Category: Human Rights

Testimony: H.3083 – An Act for Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets

Bill: An Act for Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets

Filed by: Rep. Livingstone

Summary: 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.

Heard by: Joint Committee on the Judiciary

Date: May 8, 2017

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Rep. Livingstone’s 2017-18 Legislative Agenda

Filed Legislation

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)

Rep. Livingstone’s Bill Co-Sponsorship for 2017-18 session

Legislative Agenda

Co-Sponsored Legislation
2017-2018 Legislative Session

Below are all of the bills that I have decided to co-sponsor this session organized by their subject area. As you can imagine, leafing through thousands of bills can be very cumbersome, so I would like to thank all of my constituents that wrote in with their requests. If you didn’t have a chance to write in, no worries! Contact information is below to remain updated on whichever bill(s) that you would like.

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To learn more about the legislation that I have filed and co-sponsored, 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)

Baker signs gender pay gap bill

Just after 4 p.m. Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker put pen to paper and enshrined in law the notion that men and women performing the same work should be paid equally.

After faltering on Beacon Hill in previous sessions, gender pay equity got a vigorous push this session from lawmakers, business organizations and advocates. Baker identified it as one of six major bills he hoped the Legislature would pass so he could sign it.

“Our daughters and granddaughters, and our sons and grandsons, will face a fairer work environment than we have,” Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who sponsored the bill with Reps. Ellen Story and Jay Livingstone, said. “This will help reduce income inequality. Fewer women will raise their children in poverty and those children will have a better chance to succeed in life and succeed in school.”

She added, “Today in Massachusetts we say, equal pay for equal work is not just a slogan, it’s the law.”

Baker signed the bill with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, cabinet secretaries Marylou Sudders and Kristen Lepore, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Auditor Suzanne Bump, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, about two dozen lawmakers, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo by his side.

“This is a Commonwealth of Mass. that in 1954 passed the first legislation around gender discrimination and I think it’s incredibly apt that we would be one of the first states in the country here today to pass legislation to ensure that people are paid what they are worth, based only on what they are worth,” Baker said.

The bill (S 2119) prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work “unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor” including seniority, education, training, experience, or a bona fide merit system like one that measures earnings by sales.

The compromise contains a Senate-backed provision that forbids businesses from requiring a job applicant disclose their previous salary history, though the employer may inquire about previous salaries after making a job and compensation offer to the prospective employee.

It also encourages businesses to evaluate their own pay practices and would allow self-evaluations to be used as an affirmative defense in a pay discrimination claim, if they were conducted within the previous three years and the employer could demonstrate “reasonable progress” toward closing pay differentials. The evaluation and any steps taken to close a gap could not be used as evidence of a violation of pay equity.

“It makes our families stronger, our state stronger and our economies thrive,” Goldberg said. “Wage equality is not just a women’s issue, it is a family issue. It is good for the economic security for each and every family in Massachusetts and the economic stability of the commonwealth.”

DeLeo said the pay equity bill “gets to the heart of who we are as Americans.”

Rosenberg counted it alongside an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit as part of a Senate platform to help low- and middle-class families. He made a not-so-subtle pitch for the third piece of that platform: a paid family and medical leave bill the Senate passed on Saturday, on the eve of the end of formal sessions for the year.

Story, an Amherst Democrat who is retiring after more than 24 years in the House, said she first filed a gender pay equity bill in 1995.

“This is a good day,” she said. “Better late than never.”

The legislation most closely resembles the version approved unanimously by the House, which business organizations like Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Alliance for Business Leadership and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable had supported.

The bill cleared the Legislature with unanimous support, the House enacted the bill 151-0 and the Senate did so 40-0.

A study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported earlier this year that the state’s earnings ratio placed Massachusetts in 18th place nationally for pay equity and, without changes, the state’s wage gap was expected to persist until 2058.

Rep. Patricia Haddad, whom DeLeo credited with pushing the bill over the finish line this session, charged everyone present for the bill signing to make equal pay for equal work a central tenant of what they teach their children.

“To change the culture, we have to bring up our sons to remind them that there is no difference, that they should revere and push forward their sisters, their wives, of course their mothers, and be the culture change,” she said. “We’ve committed to it, now you have to go out and raise your sons and daughters to know that there is no difference, that equal means equal.”

http://www.wbjournal.com/article/20160802/NEWS01/160809985/baker-signs-gender-pay-gap-bill

Massachusetts House passes pay equity bill

The Massachusetts House on Thursday passed a bill aimed at ensuring that women are paid equally for equal work.

“Some of us have been working on this bill since 1998,” said state Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst. “This is a happy day that we are passing it.”

The bill passed by a unanimous vote of 158-0, amid cheers in the House chamber.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law requiring men and women be paid the same amount for comparable work, in 1945. The bill that was passed Thursday, H.4509, updates and clarifies the law. The bill received support from both business groups and women’s rights groups, after earlier drafts underwent significant revisions to ensure that the bill advances the cause of equal pay without unduly hurting businesses.

Several lawmakers noted the long journey for women to gain equality in the workplace. “When I vote today, I have the great sense I’ll be standing on the shoulders of and giving thanks to the many feminists who have toiled for decades to bring us to where we are today,” said state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown.

The bill clarifies and updates the definition of “comparable work,” and defines what factors can be used to determine salaries. The bill would make it illegal for employers to prevent employees from discussing their salaries. The bill also prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history during an interview. The bill protects employers from equal pay lawsuits for three years if they complete self-evaluations and take steps to move toward pay equity.

The House version has the backing of business groups, as well as women’s rights advocates.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, called it a matter of “basic fairness” that if a man and a woman are doing the same job, they get paid the same amount. “In this day and age … for us to still be talking about this is wrong,” DeLeo said. “And this gives us the opportunity to rectify it.”

DeLeo said he hopes if enough states pass equal pay laws, eventually the law can be strengthened at a federal level.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, an employment lawyer, said, “It is humbling that we can sit in the chamber and play a role in chipping away at the inequities of our society, as we’re doing today.”

Livingstone called it a “waste in the economy” when half of the workforce feels undervalued.

According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women working full time in Massachusetts earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill in January. It will now go to a committee of House-Senate negotiators, who must negotiate a final version of the bill and pass it before the session ends July 31.

Attorney General Maura Healey issued a statement after the bill’s passage saying the bill “makes much-needed updates to the law to reflect our modern economy and carefully balances the needs of workers and the business community.”

http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/07/massachusetts_house_passes_pay.html