Here’s where Jo is leading on issues that are vital to the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district.
Bills to Meet the Moment
Senator Jo Comerford’s Legislation for the 192nd General Court
Government works best when we make it work together.
At the start of the last session, I released a legislative agenda called Progress for All — bills I filed on your behalf based on what constituents told me was important to them. I released short summaries of each bill with an eye toward transparency and accountability, so that busy people with jobs and families could readily understand what the legislation would accomplish without having to read legalese or click dozens of separate web links.
My team and I fought hard for these bills over the course of the 191st General Court session with some notable success. If you want to see how those bills fared, see the report card we released in December.
February 19, 2021 marked the timely bill filing deadline for the 192nd General Court which will last through 2022.
Since July, my team and I have been researching and preparing new bills to file, updating critical bills from last session that haven’t yet passed, and meeting with stakeholders to refine groundbreaking concepts.
The start of this legislative session finds our Commonwealth and its residents in a moment like we have never seen before. Read on to learn more about the legislation I’ve filed on criminal justice reform, democracy and transparency, disability rights, economic justice, education reform, elders, energy and the environment, equity, farms and farmers, food security, foster care, health care, housing, regional development, revenue, and veterans. These are bold, necessary, timely bills that my team and I have filed, on your behalf, to meet this moment.
We’ll advance this legislation in partnership with you.
Criminal Justice Reform
Seal and Expunge Criminal Records for Drug-Related Crimes
S.957, An Act empowering individuals affected by substance abuse to rebuild their lives
People struggling with substance use disorder are often charged with drug-related crimes. These charges remain as criminal records for years, effectively preventing access to stable housing, employment, and sadly, increasing recidivism rates. My bill (S.957, An Act empowering individuals affected by substance abuse to rebuild their lives) allows people with certain drug charges to automatically seal their record, after a shorter waiting period than currently provided, for both felonies and misdemeanors. It also allows people to petition to expunge certain drug charges from their record after a shorter waiting period and makes expungement the default outcome for sealing those charges.
No New Prisons and Jails
S.2030, An Act establishing a jail and prison construction moratorium
We should be reducing jail and prison populations by building community-based correctional programs and other alternatives to incarceration. We should not spend taxpayer money to build new prisons or expand existing ones to incarcerate more people. My bill (S.2030, An Act establishing a jail and prison construction moratorium) imposes a 5-year moratorium on the construction or expansion of jails, prisons, and other correctional facilities, which would put the brakes on plans to build a $50 million prison for women inmates in Norfolk. Those funds could be invested in education, human services and other resources which would have a more positive effect on protecting public safety.
Ban the So-Called “Gay Panic” Defense
S.956, An Act relative to protecting LGBTQ victims
Criminal defendants have made the outrageous argument in court that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity provoked a violent reaction from the defendant that resulted in murder or other violent crimes. My bill (S.956, An Act relative to protecting LGBTQ victims) instructs courts that when determining mitigating circumstances for a homicide or other crime, the perpetrator’s perception of the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity shall not be considered reasonable provocation.
Democracy and Transparency
Accountability for Public Officials Committing Sexual Crimes
S.955, An Act prohibiting the use of public funds to pay awards, fines or settlements in sexual harassment or assault cases
Taxpayers should not foot the bill when a public official commits sexual assault or harassment, yet that is exactly what has happened in Congress and it is permitted in our Commonwealth as well. My bill (S.955, An Act prohibiting the use of public funds to pay awards, fines or settlements in sexual harassment or assault cases) requires that public officials use their own money to pay awards, fines, and settlements in cases where they settle cases or are found responsible or guilty of sexual harassment or assault.
Stand Against Nuclear Weapons
S.1555, Resolve providing for an investigation and study by a special commission relative to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Enough nuclear weapons currently exist to end human life on Earth forever. The United Nations has moved to address this existential threat and although the United States chooses to be a part of the problem, our Commonwealth should be a part of the solution. My resolution (S.1556, Resolutions relative to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) declares the Commonwealth’s support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and directs the legislature to take action towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons. I have also introduced a Resolve (S.1555, Resolve providing for an investigation and study by a special commission relative to the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) which creates a Commission to look into ways to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from the threat of nuclear weapons and to work towards the total elimination of these weapons from all countries.
Expand State Job Opportunities
S.1169, An Act relative to state employment postings
We must have equal opportunity in hiring practices. The state falls short of this goal because there is no requirement that open state jobs be posted publicly online. My bill (S.1169, An Act relative to state employment postings) directs state officials to create a single, comprehensive online system to list all job openings for positions with state agencies.
Getting Foreign Money Out of Politics
S.454, An Act limiting political spending by foreign-influenced corporations
Foreign interference in our political process exists at the state level as it does in Washington D.C. My bill (S.454, An Act limiting political spending by foreign-influenced corporations) prohibits corporations that are substantially owned or controlled by a foreign person or corporation from making independent state political expenditures or contributions to a state independent expenditure PAC to influence state or local candidate elections or ballot referendums.
Abolish State Super-PACs
S.455, An Act relative to political contributions
While Massachusetts limits contributions to a political campaign, there is a huge loophole: there are no limits on contributions to “independent expenditure PACS,” also known as “super PACs.” For the sake of our democracy, we need to plug this loophole. My bill (S.455, An Act relative to political contributions) would limit contributions to a super PAC to $5,000 per year. Limits on contributions to super PACs would help prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.
Show Taxpayers Where Their Money Goes
S.2031, An Act advancing taxpayers’ right to know
The long and complicated budget processes at both the state and federal levels makes it almost impossible for a citizen to know where their tax dollars are going. Accountability is impossible without this basic understanding. My bill (S.2031, An Act advancing taxpayers’ right to know) requires an information statement to be mailed to all taxpayers showing the allocation of their federal and state tax revenue.
Protect Voter Privacy
S.456, An Act allowing individuals to protect their voter information
We deserve the choice as to whether our personal information is posted publicly. Unfortunately, state law currently does not let voters opt out of having their residential address and other information be publicly available. My bill (S.456, An Act allowing individuals to protect their voter information) allows individuals to make a request of local officials that their voter information not be made public.
For people with autism spectrum disorder, encounters with police can be fraught. My bill (S.2285, An Act facilitating better interactions between police officers and persons with autism spectrum disorder) provides for a state-approved blue envelope to be used voluntarily by people with autism spectrum disorder while driving. The envelope will hold a license and drivers registration information, with best practices written on the exterior of the envelope for police officers when interacting with people with autism spectrum disorder. The bill is modeled after a similar successful initiative in Connecticut.
Help Low-income Workers
S.1821, An Act improving the earned income credit for working families
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) assists 400,000 low- and moderate-income households in Massachusetts. It has been proven to lift families out of poverty and increase employment by encouraging people to work. This, in turn, boosts recipients’ long-term earnings and improves their health. My bill (S.1821, An Act improving the earned income credit for working families) would increase the state supplement to the federal credit, expand age eligibility, and allow people without a social security number to qualify for the credit.
Demonstrate Achievement without MCAS
S.293, An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement
The high-stakes MCAS test required for graduation in Massachusetts offers little benefit for students but instead lays bare and perpetuates the inequities in our education system. Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum and hinders students from developing advanced thinking and problem-solving skills. COVID has further disrupted learning, making the test a wholly inappropriate requirement for graduation. My bill (S.293, An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement) directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to permit students to demonstrate competency required to graduate high school without passing a standardized test like MCAS, and sets up demonstration programs to explore new ways to assess school performance.
The response to the COVID pandemic has disrupted education at all levels.Teachers and families have struggled with technology and students have missed weeks and weeks of instruction. These disruptions have hit particularly hard in vulnerable communities, which face inequitable challenges with standardized testing even in normal years. The state has waived the MCAS graduation requirements this year, as it did last year, and my bill (S.297, An Act responding to the COVID-19 emergency by instituting a moratorium on the administration of the MCAS test for the 2020-2021 school year) would direct the state to seek a federal waiver to allow the MCAS test to not be administered at all for this school year.
Fund Special Education
S.295, An Act establishing a Special Education Funding Reform Commission
The state’s formula for providing funding to school districts for special education costs relies upon an assumption that often does not come close to meeting the actual costs. Our children with disabilities suffer from inadequate resources due to this funding formula that shortchanges our school districts. My bill (S.295, An Act establishing a Special Education Funding Reform Commission) sets up a Commission to review the Commonwealth’s system for funding special education and make recommendations for a more equitable system that will provide adequate funding to local school districts to meet the costs of providing high quality education to students with disabilities.
The Commonwealth has not been making major investments in higher education to lower the cost of college. Funding for higher education has not even kept up with inflation. Our public university and college institutions have had to subsist on fewer resources year after year, enduring a 31% state cut in per pupil funding since FY2001. My bill (S.824, An Act committing to higher education the resources to insure a strong and healthy public higher education system – known as the CHERISH Act) would increase state funding for higher education to the inflation-adjusted per pupil level it was in 2001 to address skyrocketing tuition, the student debt crisis, and more.
Equity in School Building Assistance
S.296, An Act promoting equity in school building assistance and ensuring best practice incentives are available for all school building projects
An arbitrary cap built into the formula for state school building assistance hurts our local school districts, and there is no requirement that equity be taken into account in distributing funding. As a result, many low-income and rural areas of the state cannot take advantage of additional assistance provided for school building projects that adhere to best practices. My bill (S.296, An Act promoting equity in school building assistance and ensuring best practice incentives are available for all school building projects) will require the school building assistance formula to consider equity and ensure that all local projects can take advantage of best practice school building incentives.
Expand Access to Affordable Higher Education
S.825, An Act improving access to affordable higher education
Massachusetts has over 30 separate higher education financial aid programs. These overlapping programs are confusing to students and complicated to administer. Students may decide it is too confusing or too challenging to navigate both the financial aid process and the application process, presenting a barrier to accessing higher education. My bill (S.825, An Act improving access to affordable higher education) directs the Department of Higher Education to propose improvements to our fragmented and overlapping higher education assistance programs and to streamline the college application process, including automatic admission to community college for high school graduates.
Reduce Youth Suicide
S.1266, An Act supporting student mental health
The state’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15 percent of students across grades 6 through 12 seriously considered suicide during the previous year, with 12 percent making a plan and 7 percent attempting suicide. My bill (S.1266, An Act supporting student mental health) directs that newly printed ID cards for public schools in grades 7-12 and higher education include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, the Crisis Text Line number, and the local campus security or non-emergency number.
Recognize Dinosaur History
S.2028, An Act establishing the official dinosaur of the commonwealth
My bill (S.2028, An Act establishing the official dinosaur of the commonwealth) declares the Podokesaurus holyokensis, a dinosaur whose fossils were first found in western Massachusetts, as the official dinosaur of Massachusetts. Its fossils were discovered near Mount Holyoke in 1910 by Mignon Talbot, the first woman to name and describe a dinosaur. Understanding how a bill goes through the legislative process is important but can be complex, this bill will allow our young people to connect with the legislative process in an unforgettable way.
Death with Dignity
S.1384, An Act relative to end of life options
As Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee last session, I had the opportunity to dig into the medical aid-in-dying legislation and listen deeply to Commonwealth residents. We heard harrowing stories from people whose relatives suffered during their last days, and we heard about the need to provide a voluntary medical option for terminally-ill people to control the timing and manner of their death. My bill (S.1384, An Act relative to end of life options) allows someone who is terminally ill to choose a peaceful death with dignity, by requesting medication from a doctor that the person may self-administer at a time of their own choosing, should suffering become unbearable. This bill protects all patients, affords dying people autonomy and compassion during the most difficult time, and protects potentially vulnerable people from any coercion.
Higher Education for Adopted Foster Children
S.826, An Act expanding access to higher education tuition and fee waivers for adopted foster children
A loophole in our financial aid system for adopted foster children blocks these children from using financial aid for courses taught at night or by outside experts with knowledge in their field. My bill (S.826, An Act expanding access to higher education tuition and fee waivers for adopted foster children) allows adopted foster students to use financial aid to pay tuition and fees for any course offered by a state institution of higher education.
Strengthen Foster Care
S.88, An Act establishing the Massachusetts foster care review office
Some 10,000 children are in placements outside their homes and in state custody due to complex issues facing their birth families. Foster care reviews are required every 6 months, to provide oversight and make sure that each child’s service plan is safe and appropriate. Currently, these reviews are performed by the state Department of Children and Families, which also oversees the system, creating a conflict of interest. My bill (S.88, An Act establishing the Massachusetts foster care review office) transfers responsibility for foster care review to a new external and independent body, the Foster Care Review Office, and allows for systemic issues to be raised and addressed.
Honor Foster Parents
S.87, An Act establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights
Foster parents provide care for children in custody of the Commonwealth. It is essential that the state respects the role they play. My bill (S.87, An Act establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights) creates a framework for foster parents to be treated with dignity, respect, and privacy and to be provided with resources and information needed to provide loving care. There is a shortage of foster families and these policies will lead to better retention and recruitment.
Energy and Environment
Limit Toxic PFAS Chemicals in our Homes
S.1387, An Act restricting toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer products to protect our health
PFAS chemicals build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. Very small doses of PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases. New evidence suggests PFAS increases the severity of COVID infections and weakens the ability of the vaccine to protect people. PFAS is present in scores of products we use every day, exposing us to serious risk of harm. My bill (S.1387, An Act restricting toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer products to protect our health) bans the sale of a number of common sources of PFAS, including child car seats, cosmetics, cookware, upholstered furniture, fabric treatments, rugs, and carpets, if they contain PFAS.
Expand Solar Energy
S.2145, An Act expanding equitable access for solar energy net metering
Renewable solar energy is an important step in reducing greenhouse gas pollution, but restrictive rules prevent the use of rooftop solar panels where there is more than one structure on a single property. For example, only one condo owner in a development can install solar panels. My bill (S.2145, An Act expanding equitable access for solar energy net metering) removes a current restriction on rooftop solar panels by permitting multiple solar installations on a single tax parcel when the land is used for municipal buildings, low-income housing, or separate buildings on a single parcel.
Make all Schools Healthy and Green
S.1382, An Act for Healthy and Green Public Schools
Long before COVID, we knew that too many students were forced to spend their days in substandard school buildings that are unhealthy places to learn. The pandemic has made this problem a visible crisis. My bill (S.1382, An Act for Healthy and Green Public Schools) directs the state to set standards for healthy and green schools that provide students a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while efficiently using energy and resources, and a plan to equitably meet these standards for all schools by 2050.
Protect Ratepayers from Utility Rate Hikes
S.2143, An Act protecting consumers from unreasonable utility rate increases
Current rules allow utilities in Massachusetts to make higher profits off of consumers than utilities in other states. My bill (S.2143, An Act protecting consumers from unreasonable utility rate increases) protects electricity and gas consumers by eliminating automatic annual rate hikes and limiting the return on equity that utilities can earn to no more than the average of neighboring states.
Facilitate Efficient Transportation of Materials
S.2286, An Act facilitating cost efficient transportation
Our local towns have complained about the cost of hauling their recycling, which requires multiple trips due to weight limits imposed on trucks. Larger trucks safely carrying more materials will save towns from these expensive and unnecessary costs. My bill (S.2286, An Act facilitating cost efficient transportation) allows tandem trucks operating on approved public roads to weigh up to 99,000 lbs. if they have a permit, reducing the need for multiple trips.
Modernize Our Energy Grid to Allow a Green Energy Economy
S.2144, An Act promoting local energy investment and infrastructure modernization
We must proactively plan for phasing-out fossil fuels over the coming decades. To meet our carbon reduction targets, the electric grid must undergo significant upgrades. My bill (S.2144, An Act promoting local energy investment and infrastructure modernization) requires natural gas companies to submit Fossil Fuel Phase-Out and Electrification plans that describe how the company will phase out natural gas service and replace that service with electric alternatives. The bill will improve interconnection processes for local renewables, promote local energy generation, create additional energy storage, and transition our grid to support a green energy economy.
Abolish Racist School Mascots
S.294, An Act prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the Commonwealth
It is long past time for Massachusetts to grapple with our history and correct injustices that have been done and continue to be perpetrated on Native Americans. School mascots that demean Native Americans are one such continued affront. My bill (S.294, An Act prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the Commonwealth) stops the practice of allowing school team names, logos, and mascots that refer to Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures, and specific Native American tribes.
Right to Non-Binary Gender Identification
S.2282, An Act relative to gender identity on Massachusetts identification
People have a right to be identified by their preferred gender on all state documents and forms. My bill (S.2282, An Act relative to gender identity on Massachusetts identification) requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to allow a non-binary option other than male or female on drivers licenses, enables parents to choose a non-binary option on their child’s birth certificate, allows adults to change the gender on their own birth certificate by request, and directs the state to develop a plan to allow a non-binary option on all state forms and for all instances in which a gender choice is required.
Allow Gender-Neutral Bathrooms
S.2026, An Act establishing gender neutral bathrooms
Sex-segregated restroom facilities fail to accommodate everyone’s needs. These bathrooms in schools can pose difficulty to transgender and gender nonconforming students. Research shows that nearly two thirds of transgender students avoid school bathrooms because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. My bill (S.2026, An Act establishing gender neutral bathrooms) directs changes to the state building code to allow gender-neutral bathrooms in renovations or new construction.
Protect Patients’ Bodily Integrity
S.1383, An Act to assure informed consent for pelvic examinations of anesthetized or unconscious patients
Everyone has the right to control their own body integrity. My bill (S.1383, An Act to assure informed consent for pelvic examinations of anesthetized or unconscious patients) prohibits doctors and medical students from performing pelvic exams on an anesthetized or unconscious patient without first obtaining written informed consent, unless the exam is required for the patient’s care.
Farms & Farmers
Advance Equity in Agriculture
S.502, An Act promoting equity in agriculture
While we know people of color are significantly underrepresented among our farmers, we do not have good data to see who is receiving state grants for agriculture. The state has an obligation to act to address inequities. My bill (S.1036, An Act promoting equity in agriculture) establishes a Commission on Agricultural Equity to develop recommendations for supporting racially equitable investments, policies, and practices to promote equity in agriculture in the Commonwealth.
Support Our Farmers
S.1822, An Act Supporting the Commonwealth’s Farmers
Farms and farmers underpin our economy, our region is the breadbasket of the Commonwealth, and yet many farmers are not turning a profit but instead are struggling just to stay in business. My bill (S.1822, An Act Supporting the Commonwealth’s Farmers) makes a number of reforms to state law to support farmers, including setting up a program to train new farmers, allowing small parcels of non-contiguous farmland that are part of the same farming operation to be taxed as a single farm, including farm stands as part of agricultural land for tax purposes, and other provisions to help farmers stay profitable.
Encourage Food Donations
S.954, An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need
COVID-19 has caused food insecurity levels to spike in a region where food insecurity was already high. Unfortunately, around 900,000 tons of food ends up in landfills every year in Massachusetts. My bill (S.954, An Act encouraging the donation of food to persons in need) facilitates the donation of food by extending liability protection in existing law to allow for direct donations of food from individuals or organizations, and allows for a tax credit of up to $2,000 for the donation of food to non-profit organizations.
Our local public health system is the front line in protecting the public, and COVID has demonstrated just how much we rely on local health officials. Yet our fragmented and under-resourced system is inadequate to meet the needs, particularly in small towns where the board of health may be volunteer, and the state contributes no annual funding to municipalities. My bill (S.1386, An Act relative to accelerating improvements to the local and regional public health system to address disparities in the delivery of public health services) sets statewide standards and provides funds to ensure that everyone has access to a core set of public health protections.
Health Equity at All Levels In Government (HEALING)
S.1388, An Act Establishing Health Equity at All Levels In Government
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how inequities owed to generations of structural racism and socioeconomic inequality can mean the difference between life and death. Our health depends more on factors like housing, education, transportation, and the environment than it does on medical care. My bill (S.1388, An Act Establishing Health Equity at All Levels in Government) centers health equity throughout government, with leadership in the Governor’s office and empowered community voices to build a culture of health equity.
Protect Mental Health Care Services
S.636, An Act providing continuity of care for mental health treatment
Mental health care is intensely personal, yet when mental health providers leave an insurer’s network, their patients can be left in a lurch in the middle of their treatment. My bill (S.636, An Act providing continuity of care for mental health treatment) gives patients the right to continue with their mental health clinician even if their insurance network changes.
Fight Pancreatic Cancer
S.1385, An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is estimated to be the second deadliest cancer in Massachusetts, by cancer type, with 990 deaths in 2019. In 2019, I served on a Special Commission to Study Pancreatic Cancer, which was created to identify areas of unmet needs in pancreatic cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as provide recommendations for additional legislation or support to meet these needs. My bill (S.1385, An Act to reduce incidence and death from pancreatic cancer) establishes a comprehensive pancreatic cancer initiative to provide coordinated pancreatic cancer prevention, screening, education and support programs.
Make Insurance Work for Patients
S.637, An Act to improve the health insurance prior authorization process
Health plans routinely require patients to obtain pre-approval, also known as prior authorization, for a prescribed health service or medication as a way to control costs. Obtaining prior authorizations can be difficult for consumers and providers due to the different forms and processes each health plan uses. My bill (S.637, An act to improve the health insurance prior authorization process) prohibits plans from modifying or rescinding prior authorizations and requires transparency about prior authorization policies in communications to providers and consumers.
Protect Homes of Deceased MassHealth Members
S.749, An Act protecting the homes of seniors and disabled people on MassHealth
MassHealth, our Medicaid program, demands repayment after death from the estates or families of low-income people who received Medicaid health care services after age 55. Over 90 percent of these repayments come from the sale of the family home. My bill (S.749, An Act protecting the homes of seniors and disabled people on MassHealth) limits the estate recovery program so that repayment is only sought where it is required by the federal government, as well as strengthens advance notice requirements and expands hardship waiver criteria.
Support Dental Care at Community Health Centers
S.750, An Act improving access to dental care in the Commonwealth
Dental care is a critical component of overall health, yet the state’s dental care reimbursement to community health centers, like the Hilltown, Musante, or Greenfield Centers, is far below what it costs them to actually provide the care. My bill (S.750, An Act improving access to dental care in the Commonwealth) would mandate an increase in the MassHealth dental payment to community health centers.
Home Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities
S.748, An Act supporting equal access to community care for elders and the disabled
Current law makes seniors and people with disabilities ineligible for home care if their income goes just a penny above the income limit, a policy often called the “cliff effect.” My bill (S.748, An Act supporting equal access to community care for elders and the disabled) will allow eligible people to receive MassHealth home and community-based care even if their income is over the program income limit, if they pay a premium equal to their income above the limit.
Allow Spouses to Serve as Caregivers
S.89, An Act allowing spouses to serve as caregivers
Current state policy penalizes seniors and people with disabilities who wish to use their spouse as their caregiver, despite their spouse’s ability to provide loving care at costs below that of nursing homes. My bill (S.89, An Act allowing spouses to serve as caregivers) will reverse that policy and direct MassHealth to recognize and compensate a spouse as caregiver if requested by the patient, just as other family relatives are permitted to serve as caregivers.
Technical Corrections to Naturopathy Statute
S.1381, An Act relative to the board of registration in naturopathy
Naturopathy uses a variety of therapies to restore and maintain the health of their patients including clinical nutrition, botanical and homeopathic medicine, and lifestyle management. My bill (S.1381, An Act relative to the board of registration in naturopathy) makes technical corrections to the statute governing their practice.
Allow Local Option Fee on Sales of Luxury Homes to Build Affordable Housing
S.868, An Act empowering cities and towns to impose a fee on certain real estate transactions to support affordable housing
Lack of affordable housing and homelessness remain major crises, and cities and towns need funds to support the development of affordable housing in their communities. My bill (S.868, An Act empowering cities and towns to impose a fee on certain real estate transactions to support affordable housing) allows cities and towns to choose to levy a local fee on the transfer of luxury houses, with the money generated put into that municipality’s affordable housing trust fund.
Support Municipal Building Construction
SD.1035, An Act creating a Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority
Small towns in western Massachusetts and around the state don’t have the tax base or borrowing ability to build new or upgrade existing public safety and municipal buildings. My bill (SD.1035, An Act creating a Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority) creates an independent public authority, similar to authorities that help finance municipal school buildings and libraries, to provide matching funds for local public safety and town office buildings.
Relieve Small Towns from Paperwork Burden
S.2284, An Act relative to the Transportation Infrastructure Enhancement Trust Fund municipal reporting requirements
A state fee on Uber and Lyft rides provides some of the funds collected back to the city or town where the ride originated, to be used for local transportation needs. The law also requires annual reports from the local community on how the money is used, even if the amount received is 60 cents. My bill (S.2284, An Act relative to the Transportation Infrastructure Enhancement Trust Fund municipal reporting requirements) allows cities and towns to consolidate reports for 5 years on amounts they receive from the fee on Uber and Lyft rides if the amounts total under $25,000. This will relieve a paperwork burden imposed on small towns, particularly in our region where there is very little revenue being returned to our towns.
Reduce Speeds in our Neighborhoods
S.2283, An Act promoting safety by permitting municipalities to reduce speed limits
In many neighborhoods, people drive too fast but there is nothing the local authorities can do. State law currently does not allow local authorities to set speed limits on many local streets. My bill (S.2283, An Act promoting safety by permitting municipalities to reduce speed limits) allows local officials reduce speed limits by 5 mph on local streets.
Support Our Rural Communities
S.2029, An Act advancing equity for rural communities receiving state grants
Greater distances and lower population density mean rural communities face increased costs to deliver services. Small tax bases and flat population growth mean rural communities do not see increases in revenue or from state funding formulas, making grant programs a unique lifeline for infrastructure needs. My bill (S.2029, An Act advancing equity for rural communities receiving state grants) directs state agencies administering grant programs to give preference to rural communities, particularly those that intend to use funds to regionalize or share services.
Progressive Revenue Growth
H.2851, An Act to strengthen the foundation of the Commonwealth
The upside-down Massachusetts tax system takes a higher proportion of the income earned by poorer residents than it does from the top 1%. Before 1998, the Commonwealth taxed wage income at 5.95 percent compared to 12 percent for unearned income (interest and capital gains). But now, our flat tax system treats all income the same, a change which benefits the wealthiest and results in a regressive tax system. I joined with Representative Mike Connolly on legislation (H.2851, An Act to strengthen the foundation of the Commonwealth) to increase the tax rate on capital gains, dividends and interest, and to allow personal exemptions for all taxpayers. The bill was introduced in the House because of constitutional requirements for tax legislation to start there.
Recognize Veterans’ Public Service
S.1672, An Act to extend veterans retirement buyback opportunities
Many veterans continue their public service by going into teaching or other public employment. We should count both times that veterans have served the public when we consider their retirement benefits. My bill (S.1672, An Act to extend veterans retirement buyback opportunities) lengthens the amount of years spent working in public service that veterans can apply to their retirement credit from 4 years to 10 years, and increases the credit for national guard or active reserve service.
Keep Veterans’ Services Local
S.2395, An Act providing for timely reimbursement of cities and towns for veterans’ benefits
Local veterans’ services officers provide critical, often life-saving services to veterans living in our communities. My bill (S.2395, An Act providing for timely reimbursement of cities and towns for veterans’ benefits) directs the state Veterans’ Administration to more quickly reimburse municipalities, so that our municipalities can more easily support veterans and not be financially burdened awaiting reimbursement.