Barrett Backs Student Loan Bill of Rights Press Release

Boston – On April 11, Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his Senate colleagues in voting to pass the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” giving greater protections to student loan borrowers in disputes with companies servicing their loans.

The bill, ‘An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights’, requires student loan servicers to be licensed companies with the state Division of Banks, and empowers state officials to investigate loan servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

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Barrett Backs More Privacy for Social Media Press Release

Boston – The Massachusetts State Senate has taken a major new step to protect the social media accounts of students and employees in the Commonwealth. 

For the past year and a half, Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) has served as an original cosponsor of “An Act relative to social media privacy protection,” which passed the Senate last week.  The legislation prevents employers and schools from requesting or requiring access to the personal social media accounts of employees, students and job or school applicants as conditions of acceptance, employment, or participation in school activities.

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Barrett Grills Eversource on its New Charge on Solar Users Press Release

Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell) quizzed Eversource Energy and the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) at a formal oversight hearing last Tuesday, January 30.

Senate Chair Barrett joined House Chair Golden and their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the public hearing, following the DPU’s approval of a request from Eversource for a new fee on solar users.

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Mass. Residents May Be Able to Fight Climate Change Via Their Tax Returns Press Release

Joined last week by prominent researchers and humanitarian leaders, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) asked the Legislature’s Committee on Revenue to approve legislation tweaking Massachusetts tax forms and letting taxpayers direct voluntary contributions, over and above their regular payments, to poverty-stricken countries faced with worsening conditions caused by global warming.

The full title of Barrett’s bill is An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Mass. Climate Math: Getting to Paris Reductions Goal Won’t Get Us Further Press Release

Sounding a note of caution on today’s debate in the Mass. House of Representatives, the Senate chair of the joint committee that deals with energy matters cited “an inconvenient truth about Massachusetts climate change math: our share of the U.S. emissions goal set in Paris for 2025 is almost identical to a state-specific emissions goal we’ve already set for ourselves for 2020.  By 2025, Massachusetts will need to have progressed well beyond this point, or we will have little chance of meeting our ultimate emissions goal set for 2050.”

“Merely running in place on emissions reductions between the years 2020 and 2025 will throw us off pace and forfeit Massachusetts’ hopes to lead on this crucial issue,” said State Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington).

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Barrett calls for an end to modern debtors’ prisons at State House rally Press Release

Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his colleagues and advocacy groups in the State House yesterday to rally behind a criminal justice reform bill that seeks to keep people from ending up back in prison.

The comprehensive bill includes significant reforms to the common practice by district court judges of incarcerating defendants solely for failure to pay fines, fees or court costs, commonly referred to as “fine time”.  This is an issue that has been championed by Barrett and he has worked closely with the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to ensure that the problem is addressed.

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Barrett proposes limits on Mass. inmates being sent out-of-state Press Release

Boston – Yesterday the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security heard from State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) about his bill to prevent sheriffs from sending inmates out of Massachusetts without meeting certain requirements.

In January, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County volunteered his inmates to help build a border wall proposed by President Trump. This would effectively mean sending prisoners — many serving short sentences for relatively minor crimes — nearly 3,000 miles away, far from rehabilitation services and their loved ones.

Senator Barrett is the author of An Act protecting inmate safety and the expenditure of state funds (S.1279), which would prohibit any sheriff from sending an inmate in his custody out-of-state without meeting certain requirements.

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Barrett seeks state funds for homeless veterans Press Release

During a recent public hearing, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) testified on behalf of his bill that would guarantee state funding for a Bedford housing complex that caters to homeless veterans.

Barrett is the chief sponsor of a bill (S.2009) that would ensure 100% reimbursement to Bedford for the financial assistance it provides veterans who move into Bedford Green, situated on the grounds of the VA hospital.  The complex provides apartments to 69 homeless veterans from all over Massachusetts.

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Barrett recognizes local unsung heroines Press Release

This week, residents of Bedford, Lexington and Weston were honored as members of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2017 class of Unsung Heroines.  Ann Guay, Alice Pierce and Pamela Fox were recognized as women who make a real difference in their neighborhoods and towns.

Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, nominated Ms. Pierce because of her tireless work promoting democracy in her community.  She has spent over 40 years providing bookkeeping services and preparing financial disclosure reports free of charge to political candidates.  Barrett applauded Ms. Pierce and noted that she has “built up a reputation as a highly giving and valuable member of her community.”

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Beacon Hill proposal targets tax returns of presidential candidates Press Release

BOSTON — State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) wants the Massachusetts Legislature to tell future presidential candidates that they cannot appear on a primary or general election ballot in the state until they release their tax returns and disclose potential conflicts of interests.

“Until recently,” Barrett wrote in a Dear Colleague letter to House and Senate members inviting cosponsors of the bill in the upcoming 2017-2018 session, “many Americans just assumed that the stature of the Office of the President ensured the observance of certain practices that are unwritten but responsible and well-established, one of which is the disclosure by candidates of recent tax returns and, by extension, possible conflicts of interest.  The 2016 election shattered this confidence.  I hope we can come together to rebuild it.”

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State Senate investigates “Fine Time” Press Release

BOSTON — The State Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight has completed a first-of-its-kind investigation of “fine time” in Massachusetts — the practice by district court judges of incarcerating defendants solely for failure to pay fines, fees or court costs.

State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Chair of the Committee, called the findings “eye-opening.”  He and Committee staff identified 105 instances of fine time in 2015 in just three Massachusetts counties — Essex, Plymouth and Worcester.  In 60% of the cases, the defendant had at some point been verified as indigent; ten were described as unemployed; five, as homeless.  Yet all 105 individuals were imprisoned for failure to pay fees and fines.

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Senate bill bars credit checks in hiring Press Release

To provide a measure of relief to Massachusetts job applicants, the State Senate has approved a bill, sponsored by State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), to restrict the use of credit reports in hiring and promotions.

“People see their credit reports dinged due to circumstances they couldn’t reasonably foresee — their spouse becomes ill, they get laid off, or they hit a combination of student debt and under-employment,” said Barrett.  “All these things are regrettable, but none should stop them from getting back on their feet.”

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Dry your tee? Senate brings back the old way Press Release

To promote energy conservation, the State Senate has taken the surprising step of legally reaffirming residents’ rights to a traditional but increasingly threatened practice — the option of hanging laundry out to dry on a clothesline.

State Senator Mike Barrett, chief sponsor of the policy change, says clothesline use is often barred by condo and homeowner associations.  Environmentally speaking, he says, that’s unfortunate.

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Senate budget increases funding for the disadvantaged Press Release

During recent Senate debate on the state budget, the body adopted several amendments offered by State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, to fund programs that assist people living in especially difficult circumstances.

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Report: Home insurance rates yield high profits, get little scrutiny Press Release

A report by the State Senate lambasts the process of setting Massachusetts home insurance rates and calls for immediate changes to state law to protect residents.

In 2015 the Massachusetts Division of Insurance considered, and granted, requests by several of the state’s biggest insurers to raise their rates on homeowners coverage by as much as 9%. Yet neither the public, nor state legislators, nor insurance experts in the state Attorney General’s office, were informed of the requests.

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People with disabilities testify against exclusion from proposed health Office Press Release

An initiative to reduce health disparities linked to race and ethnicity should be widened to include people with disabilities, according to experts and self-advocates who turned out en masse at the State House.

A proposed new Office of Health Equity is directed explicitly to work in tandem with the existing Massachusetts Health Disparities Council, already tasked with a three-part focus on race, ethnicity and disability.  Yet recent legislative action, little noticed, seeks to exclude people with disabilities from the scope of the new Office, de-aligning its mission from that of the Council.

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Health equity push expands to include disability and gender Press Release

An initiative to reduce health disparities linked to race and ethnicity has widened to include women and people with disabilities, thanks to a bill just passed by the State Senate.

Health disparities are gaps in access to care or in actual outcomes that confront certain groups disproportionately.  As they relate to disabilities, health disparities include inaccessible doctors’ offices, ill-equipped examination rooms and frustrating communications barriers.

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Health equity push expands to include disability and gender Press Release

An initiative to reduce health disparities linked to race and ethnicity has widened to include women and people with disabilities, thanks to a bill just passed by the State Senate.

Health disparities are gaps in access to care or in actual outcomes that confront certain groups disproportionately.  As they relate to disabilities, health disparities include inaccessible doctors’ offices, ill-equipped examination rooms and frustrating communications barriers.

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Senate passes bill to close gender pay gap Press Release

The State Senate has passed a bill to close the wage gap between men and women workers in Massachusetts.  The legislation, which passed unanimously, mandates equal pay for comparable work, boosts wage transparency and requires the hiring process to be fair.

Women comprise almost half the state’s workforce, but earn roughly 82% of what men make.  African American women earn 66 cents for every dollar made by male workers; Latina women only 54 cents.

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Bike advocates press for road safety measures Press Release

Bicyclists from around Massachusetts gathered at the State House recently to call for new road safety measures to prevent traffic injuries and deaths. One of the bills before the Transportation Committee sets a minimum distance for cars to pass bicyclists; another aims to stop cars from blocking bike lanes.

Both pieces of legislation are authored by State Senator Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont, and backed by local State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington. Barrett, a committed cyclist, is a longtime supporter of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and other pathways across his district. He says the Legislature should act on bike safety now.

Barrett on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

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