Tax Millionaires, Make God Optional in Oath, and Vote Soon, Left-Wing Massachusetts Democrats Say

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Applying a 4 percent surtax to million-dollar incomes and dropping a required reference to God from the state’s oath of office are among proposed changes to the Massachusetts Constitution that could be coming before state lawmakers before summer.

Legislators will also be asked to send a proposal to allow no-excuse-needed absentee voting, as opposed to the technically limited reasons voters can offer now to justify for voting without showing up at the polls on election day.

Legislative committees have given all three measures positive recommendations to the full Massachusetts Legislature, according to State House News Service.

For a proposed amendment to get to a state election ballot, it needs majority support of the 200 state legislators, acting as a constitutional convention, during two consecutive legislative sessions. The current session is 2019-2020. The next one is 2021-2022. If it passes during both sessions, it will go to the state’s general election ballot in November 2022 for voters to decide.

Legislators don’t have to vote on a proposed amendment recommended by a legislative committee.

Legislative committees voted negative reports on a proposed amendment to give voting rights to felons who are in prison, an amendment that would set term limits for judges, and an amendment to make the state constitution’s language gender-neutral, according to State House News Service.

Two Democratic legislators are sponsoring the Millionaires’ Tax, which would impose a 4 percent surtax on incomes of $1 million or more, in addition to the current flat income tax imposed on all incomes above the personal exemption level. (That rate is currently 5.05 percent.)

One of the sponsors, state Representative James O’Day (D-West Boylston), sounds confident that the Millionaires’ Tax will garner majority support this legislative session, since 116 of the 200 state legislators are sponsors.

“I think we’re good. I think we have a good, strong argument that we’re good, anyway,” O’Day told State House News Service

As for the oath of office, it has a complicated history.

When the Massachusetts Constitution was adopted in 1780, the governor, lieutenant governor, members of the Governor’s Council, state senators, and state representatives were required to “declare” that they “believe the Christian religion, and have a firm persuasion of its truth …”

That requirement was subsequently dropped, and replaced with the following oath, in which “A.B.” is the person taking the oath:

“I, A. B. do solemnly swear, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God.”

Quakers are exempted from this oath, because it violates their religious beliefs. They are allowed by the state constitution to say instead:

“I, A. B. do solemnly affirm, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and will support the constitution thereof. This I do under the pains and penalties of perjury.”

The Quaker version omits the word “swear” and the words “So help me God.”

State Representative Mindy Domb (D-Amherst), a member of the Progressive Caucus in the state Legislature, testified before a legislative committee recently that she is “not really comfortable swearing,” and that she wants to make the oath more comfortable for those with various religious and spiritual beliefs who might feel the same, according to State House News Service.

Her amendment, Senate Bill 2211, would expand the Quaker no-swearing and no-God option to anyone who wants it.

The state Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary voted almost unanimously to recommend the proposed amendment), with only state Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) dissenting.