Despite the many challenges throughout 2020, the House followed through on a very progressive agenda.
Happy New Year to you and yours! As we turn the page on 2020 and my first term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, I wanted to share some of my accomplishments on Beacon Hill and uplift some glimmers of hope that have emerged amid the past year’s challenges. It has been inspiring to see so many people--from impromptu mask-makers to heroic health care workers, and from compassionate food bank volunteers to determined teachers--working tirelessly and unselfishly to overcome the myriad of hardships 2020 threw our way. It is humbling to see our community exhibit such generosity, and we all know someone who has gone above and beyond in these difficult times. These heroes are the true “Silver Lining” of 2020.
Although the timeline is uncertain, it appears that we are turning the corner in our fight against COVID-19. Over the course of a few weeks, we received promising news about multiple vaccines (including the Moderna vaccine, which was developed right here in Massachusetts) and subsequent approvals by the FDA. More information about the vaccine rollout in our state can be found here. As vaccine distribution accelerates, our priority should remain protecting one another and safeguarding our public health: although there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I urge you to remain vigilant over the next few months, continuing to practice social distancing and avoiding gathering with those outside of your bubble.
FISCAL YEAR 2021 BUDGET
Despite the unique financial constraints of 2020, the Legislature passed one of the most progressive budgets in recent memory, with an emphasis on supporting services that have provided instrumental relief against Coronavirus. Among these are significant investments in housing, food security, education, health and human services, and of course, public health infrastructure. Some highlights include:
Health and Human Services
Public Health Infrastructure
I believe that all health care decisions should be made between a patient and their doctor. For that reason, I was pleased to support the inclusion of language similar to the ROE Act when it came to the House floor for a vote. Although the Governor originally returned the measure with amendments, I stood firm alongside my colleagues in the House and rejected these changes that would have weakened the intent of the bill. The Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto, and the bill is now law, providing critical protections in ensuring safe, accessible, and equitable abortion care in the Commonwealth.
Earlier this year, we witnessed the urgent and compelling nationwide protests and calls for justice following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. In response, the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed significant police reform legislation. After four months of negotiations, the conference committee delivered its compromise version of the long-anticipated bill, An Act relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth.
The General Court approved the compromise legislation in response to the pressing need to begin to dismantle systemic racism in policing. Not surprisingly, the Governor returned the original bill the Legislature passed with changes of his own. You may have read that the initial bill was unable to garner a 2/3rds majority when the measure passed the House of Representatives by a still-significant margin in November. Thus, lacking the votes to override the Governor, we were compelled to compromise in order to make progress and have a chance at passing meaningful legislation this session.
In this context, I have mixed feelings about the bill. While it was unable to do everything the Legislature wanted it to, it is still a real step forward on a number of important issues. Moreover, I believe some progress is better than no action at all. The bill makes some major changes; for instance, it:
As a result of alterations made by the Governor as part of his amendments returned with the bill, it now:
While not perfect, this legislation is a significant step forward. Indeed, it is a start, but is in no way the last word on the issue. I especially want to acknowledge the significant efforts undertaken by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus as well as the Association of Black Citizens of Lexington throughout the development and consideration of this legislation.
In the 192nd session of the General Court, I look forward to continuing to collaborate with my colleagues in the Legislature and my constituents to ensure that all are treated fairly within the criminal justice system.
LANDMARK CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION
From the beginning of this session, bold climate legislation has been one of my top priorities. After months of negotiations, the General Court overwhelmingly passed S.2995, An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy.
When this ambitious legislation becomes law, Massachusetts will once again be the national leader in confronting the devastating effects of climate change.
Among other provisions, this bill:
PUTTING PATIENTS FIRST
In a year that has stretched our public health system to its limits, the Legislature recognized the need for comprehensive health care reform. Amid the surging pandemic, the House and Senate passed An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first, which was signed into law by the Governor on January 1st. This landmark legislation is a major step forward in providing adequate health care for patients during the current crisis and beyond.
The new law includes the following key provisions:
Finally, although this is not a state level issue, I wanted to update you on some developments at the Federal level. A few weeks ago, Congress finally agreed on a COVID-19 relief package after House Democrats had passed various versions of a bill as far back as May. It is not perfect nor nearly adequate, and there is more work that must be done to protect the American people, but this relief effort includes many essential allocations, such as:
As I close out my first term as your State Representative for the 15th Middlesex District, there is plenty to reflect on. I am incredibly grateful for those who have taken the time to provide guidance and feedback to me along the way. As expected, these two years in office have been a learning curve, but I have found that one of my most helpful tools in navigating the job is input from constituents. I benefit from learning about which issues matter most to you because it gives me a local perspective on complex topics. For that reason, I encourage you to share your ideas on possible legislation and policy for the upcoming session using this short survey.