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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MA gives its workers a break in 2016 Press Release

January 1st brought a measure of relief for many working families in Massachusetts. The state minimum wage bumped up to $10 per hour and the state Earned Income Tax Credit grew by more than 50%.

“Since the early 1980s there’s been a widening gap between pay for people at the top and pay for everyone else,” said State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, Senate Vice Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “These initiatives will help bridge that gap.”

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Barrett calls for price on carbon Press Release

Boston – Inside a packed State House hearing room, businesspeople, economists, faith leaders, civic groups and concerned citizens pushed for a ground-breaking proposal to tackle global warming. The standing-room only crowd urged the legislative committee to approve S.1747, An Act combating climate change, filed by State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington. The bill places a charge on dirty fuel emissions that contribute to global warming and then returns the money — in direct rebates — to residents, businesses and non-profits.

“We have to step up our fight against climate change,” Barrett told the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy. He explained that the idea is “effectively a user fee on pollution.”

Sen. Barrett testifies on carbon pricing at a packed committee hearing.
Sen. Barrett testifies on carbon pricing at a packed committee hearing.

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Barrett backs Homeless Bill of Rights Press Release

A bill before the State Legislature aims to establish a Homeless Bill of Rights for Massachusetts. The proposal outlines seven fundamental rights for people experiencing homelessness, including the right to move freely in public spaces, to equal treatment by government agencies, to emergency medical care, and to vote. At a recent public hearing, advocates urged the Legislature’s Housing Committee to move the bill forward.

Local Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, supports the measure. “Massachusetts has experienced a rapid increase in its homeless population,” Barrett said. “Because these families lack permanent addresses, many are deprived of some of the most basic rights others may take for granted.”

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In Uber debate, Barrett focuses on disabilities Press Release

Boston – Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft were at the center of a recent State House hearing. With passions riding high on both sides, State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, says he wants to make sure the needs of people with disabilities aren’t left out of the conversation.

While the packed auditorium — Uber drivers in a sea of blue, cabbies in all yellow — heard primarily about issues related to public safety and insurance, Barrett told the Committee on Financial Services this is a “golden opportunity” to make on-call transportation for people with disabilities “convenient and affordable.”

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Home insurance hikes draw Senate scrutiny Press Release

Boston — Responding to recent Division of Insurance approvals of big hikes in home insurance rates, the State Senate’s oversight body is launching an inquiry into the increases. State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Chair of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, says he wants to hear explanations from insurance executives and Division of Insurance regulators, and comments from consumer advocates.

“Last winter, insurers shelled out real money to pay for damage from ice dams and water leaks — but hikes of eight and nine percent deserve a very close look by regulators and legislators,” Barrett said. “The industry is supposed to set aside reserves in advance for the occasional tough year. I hope the Division of Insurance went to town with its due diligence before approving these big increases. Let’s see if they did. We want to make sure residents are protected.”

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Disabilities Caucus Kicks Off Press Release

In concert with activists and advocates, State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, and State Representative Denise Provost, D-Somerville, recently launched a Disabilities Caucus within the Massachusetts Legislature. The inaugural event took place at the State House.

Barrett and Provost founded the Caucus to promote cohesive advocacy for people with disabilities. “Groups representing the disabled don’t have the State House clout other minority groups have,” said Barrett, who has served as Senate Chair of the legislative committee that oversees policies related to people with disabilities. “The difficulties posed by each physical, emotional, and cognitive challenge seem so distinctive. But distinctiveness needn’t mean fragmentation. The Caucus will help foster broad awareness.”

Provost and Barrett
State Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, and State Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville, give opening remarks at the kick off event for the newly-formed Disabilities Caucus.

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Barrett backs “right to dry”

State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, is supporting a new “right to dry” for Massachusetts residents. His bill would extend the right to hang laundry on clotheslines to all state residents.

Barrett introduced the legislation at the initiative of environmental activist Peggy Brace, a constituent from Concord. He recently testified in favor of the idea at a public hearing at the State House.

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Sentencing reform gains steam

Advocates packed the State House recently to back legislation to reduce the length of prison sentences for a host of drug-related offenses. State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, supports the reforms, calling excessive prison terms a “huge drain of taxpayer dollars” with “no added deterrent effect” on those eventually released.

Massachusetts spends more than $46,000 per year to imprison each non-violent offender, many of whom have mental health and substance abuse problems. Oftentimes, Barrett says, they should instead be in treatment clinics where they can get help, an alternative that is not only more effective but costs less money.

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Barrett backs program for low-income parents

Thanks to the efforts of state Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, the Massachusetts Senate’s recently passed state budget includes additional funding for the Secure Jobs Initiative, a statewide program geared towards assisting low-income parents.

Barrett’s amendment increased funding for the initiative by 25%. The program helps parents in temporary living situations get connected with job training services and find employment.

“When you’re in very tough financial shape, you and your kids likely need both a roof over your heads and help finding work,” Barrett said. “But the state seldom brings together housing and job training for the same person. Secure jobs is that rare coordinated approach.” Read more