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Legislation Guide: Income Inequality, Wealth Gap, Unfair Taxation

The material and information on this page is provided by Progressive Massachusetts in collaboration with We Can Occupy. DOWNLOAD PDF  (2 pages), ABRIDGED VERSION (1 page)

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 themWith hard work, organization and persistence, we can make a difference.

The following bills proposed in the Legislature address the problem of undue corporate influenceTo 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.

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. Astronomic health care costs are a major cause of financial difficulties for the 99%; health care reform will lower costs and provide economic security for all residents. We have the highest per capita health care costs in the country, yet many residents receive inadequate health care, and often fall into bankruptcy and other financial difficulties just trying to take care of their families.  A single-payer system would help control health care costs in the long-term while ensuring that every citizen has a right to quality, affordable health care.

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.  This is important because the economic collapse was primarily because of Wall Street taking advantage of the general public with misleading and complex financial investments, further contributing to economic inequality. Today’s youth are bombarded with a multitude of financial options and responsibilities at an increasingly young age. One out of every three teenagers has a credit card, and even more have an ATM card. Yet many are ill-equipped to make informed decisions about financial matters. They don’t understand fundamental principles of money management and the larger economy.

Status: Accompanied new draft S.1994. Referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

ActionContact 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 terms 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.

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

ActionContact 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

An Act to Sustain Community Preservation
H.765; Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Kulik, Accompanied by S.1841, Sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem

H765 would update the Community Preservation Act (CPA) by increasing state funding for communities through an enhanced Registry of Deeds fee and make it easier for communities to dedicate local revenue for the state matching fund. The CPA currently allows communities to build affordable housing, protect open space, and preserve historic properties.  By passing H765, more working families will able to live in communities across Massachusetts, enjoying a better quality of life, while Massachusetts history is preserved.

Status: Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Brian Dempsey to report out bill

FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of H.765/S.1841

An Act to Promote the Economic Recovery with a Strong Minimum Wage
S.951 Sen. Pacheco

Incomes for work have flat-lined for the middle-class and working poor, and increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour would bring thousands of Massachusetts residents out of poverty.  Adjustments to the minimum wage address wage gap can help put working Americans back on equal footing, and make sure that as businesses thrive, employees benefit more from their hard work, too.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chairs Sen. Wolf and Rep Coakley-Rivera to report out the bill

FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.951

The Middle Skills Solutions Act
S.921/H.2713; Sponsored by Sen. Kenneth Donnelly and Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera

S921/H2713 establishes regional skills academies to match the skills workers need in order with Mass. employers’ needs, and establish a middle skills council to better coordinate the state’s economic development strategies for all Massachusetts families. Gives people who do not have advanced degrees the skills they need to get jobs in today’s economy. It will increase the readiness for and success of working adults and other non-traditional students in education and training in order to increase the number of adults with credentials for middle-skill jobs.  At a time when our residents face over a 7% unemployment rate, S921/2713 will help bridge the gap that many unemployed workers have in becoming re-trained and ready for find work.

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Chairs Sen. Wolf and Rep Coakley-Rivera to report out the bill

FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.921/H.2713

An Act to Invest in Our Communities
S.1416; Sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz

S1416 would raise $1.2 billion to restore budget cuts by increasing the state income tax from 5.3 to 5.95% while doubling the personal exemption to protect working families, and also raising the capital gains tax on wealthy investors. Our MA tax system puts disproportional costs on the middle class and working poor, taking more as a % of their income than wealthy earners. S1416 will help make critical investments in public education, health care, transportation infrastructure, human services and protecting the environment that will allow more Massachusetts families to earn a better living and enjoy a better quality of life.

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Revenue.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the 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.1416

An Act to Create Equitable Job Access
S.1568; Sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz

S1568 mandates that state agencies, when reviewing potential bidders for state contracts, evaluate each bidder’s capacity and past performance in advancing the Commonwealth’s contracting and workforce inclusion goals, makes it a stated goal that contract awardees reflect the diverse racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of our population, and increases transparency and reporting of how state-funded contracts benefit minority and women-owned businesses.  This ensures that women and minorities, who are disproportionately less wealthy, are given equal opportunity to government contracts, and that all of our residents, especially those affected by high unemployment and low incomes, benefit from job creation stemming from state-funded contracts, thus helping reduce income inequality and the wealth gap.

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Chairs Sen. Donnelly and Rep. Kocot to report out the bill

FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of S.1568

An Act regarding higher education opportunities for high school graduates in the Commonwealth
H.2109/S.566; Sponsored by Reps. Alice Wolf and Denise Provost, Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz 

Re-balancing the wealth gap means the traditionally disadvantage need skills and education. This bill would allow high school students to contribute to their communities and strengthen the local economy. Our Massachusetts economy is built on our educated workforce. These students can be part of building Massachusetts’s future economic success, if they can get the same affordable education available to their high school classmates.

Status: Referred to the Joint Committee on Higher Education.

ActionContact your legislators in support of the bill & ask them to contact Committee on Higher Education Chairs Sen. Michael Moore and Rep. Sannicandro to report out the bill

FOR ONGOING STATUS UPDATES: See Progressive Mass.’s Summary of H.2109/S.566

Join our 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.

We hope you will continue to be a part of this collaborative work to make a progressive Massachusetts. Subscribe to our mailing list and visit us at ProgressiveMass.com for the latest updates!

–Progressive Massachusetts

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