Hopes Raised for Affordable Care Act Challenge, King v Burwell, JALSA Amicus Brief

In the latest conservative challenge to the Affordable Care Act, plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argued that language in the act limits federal subsidies for low-income insurance purchasers to those who purchase through state-created insurance exchanges.  The defenders of the act have argued that this reading of the statute is a perversion of obvious Congressional intent, ignores rules of construction that forbid taking snippets of language out of context, and would destroy the market for individual health policies in the states without their own exchanges and deprive millions of citizens of affordable insurance.

JALSA filed an amicus brief in support of the ACA for itself and several other organizations taking a radically different analysis offered by our inspired cohort in the area of health law, Assistant Prof. Abby Moncrieff of Boston University Law School.  Cognizant that a fundamental precept of constitutional jurisprudence is that an interpretation of a statute which casts doubt on its constitutionality is never to be preferred if there is any alternative rational reading, and that the Supreme Court, in the previous ACA case, has recently reaffirmed the principal that the federal government cannot, constitutionally, coerce states (regarding the expansion of Medicaid), Prof. Moncrieff argued that the penalties that would be visited upon states without their own insurance exchanges if the plaintiffs’ construction were adopted would cast doubt on the constitutionality of the entire ACA, and therefore the plaintiffs’ interpretation in not possible.  If the plaintiffs’ position were accepted, the regulations would stay in effect, but the federal subsidies that make it possible would not.  The market for individual policies in those states would go into what has been termed a death spiral, ultimately making such insurance unavailable to millions of current and new subscribers.

During the oral argument, Justice Kennedy, one of the two potential “swing” votes between the conservative and liberal blocks on the court, asked pointed questions of plaintiffs’ counsel strongly suggesting that he had understood and perhaps been persuaded by the argument raised in JALSA’s brief.  It is most often impossible to know whether one’s amicus brief has been read, let alone seriously considered.  Here, it would seem, since this argument was raised only in the JALSA brief, that our efforts have indeed been given a hearing.  Too early to celebrate, but we can certainly hope that Justice Kennedy has been convinced of this argument.


JALSA’s brief was supported by JSPAN (Philadelphia), JCUA (Chicago), the Boston Alliance for Community Health, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil and Economic Justice.


Earned Sick Time – Congratulations
to JALSA and all MA Workers

Take a well-deserved round of applause JALSA

Congrats on passing Earned Sick time!!
We did it!..YES – 1,252,197 (59%); …………………….NO – 856,280 (41%)

8 years of perseverance and hard work has provided a million workers in Massachusetts the right to earned sick time!!  We made a difference for hundreds of thousands of low and middle income workers and their families!   We’ve hung in there through thick and thin. Hearings, Forums, Phonebanking, Lobbying, Signature Gathering, Canvassing. What haven’t we done to get this passed.

Read More…

Governor Patrick Signs Mass
Gun Law

Thousands of postcards;
Hundreds of phone calls;
35 organizations;
18 months resulting in 1 final STRONG bill !!


With a stroke of his pen, Governor Deval Patrick tightened state gun laws.

►Massachusetts will join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks.
►Schools will be required to develop plans to address students’ mental health needs.
►Police chiefs will have the ability to go to court to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of people they deem dangerous.
These provisions will be added to the state’s already tough laws, which include the following:
►A ban on semiautomatic assault weapons.
►Strict licensing rules.
►A ban on anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from carrying or owning a gun.


Domestic Worker Bill Passes

The Domestic workers bill has passed. What does that mean? Domestic workers who work over 16 hours a week will get a contract from employers outlining their terms of employment: This will ensure that workers will get paid for the hours they work and that they are not taken advantage of.

Domestic workers will be able to go to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for sexual harassment complaints and for other forms of discrimination; Domestic workers will be ensured one day off in a seven day period and one weekend off in a month; Domestic workers will have parental leave; Domestic workers will have meal and rest breaks; Domestic workers will be protected from illegal charges for food and lodging and eviction without notice; The Attorney General will enforce this bill. This is a huge victory!! Congrats to all the activists that fought for this!

State Minimum Wage Raised

On June 18, 2014, the House passed a bill raising the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $11 an hour over 3 years  the Senate passed this bill and the Governor signed it on Thurs. June 26.

This is a BIG BIG BIG VICTORY for justice and dignity for hard working low wage earners. Over 600,000 low wage earners will get wage increases; These wage increases will total over $1 billion dollars; At $11 an hour, our state will have the highest state minimum wage law in the country, which will enable other states to consider raising their minimum wage law levels more than they otherwise would have. This only happened because we collected over 360,000 signatures!!! Thousands of volunteers from many hundreds of congregations, community organizations, and labor unions working together in Raise UP Massachusetts collected over 360,000 signatures to qualify “Raising the Minimum Wage” as a ballot question. House Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray publicly stated that they had to take this up because we had the signatures to place it on the ballot.

mcdonalds and min wage

JALSA gathered about 9,000 signatures to raise up our working sisters and brothers across Massachusetts. Almost 800 of these signatures came via the Tzedek Reflections collaboration with many local synagogues and organizations working on income inequality. $11 an hour represents a raise of over $6,000 every year for minimum wage workers. This is a huge win for low wage workers, but it is not yet a living wage. We will continue working on this important economic justice issue until all workers receive a sufficient hourly raise to maintain their families and to work with dignity.


Who is affected by the Minimum Wage legislation? 1 in 5 workers benefit in MA; 57% are women; 140,000 are parents; 236,000 children live in households where either the sole wage earner or at least one wage earner earns low wages that would be raised $1.1 billion when fully phased in which will help these low wage earners AND help our state economy retain and create jobs since most of these wage increases will be spent right back in our economy 85% of the affected low wage earners are 20+ and most of the younger workers are either using part of the wages to support their lower wage earning family and/or saving for college.

U.S. Minimum Wage

 For a current article discussing the Blocked U.S. Senate Vote on Minimum Wage by Rabbi Steve Gutow, go to http://zeek.forward.com/articles/118183/
 For more information on the film “Ineqality  for All” (by Robert Reich) see Trailer at www.inequalityforall.com   For Robert Reich comments on Tax Day see: http://front.moveon.org/is-our-tax-system-fair/#.U10AuqKXw65  “We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.”-Louis D. Brandeis.  Film Showing was Sponsored by:  (JALSA) Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action; New England Jewish Labor Committee; Temple Israel of Boston; Temple Hillel B’nai Torah; Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue; Boston Workmen’s Circle; Temple Beth Zion; Moishe Kavod House.

Minimum Wage Bill Comparisons

Next Step in Mass. legislative efforts for a minimum wage bill:  Conference Committee on two different versions passed in MA House and MA Senate.

House Vote of April 2 – .  What happened with the House vote on the Minimum Wage bill?  They passed a bill to increase wages to $10.50 over 3 years, but did not pass “Indexing to Inflation” and raised tipped worker wages only from 33% to 36% of the minimum wage. No cuts were made to unemployment benefits or eligibility.   Since the House Speaker was opposed to “indexing” and a higher wage for tipped workers, we were not able to mobilize sufficient support for such amendments in the House and they were withdrawn.   However, the Senate bill has indexing and tipped wage at 50% read more

JALSA Climate Change Meeting

Talk by Frank Smizik (Chair, MA House Committee on Climate Change and President, JALSA) at the JALSA meeting discussing Climate Change.




SJC Upholds Police Discretion on License to Carry

Important SJC decision March 9th upholding the discretion of police in determining who should be allowed to have a license to carry.  JALSA participated in a brief supporting this important provision of both the old law and our most recently enacted law supporting police discretion.  The new law, in which JALSA played a significant role in encouraging passage, provides police discretion for both the license to carry and the FID card which is needed to buy any arms, although there are different conditions for each.