Each new session brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm to the State House as members file legislation for the two-year session. I have been consulting with key advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Massachusetts Immigration & Refugee Advocacy Coalition in an effort to develop innovative and important solutions to pressing issue that the Commonwealth faces.
For this upcoming two-year session, I have filed key pieces of legislation applicable to a variety of areas of public policy. Some of the legislation is cutting-edge and filed for the first time this session. Others are “re-files” from last session, meaning they are the same or similar to previous bills. Below, I have highlighted each one of my bills.
An act restricting distribution of single-use plastic straws– This bill would prevent restaurants and other food establishments from giving straws to costumers, unless requested. Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
An Act to Prohibit the Use of Polystyrene Foam Food Containers – This bill would ban stores and food distributers from selling or packing food in polystyrene foam (Styrofoam). Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
An Act To Improve Plastic Bottles and Their Recycling – This legislation would states that the lids on plastic bottle should be made from the same plastic resin as the rest of the bottle. Further, it requires that plastic bottle lids would not be fully detachable from the bottle itself. Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
An act transitioning Massachusetts to electric buses – This bill would call on all buses owned or leased by the Commonwealth to be fully electric by 2035. This would be done by replacing current combustion engine buses as they retire, with plan to avoid early retirement of these vehicles. Supported by MassPIRG.
An Act to promote fairness and transparency in clean energy procurements – Eliminates the potential for the evaluation and selection process of clean energy procurements to be or appear to be influenced by the corporate relationships between bidders and members of the evaluation and selection team. Supported by the Acadia Center.
An Act relative to multi-state offshore wind procurement– Directs Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to consult Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont to determine the feasibility of creating a multi-state offshore wind energy generation solicitation and procurement of up to 6,000 megawatts of aggregate nameplate capacity by December 31, 2035. Supported by the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
An Act to Incentivize the Reduction of Residential Waste Disposal– This bill says that municipalities are required to report waste disposal numbers per capita for all residential service every year and if they are disposing of more than 500 pounds per capita they are required to adopt a Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) compliant program to reduce or divert waste from disposal. If within three years the state as a whole has not met this goal (on average) then the Department is authorized to promulgate regulations putting a ZWIA compliant program in place as needed. And in the future waste disposal increases above 500 pounds per capita, then the State is required to promulgate regulations putting a ZWIA compliant program in place as needed. Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
An Act establishing a right to counsel in certain eviction cases– This legislation creates a right to counsel for indigent individuals and landlords in civil proceedings in which loss of housing is a potential outcome. Our Housing Court is an overwhelming place for poor people facing eviction and for low-income landlords as well. And unlike other forms of litigation, eviction litigation is fast-paced and tenants quickly lose rights if they do not assert them promptly.
An Act setting a housing production goal for the Commonwealth– The legislation would establish a goal of creating about 20,000 new homes in Massachusetts every year through 2040. This would help meet the demand for housing based on projected population growth. The bill also sets a goal of having 20% of housing produced be affordable. The legislation would net set any mandate requiring us to build this much housing. Rather, it only sets a goal that we can measure our progress towards. Supported by the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association
An Act leveraging additional resources for local housing authorities– The bill would authorize LHAs (Local Housing Allowance) to borrow against their capital funds for repair projects. It would also allow LHAs to keep the proceeds from the sale of their property, with any proceeds to be used for rehabilitation.
An Act increasing the property tax deferral for seniors, filed with Sen. Jehlen- Certain homeowners 65 years of age and older currently have the option to defer paying their property taxes. Under existing law, this is a local option that is capped at the maximum allowance under the senior circuit breaker for a single person who is not head of household, which is $56,000 for the 2014 tax year. Given the high cost-of-living in Massachusetts, this is unrealistically low and penalizes ‘house rich and cash poor’ seniors living on a fixed income who exceed the income threshold. This legislation proposes increasing the local option cap to $80,000.
An Act An act relative to media literacy in public schools– This legislation ensures that students in the Commonwealth will be provided education on evaluating and comprehending the barrage of information that comes to them through the media and make sure students are using digital technologies effectively and safely. It requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to encourage integrating age-appropriate media literacy and digital citizenship education in conjunction with existing core subjects. Supported by Media Literacy Now.
An Act relative to 529 savings plans, filed with Sen. Jehlen- In 2016, Massachusetts adopted a deduction from Massachusetts income for deposits to tax free 529 savings plans, which incorporated the federal tax definition. Federal tax law changed in 2017 to allow for the use of tax free 529 savings plans to pay for elementary and secondary education. This bill ensure that withdrawals used for elementary and secondary expenses are subject to taxation in Massachusetts, protecting the original intent of the Legislature. It is currently costing the state $6.7 million a year.
An Act relative to life without parole– More than one out of ten prisoners in Massachusetts is serving a Life Without Parole sentence. Denying prisoners the opportunity to ever apply for parole not only robs them of hope and denies their capacity to rehabilitate, it wastes public resources and does little to promote public safety. This bill seeks to address this issue by banning mandatory life without parole, returning discretion to the judiciary to determine on an individual basis that a person eligible for a life without parole sentence may instead be permitted to see the parole board after serving 35 years in prison. This bill will not apply retroactively.
An Act establishing presumptive parole– This bill amends the parole release standard to require the Parole Board to rely on structured, actuarially-based parole guidelines and the findings of a validated risk and needs assessment tool. Under the bill, prisoners are to be released at the time of parole eligibility unless clear and convincing evidence shows that the prisoner would violate the law if released under appropriate conditions and community supervision. If a prisoner’s disability could impair their parole success, the Board must schedule a psychological or medical examination to ascertain and evaluate the nature of the risk that the disability poses and to identify any support, services, or programs that might mitigate the risk. Supported by Prisoners Legal Services.
An Act requiring audiovisual recordings of certain police interrogations– This legislation requires that custodial interrogations of suspects in the most serious crimes be filmed. With this video record, jurors will be better able to discern false confessions and prosecutors will have more conclusive evidence when there is an authentic confession.
An Act establishing reasonable limitations on the solitary confinement of inmates 21 years of age or younger– This bill puts reasonable limitations on solitary confinement for those 21 and under. To make implementation of this measure feasible, if a young individual poses an immediate and substantial threat to the safety of others, corrections personnel may use isolation briefly (48 hours), after which time isolation will end unless there is adequate evidence that the individual continues to be an immediate and substantial risk in which case isolation may continue for an additional limited period of time.
An Act relative to improper and discriminatory police reporting, filed with Rep. Frank Moran – This legislation ensures that the civil rights of individuals who have been wrongly targeted are preserved. Every citizen in Massachusetts deserves to feel safe in public, regardless of the color of their skin or any other basis of discriminatory bias. This bill ensures that calls to the police based on such bias will not be tolerated and that individuals who do make these calls can be held accountable.
An Act relative to the right to record law enforcement, filed with Rep. Frank Moran- Much of what society has learned about police misconduct over these last years is because of images recorded by citizen bystanders. These videos and recordings are vital to documenting the truth, are important pieces of evidence and the right to create them must be protected and preserved. We believe that there must be a statute on the books in Massachusetts that clearly codifies the right of the public to record police officers performing their duties in public. While there is limited case law on the subject, that is not sufficient. In addition to providing for the right to record, in certain circumstances this legislation provides an avenue for relief if a person making a recording is harmed, or interfered with by a law enforcement official. In addition, the legislation makes clear that these recordings do not violate the Massachusetts wiretapping statute.
An Act to define inducing a minor into prostitution, re-filed on behalf of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan – This bill provides a clarification to this criminal statute by broadening the circumstances under which someone can be prosecuted for inducing a minor into prostitution. The bill would eliminate this “defense” by amending the statute. The bill replaces “induce a minor to become a prostitute” with “induce a minor to engage in or to agree to engage in or offer to engage in prostitution or in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.”
An Act relative to the qualification of voters– While the Massachusetts Constitution precludes imprisoned felons from voting in some state elections, this bill restores one of our most basic civil rights to those incarcerated for low-level, non-violent felonies.
An Act to ensure equitable health coverage for children– This will expand comprehensive MassHealth coverage to children who would be eligible for MassHealth except for their immigration status. Allowing over 20,000 children in the Commonwealth access to MassHealth. Support by Health Care for All.
An Act to establish the family caregiving tax credit– The Act will provide family caregivers with an income tax credit to cover expenses incurred by a taxpayer for the care and support of a qualifying family member. The amount of the credit is equal to 100% of eligible expenses, with a maximum allowable credit of $1,500. The tax credit would help address the financial challenges of caregiving, and allow more unpaid family caregivers to keep their family members in the community. Supported by AARP.
An Act to establish a division of indoor environments within the Department of Public Health– This bill creates the Division of Indoor Environments within the Center for Environmental Health. A division with this mission would better administer and enforce existing laws and regulations relating to indoor air quality
An Act relative to improving asthma in schools, filed with Representative Hecht -This bill requires schools with high levels of asthma to create an indoor air quality plan and recommends that such schools form environmental health committees. Additionally, the bill requires public schools to use cleaning products that meet certain environmental standards.
An Act relative to cosmetic labeling– According to the CDC, at least 60% of the substances applied to the skin, the body’s largest organ, enters the bloodstream in thirty minutes or less. Currently, only retail cosmetics manufacturers are required to list product ingredients. This same transparency is not required of professional cosmetics, even if products contain ingredients proven to be linked to severe health conditions like cancer, birth defects, and respiratory issues. This bill will require the listing of all ingredients.
An Act promoting radon testing– This bill requires (subject to appropriation) that all schools and childcare centers undergo periodic radon testing and, in the case of dangerous levels, mitigation.
Consumer Protections/ Civil Rights
An Act relative to unregulated face recognition and emerging biometric surveillance technologies– Establish a moratorium on unregulated government use of face recognition and other biometric monitoring technologies, which can screen, identify, and surveil people from a distance without their awareness and without any privacy protections. We need robust debate and strong regulation to safeguard our most basic liberties, until then, we should press the pause button on government use of these technologies. Supported by the ACLU
An Act enabling cities and towns to extend voting rights in municipal elections to certain noncitizens of the Commonwealth– This bill was filed by Rep. Rushing for many sessions and would give discretion to cities and towns to allow their non-citizens residents to vote in local Delections by lifting the requirement of home rule petitions and allowing approval of such initiatives by local governments and local referenda instead.
An Act relative to providing for net neutrality and consumer protection, filed with Rep. Vargas- This legislation both restores net neutrality within our borders and also establishes a Massachusetts Internet Service Provider Registry to give consumers full disclosure of any actions by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that do not adhere to neutrality.
The legislation would require ISPs to:
• provide customers access to any lawful internet content of their choice,
• allow customers to attach any lawful, non-harmful device to their end connection,
• allow customers to run any lawful application or use any lawful service of their choice,
• provide customers prior written notification of any change in their policies that will result in the prioritization of internet traffic, except in circumstances involving reasonable internet network management,
• disclose to their customer’s their prioritization policies generally, and any agreement the ISP has entered into with a content provider for the prioritization of the content provider’s Internet traffic, and
• permit customers to receive itemized bills, and if an ISP charges for accessing particular websites, the ISPs bill shall list the time and date the customer accessed those websites.
The legislation directs the Department of Telecommunications and Cable to enforce ISP compliance with these provisions and allows consumers to file a complaint with the Department against an ISP that they believe is acting in violation of the law.
An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, filed with Rep. Hecht and Sen. Brownsberger – The legislation establishes a safe passing distance when overtaking a pedestrian or cyclist; establishes a uniform reporting tool for crashes involving a pedestrian or cyclist; establishes a process to lower the default speed limit to 25mph on state highways and parkways in thickly settled or business districts; requires bicyclists to have red rear lights when riding at night; and requires side guards on state-owned and state-contracted trucks.
An Act to create more equitable and progressive sources of revenue– This legislation would raise the rates on Part A interest and dividends income, and Part C capital gains income to 8.95%, while also creating an exemption in calculating that income for certain seniors. It would also implement a tiered corporate minimum excise tax, with a corporation paying an amount ranging from $456 to $200,000 based on its total sales in the Commonwealth. Supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
An Act relative to crosswalk markings– This bill updates our crosswalk markings to better protect pedestrians in the Commonwealth.
An Act to ensure minimum wage and paid family and medical leave benefits for municipal employees– This legislation would raise the rates on Part A interest and dividends income, and Part C capital gains income to 8.95%, while also creating an exemption in calculating that income for certain seniors. It would also implement a tiered corporate minimum excise tax, with a corporation paying an amount ranging from $456 to $200,000 based on its total sales in the Commonwealth. Supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
An Act relative to protections for vulnerable employees during a public health or safety emergency, filed with Rep. Livingston- Under this legislation, Vulnerable Employees, and their family members, would have the ability to request a reasonable accommodation by their employer during a public health or public safety emergency and up to six months thereafter. This bill will make it unlawful for all employers to: take adverse action against a Vulnerable Employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation, deny an employment opportunity, or require the employee to accept an accommodation that is unnecessary.
An Act creating a presumption of relatedness for essential workers suffering from COVID-19, filed with Rep. Gordon – This legislation would ensure that, during the State of Emergency and all subsequent states of emergency that may result from the health care concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all essential employees who have to miss work due to a COVID-19 related hospitalization, quarantine, or isolation would be compensated through the Workers’ Compensation statute. This bill will provide needed income for the worker out on leave, without requiring the worker to exhaust earned sick time, vacation time or personal time, while at the same time allowing the employer the financial flexibility to bring someone in to cover the work. The bill also provides job protection for the worker on leave. Importantly, it also gives workers who choose to leave the workplace out of concern for exposure to the coronavirus eligibility for unemployment insurance under Chapter 151A .
An Act for unemployment rules for gig economy, filed with Rep. Livingstone – Many companies hire independent contractors to provide a particular service to that company’s customers, but these contractors are not considered employees. The bill does not change the employment relationship, but it instructs companies that use independent contractors to pay unemployment benefits to those contractors.
An Act establishing unemployment expansion during public health emergencies, filed with Senator Pat Jehlen – During public health emergencies, this bill would extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks, from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. And those whose benefits ended within the last 8 weeks would also be eligible for an additional 13 weeks. People would also not lose their benefits if they are not actively able to seek work. Finally, this legislation allows people to receive a higher percentage share of their old salary, without impacting their future unemployment eligibility.
An Act modify the safe drivers insurance plan relative to minor violation– This will prevent people from accruing a surcharge on insurance if they have a minimal violation.
Arts and Culture
An Act to protect Native American heritage, field with Rep. Biele- The legislation protects Native American funerary objects, human remains, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony from being sold. Supported by Artists under the Dome and the North American Indian Center.
An Act relating to the remedy for the sale of sick puppies and kittens– This bill provide fair and reasonable recourse in the event that an “unfit” puppy or kitten is sold to a consumer by improving the puppy and kitten “Lemon Law.” This bill enhances consumer protection by requiring a better remedy, including the option for reimbursement of some medical expenses. Supported by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society.
An Act relative to medical marijuana patient safety and access– It will give the Cannabis Control Commission the clear authority to create licenses in the medical marijuana sector and it will help expand safe access to patients in currently underserved areas of Massachusetts. It will also require clear signage on recreational facilities, stating that they are not medical
An Act relative to accurate impairment testing– This legislation states that no driver shall have their drivers licenses suspended, or be sanction in any other way, for refusing to take road impairment test that has not been scientifically proven.
An Act relative to employment discrimination protections for legal cannabis– These adjustments to the state’s anti-discrimination law clarify that the mere presence of marijuana metabolites is not cause for firing nor can it be the sole basis for not hiring someone.
An Act relative to employment protections for medical cannabis patients and caregivers– In Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, it protected employees who were qualified patients from termination, relying on language in the 2012 medical marijuana law. When the legislature enacted the later bill, that language was repealed, erasing the statutory basis for the decision, weakening legal protection for patients. This addition fortifies Barbuto by restoring its statutory foundation.
An Act relative to the cannabis control commission’s authority regarding host community agreements– Limits the municipal take—however characterized– to 3% over 5 years, and clarifies that transfers of product for sale elsewhere do not constitute “sales,” thus protecting cultivators and product manufacturers from “double taxation.”