The Special Commission on Qualified Immunity will host a virtual public comment meeting on Friday, August 20, at 11 a.m. to give members of the public an opportunity to share their views on qualified immunity and its impact on the administration of justice in the Commonwealth. This will provide everyone an opportunity to share their perspectives with the Commission as it works its way through the various provisions of the charge from the reform legislation passed last year.
The public hearing will be livestreamed on the Commonwealth’s website at https://malegislature.gov/. To register to testify, individuals must provide contact information on this Form at by 5:00 p.m. on August 19, 2021. Written testimony may be submitted by e-mail to email@example.com or by mail to Qualified Immunity Commission, 24 Beacon Street, Room 136, Boston, Massachusetts 02133.
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity is a complex one and legal scholars do not all agree on its application, which is why Rep. Roy filed an amendment (#204) that created the special legislative commission to study the origins and interpretation of qualified immunity. The precise language that was adopted can be found by clicking here.
Over the past few months, the Commission has heard from academic experts, studied the impacts of Chapter 253 of the Acts of 2020 (commonly referred to as the “Police Reform Law”) on the doctrine, and reviewed recent legislation passed in other states and jurisdictions relative to qualified immunity.
To learn more about the members of the Commission, review documents discussed by the commission and read the charge please visit its website at https://qicommissionma.com/.
Governor Baker signed the $48.07 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) that was passed unanimously by the Legislature earlier this month. This budget maintains fiscal responsibility, does not cut services, and makes targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguard the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations and ensure residents will benefit equitably as the state recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With this budget, we can continue our work of getting back to better with a focus on increasing resources for services that are critical to everyday life in the Commonwealth,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This compromise proposal, which does not draw from our rainy day fund, helps prepare us for the road ahead by investing in mental and behavioral health services, Family Resource Centers, early education and care, K-12, and more, along with providing additional supports for vulnerable families. I want to thank my partner, House Speaker Mariano, as well as Senator Rodrigues, Representative Michlewitz, the members and staff of Ways and Means as well as my colleagues and their staffs for their collaboration in advancing this proposal.”
“As we recover from uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature is proud to deliver a budget that thoughtfully grows the Massachusetts economy, spurs job training and employment opportunities, expands services and programs, and invests in our long-term priorities, such as growing our Stabilization Fund and implementing the Student Opportunity Act,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I am proud of my House colleagues and would like to thank Chair Michlewitz, Vice Chair Ferrante and Assistant Vice Chair Donato for their diligent work during this process. I would also like to thank Senate President Spilka and her colleagues in the Senate for their hard work and collaboration.”
Taking into consideration strong tax revenue performance in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021), the final FY22 budget increases revenue assumptions by $4.2 billion over the December consensus revenue projection for a new tax revenue projection of $34.35 billion. The FY22 budget does not make a withdrawal and instead transfers funds into the Stabilization Fund, projecting an estimated balance of approximately $5.8 billion for this crucial ‘rainy day’ fund at the end of the fiscal year.
For Franklin and Medway, the budget includes all of the items passed in the House budget included in the image below:
Notably, the Legislature provides substantial funds in the FY22 budget to invest in the Commonwealth’s long-term obligations. Prioritizing funding for education, the new Student Opportunity Act Investment fund was funded at $350 million to be utilized in the coming years for the implementation of the state’s landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Additionally, a supplemental payment of $250 million was transferred to the Pension Liability Fund to reduce the Commonwealth’s pension liability.
As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the FY22 budget protects access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, educators, and institutions. The budget maintains the Legislature’s commitment to implementing the Student Opportunity Act by FY 2027. The conference report proposal fully funds the first year of the SOA consistent with the $5.503 billion local aid agreement reached in March, amounting to an increase of $220 million over FY21.
Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, this increased level of investment represents a 1/6th implementation of SOA rates and ensures that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide high quality educational opportunities for all students. The FY22 budget also includes a $40 million reserve consistent with the March local aid agreement to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020.
The budget invests in higher education allocating $571 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $315 million for community colleges, and $291 million for state universities. The budget also includes $130 million in scholarship funding and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $10.5 million and the STEM Starter Academy at $4.75 million.
The budget also includes large investments in labor and economic development, such as the creation of a trust fund dedicated to job training for the offshore wind industry to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. This budget makes an initial deposit into this fund of $13 million to establish and grow technical training programs in our public higher education system and vocational-technical institutions. The fund will also prioritize grants and scholarships to adult learning providers, labor organizations, and public educational institutions to provide workers with greater access to these trainings.
Other education investments include:
• $388.4 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate
• $154.6 million for reimbursing school districts at 75% for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
• $82.2 million for regional school transportation
• $50 million for Adult Basic Education
• $27.9 million for the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program
• $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1M for a new pilot program to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
• $4 million for Rural School Aid
This budget supports working families by addressing the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting the existing tax deductions for young children, elderly or disabled dependents and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. These tax credits will benefit low-income families who have little or no personal income tax liability and cannot claim the full value of the existing deductions. The conversion to a refundable tax credit would provide an additional $16 million to over 85,000 families each year. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, these credits will help lift families out of poverty and support low-income working parents and caregivers across the Commonwealth.
The FY22 budget builds on the success of last year’s efforts to tackle ‘deep poverty’ with a 20 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits over December 2020 levels, ensuring families receive the economic supports they need to live, work and provide stability for their children. Further, the final budget repeals the asset limit for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Traditionally, asset limits on assistance programs further expose those who are already financially vulnerable to greater economic hardship. While families are recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, it is vital to make assistance programs accessible and effective, and removing the asset limit allows families to save for education, job training, reliable transportation, home expenses, and other emergency needs.
Other children and family investments include:
• $30.5 million for Emergency Food Assistance to ensure that citizens in need can navigate the historic levels of food insecurity caused by COVID-19 • $7.5 million for grants to our Community Foundations to support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic • $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals • $4.2 million for the Office of the Child Advocate, including $1M for the establishment and operation of a state center on child wellness and trauma • $2.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers
To help families get back to work, the FY22 conference report includes $820 million for the early education sector, including $20 million to increase rates for early education providers, $15 million for Massachusetts Head Start programs, $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand public preschool, and $9 million to cover the cost of fees for parents receiving subsidized early education in calendar year 2021.
The FY22 budget provides resources to help with housing stability, including $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to expand access to affordable housing, $85 million for grants to local housing authorities, $22M for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and $8 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers to help administer nearly $1 billion in federal housing relief.
The budget makes the state’s film tax credit permanent and requires an increase in the percentage of production expenses or principal photography days in the Commonwealth from 50 per cent to 75 per cent. The film tax credit was set to expire in January 2023. The budget also includes a disability employment tax credit for employers that hire employees with a disability.
To ensure long-term fiscal responsibility, FY22 budget repeals three ineffective tax expenditures as recommended by the Tax Expenditure Review Commission (TERC), namely the exemption of income from the sale of certain patents, the medical device tax credit, and the harbor maintenance tax credit, effective January 1, 2022. The TERC found that these tax expenditures are either obsolete, fail to provide a meaningful incentive, or fail to justify their cost to the Commonwealth. The TERC was created as part of a Senate budget initiative in Fiscal Year 2019.
The Legislature’s FY22 budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of the pandemic to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19. It also sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion, thereby providing over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. It also invests $15 million to support local and regional boards of health as they continue to work on the front lines against the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Understanding that the pandemic has been a stressor on mental and behavioral health, the FY22 budget invests $175.6 million for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services. It also invests $12.5 million to support a student telebehavioral health pilot, public awareness campaigns, loan forgiveness for mental health clinicians, and initiatives to mitigate emergency department boardings for individuals in need of behavioral health support, as well as $10 million for Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) grants to provide intensive, community-based behavioral health services for adolescents.
Other health care and public health investments include:
• $98.4 million for children’s mental health services, including $3.9M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women • $25 million for Family Resource Centers (FRCs) to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families • $56.1 million for domestic violence prevention services • $40.8 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, including funds to support health equity initiatives
To support economic development, the FY22 budget increases access to high quality and reliable broadband—which is crucial for businesses, students and families—by moving the duties of the Wireless and Broadband Development Division to the Department of Telecommunications, which is working to facilitate access to broadband, and has the institutional ability and knowledge to address broadband access issues. The budget also includes a $17 million transfer to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust fund, $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes, and $9.5 million for one-stop career centers to support economic recovery.
Other investments in economic and workforce development include:
• $15 million for the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program • $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state • $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million for new regional security operation centers, which will partner with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses
To protect residents of the Commonwealth, the FY22 budget codifies and expands the existing Governor’s task force on hate crimes to advise on issues relating to hate crimes, ways to prevent hate crimes and how best to support victims of hate crimes. The conference report makes the task force permanent and expands its membership to include members of the Legislature and an appointee from the Attorney General. The conference report also contains a provision that supports immigrants who are victims of criminal activity or human trafficking.
The budget also authorizes funds from the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund to be used for monitoring and detection of threat activity in order to investigate or mitigate cybersecurity incidents. In order to proactively combat threats and attacks, the budget provides funding for a public-private partnership with the goal of engaging educational institutions to jointly expand the training, employment and business development in cyber fields in Massachusetts through a combination of regionalized instruction and business outreach, state-wide shared resources, and real-life simulations for cyber training and business development.
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.
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.
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 SenatorMike 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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Representative 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.