Flowers are in bloom, buds are popping up on every tree in sight, and most exciting of all – spring municipal elections are just around the corner. But what would normally be a run of the mill election has become a high stakes deadline: these will be the first elections since protections lapsed for vote-by-mail and early voting. 

As you might recall, the Senate’s proposed version of the VOTES Act includes vote-by-mail, early voting, and Same Day Voter Registration. The House’s version removed Same Day Voter Registration before passing it. (With a bizarre and dramatic maneuver on the House floor, they voted to “study” the policy instead of passing it.)

The VOTES Act is now in the hands of a conference committee who is tasked with ironing out the differences between Senate and House versions. Or should I say, the one glaring difference.

This conference committee met for the first time on Thursday to go to battle over Same Day or Election Day voter registration – a reform that would enfranchise between 200,000 - 500,000 Massachusetts voters, disproportionately people of color.

You might be asking yourself: who would want to prevent that? Well, someone who worries it might hurt their chances of reelection, that’s who. And this person just so happens to be appointed by the Speaker to that very conference committee. Funny how that works.

State House Scoop

State Senate staffers push to unionize

Earlier this week, state senate staffers announced their intent to unionize. If successful, they would become the second unionized legislative staff in the country, after Oregon. The unionization push comes in the wake of two devastating reports of state house staff treatment, both of which include accounts of low and unequal wages, poor working conditions, and harassment. 

The fate of the union rests in the hands of Senate President Spilka, who has the option of voluntarily recognizing the union, or fighting it. Complicating matters, if the union is not recognized by the senate president, legislative action may be required to formalize the union. The Senate President is currently solely in charge of senate staff pay – a power that would be complicated by a union. While Spilka has often touted her background as a labor lawyer and voiced her support for other unionization efforts, she has not yet responded to the State House Staff union’s request for recognition. 

Senate unveils new climate bill, alternative to Mariano’s offshore wind legislation

After the House passed Speaker Mariano’s priority offshore wind bill, Senate President Spilka noted her preference for a broader climate bill. (When she’s right, she’s right!) Making good on her word, Spilka introduced on Thursday a $250 million climate bill focused on electrifying the Bay State’s transportation and buildings. The Senate is poised to vote on the bill as early as next week. I don’t know what negotiations between the House and Senate will look like over their respective climate bills, but I do know we desperately need our legislature to listen to climate activists and scientists, not utility companies

Baker admin responds to criticisms of criminal justice reform inaction

The Judiciary Committee’s pointed criticisms of the Baker administration’s commitment to criminal justice reform, or lack thereof, “is not supported by the facts,” according to a Baker official. In their 11-page response to Rep. Michael Day’s scathing letter, Public Safety Secretary Reidy asserts that they have been doing everything in their power to implement the changes required by recent legislation. 

Scattered among the disputed claims are statements that read more like, well, admissions. For example, Day criticized the administration for keeping incarcerated individuals in their cells for 21.5 hours a day to avoid protections required by law for individuals confined for 22 hours. In response, Reidy said that was true of 1,361 individuals in the past 15 months.


Take Action

April 30th & May 1st: Join our Weekend of Action for our ballot question initiative!

Last week, we announced our 34 Priority Districts for our ballot question campaign to give people a voice on public committee votes! We’ll be asking voters in key districts — leadership, contested races, and underrepresented communities — if they want to instruct their State Rep to make all committee votes public. 

Here’s how to get involved:

  1. Sign Up: Fill out this form to be looped into all things ballot question.
  2. Share: Share the campaign flyer with your network — send it to your neighbors, friends, groups and organizations and spread the word to get more people involved
  3. Weekend of ActionSign up for our Weekend of Action on April 30th and May 1st for our signature gathering extravaganza! Only the first three campaigns to return their signatures will get a spot on the ballot, so the first weekend is critical.
  4. Start your own district team: Even if your district isn’t on the priority list, we still have all the tools and support you need to get this question on your ballot too! Fill out this form and let us know if you’re interested in starting your own district team.


And last, a not-so-fun-fact to kick off your weekend

According to a survey of House and Senate staffers conducted in 2021, only 10% of employees felt they were fairly paid for their work. 88.6% said they lived with relatives or had a second job in order to make ends meet. 82.8% said they had never had a routine salary or performance review.


Sitting by my window in Somerville I experienced at least three types of weather while just writing this Scoop – that’s how you know it’s spring in New England. (Either that or I’ve been writing for longer than I thought…)