Happy Halloween, Friends!

Leaves on the trees have turned blood red, ghosts and ghouls are emerging from their slumber, and the spookiest time of year is just around the corner… midterm elections. 

While we have the chance here in Massachusetts to make some incredible changes — we could have the first Democratic governor in 8 years, we have the chance to pass the Fair Share Amendment and dedicate billions of dollars to improving our public transportation and education, and a new group of pro-transparency State Reps could be elected for the next session — it turns out we actually have the least competitive legislative races of any state this year, according to new analysis from Ballotpedia. This means, more than any other state, our elected officials are uncontested in their bids for election.

Despite legislative competitiveness steadily growing over the past several years, Massachusetts has ranked dead last for the last four cycles. Not only do we have the least competitive legislative races of any state, but the next closest states in New England ranked nearly double what MA scored on the competitiveness index. When voters only have one choice of who to vote for, as so many do here in Massachusetts, our democracy suffers.

But that’s a problem for after the election. 

State House Scoop

Step therapy bill moving through legislature

An old health insurance bill to restrict the harmful process of “step therapy” has finally had movement this week. Step therapy allows insurance carriers to force patients to first try insurance-preferred treatment (often a cheaper, or older treatment) before they are allowed to switch to the drug prescribed by their doctor. This inhumane practice puts insurance profits over patients’ well being–like, well, just about everything else in the U.S. healthcare system. 

After years of fighting, patient advocate groups finally got the legislature to move towards a compromise on the step therapy bill during informal sessions this past week. The bill would require insurers to respond to patient appeals in three days, and 24 hours in an emergency case. The bill would also prevent patients from undergoing step therapy treatment with a drug unlikely to work, if they are stable on medication, or if they have tried it before under a different insurer. But even this compromise bill (a watered down version of a bill that would have eliminated step therapy entirely) is not guaranteed to pass; because lawmakers are hoping to pass it during informal sessions, the objection of just one lawmaker can derail the bill. Plus, even after passing both chambers, Baker could veto it. And given Baker’s background, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he does. 

City of Boston and state government point fingers over Mass & Cass crisis

This week, Boston officials, including Mayor Wu, seemed to pick a fight with State Health and Human Services over who was responsible for housing the individuals at Mass & Cass. Mass & Cass (short for Massachusetts Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard) is an area in Boston with long-time houselessness encampments born from the intersection of the opioid and housing crises.

As politicians bicker, houselessness is on the rise across the entirety of the Commonwealth, and family houselessness saw an increase from 2021 to 2022 according to the newest census data released in June. This doesn’t even begin to cover the full scope of the housing crisis, including those facing housing insecurity as rents continue to skyrocket. But framing this as a municipal or executive branch issue gives a pass to those who have the most power to solve the root of the problem: the state legislature. We need bold, sweeping legislative action to start treating housing as a human right–not a commodity or luxury.

In Memoriam: The Graveyard of the 192nd Session

Now that our legislature is through with major business for the rest of the year, it’s time to take a look back through the 192nd legislative session to acknowledge some of the popular progressive bills that died, yet again.

Same Day Voter Registration

Earlier this session, Massachusetts passed the VOTES Act to expand voting access and protections in the Commonwealth, but the final version passed was missing the cornerstone policy of the bill: Same Day Voter Registration, or SDR. 20 states, plus Washington D.C. have already implemented SDR, and yet Massachusetts continues to enforce an arbitrary registration cutoff date, which is shown to disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. SDR has been filed each session, in one form or another, for over a decade. While the Senate has taken several votes on it, the House continuously refuses to take it up. So when a massive coalition backed the VOTES Act this session to permanently implement early voting, mail-in voting, and SDR, there was hope. But, dear reader, I bet you can guess what happened next… 

Yep: SDR was mysteriously stripped from the bill in House Ways & Means. Once this gutted version was brought to the House floor, a contentious floor debate ensued over whether SDR should be added back in as an amendment. If you’d like some spicy snippets from the debate, check out this post our friends at Progressive Mass put together, debunking inflammatory and specious remarks from several representatives who spoke against SDR. In the end, SDR was gutted by a vote of 93-64, with an enormous number of Democrats bravely voting against House leadership’s position. (You can read more about this vote in our Saturday Scoop from January 29th.)

While it was a shameful outcome, the fact that dozens of Democrats voted against what the Speaker had advised is noteworthy and serves as a glimmer of hope that some representatives in fact do have the bravery needed to stand up to leadership. Let’s keep putting them to the test.

Take Action

Tell your legislators: finish what you started

Thank you to everyone who made it out to the State House for the Special Session Rally yesterday! We had a great turnout and fantastic speakers who underscored the need for legislators to come back and override Baker’s veto on bills like the 5-year Prison Construction Moratorium and No Cost Calls.

The rally was incredible, but it was only the first step. Tell your legislators, via phone, email, or social media, that they need to call a special session

Lastly, we at Act on Mass are teaming up with Families for Justice as Healing to bring you a Letter to the Editor workshop about the Special Session. Join us this coming Thursday 11/3 at 6:00PM to learn how to write an effective LTE to put pressure on Beacon Hill to take action

Get Out The Vote for Critical Races

With just over a week until the election, it’s time to Get Out The Vote! Join Act on Mass in supporting Teresa English, who is running to flip Billerica blue for the first time in over a decade, as well as the Yes on 1 Fair Share campaign, and Yes on 4 for Safer Roads campaign. 

Sign up for a shift between now and Election Day to help bring these campaigns across the finish line:

Get out the vote for Theresa English!

Get out the vote for Fair Share!

Get out the vote for Safer Roads!

That's all for now! I'll be back in your inbox next Saturday. Until then, enjoy this gorgeous Halloween weekend! Just remember to pace yourself while you celebrate, be it with drinks or candy corn.


Erin Leahy

Executive Director, Act on Mass