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 American Civil Liberties Union, the Massachusetts Immigration & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and many of my colleagues in the Legislature 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 priority bills.
HD2441 An Act promoting housing stability and homeless prevention in Massachusetts (filed with Rep. Day) – (Civil Right to Counsel) Massachusetts is facing a crisis of housing instability. In 2020, approximately 22,000 households were served eviction papers and 91.5% of those tenants were not represented by counsel in court, while the vast majority of landlords are represented. This bill creates a statewide program which will provide legal assistance and representation to indigent individuals involved in eviction proceedings. The program will be administered by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) with support from an advisory committee. In addition to providing legal representation, this bill requires that landlords attach a form approved by the Chief Justice of the SJC which will notify eligible tenants of their right to representation when they are served with an eviction notice.
HD3847 An Act relative to data privacy – This bill focuses on data privacy in the information age and addresses the privacy issues inherent in the wide use of social media. Companies that collect our personal data, called Data Aggregators, will be prohibited from collecting, using, or sharing any personal data unless strictly necessary to carry out permissible purposes (as defined in the bill). This legislation would create a new agency to oversee data privacy for Massachusetts residents and offers powers to the agency to enforce these new laws on behalf of citizens. In addition, this legislation establishes a fund for victims of privacy abuse and ensures employment protections for whistle blowers. This bill is similar to a legislation that I jointly filed with Rep Vargas, HD2664 An Act establishing the Massachusetts Information Privacy Act, supported by the ACLU.
HD3401 An Act to Prohibit the Use of Polystyrene Foam Food Containers – This bill would ban stores and food distributors from selling or packing food in polystyrene foam (Styrofoam). Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
HD3871 An Act to establish an Integrated Cultural Studies Curriculum in our schools (filed with Rep. Frank Moran) – The Integrated Cultural Studies Act will give Massachusetts students the educational foundation and tools needed to understand diverse cultural and racial perspectives and more effectively interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. As the demographics in our schools, towns, and cities continue to evolve and become more diverse, so should our curriculum. This act will ensure students will be introduced to content, language, events, and prominent figures of major underrepresented racial groups in the United States, such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Indigenous-Americans, and Latin-Americans. Comprehensive cultural studies would expound upon the traditional Eurocentric based history of the World and the United States and will modify the curriculum to include a more diverse array of cultural narratives.
HD3692 An Act Relative to Sickle Cell Disease (filed with Rep. Santiago) – This bill creates a special legislative commission to address the issue of sickle cell disease in the Commonwealth. The goal of the commission will be to assess the racial health disparities related to sickle cell disease, its impact on communities and what resources are needed, among other things, and to eventually submit a report to the legislature. In addition, the commission will be required to present any legislation it has drafted that is necessary to carry out recommendations it has made. The commission will also be responsible for overseeing three grant programs with the following goals: to support healthcare institutions in acquiring resources to ensure equitable care across the Commonwealth, to fund research and development of new treatments and technologies to treat sickle cell disease, and to invest in the community by providing education, training, housing and access to programs for communities and families most impacted by sickle cell disease.
HD3228 An Act to regulate face surveillance – Last year, sweeping police reform was introduced into law and while the changes made were significant, the final language left room for improvement. Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool used by law enforcement in the investigation and prevention of crimes, but the technology is often inaccurate and its use is somewhat unregulated. This bill prohibits the use of face surveillance to track and monitor people in public places, creates a centralized system for all law enforcement agencies to access the technology, requires that law enforcement officers obtain a search warrant before conducting a facial recognition search except in emergency situations, and establishes due process protections for people who are ultimately identified using face surveillance technology. A top priority of the ACLU.
HD3174 An Act to address traffic fatalities (filed with Rep. Barber) – A “bike and pedestrian bill”, 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.
HD462 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. These workers do not receive certain benefits that an employee receives, such as unemployment compensation. The bill requires companies to pay unemployment benefits to those independent contractors.
HD3914 An Act relative to employment discrimination protections for legal cannabis – These adjustments to the state’s anti-discrimination law clarify that, given its legality under our state law, the mere presence of marijuana metabolites in a drug test is not a permissible reason for employment decisions (hiring, firing, etc.).
HD4031 An Act establishing the Massachusetts Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund – This legislation creates the Massachusetts Cannabis Social Equity Trust Fund to support the cannabis social equity small business program. The fund will support the new program and go towards providing interest free loans to program participants. The fund will be generated from one percent of the community impact fee and any other federal reimbursements, grants, premiums, gifts, interest or other contributions from any public or private sources.
HD3683 An Act relative to host community agreements – This bill, which the House passed in a formal session last year, clarifies that the Cannabis Control Commission can review, regulate and enforce all host community agreements. It also clarifies language regarding the community impact fee.
HD3595 An Act relative to media access and transparency in correctional facilities (filed with Rep. Decker) – This legislation allows news media representatives to have unimpeded, confidential access to prisoners at correctional facilities, similar to the current regulations for attorneys. This legislation establishes a phone line for news media representatives to communicate with incarcerated persons and allows attorneys to bring news media representatives along to any legal in person and video visits with incarcerated people. This bill also bans retaliation against incarcerated persons for communicating with news media representatives in all of the jails and prisons in the state. Supported by Prisoners Legal Services.
HD2902 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. Top priority of AARP.
HD3430 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.
HD3411 An Act To Improve Plastic Bottles and Their Recycling – This legislation provides 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.
HD3209 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.
HD3420 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.
HD2444 An Act to require transparency and disclosure by material recovery facilities – This bill creates more clarity and accountability from municipalities regarding pricing, quantity, and composition of materials from materials recovery facilities (MRFs). MRFs have been charging increasingly higher rates to municipalities since China placed a ban on imported waste from the United States. This bill requires MRFs to report on the weight, composition, and destination of each commodity in and further asks MRFs to adhere to industry accepted indexes when determining commodity prices. These requirements will balance the relationships between MRFs and municipalities and allow municipal recycling programs to continue and thrive. Supported by the Conservation Law Foundation.
HD3628 An Act relative to the preservation of wetlands and water resources in Chapter 40B applications – This bill would make bylaws concerning wetland and water resource protections exempt from waivers under Chapter 40B. In towns that have not met a statutory minimum under 40B, there is an insurmountable presumption that the denial of waivers is inconsistent with local needs, and would be vacated in the event of a developer appeal. This amendment would eliminate that presumption, but only for legitimate wetland bylaws that are adopted under G.L. c. 40, s. 32 which requires attorney general approval, and which are enforceable by the local conservation commission, and only for bylaws that specifically protect surface waters and groundwater. Zoning boards could still grant such waivers if they determined that the waiver would not be detrimental in a particular instance.
HD2979 An Act relative to sales tax exemption – The intent of the bill is exempt the first $50,000 of electric vehicles from the sales tax. Currently, DOER has a rebate program for electric vehicles that offers up to $2,500 or $1,500 depending on the car. This change will help to further incentivize EV adoption in the Commonwealth and allow the state to achieve its GHG reduction goals.
HD3574 An Act responding to the threat of invasive species – Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species pose expensive challenges for most communities, conservation organizations, and private landowners across the state. This legislation would establish an Invasive Species Office with a dedicated Statewide Invasive Species Coordinator that would be tasked with creating a Statewide Invasive Species Management Plan. It would also establishes a grant program to help combat the spread of invasive species. Supported by MassRivers.
HD2986 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.
HD3150 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. Supported by the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association.
HD3169 An Act relative to the stabilization of rents and evictions in towns and cities facing distress in the housing market (Rent Control) – This legislation to create a local option for rent stabilization with just-cause eviction protections. Such a local option will allow cities and towns to slow the rampant displacement of their residents due to unprecedented rent increases. Rent stabilization is a means to address our affordable housing crisis, made even more critical as a result of the Covid-19 emergency. The bill sets certain clear and limited parameters to address concerns with rent stabilization among landlords and tenants, including exemptions for certain types of properties, predictable levels for annual rent increases, and protections from arbitrary eviction. Supported by SEIU.
HD3733 An Act to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (filed with Rep. Santiago) – This legislation creates a statewide duty to affirmatively further fair housing to make sure that the state, cities, towns, local housing authorities, and other public entities do not discriminate in their programs. It also creates a commission to establish how to meet this duty to create diverse, inclusive communities with access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing. Supported by the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association.
HD3669 An Act Establishing a Fair Housing Disparate Impact Standard – This legislation creates a state fair housing disparate impact standard to protect against housing discrimination. This will allow people to challenge a housing policy or program that has a discriminatory impact on them because of their race, sex, gender identity, disability, family status (have children), or other protected class — even if the policy or program appears on its face to apply to everyone equally. This will protect against policies and practices that — whether intentionally or unintentionally — keep some people from homes they can afford simply because of who they are. Supported by the Citizens’ Housing & Planning Association.
HD3704 An Act An act relative to media literacy in public schools – This legislation requires DESE to implement media literacy education in all core public school classroom curriculum. To create the framework, the bill establishes the Media Literacy Advisory Council which shall survey and make recommendations for media literacy education across the commonwealth. Supported by Media Literacy Now.
HD3443 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.
HD3156 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.
HD3391 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.
HD3259 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.”
HD3378 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.
HD4062 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.
HD3557 An Act to Ensure the Ability to Prosecute Repeat OUI Offenses, on behalf of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan – This will allow prosecutors to use previously sealed OUI convictions ONLY in subsequent OUI trials.
HD3202 An Act establishing a commission to study the Commonwealth’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic – This legislation would establish a special legislative commission that would investigate and make recommendations to the legislature regarding the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission will be made up of experts in medicine, public policy and fiscal matters with a goal of understanding the response in financial, public policy and healthcare capacities and identifying where improvements could have been made and ultimately producing a report that would be used to inform a response to any potential future pandemic.
HD3469 An Act relative to improving asthma in schools, filed with Representative Owens – The COVID crisis revealed glaring health inequities, among them poor health outcomes due to higher rates of asthma in communities of color. 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.
HD3458 An Act to establish a division of indoor environments within the Department of Public Health – The Covid crisis highlighted the importance of indoor air quality. This bill creates the Division of Indoor Environments within the Center for Environmental Health. A division with this mission will administer and enforce existing laws and regulations relating to indoor air quality
HD3423 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.
HD3370 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.
HD3661 An Act ensuring fair and appropriate distribution of vaccines during a public health emergency – This legislation addresses the distribution of vaccine and other critical medication during a public health emergency. It requires the Administration to include funeral directors and funeral workers in the same category as health care providers in the event that vaccine distribution must be rationed. This is in line with CDC guidance.
HD2932 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. Supported by Health Care for All and MIRA.
HD2945 An Act to ensure equitable access to health coverage for children with disabilities -This bill would expand MassHealth CommonHealth coverage to children and low-income young adults with disabilities whose only barrier to this coverage is immigration status, providing coverage for many crucial services that are currently out of reach. Supported by Health Care for All and MIRA.
HD3630 An Act to increase the safety of individuals with disabilities relying on life-support equipment – The purpose of Tommy’s Bill is to increase the safety for persons living in a residential setting who rely on medical equipment. It will require residential nurses to speak to the discharge nurse when clients are in the Emergency Room or being discharged from the hospital regarding any changes in clients medications. The RN will educate staff as well as make any changes in Individualized Support Plans or Individualized Education Plans. Supported by the ARC.
Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
HD3847 An Act relative to data privacy – This bill bans companies, called Data Aggregators, from collecting, using, or sharing any personal data unless strictly necessary to carry out a permissible purpose. This legislation would create a new agency to oversee data privacy for Massachusetts residents and offers powers to the agency to enforce these new laws on behalf of citizens. In addition, this legislation establishes a fund for victims of privacy abuse and ensures employment protections for whistle blowers. In this bill, individuals harmed through a violation of their data privacy rights may bring an action in Massachusetts Superior Court for relief. Under this legislation, Data Aggregators are companies who have annual gross revenues that exceed $25,000,000, or who annually collects, uses, or shares, alone or in combination, the personal data of 50,000 or more individuals, households, or devices for certain purposes.
HD2820 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 elections by lifting the requirement of home rule petitions and allowing approval of such initiatives by local governments and local referenda instead.
HD3812 An Act relative taxation on gross revenues from digital advertising – This bill would tax gross revenues of companies who digitally advertise. [Language being drafted with House Counsel’s Office]
HD2914 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.
HD3453 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.
HD3255 An Act relative to protections for vulnerable employees during a public health or safety emergency, filed with Rep. Livingstone – 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.
HD1778 An Act to ensure paid family and medical leave benefits for municipal employees – Ensures that municipal employees are covered by the state Paid Family and Medical Leave law. Supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
HD1776 An Act relative to a state minimum wage for municipal employees – Ensures that municipal employees are covered by the state minimum wage law, which is moving toward $15 per hour by 2023. Supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
HD3973 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.
HD3971 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.
HD3067 An Act rescinding the discriminatory effect of IRC 280E on businesses legally selling marijuana – This legislation grants marijuana establishments and medical marijuana treatment centers the ability to deduct business expenses under the state’s Part B adjusted gross income that would have otherwise been deductible but for section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. Specifically, this bill allows deductions for the taxable year for portions of wages or salaries paid or incurred and deductions for any amount paid or incurred in carrying on the trade or business of a marijuana establishment or a medical marijuana treatment center.
HD3180 An Act relative to research by independent testing laboratories – Currently, an entity that is licensed by the Cannabis Control Commission as an independent testing laboratory cannot also have a financial interest in a marijuana research establishment. This prevents those labs from conducting important cannabis research. This bill would allow independent testing laboratories or employees thereof to hold a marijuana research establishment license.
Arts and Culture
HD2641 An Act to protect Native American heritage, filed 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.
HD2778 An Act to maintain stable housing for families with pets in an economic crisis and beyond – This bill will accomplish four things: 1) prohibit some housing providers from arbitrarily refusing responsible owners with good dogs; 2) prevent evictions for one year after the COVID emergency ends solely because a family has a dog without written permission; 3) requires hotels to allow pets during the COVID emergency; and 4) prevent homeowners’ and renters’ insurance companies from discriminating (cancelling, refusing to renew or charging a higher premium) against people based solely on the breed of dog they own. The bill permits insurance companies to refuse coverage for dogs deemed dangerous by law or with a bite history. Supported by the MSPCA.