Peace Bills Urged at State House Hearing

Steve Gallant, a member of Mass. Peace Action, testifies at State House hearing.
Steve Gallant, a member of Mass. Peace Action, testifies at State House hearing.

by Andrea Burns and Jonathan King

This article appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of the Massachusetts Peace Action newsletter

Massachusetts legislators and peace advocates spoke out forcefully at a State House hearing Sept. 24 about the urgent need for nuclear disarmament, curbing Pentagon spending, and reinvesting military funds in programs to meet human needs.

More than 40 people, organized by Mass. Peace Action and other groups in the Massachusetts Peace and Justice Network, testified at the six-hour hearing held by the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee in Gardner Auditorium. The testimony supported five of the nine bills that the Network helped develop last year with legislative allies: No First Use, Back from the Brink, Nuclear Ban Treaty Alignment, Build Bridges not Bombs, and the People’s Budget resolution.

The latter three bills would create state commissions to inform the citizenry how each of the actions called for in the bills would affect our state.

The Committee, which is co-chaired by Rep. Linda Campbell and Sen. Walter Timilty, listened carefully to the cogent and informed testimony of their legislative colleagues in support of the bills, including Senators Jo Comerford and Pat Jehlen, and Representatives Mindy Domb, Nika Elugardo, Natalie Higgins, Denise Provost and Lindsay Sabadosa.   

Speaking in support of the “No First Use” of nuclear weapons bill, Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) reported on her own visit to Hiroshima and “the extraordinary experience” of learning about “the magnitude of the destructive power” of the atomic bomb dropped on that city by US forces during World War II. “Especially at this moment in history,” Provost said, “ I think that the ‘no first use’ policy is an important piece of leadership in the world.”

Rep. Nika Elugardo, who testified as the lead sponsor of “Build Bridges, Not Bombs,” explained: “This commission would produce a report on state transportation and infrastructure programs that could be funded by the savings from canceling the proposed $1.7 trillion dollar nuclear upgrade. This is a way of communicating to the taxpayers that the bloated Pentagon budget is in part responsible for the starving of key civilian programs, like transportation, road and bridge maintenance.”

Northampton’s newly elected Sen. Jo Comerford testified in support of two bills she cosponsored, the Nuclear Ban Treaty Alignment and Back from the Brink, which would have the Mass. Legislature call on the federal government to take specific actions toward nuclear disarmament. She noted the steep cost to US taxpayers of nuclear weapons programs – more than $22 billion in 2018 — with Massachusetts taxpayers contributing more than $706 billion.

Among those testifying for No First Use (H3211 & S2165) were Prof. Elaine Scarry, Steve Gallant, Louise Coleman and Brian Garvey. Testifying for Back from the Brink (H3240 & S2155) were Anna Baker, Dr. Ira Helfand, Dr. Kea van der Ziel, Dr. Matt Bivens, Dr. Peter Moyer and Peter Metz. Testifying for Nuclear Ban Treaty Alignment (H3239 & S2157) were Timmon Wallis, Vicki Elson, Lois Gagnon, Pat Hynes, Rev. Peter Kakos, Sofia Wolman, Sarah Bloomgarden and Susan Lantz. Testifying for Build Bridges, Not Bombs (H3585) were Jerald Ross, Ian Harrington, Brown Pulliam, and Rev. Rev. John Gibbons. Testifying for the People’s Budget (H3220) were Jonathan King, Andrea Burns, Paul Shannon, Phil Noyce, Richard Wood, and Sharon Moulton.

A number of people testified in support of all five bills, including Nate Goldschlag, Cole Harrison, Anthony Donovan, Prof. Judith Oleson, Christopher Hankle, Thea Paneth, and  Prof. Sheila Siragusa.

The Committee has until November to decide which bills will be reported out. If you are a constituent of Rep. Campbell or Sen. Timilty, please send them a message asking them to support all five of the above bills. More hearings on our bills are coming up in November. 

—Andrea Burns is a member of Mass. Peace Action’s Board and co-chair of the Legislative / Political Committee. Jonathan King is co-chair of the Board.