College in High School bill heard by committee

Highlighting data showing greater academic success among high school students who take college courses, Rep. Roy joined a panel of education experts testifying at an Education Committee hearing urging favorable action on H.693, an act relative to college in high schools. The bill, filed by Rep. Roy and Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian, is is a roadmap for success for students in our K12 and higher education systems and will broaden access to post-secondary opportunities for students throughout the Commonwealth.

H693 is a comprehensive plan that:

  • puts in place the necessary administrative, programmatic, and funding structures required for an expansive and thriving College in High School (CIHS) experience. It establishes a new, centralized College In High School Office in DESE that is charged with defining and implementing all CIHS Programs.
  • develops a sustainable funding mechanism to accelerate growth — and provides additional financial incentives to programs that award industry-recognized credentials to high school students.
  • helps ensure that students receive college credit for all courses completed.
  • encourages participation by students, parents, and a network of support services.
  • and at its most basic, requires students to fill out a FAFSA, apply for aid, and take that step towards a post-secondary experience.

The bill offers a “three-fer” in outcomes by expanding degree attainment, addressing the student loan crisis, and helping students with their career development.

In addition to Rep. Roy, testimony was offered by Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian, Board of Higher Education Chair Chris Gabrieli, Samuel Gebru (Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts), Marjorie Ringrose (Director of Education for the Smith Foundation), Ed Lambert (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education), and Suzanne McGurk (Senior Director, Higher Ed Policy & Community College Engagement at The College Board). You can view their testimony in the videos below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joint Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee Tours RMLD Battery Site

Reading, MA – On Friday, April 23, 2021, new Chairman Jeffrey Roy and six members of the Joint Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) Committee of the Massachusetts legislature toured the Reading Municipal Light Department’s (RMLD) Minuteman Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in North Reading.

TUE Committee Members stand in front of the Minuteman Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in North Reading. Left to Right: Rep. David Robertson, Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian, Rep. Joan Meschino, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Chairman Jeffrey Roy, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and Rep. Rich Haggerty.

The tour provided an opportunity for TUE members to see how the RMLD, a Municipal Light Plant (MLP), utilized a $1 million MA DOER ACES (Advancing Commonwealth Energy Storage) grant to demonstrate the capabilities of energy storage, a technology with the potential to change the landscape of electricity distribution.

In addition to seeing the system firsthand, TUE members were briefed on how RMLD utilizes the BESS to reduce wholesale electricity costs for its customers as part of its Demand Response Program.

RMLD received the $1 million ACES grant in 2018. The 5 MW, 10 MWH BESS was constructed at its North Reading substation and became operational on June 1, 2019. The system is owned by NextEra Energy Resources and operated under an Energy Storage Agreement between NextEra and the RMLD. The primary purpose of the unit is coincident peak demand management for reductions during critical peak times when electricity is most expensive and to mitigate ISO New England’s need to dispatch less environmentally friendly generators.

In the 19 months that the BESS has been operational, the RMLD has realized net savings of $346K by reducing demand during annual Capacity and monthly Transmission peaks. The ACES grant allowed for battery technology to be an integral part of the RMLD objectives under its smart grid technology roadmap.

“I would like to thank the TUE committee members for their interest in on-site learning about battery technology and the innovative work that the RMLD and other MLPs have been doing in the area of energy storage. As well, Energy New England (ENE) for coordinating the event, and NextEra Energy Resources for their technical assistance to allow viewing access of the battery,” said Coleen O’Brien, RMLD General Manager.

TUE members in attendance included Chairman Jeffrey Roy, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Rep. Joan Meschino, Rep. Kate Lipper-Garabedian, Rep. David Robertson, and Rep. Rich Haggerty.

About Reading Municipal Light Department: Established in 1894, Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) is a municipal electric utility serving over 70,000 residents in the towns of Reading, North Reading, Wilmington, and Lynnfield Center. RMLD has over 29,000 meter connections within its service territory.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Joint Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee Tours RMLD Battery Site

Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Legislation

The Massachusetts House of Representatives and state Senate on Thursday passed nation-leading climate legislation, known as the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which overhauls the state’s climate laws, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, advances the clean energy industry, and prioritizes and protects environmental justice communities.


“The Senate and House reaffirm today that this landmark climate legislation is too important to delay,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These measures will put our Commonwealth on a path to lowering harmful carbon emissions, add fuel to our growing green economy and improve the lives of those living in underserved communities. Now is the time to be proactive in how we approach our climate crisis and to protect our environment for future generations. I want to thank my legislative partner, House Speaker Mariano for his collaboration, Senator Barrett and Representatives Golden and Roy for their steadfast support, and the residents of Massachusetts for their unwavering support in advancing this legislation.”

“I am proud the House and the Senate have not backed down from our ambitious goals and unwavering commitment to make Massachusetts a leader in climate protection and clean energy,” said Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “There is no doubt this legislation will set Massachusetts on the right path and benefit generations to come. I thank Chairman Roy and Leader Golden for their work over the course of two sessions, and Senate President Spilka for her collaboration in getting this bill once again back to the Governor’s desk.”

“This bill is about getting down to brass tacks. It’s about getting the job done, one step at a time, starting now,” said Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “The pace of climate change is picking up—so the pace of climate policy must pick up. The Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill reflects the concerns of people of every age, from every part of the state. The grassroots climate movement of Massachusetts is a force to be reckoned with.”

“This historic legislation will set Massachusetts on a path towards reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by establishing robust interim limits and providing key sectors of our economy with clear guidelines and goal posts for their decarbonization,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “Each roadmap plan will tackle reducing emissions in a holistic manner, while also ensuring that environmental justice communities are included, and workers are not left behind by our transition to clean energy. I’m honored to have worked on getting this crucial climate bill to the finish line and thank Speaker Mariano and Leader Golden for their invaluable work and leadership on this bill.”

“History has been made today with the passage of the Next-Generation Roadmap bill,” said State Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell), former Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.  “The Roadmap sets us on a strong course to net zero by 2050 and significantly advances offshore wind, truly representing the best ideas from both chambers.  Hats off to the House and the Senate for holding firm on ambitious emissions targets.  A special thank-you to Speaker Mariano for his tireless perseverance and vision in seeing this day become a reality.”

“This bill offers us a comprehensive roadmap to move us away from fossil fuels and towards ensuring environmental justice,” said Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem (D-Newton).  “The provisions of this bill represent a great step forward in our efforts to reduce harmful carbon emissions and it needs to become law now.” 

The passage of the climate bill comes after a joint commitment from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano to quickly refile the legislation following a gubernatorial veto last session. This session Governor Baker offered amendments to the bill, which have been considered by the Legislature. Today, the House and Senate rejected efforts to slow the rate of progress toward net-zero emissions by 2050, while accepting a number of more technical amendments that improve the bill.

The final legislation:

  • Sets a statewide net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates emissions limits every five years, as well as sublimits for transportation, buildings, and other sectors of the economy.
  • Codifies environmental justice provisions into Massachusetts law, defining environmental justice populations and providing new tools and protections for affected neighborhoods.
  • Establishes a municipal opt-in specialized stretch energy code which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Requires an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, increasing the total authorization to 5,600 megawatts in the Commonwealth.
  • Directs the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the regulator of the state’s electric and natural gas utilities, to balance priorities going forward: system safety, system security, reliability, affordability, equity, and, significantly,reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Sets appliance energy efficiency standards for a variety of common appliances including plumbing, faucets, computers, and commercial appliances.
  • Adopts several measures aimed at improving gas pipeline safety, including increased fines for safety violations, provisions related to training and certifying utility contractors, and setting interim targets for companies to reduce leak rates.
  • Requires utilities to include an explicit value for greenhouse gas reductions when they calculate the cost-effectiveness of an offering of MassSave.
  • Increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 3 per cent each year from 2025–2029, resulting in 40 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
  • A national first, this legislation factors the “carbon sequestration” capacity of Massachusetts’ natural and working lands directly into our emissions reduction plans.
  • Prioritizes equitable access to the state’s solar programs by low-income communities.
  • Sets benchmarks for the adoption of clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, charging stations, solar technology, energy storage, heat pumps and anaerobic digestors.
  • Establishes $12 million in annual funding for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to create a pathway to the clean energy industry for environmental justice populations, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and fossil fuel workers.
  • Provides solar incentives for businesses by exempting them from the net metering cap to allow them to install solar systems on their premises to help them offset their electricity use and save money.
  • Creates a first-time greenhouse gas emissions standard for municipal lighting plants that requires them to purchase 50 percent non-emitting electricity by 2030, 75 percent by 2040 and “net zero” by 2050. 

The bill now returns to the Governor’s desk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Legislature Passes Landmark Climate Legislation

Vaccine updates on teachers and local sites

Much has been said about getting students back to school quickly, but it is important that we do so safely. And in that regard, the legislature has been pushing the administration to enhance the safety of the experience by moving teachers to the front of the line on vaccine distribution. And we have called upon the administration to ramp up efforts to distribute vaccines at local distribution sites.

Click on the image to the right to see a copy of the letter from Rep. Roy and colleagues on the teacher vaccine priority issue. It was sent on February 10, 2021. The Speaker of the House has also called for teachers to be moved to the head of the line. You can view the Boston Globe story on that statement by clicking here. You can view his appearance on WCVB’s On the Record program by clicking here. In the image below, you can see the response we received from Secretary Sudders on February 23, 2021. The administration is again arguing that it is a supply issue, but promised to review the request.

We have also called for enhancement of local distribution efforts. In a February 3, 2021 letter, we reminded the Governor that some cities and towns (like Franklin and Medway) have the ability to set up local infrastructure to vaccinate residents in locations that are close to home and familiar to residents. We asked him to explain what is being done to empower willing health departments to become vaccine distribution sites. The administration responded saying that municipalities may propose regional collaborations that meet specific geographic needs identified by the state and must meet specific requirements including:

Have the capacity to vaccinate minimally 750 individuals per day, 5 days per week;

Serve unmet need geographically, as identified by the Department of Public Health;

Meet an administration rate threshold of 85% and report doses within 24 hours;

Serve all residents of the Commonwealth; collaborations may focus outreach efforts towards those who live or work in the area but must be open to all Massachusetts residents; and

Provide public links for vaccine appointments on Mass.gov/COVIDVaccine.

Finally, there is a legislative oversight hearing tomorrow at 11 am which you can read about by clicking here. The hearing will be livestreamed at: https://malegislature.gov/Events/SpecialEvents/Detail/374 so anyone is invited to watch. You mat also submit written electronic testimony via email to JointCommittee.COVID-19@malegislature.gov.

We will continue to push on this issue until everyone who wants to get vaccinated has an opportunity to do so.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Vaccine updates on teachers and local sites

Latest updates on vaccination rollout

Just finished a meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services and here is the latest info on the vaccine rollout:

Beginning February 1st, residents age 75 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts. Appointments became available yesterday for online booking at www.mass.gov/COVIDVaccine. Right now and until more vaccines are readily available, there is a very high demand for a limited number of appointments through the online platform.

Early next week the website will be revised and simplified and they will also offer a telephone number to schedule appointments. And they will continue to add sites and expect to increase capacity to 305,000 doses each week by mid-February. The current allocation from the federal government is 86,000 doses per week, so we are hoping for a larger allocation to match our capacity.

Additional appointments will be added to the website regularly, with the most availability at mass vaccination sites. Some smaller sites, like CVS Health, will post a smaller number of new appointments daily.More mass vaccination sites will be announced soon in other locations. On Wednesday, 10,000 appointments were posted in Springfield and Danvers and were filled within hours. Today, Springfield and Danvers made another 15,000 appointments available, Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park posted a total of 20,000 appointments this morning.

CVS Health will post 1,152 new appointments daily across their 8 sites, for a total of 8,000 per week. CVS Health is posting new appointments online daily. In total, over 35,000 new appointments are live over the course of the day for appointments in the next 7 days.

Currently, the mass vaccination sites are posting large batches of appointments once a week (on Thursdays) for the next 7 days. The number of appointments is based on the available number of doses allocated from the federal government to ensure every appointment is fulfilled with a dose. The mass vaccination sites plan to increase the number of appointments posted weekly in the coming weeks based on the federal allocation of vaccines shipped to Massachusetts. Residents are encouraged to check mass vaccination sites weekly for the most number of appointments. It could take weeks for eligible residents to secure an appointment based on availability and supply.

Steps to book an appointment online:

1. Visit www.mass.gov/CovidVaccineMap and click on the map.

2. Select a location, schedule an appointment online

3. Have your important information with you, such as your insurance card

4. Fill out the self-attestation form, which will need to be presented at your appointment.

Appointments are also available in other locations, including some pharmacies and community health centers. Some of these sites will post appointments more frequently, in some cases daily. Please check www.mass.gov/covidvaccinemap frequently for open appointments. These sites are smaller and will have fewer available appointments on a weekly basis.

You can view the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 dashboard by clicking here.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has a Frequently Asked Questions site that is continually updated as they receive new questions. Access the FAQs here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccine-frequently-asked-questions

If you have other questions, they can be submitted to COVID-19-Vaccine-Plan-MA@mass.gov

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Latest updates on vaccination rollout

Bill to Combat Campus Sexual Violence Signed Into Law

On January 12, 2021 Governor Charlie Baker signed an “An Act relative to sexual violence on higher education campuses” into law. The sexual violence bill was pushed for by survivors of sexual assault on campus and aims to provide more resources to victims while setting out clear standards for how cases will be handled by institutions. 

Meeting with Every Voice Coalition

For decades, students have been advocating for basic rights, protections, and support in regard to sexual violence in higher education environments. Deemed a “silent epidemic” by the American Medical Association, a 2017 study at Columbia University and Barnard College found that since college entry, 22% of students reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual assault. And in another landmark study of sex, power, and assault on campus, authors Jennifer Hirsh and Shamus Khan produced the Sexual Citizens in 2020, which transformed how we understand and address sexual assault.

The issue of campus sexual assault has been one that the Higher Education Committee has been grappling with this entire legislative session. And the bill that was signed yesterday addresses these issues of campus sexual violence as follows:

  • Each institution shall conduct a sexual misconduct climate survey of all students at said institution at least once every four years.
  • A task force on sexual misconduct shall develop model questions for a sexual misconduct climate survey.
  • Each institution shall adopt policies on sexual misconduct involving students or employees of the institution that comport with the best practices and current professional standards and shall establish procedures for regularly reviewing and updating the policies.
  • Each institution shall establish a campus security policy that includes the designation of at least one confidential resource provider. The confidential resource provider shall receive training in the awareness and prevention of sexual misconduct and in trauma-informed response and coordinate with on-campus and off-campus sexual assault crisis service centers and, if directed by the reporting party, campus or local law enforcement agencies may, as appropriate, assist the student in contacting or reporting to campus or local law enforcement agencies.
  • Each institution shall adopt a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement agencies to establish the respective roles and responsibilities of each party related to the prevention of and response to on-campus and off-campus sexual misconduct.
  • The commissioner shall appoint within the department of higher education a campus safety advisor to facilitate and advance statewide campus safety at public and private institutions of higher education.
  • Each institution shall make campus sexual assault data and resources publicly available on its website.
  • An institution that does not provide its own sexual assault crisis service center shall enter into and maintain a memorandum of understanding with a community-based sexual assault crisis service center funded by the department of public health and a community-based domestic violence agency funded by the department of public health.
  • An institution shall provide a method for anonymously reporting an incident of sexual misconduct that involves a student or employee of the institution.
  • Enhanced training protocols for sexual misconduct primary prevention and awareness programming.
  • Annual reporting by each institution to the Department of Higher Education who shall file an annual report containing aggregate statewide information on the frequency and nature of sexual misconduct on campuses.

​”With this legislation, Massachusetts has demonstrated its commitment to making campuses safe for students and survivors,” said the House’s Higher Education Chair Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin). “It was a privilege to work with student advocates like the Every Voice Coalition, along with my colleagues Lori Ehrlich, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Marjorie Decker, Randy Hunt, Ann Gobi, Michael Moore, and William Brownsberger, representatives from our colleges and universities, and other groups who helped refine this comprehensive legislation. The dedication and commitment to getting it right enabled us to address these important issues and offer robust educational opportunities and support for students, faculty and staff at our prized institutions of higher education.”

Meeting with authors of Sexual Citizens Shamus Khan and Jennifer Hirsch.

“Rape culture is alive and well on our campuses. Twenty percent, or one in five, young women are sexually assaulted at college, the great majority between Labor Day and Thanksgiving of their freshman or sophomore year,” said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill. “This bill, led by young people themselves, will go a long way in changing the culture, preventing sexual assault, and bringing justice for those impacted.”

“The student advocates at Every Voice were tireless in their fight for this legislation, as well organized and informed in their efforts as any professional advocacy organization,” said Co-Lead Sponsor and State Representative Lori Ehrlich, who co-filed the bill at the legislature. “I am thrilled that this bill has been signed into law. This is a victory for students throughout the Commonwealth, and clear evidence of what youth activists can accomplish when they come together for change. I am proud to have worked alongside them.”

“Over the past six years survivors, students, and advocates tirelessly fought on behalf of our rights; survivors’ rights,” said Nora Gallo, co-National Director for the Every Voice Coalition and 2020 Umass, Amherst Alumna. “After decades of zero protections under Massachusetts law, our student survivors will have access to the support, resources, and guidance needed to thrive in higher education. This student-written, survivor-centered law sends a message to survivors and students across the state and country that they matter, and after being silenced for so long, that their voices are finally heard.”

While serving as Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, Rep. Roy participated in several conferences and meetings on the topic, read several books and papers addressing the issue, and met with individuals and advocates who have subject matter expertise. On April 9, 2019, the Committee held its first hearing which provided countless personal stories about how campus sexual assault affects students from all walks of life. The committee heard clearly how difficult it can be for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and speak to anyone about what they experienced, and that when they do, they are often met with disbelief and limited resources for support.

The Higher Education Committee released its re-draft of the legislation on February 20, 2020, addressing both concerns as well as putting an emphasis on prevention.

Simultaneous to the Committee’s work on this bill, Sec. Betsy DeVos (U.S. Department of Education) rewrote the Obama era Title IX guidelines. On May 6, 2020, the department published its final guidelines and gave colleges and universities until August 14, 2020 to comply with the new standards.  Since President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in on January 20, 2021, there will be a movement to undo these regulations on how federally funded schools should investigate cases of sexual assault. The legislation that was enacted took into consideration the federal regulations and it was crafted so as not to conflict with them. More importantly, S2979 goes far beyond what is addressed in the DeVos regulations and provides meaningful and needed supports to address sexual violence on our higher education campuses.

Over the past 50 years, adoption of rules and laws such as Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Campus SAVE Act of the Violence Against Women Act have helped address these issues at the federal level. This new law will address issues at the state level and will support Massachusetts institutions of higher education by establishing a clear pathway toward building communities in which sexual violence will not be tolerated, in which sexual violence will be appropriately addressed when reported, and where all victims will have access to safe and confidential services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Bill to Combat Campus Sexual Violence Signed Into Law

Police reform bill passes House

On Friday evening (7/24/2020), I joined 92 of my House colleagues in voting for a bill (H.4860) that will create a more modern, transparent and accountable system for law enforcement credentialing and training.  Forty-six states in America certify their police officers. Massachusetts is one of the four that does not.

This certification and licensing process will make our system stronger and bias free. And it will make it a better atmosphere for those who serve proudly and honorably

I very much support the police. My vote reflects my desire, along with that of the many officers and chiefs I spoke with in considering the bill, to get rid of the bad apples. They are a stain on the majority who do a great job.

We spent 35 hours over three days deliberating the bill, held public hearings on many of the components of the bill over the last year, and had another public hearing last week. We considered 217 amendments and the over 800 pieces of testimony that were submitted. I personally met with and spoke with several officers about the bill and listened to their concerns. In addition, I did a great deal of research on my own, incorporating my 34 years of experience as a trial attorney in Massachusetts. Moreover, I listened to and consulted with many of my colleagues in the House, one who happens to be a retired Massachusetts Police Chief.

Certification is important for all professionals. Indeed, lawyers are licensed and have the BBO lookup system which provides information on attorneys and any disciplinary records. Doctors are licensed and utilize a Physician Profiles website which lists Board discipline, criminal convictions, hospital discipline and medical malpractice payments reported to the Board of Registration in Medicine. The woman who cuts my hair is licensed by the Commonwealth. And legislators, while not licensed, are accountable to the people and can be removed from office at elections held every two years.

How did we get here?

Over the last several months, we heard repeated stories about racism and demands that we as a Legislature change how we think about public safety. We have been implored to address the causes of systemic racism. And we saw repeated stories in the news about questionable conduct in the public safety arena such as:

And it disturbs me that some parents who have children of color feel compelled to have “the talk” about “driving while black” and what to do if they are approached by police. It is horrifying that any parent has to have that conversation. But racial profiling is a reality, and in these days of repeated and sometimes fatal confrontations, captured by cellphone videos, such warnings can be a matter of life and death.

This legislation is a partial response that would establish a right of citizens to “bias-free policing” in Massachusetts. We know that most of our officers are bias free, but we owe a duty to the public and to the members of law enforcement to ensure that training is consistent and is available in all areas of the state.

Certification

The bill creates a seven-member independent Police Standards and Training Commission (MPSTC) appointed by the governor and the attorney general. This Commission will oversee police certification, discipline and training standards and will have the authority to conduct preliminary inquiries, revocation and suspension proceedings and hearings. This Commission will include law enforcement representation but will be primarily civilian led. The Commission will maintain a database of decertified personnel.

Within the Commission will be a Division of Training and Certification which will establish uniform policies for the training and certification for law enforcement. This Division allows for a strong police presence in the development of standards as follows:

The division of police training and certification shall be under the management and control of a committee on police training and certification. The committee shall consist of: 5 chiefs of police to be appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association Incorporated, 1 of whom shall be from the western Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the central Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the southeastern Massachusetts region, 1 of whom shall be from the northeastern Massachusetts region and 1 of whom shall be from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; 1 chief of police selected by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association Incorporated; 1 police officer to be appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by the Massachusetts Police Association, Inc. executive board and the Massachusetts Police Training Officers Association, Inc. executive board; the commissioner of police of the city of Boston; the colonel of state police or a designee; 2 sheriffs appointed by the governor; the attorney general or a designee; and 1 person to be appointed by the secretary of public safety and security. All such appointments shall be for terms of 3 years with successors appointed in a like manner.

The bill also establishes new training and certification requirements for school resource officers, and establishes a new commission to develop a memorandum of understanding about the role of school resource officers and how they will interact with students.

Qualified Immunity

The House bill does not make changes in the application of qualified immunity, except in one narrow situation: If, following an evidentiary process and appeal, a law enforcement officer is formally decertified for misconduct then that individual would not be shielded from liability. Nothing in the bill would apply to any other public employee, nor to any law enforcement officer in any other scenario.

The legal doctrine of qualified immunity is a complex one and legal scholars do not all agree on its application, which is why I filed an amendment (#204) that creates a special legislative commission to study the origins and interpretation of qualified immunity. The precise language that was adopted can be found by clicking here. The commission is expected to submit a report of its study and recommendations by March 31, 2021.

Due Process

When the legislation was first released we heard concerns about protecting requisite due process safeguards. Through the amendment process, we worked out these concerns and made some changes.

One such change entitles an officer to a hearing within 15 days if there is a disciplinary action and makes sure his or her bargaining unit is also notified. Another adds a two-pronged approach for investigation, with an initial preponderance of evidence standard to start the investigation, but a higher “clear and convincing” evidence standard to de-certify. Another amendment preserves the ability of our District Attorneys to be included in the review process for officer involved incidents. Another provides a clearer and defined time frame for police chiefs in which to notify the Commission of a complaint. Finally, we adopted an amendment setting a process for vetting minor complaints. It provided some appropriate flexibility for the Commission to streamline the handling of minor complaints if they do not include the use of force or allegations of biased behavior.

Tear Gas

The bill restricts the use of chemical sprays, including tear gas, to cases where all other de-escalation tactics have been unsuccessful and such measures are necessary to prevent imminent harm. Here is the language from the bill:

A law enforcement officer shall not discharge tear gas or any other chemical weapon, discharge rubber pellets from a propulsion device or release a dog to control or influence a person’s behavior unless: (i) de-escalation tactics have been attempted and failed or are not feasible based on the totality of the circumstances; and (ii) the measures used are necessary to prevent imminent harm and the foreseeable harm inflicted by the tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog is proportionate to the threat of imminent harm. If a law enforcement officer utilizes tear gas or any other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or a dog against a crowd, the law enforcement officer’s appointing agency shall file a report with the commission detailing all measures that were taken in advance of the event to reduce the probability of disorder and all de-escalation tactics and other measures that were taken at the time of the event to de-escalate tensions and avoid the necessity of using the tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog. The commission shall review the report and may make any additional investigation. After such review and investigation the commission shall, if applicable, make a finding as to whether the pre-event and contemporaneous de-escalation tactics were adequate and whether the use of such tear gas or other chemical weapon, rubber pellets or dog was justified..

Section 29 of the bill defines “imminent harm” as serious physical injury or death that is likely to be caused by a person with the present ability, opportunity and apparent intent to immediately cause serious physical injury or death and is a risk that, based on the information available at the time, must be instantly confronted and addressed to prevent serious physical injury or death; provided, however, that imminent harm shall not include fear of future serious physical injury or death.

There was an amendment (which was defeated) that would have banned all chemical sprays in all circumstances, including the mace that civilians carry, the pepper spray which is a mild eye irritant, and OC spray. I voted against this amendment because felt that the restrictions on tear gas already included in the bill were sufficient.

While I see no use for tear gas to break up a peaceful protest, in the event of imminent harm, I found myself asking “what do we want the police to do?” Walk away, use a gun, send in dogs, resort to fire hoses? With appropriate training and education, I would want them to use force consummate with and proportionate to the risk.

One clear example comes to mind. In 2016, John Zambrino killed a state trooper and went on the run with weapons. He ended up barricaded in a home. Troopers used loudspeakers, a robot, a police dog, and chemical munitions to try to get Zambrano to exit the Oxford duplex peacefully, without success. They ended up having to go into the house where more shots were fired, another trooper was injured, and the suspect died. That is clearly a situation where the tactical use of tear gas was warranted. The face-to-face contact increases the risk of harm. And that is why I could not join in an outright ban on tear gas.

Other Pieces of the Bill

Here are some of the other provisions in the bill:

  • It limits the use of Facial Recognition technology and sets legal standards for its use.
  • It sets standards for officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force.
  • It bans chokeholds, defined as a lateral vascular neck restraint to limit breathing or blood flow with the result of bodily injury, unconsciousness or death.
  • It puts new limits on use of “No-Knock” warrants. It would require that they be issued by a judge upon supporting affidavit that such action is necessary to prevent endangering the life of the officer or others and a reasonable belief that there is no child in the home.
  • It creates several legislative commissions to further study issues of inequality and racism in Correctional Facilities, Parole Process and Probation Services.
  • The bill would create a new permanent Commission on the Status of African Americans to help policy makers develop solutions to discrimination and other issues facing the Black community. The commission would be a resource for policy makers and a “clearinghouse” of research and information on issues impacting the Black community in Massachusetts.
  • It sets up review of existing the civil service system with a Commission that will study and examine the civil service law, personnel administration rules, hiring procedures and bylaws for municipalities not subject to the civil service law, and the state police hiring practices.
  • It includes developing a curriculum for basic and in-service training for officers on dealing with individuals with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities along with the creation of a permanent commission on the status of persons with disabilities to look at these issues in a broader and holistic way.
  • Finally, the bill incorporates some changes to the governance of the State Police sought by Gov. Baker earlier in the year that would, among other changes, allow a governor to hire the colonel of the State Police from outside the department.

What Happens Now?

The Senate passed its bill last week (S.2800). Because there are significant differences between the two bills the branches will have to negotiate a consensus bill. This can happen with the appointment of a formal Conference Committee or via an amendment process between the House and Senate. Once this is done, it comes back to both chambers for enactment and then to Gov. Baker’s desk. He can then sign it, send it back with amendments, or veto it, in part, or in whole.

Conclusion

The bill will provide police departments with the tools they need to build trust and strong relationships with every community across the Commonwealth at a time when we need it most. The police will not be unduly constrained by this bill which is a measured and thoughtful approach to some complex issues. I truly believe policing will be stronger as a result.

People can certainly have differing views on various aspects of this legislation, and I know I have heard from many from both sides of the issue. Some say we didn’t do enough, and others contend we went too far. Nonetheless, I am confident that overall it makes important and necessary reforms that will strengthen our law enforcement system in Massachusetts and uphold the principles of justice, equity and accountability.

The police departments in the 10th Norfolk District are made up of, and led by, some great professionals. This bill will bring more departments in Massachusetts up to the standards set by Chiefs Lynch and Tingley and the fine officers in Franklin and Medway.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Police reform bill passes House

Public meeting with the MBTA and Keolis

20151120_084614Representative Jeffrey Roy (D-Franklin) announced today that he will be hosting a public meeting with representatives from the MBTA and Keolis concerning commuter rail service in our area. The meeting will take place at the Franklin Town Council Chambers on Tuesday, December 17th at 7 p.m.

The entire commuter rail system’s on-time performance took a dive in late September and October and the Franklin Line was the worst performing line, with a 79.2 percent on-time performance. Many of the delays and cancellations on the Franklin Line were due to mechanical failures of the equipment. The meeting will be an opportunity to hear more about these issues and ways that they are being addressed.

“I have seen an increase in the number of complaints from constituents about the commuter rail since the beginning of the Foxboro Pilot Program,” said Rep. Roy. “This meeting will give the community a chance to share their concerns and provide feedback. I know Keolis took steps to increase service and reliability including the hiring a “route manager” and installation of more double tracks. With the increased complaints and poor performance, this is a god time to talk about what is working and where things need improvement.”

Representative Roy recently started the “Franklin Line Working Group,” consisting of Representatives and Senators whose communities are served by the Franklin Line. The group meets periodically with officials from the MBTA and Keolis to discuss ways to improve the system, including issues such as parking, increased fares and fees, and infrastructure.

Anyone with questions or concerns about commuter rail transportation should join us on December 17.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Public meeting with the MBTA and Keolis

Caucus Hosts 4th Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony

Plansee USA Company in Franklin, receIMG_9379ived a Manufacturer of the Year Award at the Fourth Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony at the State House. The company is a leading manufacturer of heat resistant metals. An international, private company with facilities in Europe and the United States, Plansee has seven U.S. production sites employing 1,100 employees.

In Franklin, Plansee occupies 62,000 square feet and specializes in machining and fabrication of Molybdenum and Tungsten products. Plansee holds more than 2,000 patents worldwide and serves clients from the development of prototypes through the manufacturing of products. Some important Plansee products include shielding for high temperature furnaces, components for x-ray tubes and CT scans and components used for the manufacture of LED chips and transistors. Plansee was nominated by State Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin).

Plansee exemplifies the greatness of manufacturing in Massachusetts, and was very deserving of the award. We recognized 78 manufacturers who have had an impact on our economy, created jobs, and are contributing to the renaissance of manufacturing in our state,” said Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D – Franklin), House Chair of the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. “Massachusetts is positioned to be number one in manufacturing in the United States, and these companies are all a large part of our success story. And I am delighted that we had the opportunity to honor them and showcase their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products.”

The Award Ceremony was the state’s Fourth Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony sponsored by the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus. Along with Plansee USA, 77 manufacturers were recognized for truly “making it” in Massachusetts. The ceremony honored the manufacturers and showcased their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products. The event included companies who make specialty and custom tools, decorative glass, baby products, marine robotics, gaskets, vacuum and cryogenic equipment, headwear apparel, custom scoliosis and spinal orthotic fabrication, medical devices, plant-based bioplastic products, and even chicken nuggets and fresh milled flour.img_9366.jpg

Representative Roy, Senator Eric P. Lesser (Co-Chair of the Caucus), Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Michael Kennealy, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Ms. Brooke Thomson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at Associated Industries of Massachsuetts (AIM) offered remarks at the ceremony.
Formed in August 2014, the Manufacturing Caucus includes more than 60 legislators from around the Commonwealth. Lawmakers focus on training for manufacturing employees; encouraging innovation by helping start-ups access resources; and expanding apprenticeship opportunities in key manufacturing sectors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Caucus Hosts 4th Annual Manufacturing Award Ceremony

House Votes to Increase Transparency and Financial Reporting Requirements of Massachusetts Higher Education Institutions

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to pass legislation that will enable the state to more closely monitor the financial health of Massachusetts private colleges and universities and provide transparency and security to students and families in the Commonwealth.

Known as an Act to Support Improved Financial Stability in Higher Education, the legislation requires higher education institutions to make public and accessible financial reports and requires any institution facing financial risk of closure to develop contingency plans to ensure a process is in place to assist and inform its students and other stakeholders. The legislation also establishes financial penalties on institutions for non-compliance with reporting and planning. The bill requires ethics and fiduciary training for higher education trustees and board members.

“This legislation will increase the transparency of the financial health of our public institutions of higher education requiring increased oversight, reporting and accountability to protect students, families, and staff,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud of the work Chair Jeffrey Roy has done to lead this effort with the support of Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Representative Kenneth Gordon.”

“Today the House took a step on improving accountability and the financial stability at our colleges and universities,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “By enacting this legislation both our institutes of higher education and our students will be better prepared for the worst case scenario.”

“This legislation supports and strengthens our higher education system and these vital engines of opportunity, and in so doing, protects the interests of students and families,” said Representative Jeffrey Roy, Chair of the Higher Education Committee (D-Franklin). “The financial screening and enhanced reporting provisions will help us keep Massachusetts at the top of the heap and avoid the significant negative consequences of college closures for students, staff, and host communities. The training provisions will strengthen the governance of these institutions and assist boards in exercising their fiduciary responsibilities.”

The four major provision of the bill address the following topics listed below.

  1. Financial reporting: Requires that all public higher education and independent institutions post on their websites a copy of the institution’s financial report and a summary written in terms understandable by the general public.
  2. Financial screening: Enables the Board of Higher Education (BHE) to monitor the financial health of independent institutions of higher education in Massachusetts.
    • Requires an independent institution to immediately notify BHE of any known financial liabilities or risks likely that may result in closure.
    • Requires BHE to annually conduct a financial screening of each institution and identify any institution it deems may be at risk of imminent closure. The BHE will keep confidential those assessments for independent institutions unless it is determined an institution is at risk of closure.
    • The BHE may accept the results of an annual financial screening conducted by an accrediting agency authorized by the U.S. Department of Education.
    • An institution determined to be at risk of imminent closure must prepare a contingency plan for closure, which includes a process to provide notice to a variety of stakeholders including, students, faculty, staff, pending applicants, and host communities.
    • The closure plan must also include arrangements for students to complete their program of study; a plan for the maintenance of student records; and,  provide funding for refunding any student deposits and for the cost of protecting and maintaining student records.
  3. Enforcement: Requires penalties for failure to comply with financial screening requirements, which include fines of up to $1,000 per day, suspension of any state funds, or the suspension or revocation of any degree granting authority.
  4. Board training: Requires comprehensive training programs for members of the boards of trustees of the state’s public higher education institutions on the proper governance, financial metrics, open meeting law and their legal and fiduciary responsibilities, at least once every four years.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on House Votes to Increase Transparency and Financial Reporting Requirements of Massachusetts Higher Education Institutions