The long-awaited Task Force Recommendations have been announced and four of the five priorities of the Massachusetts Gun Violence Coalition are among the recommendations:
Universal background checks at point of sale every time a gun is sold, including private sales and gun shows.
Share records of adjudicated commitments for mental health and substance abuse with the National Instant Check System as required by federal law
Expand the existing suitability standard that currently applies only to the issuance of a License to Carry to the issuance of FID cards as well.
Require law enforcement authorities to attempt to determine, every time a gun is involved in an injury or death, who owned the gun and where the gun came from; to maintain that data in a statewide database, and to share that data with public health researchers, policy makers, other law enforcement agencies and the general public.
The Coalition will continue to strongly encourage our 5th priority: Limit handgun sales to one per month in order to deter straw purchasing and make it harder for gun traffickers to acquire multiple guns in a single transaction.
The legislature is now considering these recommendations and we anticipate a bill to be released from the Public Safety Committee soon. JALSA members who wish to help work on encouraging our priorities in the final legislation are urged to contact the JALSA office.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday, February12, to pass H. 3873, An act relative to natural gas leaks, which creates a uniform grading system and repair timeline for many of the over 20,000 gas leaks in Massachusetts.
The bill passed by the House establishes a uniform classification system for gas leaks; currently, gas companies in the state operate under different definitions of what constitutes a dangerous leak. It also establishes a timeline to repair the leaks depending on their level of severity, and authorizes the Department of Public Utilities to enforce this timeline. Additionally, there is an important emphasis on repairing leaks in school zones and when municipal road construction projects expose leaking pipes. Now onto the Senate.
Rep. Lori Ehrlich, who introduced this bill, and Jan Schlichtmann visited JALSA earlier this year, describing the dangerous conditions resulting from these leaks, and the current situation where no one had the responsibility of dealing with them. The bill would establish clear responsibility for improvement in this dangerous situation.
Election Modernization Coalition Applauds Passage of Comprehensive Election Modernization in Senate. Conference Committee now working with two versions.
The Election Modernization Coalition today applauded the Massachusetts Senate for overwhelmingly passing comprehensive election modernization legislation. The final vote was 37 in favor to 1 opposed. The bill includes online voter registration, early voting, pre-registration for 16 year-olds, post-election audits of voting machines, Election Day registration, permanent voter registration and inactive voting reform. House version modernized some features, but was not as comprehensive.
If online registration is part of the final bill, passed by both houses, and signed by the Governor, Massachusetts would join 19 other states in passing online voter registration. Early voting is currently allowed in 32 states. Thirteen states including our neighbors in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine have passed Election Day registration and 14 have adopted pre-registration of teens (age varies in states).
Online voter registration. Online voter registration will reduce processing time, cut costs, decrease errors, and encourage more people to register. After Arizona implemented online voter registration, registration rates rose by 9.5% and costs decreased from 83¢ for processing a paper registration to 3¢ for online applications. The online system would search the Registry of Motor Vehicles database for the applicant’s driver’s license and other identifying information and match it to the electronic form. Newly registered voters would be required to show proof of residence the first time they vote. Online voter registration has been passed in 20 states.
Early voting. Early voting would allow Massachusetts residents to vote in person up ten business days before Election Day, at city or town hall or at a satellite site. Early voting relieves congestion on Election Day, especially during typical peak times before and after normal work hours, and allows voters the flexibility to fit voting into busy schedules, particularly voters with lengthy commutes or non-traditional work schedules. Early voting is available in 32 states.
Post-election audits. Post-election audits ensure that vote counts are accurate and that voting machines are working properly. Twenty-six other states perform post-election audits and California has conducted audits for more than 30 years. In 2012, a post-election audit discovered a programming error which caused the results in several municipal elections in Florida to flip. This reform is a common-sense business practice that will instill greater voter confidence in the integrity of our elections and can uncover important information about voting machine malfunctions and other voting inaccuracies. Audits can be funded with federal dollars that have already been allocated to Massachusetts through the Help America Vote Act.
Pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. Pre-registration will increase voter participation among young voters, a demographic bloc with historically low voter participation. Based on the experience of other states, pre-registration would result in approximately 21,000 additional voter registrations per year, and increase voter turnout of 18 and 19-year-olds by 5 to 10%. Studies also show this increase in participation continues into adulthood. The program is easy to administer and has almost no cost. Pre-registration has been enacted in Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virgina.
Election Day registration. No other reform is as effective in fixing administrative problems or increasing voter participation. On average, states with Election Day registration have turnout rates that are 10-12% higher than the national average. States that have passed Election Day registration include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington DC.
Reform of inactive voting procedures. Massachusetts is the only state that makes a voter “inactive” after a one-time failure to return a city or town census form, regardless of how often the voter goes to the polls. Inactive voting procedures are confusing, slow down voting on Election Day, and can wrongly disenfranchise voters.
Members of JALSA and Moishe Kavod gathering in a previous legislative session to deliver hour glasses to legislators reminding them it was time to pass the modernization voting bill.