Vehicle Repair Coalition Files 2020 Ballot Proposal
BOSTON — Backers of a proposed initiative petition that would require vehicle manufacturers to make digital repair information easily accessible took one of their first steps Wednesday toward putting their question before voters next year.
The Right to Repair Coalition, made up of auto repair and parts shops, submitted its first round of paper work to Attorney Genral Maura Healey's office. A handful of groups so far have turned in their question language and first round of signatures, including campaigns that would address gun safety, voting rights for prisoners with felony convictions, and the potential exclusion of abortion services from state-funded health care.
Coalition members said advances in technology mean it's time to update the state's 2013 law ensuring independent repair shops have access to diagnostic information for vehicles.
"As they get newer and newer, the technology is definitely changing and there's more sophisticated technology in the newest cars that we cannot keep up with with the information we have," Dorchester Tire Service owner Alan Saks told reporters outside Healey's office before filing the paperwork with coalition director Tommy Hickey.
"Some of the 2017 models and 2019s that are coming out now, it's a whole different breed of requirement, and we want to be able to take care of our customers," Saks said.
A group including automakers is forming to oppose the initiative, and its spokesman Conor Yunits said the proposed question "is not about information needed to diagnose and repair vehicles."
"This is about third parties that want remote and real-time access to driver information," Yunits said. "Per the right to repair law, all the information needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle is already provided to repair shops, independent repair shops included. To say this is a loophole is a myth."
Wednesday at 5 p.m. is the deadline for potential ballot campaigns to submit initiative petition language and initial 10 signatures to Healey's office so the attorney general can determine if the questions meet constitutional requirements. Healey's certification decisions are expected to be released on Sept. 4.
Other petitions filed with Healey by Tuesday afternoon include a proposed constitutional amendment for the 2022 ballot saying that nothing in the state Constitution requires public funding of abortion; a requirement that all gun owners store their weapon in a certified gun safe; and a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to otherwise eligible voters incarcerated on felony convictions in Massachusetts.
A referendum in 2000 added to a section of the state Constitution spelling out who is qualified to vote the words "excepting persons who are incarcerated in a correctional facility due to a felony conviction." An attempt to strike that language through a legislative constitutional amendment earned an adverse report from the Judiciary Committee earlier this year.
Massachusetts Prisoners and Organizers Working for Enfranchisement and Restoration (Mass POWER), which is organizing in support of the voting question, said in a Facebook post that prisoners "are some of the most impacted by the policies made and implemented by elected officials, and yet they do not have a say in who is elected."
The backers of initiative petitions that Healey certifies will need to collect 80,239 signatures by Nov. 20, and if they meet that hurdle, the Legislature will have the opportunity to pass the initiative, propose a substitute, or take no action before the next round of signature gathering.
"The Legislature chooses its own schedule," Hickey, of the Right to Repair Coalition, said.
"In order to get on the 2020 ballot, we have to certify with the AG's office by tomorrow, so we hope the Legislature takes it up, but if not, we're ready to go to the ballot.”