Category: Human Rights

Legislative Update: Lifting the Cap on Kids and Banning Conversion Therapy

On Wednesday, March 13th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed legislation to ban conversion therapy on minors and legislation to expand access to public assistance for families. Both bills were priorities of mine this session (and past sessions) and I am excited vote for them to pass the House. More information about each can be found below.


Lifting the Cap on Kids

H. 104 – An Act to lift the cap on kids

  • This bill repeals a 1990’s punitive welfare reform that did not allow a family to receive additional welfare benefits for children born after the family started to receive benefits.
  • The current law means that parents have to split meager benefits meant for one child between two children. Parents typically receive $100 per month per child.
  • The bill directs that the Department of Transitional Assistance, which oversees the program, to implement the changes by 9/1/19 with aid retroactive to 1/1/2019.

Banning Conversion Therapy

H. 140 – An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation

  • Prohibits health care providers from advertising for or engaging in efforts that attempt or purport to impose change on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient less than 18 years of age.
  • The controversial conversion therapy that this legislation would ban has been used to try to “convert” someone who is LGBTQ to being heterosexual, treating a person’s sexuality as an illness rather than a part of who they are.

Legislative Update: Supplemental Budget

Legislative Update

H.3505 – An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2019 to provide for supplementing certain existing appropriations and for certain other activities and projects

On Wednesday, February 28th 2019, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed H.3505, a $135 Million supplemental budget. I joined my colleagues in voting affirmatively to pass the measure. The supplemental budget addresses multiple areas including heating assistance, enhanced support for victims of sexual assault, and programs to help those experiencing homelessness. Below are some highlights of what the bill included.


Increased funding for Low Income Heating Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)

Amount: $30 million (+$19 million from Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program ensures that all families in the Commonwealth can afford to keep their heating on through the winter. The additional funding makes up for the Federal funding shortfall.


Increased funding for Emergency Shelter Assistance for people and families experiencing homelessness

Amount: $10,046,612 (level with the Governor’s proposal)

Details: This program helps individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness by increasing the amount of shelter beds to help accommodate the needs of the State.


Increased funding for sexual assault evidence testing kits

Amount: $8,000,000

Details: This program will aid in addressing the backlog of sexual assault kits in the State and ensure that we are on the right path towards bringing justice for victims of sexual violence.


Increased funding for the costs associated with an independent statewide examination of the safety of gas distribution infrastructure

Amount: $1,482,694

Details: These funds will go toward addressing the safety hazard of poorly maintained pipelines. After the disaster that took place in the Merrimack Valley in September, the State is incentivized to take a good look at what can be done to prevent another emergency.


Authorization of Collective Bargaining Agreements

Amount: n/a

Details: The Supplemental Budget included authorization for collective bargaining agreements previously made between employers and trade unions for the following organizations/departments:

  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation and DOT Unit A – National Association of Government Employees, Clerical and Administrative Workers
  • University of Massachusetts and the New England Police Benevolent Protection Organization, Amherst Campus, Unit A07
  • University of Massachusetts and the Maintenance and Trades Unit/MTA/NEA, Lowell Campus, Unit L93
  • University of Massachusetts and Classified and Technical Union, Lowell Campus, Unit L92
  • Sheriff of Bristol County and the National Association of Government Employees, Maintenance Workers, Unit C
  • Sheriff of Worcester county and the New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 550, Unit SW6
  • Sheriff of Hampden County and the National Correctional Employees Union Mental Health Staff Unit, Local 131, Unit SH1

Massachusetts advocacy groups file contrasting abortion legislation

January 31, 2019 12:04 am by Sofia Saric

Across the country and Massachusetts, reproductive rights groups are advocating for increased protections for abortion access, as it was recently the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, on Jan. 22.

More than 70 organizations rallied for more extensive abortion legislation for Commonwealth residents at the Massachusetts State House on Jan. 17 during Sexual Health Lobby Day, according to a press release from the Coalition for Choice.

The rally was led by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, the ACLU of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Family Planning Association.

For the 2019 legislative session, advocates have proposed An Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access, or the ROE Act, which would eliminate needing parental consent for an abortion and improve affordable access by eliminating other provisions.

The bill is sponsored by Massachusetts Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and State Representative Jay Livingstone.

The ROE Act reforms state law to remove restrictions on abortion, including allowing access to abortion in certain cases of fetal anomalies after the 24-week mark and permitting teenagers to have access to abortion without parental consent.

At the Massachusetts State House on the Sexual Health Lobby Day, Chandler said the bill ensures that women’s healthcare is on the frontlines of the legislative agenda.

“The ROE Act breaks down barriers that women still face when trying to access abortion and contraceptive care,” Chandler said. “I am proud to sponsor this bill in honor of all the women who came before me and struggled to get the services they needed.”

Chandler said her efforts are motivated by the prospect of a better future.

“I will fight for the ROE Act so that future generations may live in a safer and healthier world,” Chandler said.

Not all believe that these efforts to increase abortion access are needed, however.

President of pro-life organization Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Anne Fox, said while she recognizes the legal possibility to expand abortion rights, she thinks there is no need for state abortion expansion because it is already accessible.

“They talk about access,” Fox said. “Well, in Massachusetts no one, no woman, is more than an hour at most from an abortion facility. It is less than an hour to get there.”

These already adequate forms of accessible help, Fox said, make the prospect of further accessibility difficult to imagine.  

“It is kind of hard to think how you could expand it,” Fox said.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life, alongside other pro-life groups, is looking to pass legislation as well.

Fox said the organization filed state bills this January that would fight coercion and increase educational information about abortion provided in clinics and schools.

“You take your dog in for surgery, you get a whole lot of information,” Fox said. “If you go in for an abortion, you get very little information. This would require that the people at the abortion facilities tell a women what is involved in the whole process.”

Carmen Hernandez, 52, of Back Bay, said although the possibility for new abortion access legislation could be a positive thing, abortion can still be upsetting.

“In a way, it is a mixed blessing,” Hernandez said. “A lot of young people aren’t always ready for parenthood.”

Katherine Burke, 19, of Fenway, said that she is pro-choice because she believes that situationally, abortion can sometimes be the best, or only, option for some women.

“There are certain instances where abortion is not the best answer,” Burke said. “However, there are other cases where it might be necessary, or it might be better for the mother to get an abortion.”

Saloni Jain, 23, of Brookline, said she believes legislation to improve abortion access could be a positive change.  

“If it makes it easier, then it is good,” Jain said.

https://dailyfreepress.com/blog/2019/01/31/massachusetts-advocacy-groups-file-contrasting-abortion-legislation/

Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial to be Restored through Unique Partnership

Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined representatives from National Park Service, Friends of the Public Garden and the Museum of African American History on the Boston Common Friday to sign a Memorandum of Understanding committing to jointly restore the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial.

Situated inside the Common on the corner of Beacon and Park streets, the bas-relief memorial created by venerable American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens will undergo a $2.8 million restoration in 2019, including a complete rehabilitation of its bronze sculpture. Portions of the park will be cordoned off and closed to the public during the five- to six-month construction period, officials said.

The memorial was installed in 1897 to commemorate Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th – the first regiment of black troops recruited from the North to fight for their freedom in the Civil War.  On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts infantry made its way for Beaufort, S.C., where it became part of the X Corps commanded by Major General David Hunter. Afterwards, the 54th took part in operations in Charleston, S.C. including the Battle of Grimball’s Landing on July 16, 1863 and the Second Battle of Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.

 

During the latter battle, the 54th and other Union regiments waged a frontal assault against Fort Wager, which resulted in the death of Shaw and 20 other members of the infantry while 125 were injured and another 102 reported missing (and presumed dead). And upon returning home, members of the 54th faced racial intolerance despite having served their country so valiantly.

Marita Rivero, the museum’s executive director, recalled how Harriet Tubman, a leading abolitionist who escaped slavery to become the most celebrated “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, met troops from the 54th when their steamship landed in South Carolina and served them breakfast.

Michael Creasey, NPS superintendent, said the Shaw Monument is widely regarded as not only one of Saint-Gauden’s masterpieces, but also as one of the most important monuments in the U.S.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has announced plans to devise a new Master Plan for the Common, juxtaposed the State House, located directly behind the monument, where he began his political career as a state representative as the son of immigrants in 1997, with the infantryman represented in the monument marching down Beacon Street, whom he credits for paving his eventual path to City Hall.

Besides restoring this monument, Walsh announced plans for memorials to Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott on the Common and in Roxbury, a memorial to victims of the slave trade in Faneuil Hall and monuments honoring African-American culture in Dorchester and Roxbury.

Other elected officials on hand for the document signing included State Reps. Jay Livingstone, Byron Rushing and Chynah Tyler, as well as City Councilors Ed Flynn and Josh Zakim.

Meanwhile, Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends, said the group plans to use the monument restoration to launch programming and a community dialogue and programming surrounding race relations in the city set to launch this fall.

“The project is an opportunity to engage the community through programming that will explore race, freedom and justice,” Vizza said, “and it couldn’t come at a more tumultuous time in our country’s history.”

190th Session Recap: Human Rights

190th Session Recap: Human Rights

 

H.1190 – An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors

  • Jay was a co-sponsor and advocate for this bill.
  • The bill prohibits health care providers (including but not limited to physician, psychologist, social worker, nurse, or allied mental health and human services professional, including marriage and family therapist, rehabilitation counselor, mental health counselor, or educational psychologist) from advertising for or engaging in efforts that attempt or purport to impose change on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient less than 18 years of age.

Outcome: This bill was passed by the House in June 2018 and by the Senate in the last moments of the legislative session on July 31, 2018.  Jay hopes that it will receive final enactment in the informal sessions that will happen now until the start of next term.
To read the full text of the House bill, click here.

S.2260 – An Act negating archaic statutes targeting young women (NASTY Women’s Act)

  • Jay was a co-sponsor and advocate for this bill.
  • Strikes requirement that abortions performed after the thirteenth week of pregnancy be performed in a hospital (unconstitutional via Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972)).
  • Repeals:
    • Criminalization of adultery
    • Criminalization of fornication
    • Criminalization of procuring a miscarriage
    • Criminalization of advertisement of abortion services
    • Criminalization of selling or giving away instruments or drugs to cause abortion
  • Removes restriction limiting contraception access to only married couples (unconstitutional via Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, 62 U.S. 416 (1983).).

Outcome: This bill passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.
To read the full text of the bill, click here

H.1110 – An Act Establishing Three New Commissions on the Status of Women and Girls

  • Jay voted in favor of this legislation.
  • The Eastern Regional Commission will conduct an ongoing study of all women’s matters within those communities and report its findings annually to the Commission on the Status of Women. The Regional commission will recommend solutions to the identified problems.
  • The Eastern Regional Commission consists of 9 people appointed by the Commission on the Status of Women from communities around Massachusetts.

Outcome: This bill passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.
To read the full text of the bill, click here

H.36380 – An Act establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

  • Jay was a co-sponsor and advocate for this bill.
  • Adds pregnancy and  pregnancy related conditions, including lactation and expressing breast milk, to the list of qualifiers employers cannot discriminate against
  • Prevents employers from denying reasonable accommodations for pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions
  • Prevents employer from refusing to hire a pregnant person because of the pregnancy or a pregnancy related condition
  • Includes a non-exhaustive list of reasonable accommodations:
    • More frequent/longer paid/unpaid breaks
    • Time off to recover from childbirth (paid or unpaid)
    • Seating
    • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous position
    • Job restructuring
    • Light duty
    • Private non-private space for expressing breast milk
    • Assistance with manual labor
    • Modified work schedules

Outcome:This bill passed in the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.
To read the full text of the bill, click here.