Bills

An Act combating climate change (S1821)

This bill establishes a revenue-neutral carbon charge and rebate system for Massachusetts. Proceeds from the charge are diverted into a standalone fund and rebated in full to residents and employers of the Commonwealth.  Carbon pricing is the single most effective step a state can take to fight global warming.  Revenue neutrality lets us “put a price on carbon” and reduce greenhouse gases without having a net negative impact on lower-income people.  Conservative and progressive economists find common ground in favor of the idea.

 

An Act restoring financial transparency in presidential elections (S365)

Going back at least 36 years, every major party candidate for President of the United States has released his or her tax returns.  This honorable tradition ended with the 2016 election.  Under SD98 a presidential candidate who refuses to submit tax returns or file a Statement of Financial Interests will be ineligible to appear on the relevant Massachusetts primary or general election ballot.  Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, has helped with the drafting.  He says the bill will “survive constitutional challenge all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary.”  State legislators elsewhere in the country are filing similar bills.

 

An Act protecting inmate safety and the expenditure of state funds (S1279)

This bill requires a sheriff elected in Massachusetts to get prior approval from state government before transporting, or arranging with others to transport, anyone in his custody outside the borders of Massachusetts.  If approval is granted, the individuals in custody cannot participate in work programs of any kind without express prior approval from the state. 

 

An Act safeguarding the health care decisions of young adults (S754)

Today, in Massachusetts, a young woman aged 16 or 17 has the legal power to decide on her own to have sexual relations.  If she becomes pregnant, she has the legal power to decide to take the pregnancy to term, even if her parents wish otherwise.  But if she becomes pregnant and wants to end the pregnancy, her decision-making power, vis-à-vis that of her parents or guardian, is under a cloud.  The legislation proposes to put Massachusetts on a par with New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, states which afford 16- and 17-year-olds legal access to the full range of options.  The goal is to equalize a young woman’s control of her body and pregnancy, without regard to which choice she favors.

 

An Act restricting fine time sentences (S755)

Throughout Massachusetts, people are incarcerated for being poor and owing the state money.  Even when the actions of a criminal defendant do not warrant a jail sentence as punishment, the system hits him with multiple costs — an “indigent counsel” fee (for having a public defender), a “victim/witness” fee (even in cases where there is no victim or witness, and even though all the money goes into the General Fund), a monthly probation fee (for being supervised on probation), a GPS fee (for wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet), etc. etc.  If a defendant doesn’t pay, Massachusetts judges can — and, in multiple instances, do — send him or her off to jail to do “fine time,” regardless of ability to pay.  The bill corrects this injustice.  

 

An Act protecting in-person visitation for inmates (S1278)

Receiving in-person visits from family is important to inmates.  It helps with rehabilitation and decreases the likelihood of recidivism.  This bill bars eliminating or unreasonably limiting in-person visitation privileges for inmates of Massachusetts prisons, jails, and houses of correction.  It provides that, regardless of whether a facility offers video visitation, in-person visitation must also be allowed. 

 

An Act regulating the use of credit reports by employers (S985)

Many Americans have “bad” or low credit scores, be it from student loans, or medical debt, or housing foreclosures.  Employers often use credit scores in decision-making, even though there is no evidence they’re a valid screening tool.  Thus, a destructive cycle: People can’t find employment because of their credit history, and people can’t improve their credit history because they lack a job.  This bill bars employers from considering an employee’s or job applicant’s credit history in making hiring and promotional decisions.

 

An Act protecting the long-term unemployed from discrimination (S986)

When hiring, many companies discriminate against the long-term unemployed, hampering their ability to get back to work.  This bill does not restrict an employer’s ability to consider relevant job qualifications, such as years of experience.  But it does stipulate that an employers may not refuse to hire an applicant simply because she or he is currently unemployed.

 

An Act to promote health equity (S600)

The bill creates a permanent Office of Health Equity.  The new office will oversee initiatives to eliminate health care disparities — unreasonable gaps in access to care or in actual health outcomes — based on race, ethnicity, disability, gender, mental health, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other invidious distinctions.

 

An Act to promote choice for people with cognitive disabilities and their families (S26)

With the passage of “Real Lives” legislation in 2014, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities gained the power to direct state spending to whichever provider best meets their individual needs.  But few consumers are taking advantage of the law.  This bill unlocks Real Lives’ potential by requiring DDS and providers to assemble a comprehensive online database by which clients, family members and guardians can compare services. 

 

An Act relative to transparency in homeowners insurance rate setting (S496)

Massachusetts needs to make the process for setting home insurance premiums fairer, more rigorous, and much more transparent.  This bill declares insurance company rate requests “public records” and requires them to be published online.  It also authorizes the AG to represent the interests of homeowner in hearings before the Department of Insurance.  It bars basing rate increases on extraneous factors unrelated to real risk, such as a homeowner’s ability to pay high rates. 

 

An Act relative to military grade controlled property (S1277)

This bill increases community control over transfers of federal military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.  It requires that local legislative bodies (1) be informed of any application to transfer military property to a local law enforcement agency, (2) hold a meeting to accept public comment, and (3) vote to approve or deny the application.

 

An Act repealing the property tax exemption for Massport lessees (S1492)

This bill removes the tax exemption for property owned by Massport that is leased to private, for-profit companies.  At several Massport facilities today, private businesses leasing space are exempt from paying local property taxes.  They inherit Massport’s own tax exemption instead.  This legislation allows cities and towns to collect property taxes from for-profit lessees.

 

An Act establishing a commission relative to group purchasing of health insurance for private sector human service workers (S601)

State human services officials often rely on nonprofit agencies to deliver hands-on services.  While these nonprofits do great work, they cannot help their employees by accessing the relatively high-quality and relatively affordable health insurance policies provided to in-house state employees.  This bill creates a commission to study the feasibility of, and potential mechanisms for, allowing nonprofit human services workers to purchase health insurance through the Group Health Insurance Commission.

 

An Act removing the sales tax exemption for soft drinks (S1493)

The bill removes the state sales tax exemption for soft drinks, defined as beverages containing carbonated water, a sweetener, and a natural or artificial flavoring.  According to the Boston Public Health Commission, “drinking large amounts of sugary beverages can increase the risk of gaining weight and developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and gout.” 

 

An Act relative to solar drying of laundry (S1117)

This bill authorizes cities and towns to create a local “right to dry” — a right to use a traditional clothesline to dry clothing.  Condo associations often eliminate this right.  Towns and cities that have previously attempted to preserve clothesline use have seen their ordinances invalidated due to lack of authorization by the Legislature.  Under the terms of this bill, condominium associations and landlords can impose reasonable restrictions on the placement and use of clotheslines, but cannot ban them outright.

 

An Act improving outcomes for transition age youth (S25)

Current law lets DCF move hard-to-place children to an “independent living” track, which means the agency can stop looking for a permanent placement — reunification or adoption.  But research finds that DCF kids who age out of the agency’s care without a permanent placement do worse later.  They are more likely to end up homeless, incarcerated, and unemployed.  DCF has taken to moving almost 20% of its caseload onto this track.  This bill requires DCF to reduce, at the rate of 2% yearly, the number of children in independent living, until the percentage of its caseload assigned to the track is no more than 5% of its caseload.

 

An Act relative to early voting in municipal elections (S366)

For local elections that do not coincide with biennial state elections, this bill enables municipalities to opt in to the early voting regimen created by the Legislature in 2014.  A city or town is authorized to adopt early voting provided that its decision to do so is (1) approved by its local legislative body and (2) ratified by local voters.

 

An Act relative to protecting biometric information under the security breach law (S95)

This legislation amends our state’s Security Breach and Identity Theft law.  This requires that, in the event of a security breach, third-party holders of personal and financial information notify state officials and also directly notify any consumers whose personal and financial information may have been compromised.  Given the increased use of biometric data such as fingerprints and facial recognition software, this bill adds the term “biometric data” to the protections afforded under Massachusetts law.

 

An Act to restrict the use of polystyrene (HD3015)

The bill bans the presence of Styrofoam in disposable containers used in retail sales by food establishments.  The bill is jointly filed by Sen. Barrett and State Rep. Frank Smizik.  The major chemical components of Styrofoam — also known as polystyrene — are known carcinogens.  They can leach into food when containers are heated, with direct health effects on consumers.  The material is dangerous when left to break down in landfills, since it crumbles into small pieces that can harm wildlife.