Five Policies Where Massachusetts Is A National Outlier

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What makes Massachusetts stand out from the other 49 states?

Our differences are not merely that the New England Patriots have more Super Bowls than other National Football League teams in the 21st century, the existence of the Hood blimp, and kids eating fluffernutter sandwiches.

On policy, it differs from the rest of the country in many ways.

Here are five ways that the Bay State differs from other states regarding political policy:


1.  Consumer fireworks ban

Massachusetts is the only state in America where no form of consumer fireworks is legal.

Fireworks have been illegal in Massachusetts since 1943. Along with bonfires, the state outlawed them during World War II to keep the sky dark at night. The purpose was to make it more difficult for the Germans to bomb American cities. That never happened and the ban stayed in place after the war ended.

So while people in other states get to enjoy fireworks in their backyards every Independence Day, we do not.

It’s ironic that the state where the Revolutionary War began lags behind all the rest on this issue of freedom.


2. Transparency?  Transhparency

The Democratic supermajority in our state does not like transparency.

Just how bad is it?

Massachusetts is the only state where the governor’s office, state legislature, and the state judiciary claim a public records request exemption, according to WBUR.

Admittedly, Governor Maura Healey’s office is better than her predecessor, Charlie Baker on this issue, as she merely claims a partial exemption. However, the fact that all three branches of government have something to hide from us is worrying.


3. Dudes playing field hockey

It gets better.

Massachusetts is the only state that (by court decree) requires boys, who identify as boys, to be allowed to play girls’ high school field hockey.

Notably, the state has no boys’ high school field hockey teams. However, the state allows boys to play girls field hockey because of the 1979 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in Attorney General v. Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. In it, the court ruled that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s policy of the time that stated “No boy may play on a girls’ team” was unlawful because in the court’s view it violated the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution.

The Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution states:


All people are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness. Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.


The Equal Rights Amendment was relatively new at the time. It passed at the ballot in the November 1976 general election with 60.4 percent supporting and 39.6 percent opposing, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. Every single county voted in favor of the proposed amendment.

As a result, the state has seen a girl hospitalized from a line drive shot from a boy, and boys helping teams winning state championships. 


4. Free migrant housing

Massachusetts is the only state with a “statutory obligation to provide shelter to families without housing and pregnant women,” according to State House News Service. 

That’s thanks to our 1983 right-to-shelter law.

However, our law has no residency requirement attached to it.

Therefore, people can come to the country, get to Massachusetts, and get free housing on the taxpayers’ dime. In some cases, we are putting these people up in motels — and motels are responding by jacking up their rates, causing the motels’ poor long-term residents to become homeless.

We can’t fault the migrants themselves for capitalizing on this law. Many of them may be dwcent people seeking a better life in America — like our ancestors. Yet, the law makes Massachusetts a national outlier — and a magnet for migrants we lack the capacity to house. 


5. File your own law

Did you know that you can be a legislator in Massachusetts without holding public office?

That’s right!

Massachusetts is the only state in the country where its citizens have an explicit constitutional right to file bills directly in the state legislature, as the State Library of Massachusetts points out. The idea came from English common law, and first appeared in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties in 1641, and once again in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.

The 1641 rule says (with period spelling):  “Every man whether Inhabitant or fforreiner, free or not free shall have libertie to come to any publique Court, Councel, or Towne meeting, and either by speech or writeing to move any lawfull, seasonable, and materiall question, or to present any necessary motion, complaint, petition, Bill or information, whereof that meeting hath proper cognizance, so it be done in convenient time, due order, and respective manner.”

And the current rendition from the 1780 state constitution reads:  “The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.”

One of the more prominent examples of a citizen-sponsored bill came more than 20 years ago:  from children. 

Then-state Representative Kathleen Teahan (D-Whitman) used to work at the Toll House Inn in Whitman (according to The Associated Press), which invented the chocolate chip cookie in 1930. At the request of a third-grade class from Somerset, then-state Representative Tom Norton (R-Somerset) filed a bill to make the chocolate chip cookie the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — and Teahan helped push to make it happen.

Ultimately, the provision passed — but not without some pushback from the state’s Republican governor at the time, Bill Weld. The holdup:  Weld preferred Fig Newtons.


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