphasized her opposition to defunding the police and has discussed housing, schools, and public safety as priority issues. Wu has highlighted her climate plan, including a Boston Green New Deal, and her support for rent control. Wu has been on the city council since 2014.

Either will be the first woman to serve as Boston’s mayor. Essaibi George and Wu have emphasized that they are the children of immigrants. Wu’s parents are Taiwanese. Essaibi George’s mother is from Poland and her father, from Tunisia. 



Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey clears 17 ballot initiatives for signature gathering

On September 1, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) announced that 17 ballot initiatives of the 30 filed were cleared for signature gathering. The 17 initiatives included 16 initiated state statutes aiming for the 2022 ballot and one initiated constitutional amendment that would appear on the 2024 ballot.

The initiatives cleared for signature gathering address:

  1. Changes to alcohol retail licensing,
  2. Compensation of chief executive officers of hospitals,
  3. Hospital operating margin limits,
  4. App-based drivers’ employment classification,
  5. Voter identification,
  6. Hate crimes against first responders,
  7. Commercial retail of fireworks,
  8. Whale and sea turtle safe fishing gear,
  9. Gasoline supply,
  10. Sale of discounted alcoholic beverages,
  11. Corporate tax disclosures,
  12. Right to counsel in eviction proceedings, 
  13. Tax credits for individuals who buy zero-emission vehicles, home heating systems, and home solar-powered electricity, and
  14. No-excuse absentee voting.

Proponents of the initiatives that were not cleared for signature gathering can appeal the attorney general’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Court. In determining which initiatives to clear for circulation, the attorney general considers whether the initiative meets the requirements in the constitution, such as a single-subject rule, subject restrictions, format requirements, and a ban on repeating of a measure voters decided at either of the two preceding statewide elections.

In Massachusetts, the number of signatures required to qualify an indirect initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 3.5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. No more than one-quarter of the verified signatures on any petition can come from a single county. The process for initiated state statutes in Massachusetts is indirect, which means the legislature has a chance to approve initiatives for which enough signatures are collected without the measure going to the voters. In Massachusetts, signatures for initiated state statutes are collected in two rounds.

For the 2022 ballot, the first round is 80,239 signatures (3 percent of the votes cast for governor). If petitioners meet the first-round requirement, the initiative goes before the legislature. The second round is equal to 13,374 signatures (0.5 percent of the votes cast for governor. It is required to put the measure on the ballot if the legislature rejects or declines to act on a proposed initiated statute. 

The deadline to submit the first round of signatures to the secretary of state is December 1, 2021. Prior to submitting signatures to the secretary of state, the signatures need to be submitted to local registrars by November 17, 2021. If the legislature does not adopt the proposed law by May 4, 2022, petitioners then have until July 6, 2022 (eight weeks) to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of signatures.

Proposed constitutional amendments have just one round of signature gathering with the same requirement and deadline as the first round for statutes. If enough signatures are submitted by the deadline, the initiative goes to the legislature, where 25 percent of all legislators, with senators and representatives voting jointly, must approve the amendment in two successive sessions. If this requirement is met, the initiative goes on the ballot at the next general election. Because of this unique requirement, the earliest an initiated constitutional amendment can reach the ballot is two years following signature submission.

Between 1996 and 2020, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years. About 54% (22 of 41) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 46% (19 of 41) were defeated.

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Initiative filed in Massachusetts to classify app-based drivers as independent contractors

On August 4, Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work filed two versions of a ballot initiative with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office that would classify app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery drivers as independent contractors. It would also adopt labor and wage policies specific to app-based drivers and companies.

The initiative is similar to California’s Proposition 22 that was approved by voters at the 2020 general election by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4%. California’s Proposition 22 was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California’s history according to available records. The support reported $202.9 million in contributions, with Uber, Doordash, Lyft, InstaCart, and Postmates as top donors. The opposition reported $19.7 million in contributions, with unions as the top donors.

The ballot initiative filed targeting the 2022 Massachusetts ballot would define app-based drivers as independent contractors who meet the following criteria:

  1. couriers of a delivery network company (DNC) or drivers of a transportation network company (TNC),
  2. companies that do not prescribe the time and days worked by the courier or driver,
  3. contractors with DNC or TNC that cannot be terminated for rejecting service or delivery requests, and
  4. couriers and drivers that are not captive to any specific DNC or TNC and are not restricted from performing other work.

Examples of companies that hired app-based drivers include Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

The initiative would enact labor and wage policies that are specific to app-based drivers and companies including

  1. a guaranteed earnings floor that would be equal to $18 per hour in 2023 excluding tips,
  2. paid occupational safety training program requirements,
  3. a healthcare stipend for workers who meet weekly hour requirements,
  4. earned paid sick leave,
  5. coverage under Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave,
  6. requirements for occupational accident insurance to cover disability payments and medical bills, and
  7. requirements for accidental death insurance.

The law would take effect on January 1, 2023.

Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. The coalition has been endorsed by DoorDash, Lyft, Uber, Postmates, and Instacart. James Hills, a community activist and spokesperson for the Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, said, “There is a national call for true equity and inclusion amid a world pandemic, and yet without a major change thousands of drivers could lose the work they rely on. A large number of app-based drivers are Black, Brown, and women and it is imperative that we protect the flexibility that they want and their ability to earn when they want. That freedom, plus the benefits and protections in this ballot question, will strengthen our communities and boost economic opportunities for people from every background.”

Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights is leading the campaign in opposition to the initiative. It has been endorsed by NAACP New England Area Conference, ACLU Massachusetts, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and SEIU-Massachusetts. Beth Griffith, an Uber driver and spokesperson for the Coalition, said, “The ballot language from Uber and Lyft is a $100 million ploy to avoid paying taxes, avoid paying workers fairly, and allow Big Tech companies to buy their way out of the basic obligations of every other business. Drivers and delivery workers, most of us Black, Brown, and immigrants, are tired of being treated like ‘second class’ workers by these multibillion-dollar tech companies. When we ask these companies to simply follow the law, they threaten our jobs.”

August 4 was the deadline to submit petitions for indirect initiated state statutes in Massachusetts. The number of signatures required to qualify an indirect initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 3.5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election collected in two rounds.

The legislature has a chance to approve indirect initiatives without the measure going to the voters. The first round of signatures equal to 3 percent of the votes cast for governor is required to put an initiative before the legislature. For the 2022 ballot, the first-round signature requirement is 80,239 signatures. A second round of signatures equal to 0.5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last election is required to put the measure on the ballot if the legislature rejects or declines to act on a proposed initiated statute. The second-round signature requirement is 13,374 signatures.

Before proponents can gather signatures, an initiative must be approved by the attorney general’s office to ensure it complies with the state’s single-subject rule. After that determination, the petition is sent to the secretary of the commonwealth where it receives a summary to be included on the official petition form for circulation. 

Twenty-eight indirect initiated state statutes targeting the 2022 ballot were filed with the attorney general’s office. Two proposed initiated constitutional amendments, which are governed by a different process, were also filed and would go on the 2024 ballot. The attorney general will make an announcement on which initiatives are cleared for signature gathering on September 1.

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Massachusetts 2022 ballot measures