As our nine peace and justice bills move through the Massachusetts Legislature, peace activists across the state should be prepared to advocate vigorously for their passage.
These bills, developed by the Mass. Peace and Justice Network and sympathetic state legislators, represent an ambitious effort to make inroads at the state level on issues of war, peace, and the Pentagon budget. A grassroots campaign to work with legislators and testify at hearings will be needed to push the legislation forward.
The bills, which were filed in January, have all been assigned to committees. The “No First Use,” “Back from the Brink,” “Nuclear Ban Treaty Alignment,” “The People’s Budget” and “Build Bridges Not Bombs” bills have all been referred to the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee. The “Nuclear Weapons Divestment” and “Divest from the Yemen War/Raytheon” bills have been referred to the Public Service Committee. The “Taxpayers’ Information Act” and “Change the State Flag and Seal” bills have been assigned to the Committee on State Administration. “The People’s Budget” was also referred to the Revenue Committee.
A complete list of the bills, their co-sponsors, and fact sheets describing their content, can be found at http://masspeaceaction.org/commonwealth-peace-agenda/
Eight thousand bills have been filed for the two-year, 2019-2020, legislative session. All bills must get a hearing. MAPA’s Legislative/Political Committee members are currently scheduling meetings with the chairs of the committees to raise the profile of the bills and to find out when the hearings will be held. (By law, they do not have to give any more than three days’ notice – just one of many undemocratic elements in the way the Legislature is currently structured.) We will then make sure all MAPA members know when the hearings are and how they can lobby for the bills, either by testifying in person or sending in written testimony. We will need members to spring into action in support of these bills, so stay tuned!
In thinking about how to discuss these bills with allies and legislators, our members may run into a question that we in the Peace and Justice Network asked ourselves as we developed this campaign: Why raise issues of war and peace at the state level when they are usually decided at the federal level? We came to the conclusion that influencing and mobilizing state legislatures could be a powerful means of influencing the national conversation, and eventually Congressional actions, around these issues.
And with the exciting results of the mid-term elections—including the victories of strong pro-peace candidates here in Massachusetts such as State Sen. Jo Comerford, and State Reps. Nika Elugardo and Lindsay Sabadosa—it seemed an opportune time to focus on our own state legislature.
We are also greatly encouraged by news from New Jersey. The State Assembly there recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of a “Back from the Brink” resolution which calls on the federal government to renounce the first use of nuclear weapons, end the President’s sole authority to launch a nuclear attack, take US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, cancel plans to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced nuclear weapons, and actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The vote was 58 yes, 3 no, and 15 abstentions.
Members of the Massachusetts Peace and Justice Network include Amherst Peace Vigil, American Friends Service Committee, Beyond the Bomb, Campaign for Peace, Change the Mass. Flag, Disarmament and Common Security, First Parish Bedford UU-Peace Committee, Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR), Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, Mass Peace Action, Newton Dialogues on Peace and War, NuclearBan.us, Pioneer Valley Physicians for Social Responsibility, Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, 350 Newton, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND/WILL), Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom-Boston Branch, and Veterans for Peace/Smedly Butler Brigade.
–Andrea Burns is co-chair of the Mass. Peace Action Legislative / Political Committee and a member of the Board.