Frequently Asked Questions

Doesn't the Legislature make their votes public?

No. Not usually.

The vast majority of all votes the legislature takes are a "voice vote" where there's no record of how individuals vote. That might be good for moving fast, but it's bad for letting you know how your Rep voted. Even if there's a recorded "Roll Call" vote, the House only published them online if they happened on the floor. Most important votes happen in committee, where votes are often either not held at all, or never published on the website -- you have to go to downtown Boston during office hours and request a copy of the vote from the committee.

Isn't the problem our Republican Governor?

Governor Charlie Baker often doesn't support progressive legislation, but Democrats hold 79% of the seats in both houses of our legislature. In states where the republican party holds smaller majorities, they have voted to strip powers from the governor and pass their conservative agenda over Democratic objections.

Like the boy who cried wolf, Democratic legislators like to claim their hands are tied, but Democrats can lose the votes of 20 conservative Democrats and still have a 2/3rds supermajority in the House.

You haven't heard about the Governor vetoing legislation very much, because he doesn't have to. Usually progressive legislation is killed in the legislature before it even comes before the Governor. We can change that.

Why aren’t you focused on the State Senate?

The State Senate generally does a better job about transparency and enacting progressive legislation than the State House. The Senate publishes committee roll call votes on its website, the House does not. The Senate unanimously passed full public school funding, the House did not. The State Senate has a more collaborative leadership style that places less power in the hands of one person like the House does.

We will track aspects of the State Senate, but do not plan to provide the same level of coverage as we do for the House.

How do you work with advocacy groups?

We support many of same bills as other progressive advocacy groups, and we're not trying to replace other progressive groups (nor could we). We support policies that have a clear consensus among the progressive community as the right thing to do. If you think we're missing a policy or bill, feel free to contact us and let us know!

Where does Act on Mass receive its funding?

Act on Mass is a small 501(c)(4) nonprofit with a modest budget. About 60% of our funding comes from individual grassroots donations, and the other 40% comes in the form of grants from progressive unions who support our work. This funding structure is extremely typical for small and growing (c)(4) nonprofits. We do not accept contributions from corporations. With an average donation is just $35.40, we're proud of all we're able to accomplish with grassroots support.

Why do Republicans tend to support pro-transparency measures?

If you follow the Rules vote at the start of every legislative session, you might have noticed that by and large the Republican caucus votes in favor of pro-transparency measures such as making committee votes public and allowing legislators more time to read a bill before it comes to a vote. Some people will use this to suggest that increased transparency and good governance policies must be somehow conservative in nature, or help the Republican agenda. This is simply not true. Republicans in MA almost always support transparency measures because they are the minority party. The minority party, whether it's the GOP here in MA or the Dems in Texas, generally favor increasing transparency and accountability measures because they are not the ones in power. The Majority party is usually less inclined to open themselves up to increased scrutiny. This doesn't mean that these basic good governance measures are particularly Republican-leaning or partisan in nature.

Sadly it's true that most Democrats in the MA House have lined up behind the Speaker in voting against State House Reform measures, but this comes as no surprise; 90% of the Democrats in the MA House vote with the Speaker between 90% and 100% of the time. The Dems who did vote for reform were, in a sense, disobeying the will of the Speaker, and may face consequences for it, which is why we need to thank them and support them as much as possible.

More to the point, the Democrats have a supermajority in the House, meaning the Republicans have essentially no power. Making committee votes public, having a term limit for the Speaker, or having more time to read legislation before voting on it isn't going to change that. In fact, the MA Senate has public committee votes and term limits for the Senate President, and is still consistently the more left-leaning of the two chambers. In the Senate these rules aren't controversial at all; they are supported nearly unanimously.