The legislature has just passed Joint Rule 10 Day (JR10).
JR10 is an insider term for an important and quite a pressing matter: The fate of bills in committees. After holding public hearings, committees are supposed to make decisions about all the bills in their care by this date, if they haven’t already. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of our bills that received a favorable report (which is the first hurdle on their journey):
- Protect Homes of Deceased MassHealth members: S.749, An act protecting the homes of seniors and disabled people on MassHealth, limits the “estate recovery” policy that currently requires MassHealth members to pay back the state for care received over age 55, as well as strengthens advance notice requirements and expands hardship waiver criteria. The bill is being reported favorably from the Health Care Financing Committee.
- No New Prison and Jails: S.2030, An Act Establishing a Jail and Prison Construction Moratorium, places a 5-year moratorium on the construction and expansion of new prisons, jails or other correctional facilities. The bill was reported favorably by the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.
- Reduce incidence of pancreatic cancer: 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. The bill was reported favorably by the Public Health Committee.
- Support Our Farmers: S. 1822, An Act Supporting the Commonwealth’s Farmers, makes a number of changes to state law to support farmers, including setting up a program to train new farmers, allowing small non-contiguous farm land that are part of the same farming operation to be taxed as a single farm, and farmers in selling their products. The bill was reported favorably by the Revenue Committee.
- Honor Foster Parents: S. 87, An Act establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights, creates a framework so foster parents will be treated with dignity, respect, and privacy and will be provided with resources and information needed to provide loving care. The bill was reported favorably by the Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee and is now pending in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Protect Women’s Bodily Integrity: 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. The bill was reported favorably by the Public Health Committee with a redraft, and is now H. 4270 and is in the Health Care Financing Committee.
- Encourage Food Donations to the Hungry: 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 for the donation of food to non-profit organizations. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee and was referred to the House as H. 1702.
- Promote Solar Energy: 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. The bill was reported favorably by the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.
- Improve Police Interactions with Drivers: S. 2285, An Act Facilitating Better Interactions Between Police Offices and Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder, directs the Registry of Motor Vehicles to develop blue envelopes for the use of those persons diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which will hold their driver’s license, registration, and insurance card along with a list of instructions for the officer on their diagnosis, intentions, impairments, and possible triggers to assist the officer in conducting open communication with the driver. The bill was reported favorably by the Transportation Committee.
- Allow Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: 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. The bill was approved by the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.
- Reduce Speeds in our Neighborhoods:S. 2283, An Act Promoting Safety by Permitting Municipalities to Reduce Speed Limits, allows local authorities to reduce speed limits by 5 mph on local streets. The bill was reported favorably by the Transportation Committee.
- Mental Health Continuity of Care: 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. The bill was reported favorably by the Financial Services Committee.
- Expand Access to Affordable Higher Education: 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. The bill was reported favorably by the Higher Education Committee.
- Abolish Racist School Mascots: 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 or mascots that refer to Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures and specific Native American tribes. The bill was reported favorably by the Education Committee as a new draft, S. 2493, and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Make all schools healthy and green: 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. The bill was approved by the Public Health Committee and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Strengthen Local Public Health: 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 funding to ensure that everyone has access to a core set of public health protections. The bill was reported favorably by the Public Health Committee to the House with some strengthening changes. The new bill number is H. 4328.
- Protect us from toxic chemicals: S. 1387, An Act restricting toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer products to protect our health, bans the sale of products including rugs, car seats, cooking pans and cosmetics that contain the toxic PFAS chemical. The bill was reported favorably by the Public Health Committee.
- Relieve Small Towns from Paperwork Burden: 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. The bill was redrafted for technical reasons by the Transportation Committee and is now S. 2637 and pending in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Facilitate Efficient Transportation of Materials: 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. The bill would particularly facilitate the transfer of recyclable materials from our towns. The bill was reported favorably by the Transportation Committee and is now pending in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
- Name the State Dinosaur: S. 2028, An Act establishing the official dinosaur of the commonwealth, declares the Podokesaurus holyokensis, a dinosaur whose fossils were discovered near Mt. Holyoke by the first woman paleontologist, as the official dinosaur of Massachusetts. The bill was approved by the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee along with a similar bill that passed the House.
If bills are not reported favorably, they can be studied, which is a euphemism for ending a bill’s journey for the current session. That happened to some of the bills we fought for passionately – including one to rethink MCAS testing in the Commonwealth. This is beyond frustrating but we’ll keep fighting.
Bills can also be extended which is often a signal from the committee that it needs more time to consider the legislation. This is an invitation to everyone who cares about this legislation to fight harder than ever before on its behalf. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of our bills that were extended:
- Modernize Our Energy Grid for a Green Energy Economy: 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 green electric alternatives.
- Death with Dignity: S.1384, An Act Relative to End of Life Options, allows patients with terminal conditions 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. It requires following a rigorous process for patients and physicians to observe in order to protect potentially vulnerable people from coercion.
- Fund Higher Education: 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, calls for higher education funding to increase to the inflation-adjusted level it was in 2001 to address skyrocketing tuition, large class sizes, student debt, and more.
- Indigenous Peoples Day: S. 2027, An Act establishing an Indigenous Peoples Day, directs the Governor to join 13 other states and declare the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day to acknowledge the history of genocide and discrimination against Indigenous peoples, and to celebrate the thriving cultures and continued resistance and resilience of Indigenous peoples and their tribal nations.
- Support Local Public Safety and Municipal Buildings: S 2457, An Act Creating a Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority, creates an independent public authority, similar to authorities that help with school buildings and libraries, to provide matching funds for local public safety and town office buildings.
- Allow Assessment 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, allows cities and towns to create a local assessment on the transfer of luxury real estate and requires that any revenue generated be used to fund affordable housing in that municipality.
Our team is now taking next steps on all of these issues, having meetings with Senate leadership, and making a plan to move the favorable and extended legislation to the finish line as quickly and strategically as possible.
Let’s be clear: These bills prevailed as they have because of people power. Thank you to everyone who is engaging. It’s time to increase the volume even more.