2017-2018 Legislative Session
I am so thrilled to share some of the bills that I have filed this legislative session. Our team hit the ground running with bills spanning topics like criminal justice reform, protecting civil liberties, encouraging social justice, and promoting education. Here are some bills that I am particularly excited about this session:
HD2550 – An Act relative to criminal forfeiture
This bill repeals and replaces the Commonwealth’s existing forfeiture law, which received an F grade from the Institute of Justice in a recent 50-state survey. Currently property owners in Massachusetts do not have to be convicted of a crime or even charged with one to permanently lose their money, cars, businesses, or even their homes. This bill would make three critical reforms to change that situation and align Massachusetts law with the laws of most other states:
- Require a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be forfeited,
- Require the state to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture, and
- Eliminate a profit-motive for seizing personal property by directing forfeited property to the General Fund instead of the law enforcement agency.
HD 655 – An Act creating a common application for core food, health, and safety-net programs
This bill works to address the disparity commonly known as the “SNAP Gap.” Currently, there are about 680,000 people who are receiving Mass Health benefits and are likely eligible for SNAP but are not receiving SNAP benefits, for which the State is currently reimbursed by the federal government. MassHealth and SNAP have separate application processes that ask for the same basic information, duplicating efforts and creating more work for both the state and applicants. This legislation would create a common application portal to let low income households apply for MassHealth and SNAP at the same time. This would lay a foundation for a comprehensive common application portal for safety-net benefits which would reduce duplicate data collection and increase the efficiency of State Government while helping our State’s low-income population.
HD 3502 – An Act for uniform fiduciary access to digital assets
As we increasingly use online services, it becomes more important to consider our digital afterlife. This bill would address the accessibility and privacy of a person’s digital information in the event that they pass away. This privacy-centric legislation accomplishes these important goals by balancing the interests of all parties – the privacy of the deceased user; the privacy of the people with whom the deceased corresponded; the needs of the fiduciary; and existing federal law (Electronic Communications Protection Act). The legislation would empower the user to decide if and how their communications and digital content are accessed via user level controls.
HD 400 – An Act Authorizing the establishment of a commission to evaluate student health
Creates a legislative commission to address and evaluate the growing health needs of students across the Commonwealth, including exploring the need for more school nurses in each school. Currently, class room teachers spend too much time addressing the health needs of their students, instead of teaching, because of a lack of school nurses.
HD 2131 – An Act protecting sunlight in certain public parks
Builds on the existing State Legislative Protection on the Boston Common and Public Garden by including the Charles River Esplanade, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, and Magazine Beach Park. This bill does not weaken any current protections or allow any new exceptions.
HD 401 – An Act to clarify the meal break law and to establish private enforcement
Massachusetts employees are legally entitled to meal breaks after six hours of employment. Courts may punish employers who violate this law with a fine of $300 to $600 dollars, but at present, only the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute such offenders. This legislation would allow employees to go to court without being accompanied by the Attorney General, thereby alleviating the burden on state resources while providing employees with a more effective remedy. Ultimately, this bill seeks to treat meal break requirements in the same legal manner as wage payments and enact the same remedy for violators.
HD 664 – An Act expanding eligibility for diversion to treatment for criminal offenders
Current law allows 18-22 year old individuals who are charged with a crime but have never been convicted of a crime to avoid a criminal record by successfully completing a drug treatment program. This bill would expand eligibility to defendants of any age that are facing district court charges, pending a judge and probation’s approval.
HD 1681 – An Act to establish transparency with respect to government surveillance
Current state law does not provide criteria for the use of video recording devices by government entities. While there are some regulations at the state and local level, government entities often have wide discretion to install recording devices without any public input, record and keep for long periods of time the data collected, and give broad access to that data. This situation has the potential to infringe on the civil liberties of the law-abiding citizens unnecessarily. The bill attempts to address this situation by providing the public more information about what is happening and create standard rules for the use of recording devices.
HD 654 – An Act for fairness regarding line of duty benefits
Under current law, a $300,000 payment is given to the family any public safety employee who was killed or sustained injuries in the line of duty. This bill expands that eligibility to include the family of any public employee who dies while on the job. It also expands eligibility for the Public Service Scholarship Program.
HD 2955 – An Act to increase fair housing protections for survivors of domestic violence
This legislation will add survivors of domestic violence as a protected class under fair housing laws. This bill will protect domestic violence survivors against unfair evictions, different rental agreement terms, and denial of lease/sale. These protections currently apply to public housing but not private housing.
To learn more about the legislation that I have filed, you can check out my public legislative page here, or reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, by email (Caitlin.Duffy@mahouse.gov) or by telephone (617-722-2396)