Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Same Bill, Different Year: Massachusetts Legislation Would Consolidate Primaries in June

For at least the third straight cycle, Massachusetts state Rep. James Dwyer (D-30th, Woburn) has introduced legislation to consolidate the primaries in the Bay state in June. H.551 would shift the presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June. The primaries for other offices in the state would be moved from September to the June date as well under the provisions of the bill.

Versions of this same bill were introduced by Rep. Dwyer in both 2011 and 2013 and failed to pass in both instances. Like 2013, Dwyer has also introduced legislation that would leave the presidential primary where it is in March and shift the primaries for other offices up slightly into August (see H.550). That bill's forerunner met the same impasse that the consolidated primary bills have met in the past.

Astute readers of FHQ may point out that perhaps 2015 is different; that maybe a consolidated June primary stands a better chance of moving through the legislature in a scenario where there are proposed budget cutbacks looming over the 2016 presidential primary in Massachusetts. True, but those ominous signals were sent in 2011 as well and the presidential primary remained in March. Even when a Labor Day/Democratic National Convention/September primary conflict raised the consolidated primary concept anew, the idea still never came to fruition.

But perhaps a consolidated primary helps narrow the gap in the elections budget positions held by Governor Charlie Baker (R) and Secretary William Galvin (D). It would seem that way. However, since the fiscal year ends at the close of June in Massachusetts, the March presidential primary and September primary for other offices are split across two budget years. Bringing the September primaries up to June with the presidential primary does not cut the number of elections in the 2015-16 budget. It only alleviates financial pressure on the following fiscal year; a year that would then have one less election.

Still, the door may be more open in 2015 to a June consolidated 2016 Massachusetts primary than it has been in the past.

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