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

Barrett bill pushes back against cycle of poverty Press Release

On the heels of a new report backing the idea, State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, has refiled his bill to prevent employers from running credit checks on job applicants. Crittenton Women’s Union (CWU), which authored the year-long study, named Barrett’s legislation as a top way to stop the cycle of poverty associated with severe debt.

CWU — a group that advocates for low-income women — said in its report that the practice of employers checking credit scores of job applicants “is not a proven indicator for future job success” and one that “places undue hardship on low-income job seekers.”

“This idea is gaining serious momentum,” Barrett said. “Ten other states have passed bills restricting this practice. Massachusetts should be next.” He directed praise at U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is leading the charge on the federal level.

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Barrett honored by advocates for the blind Press Release

At a recent State House gathering of constituents who are blind and their advocates, state Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, was named Legislator of the Year for his commitment to people who are blind or visually impaired. Barrett recently served as Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

“Senator Barrett has made it a priority to reach out to all groups of people with disabilities, including those with blindness and deafblindness,” said Kim Charlson, Director of the Perkins Library. “He’s a true advocate and a real friend to people with disabilities.”

Charlson, Barrett, Abely
Sen. Barrett named Legislator of the year for his commitment to people who are blind or visually impaired. (L-R) Kim Charlson, Perkins Library Director and president of the American Council of the Blind, Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), and Joe Abely, President of Carroll Center for the Blind. PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Miller of the Perkins School for the Blind.

 

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New Senate rules to boost transparency, openness Press Release

The State Senate has adopted new internal rules governing the body to increase access to information and allow for more open debate.

The rule changes reflect the priorities that newly elected Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, promised in his inaugural address to the Senate last month.

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Barrett to Chair Senate’s Oversight Committee Press Release

State State Senator Mike Barrett has been selected to head the State Senate’s Post-Audit and Oversight Committee, a unique body charged with overseeing implementation of all state programs run by the Governor and his appointees.

“This is a huge chance to shape policy for the district and the entire state,” Barrett said. “It means digging deep into how government operates day to day — and how it can do better. I’m honored and challenged by the assignment.”

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Barrett recognized for children and families work Press Release

State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, was recently recognized for his “outstanding leadership for children and families in Massachusetts.”  Youth Villages, which presented Barrett with its Champion Award, partners with the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide in-home support for families and for children with emotional and behavioral challenges.

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