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Stories about Massachusetts

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



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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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