Progressive Mass: Corporate Power: Influence and Accountability
Well-targeted and organized action by informed citizens can and does have a significant effect on policy, and especially so at the state and local level. For decades, conservatives have been waging policy battles at the state level, and in so doing, pulled national policy to the right. Conversely, progressive legislation from Massachusetts has also changed (and is changing) national policy–just look at health care reform and gay marriage. What happens at the state level in Massachusetts matters (just imagine if we had adopted a single-payer system!). Our national economic and political crises were decades of complex policy and decisions in the making; it will take multiple fronts to fix them. With hard work, organization and persistence, we can make a difference.
The following bills proposed in the Legislature address the problem of undue corporate influence. To be passed, legislators need to know that there is vocal support. And sometimes, they need organized, coordinated pressure from the grassroots to do the right thing. Find and contact your legislators here.
A Resolution Memoralizing the Congress of the United States to Restore Free Speech
S.772; Lead sponsors Sen. Eldridge & Rep Atkins
S772 is a resolution asking the Massachusetts congressional delegation to support an amendment to the US Constitution that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Jan. 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited money from their general treasury funds on political campaigns. The federal amendment would ensure that the Constitution is for the interests and protections of the people, and not corporations. There are few Supreme Court decisions that better encapsulates the immense power corporations have in American society, and by passing S772, the Massachusetts Legislature would be taking a stand for restoring power to the interests of the general public, and send a message to corporations to not get involved in Commonwealth political campaigns.
Action: Ask your legislators to support bill & ask them to contact Committee on Judiciary Chairs Sen. Creem and Rep O’Flaherty to have a hearing on the bill, and report it out favorably
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.722
An Act to Promote Efficiency & Transparency in Economic Development
S153/H2565; Sponsored by Sen. Eldridge & Rep. Sciortino
S153/H2565 will expand transparency in how state economic development agencies provide tax breaks to MA corporations by establishing a common, clear website with information on how much and which companies receive taxpayer support, as well as a clear “clawback” standard allowing the state to take back tax breaks if companies don’t create the jobs promised. While the parts of the budget dedicated to health care, human services, education, and the environment have been cut, corporate tax subsidies continue without proper review. Corporations must be held responsible for their use of taxpayer dollars, and the public has a right to clear information in order to conclude whether corporate subsidies are the best use of taxpayer dollars.
Action: Ask your legislators to support bill & ask them to contact Committee on Revenue Chairs Sen. Candaras and Rep. Kaufman to report out the bill
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.153/H.2565
An Act to Update the Bottle Bill
HB890/S1650 Sponsors: Rep. Wolf, Sen. Creem
S1650/H3890 will expand the 5¢ bottle deposit currently on alcohol & soda to include water, sports drinks, flavored teas, & juices, reestablish the Clean Environment Fund, improve recycling, help other environmental projects, and provide financial relief to redemption centers. Passage of S1650/H3890 into law would send a message to beverage producers and distributors that corporations do not have the power to block a bill which has overwhelming public and community support, while also making our neighborhoods and streets cleaner. A few companies and their lobbyists should not be able to block an update to our most successful recycling program.
Action: Ask your legislators to support bill & ask them to contact Committee on Telecom., Utilities & Energy Chairs Sen. Downing & Rep. Keenan to report the bill out favorably
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of HB890/S1650
An Act establishing Medicare for all in Massachusetts
S.501; Sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Jason Lewis
S501 would replace the current Massachusetts health care system with a single-payer health care system, establishing direct reimbursement for medical care and moving away from health insurance companies. Significantly reducing the power of MA health insurance companies if passed, healthcare care decisions would again be made by doctors and nurses—not by for-profit corporations. Furthermore, by reducing the financial clout of health insurance companies, including their lobbyists and political donations to politicians, MA elected officials can make more policy decisions in the public’s healthcare interests, without the influence of selfish corporate interests.
Status: Referred to Joint Committee on Health Care Financing
Action: Contact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on Health Care Finance chairs Sen. Richard Moore and Rep. Steven Walsh to report out bill
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.501
Financial Literacy in Schools Act
S.204; Sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge
S204 would require that financial literacy be taught in grades K-12 as part of the Massachusetts mathematics framework curriculum. Wall Street took advantage of the public with misleading and complex financial investments, which ultimately caused the financial collapse in 2008. By better educating residents about the tactics of Wall Street financial advisors and institutions, citizens can advocate for stronger state and federal regulation of financial institutions, in order to curtail reckless greed which led to the financial crisis that has had such disastrous consequences on so many lives.
Action: Contact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Senate Ways & Means Chair Senator Stephen Brewer to report out bill
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.204
An Act to establish a Foreclosure Mediation Program
S.865; Sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka
H4003 would create a foreclosure mediation program that will allow homeowners in default during the 90-day right to cure period to negotiate the term
s of their mortgage with lenders. Foreclosure remain an crisis in Massachusetts, causing many families to lose their homes, increasing economic instability, and making neighborhoods less financially stable. Too many lenders have proven unwilling to re-negotiate the terms of mortgages, and some lenders were reckless in how they encouraged families to purchase home who couldn’t afford it. By providing a check on banks’ ability to foreclose on a family’s home, the ability for corporate America to take away families’ major asset will be reduced.
Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.
Action: Contact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on Judiciary Chairs Sen. Creem and Rep. O’Flaherty to report out the bill
FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.865
Energized to get this legislation passed? Ready to join a statewide movement to make a progressive Massachusetts?
Progressive Mass is committed to working on the problem of income inequality and the widening wealth gap, mobilizing grassroots networks and organizing experience to leverage people-power into real political change.
We hope this information is useful to you as we all work together to restore our democracy, take our government back from corporations, and get our economy working for all of us again (not just the 1%). We look forward to collaborating with you and other supporters of the Occupy Movement now and in the future. Through democratic processes engaging our members, we will be prioritizing specific progressive legislation to work toward passage.