Rep. Kay Khan's year-end round up

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From Representative Kay Khan

Here’s wishing a happy holiday season to you and yours. We are approaching the end of a very busy year, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for all of your support, and to tell you what I have been working on as your Representative on Beacon Hill, and the House Chair of the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. 
 
If you have any questions, concerns or would like to know more about my work in the House of Representatives, you may contact my office at 617-722-2011, follow me on Facebook and Twitter, or check my website www.kaykhan.org, where you will find more information about the bills I have filed for the 2017-2018 session.  

I hope you’ll take a moment to catch up on what I’ve been working on.

BEACON HILL UPDATES

Several important bills have passed the House this session, and I was proud to cosponsor many of them and to vote in favor of them all. Each of these bills makes our Commonwealth a fairer, more equitable place for those who live here. Some of the highlights are...

H.4011 An Act relative to criminal justice reform
This omnibus bill includes sweeping reforms in all stages of our justice system; from pre-trial and sentencing, to treatment of people in the correctional system, release and re-entry, and data collection. This bill will: end mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses; reduce or eliminate fines and fees where they would cause financial hardship; severely restrict the practice of solitary confinement; allow for expungement of certain juvenile and emerging adult criminal records; expand access to diversion and restorative justice programs; collect data on numerous areas of the criminal justice system to measure outcomes, and; make many other reforms

I was proud to file two successful amendments to H.4011 An Act relative to criminal justice reform;

  • Amendment #152 codifies best court procedures regarding the use of restraints on juveniles, banning the practice except for instances where the judge explicitly finds that not doing so would create a risk of escape, or endanger the child or others in the courtroom.
     
  • Amendment #160 reduces the length of time a person must wait to expunge the record of a crime committed before the age of 21, from the proposed length of ten years down to seven years for a felony and three years for a misdemeanor.

I also co-chair the Women’s Caucus Justice-Involved Women Task Force, which filed amendments as well. I was proud to co-sponsor Amendment #162 proposed by my co-chair, Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville) which creates a policy review panel to look at the experience and outcomes of women in the correctional system. The panel will make recommendations for improvement, tailored to the specific needs of justice-involved women.

H.538 An Act relative to advancing contraceptive coverage and economic security in our state (ACCESS)
This bill will require health insurance plans in Massachusetts to cover most types of contraceptives without requiring co-pays. With federal level threats looming, this bill is an important, pro-active step in ensuring that women in Massachusetts maintain reproductive autonomy and equitable access to affordable family planning services. The bill was signed into law by Governor Baker on Monday, November 20th.

H.1038 An Act establishing the Massachusetts pregnant workers fairness act
This bill codifies certain job protections for pregnant women, ensuring that expecting mothers are still able to succeed in their professional lives. The bill bans discrimination in the workplace and requires that employers provide "reasonable accommodations" to workers during and after pregnancy, so long as these provisions don't cause a "significant difficulty or expense" for the business. While many businesses provide these accommodations voluntarily, the bill ensures that all employers are required to do so

PERSONAL LEGISLATION UPDATES

H.2310   An Act to end child marriage in Massachusetts
 

Yes, you read that right. Contrary to popular belief, there is no law on the books explicitly banning child marriage in Massachusetts. With parental consent and a judge's approval, a boy as young as 14 and a girl as young as 12 can get married. Not only can this happen, it does happen; from 2000-2014, nearly 1,200 children were married – 84% of them girls wed to adult men. These marriages undermine a child’s health, education, and economic opportunities, greatly increase the risk of domestic violence, and have an incredibly high divorce rate. Married children also face incredible barriers in attempting to flee a marriage, therefore the best solution is to prevent these marriages altogether. That is why I have sponsored H.2310 An Anct to end child marriage in Massachusetts.

In order to raise awareness of this problem and our proposed solution, we organized a “Chain-In Rally” with our friends at Unchained at Last – a national non-profit organization that provides support to survivors of forced child marriage, and advocates for legislation like mine banning the practice. Advocates gathered at the State House wearing wedding dresses and chains, with their mouths taped shut. We were also excited to be joined by a group of Brookline High School students, who have founded a club to raise awareness of child marriage in Massachusetts and to advocate for its end. The Chain-In received great coverage by local media, and you’re welcome to read more about it here or watch the Channel 5 News report.

The bill is currently in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, where it received a public hearing on Monday, May 8th. There was a great show of support for the bill at this hearing, and we are waiting for the vote of the committee to move it forward. We also hosted a “Child Marriage Lobby Day”, where advocates from all over the Commonwealth came to speak to their legislators about the bill. 

Rep. Khan with Senate sponsor Harriette Chandler (top-right) and advocates (bottom) for End Child Marriage lobby day.

H.1190 An Act relative to abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors

 
Another high-priority of mine is my bill to ban State-licensed mental health professionals from practicing LGBT conversion therapy on minors. This is an important human rights issue – LGBT youth are an especially vulnerable population, and we must do everything in our power to protect them. Conversion therapy has been widely discredited by the scientific community.

I am proud to say that H.1190 has received a very positive reception and is gaining traction. There was a strong show of support at its public hearing, and a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. It is currently waiting to receive a report from the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

If you would like to learn more about the bill, please check out these Op-Eds in the Boston Globe, including one from myself and two of my colleagues.

H.2700  An Act to increase the renewable portfolio standard and ensure compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act
 

Climate Change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and with the White House refusing to take a lead on addressing it, the responsibility to do so has fallen largely to cities and states. This session I was proud to introduce H.2700 which would increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in Massachusetts - the amount of electricity that distributors like Eversource and National Grid must purchase from renewable energy sources. By raising the RPS, we increase demand and stimulate greater investments in our renewable energy infrastructure. This legislation also engages municipal electric departments and lighting boards in the transition to clean energy supply by establishing a timetable for RPS compliance to be met by 2030. This bill is a smart, market-based solution with a wide base of support in the Legislature that will ensure Massachusetts fulfills the mandates of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

I have also co-sponsored many other bills dealing with a range of environmental issues, including: energy efficiency; carbon pricing; land and natural resource protection; smart growth and sustainable development; raising net metering caps and investing in clean energy, and; improving our water quality and reducing pollution. I am behind these bills 100% and will continue to advocate for their passage in the Legislature.

Rep. Khan with members of climate action group 'Mothers Out Front', and city councilors Alison Leary and Deb Crossley.

Criminal Justice Reform: Expungment, Raise the Age, Shackling and more


I was proud to work with my colleagues this session on H.4011, the previously mentioned Criminal Justice Reform omnibus bill. In addition to cosponsoring many pieces of legislation targeting the system as a whole, I sponsored bills dealing specifically with women and children in our criminal justice system. Women and children who end up involved with the justice system have specific needs, and it is important that our system recognize that and provide for those needs.

H.3079 An Act promoting transparency, best practices, and better outcomes for children and communities is an omnibus reform bill containing many provisions aimed at improving the way juveniles are handled by the justice system. The bill will ensure we are collecting adequate data about children in the justice system, and using that data to improve our policies towards these youth. The bill will also implement several measures aimed at effective intervention.
 
My legislation for justice-involved women focuses on similar solutions;

  • H.3586 An Act relative to justice-involved women deals with data collection, comprehensive programming, discharge plans, and oversight.
  • H.2494 An Act to ensure compliance with the anti-shackling law for pregnant incarcerated women revises and updates existing anti-shackling statutes.
  • H.2312 An Act for Health Education in Women's Correctional Institutions makes information on women's health, contraception, and other information available to incarcerated women.

All of my criminal justice reform amendments and bills – in addition to many of those that I co-sponsored – share the philosophy that harsh, punitive, ‘tough on crime’ policies actually trap people in a cycle of crime and recidivism, where they spend their lives moving in and out of prison with no way to break the cycle. Research shows that by providing more humane sentencing and support to justice-involved individuals, we can help them to reintegrate into their communities, offering an opportunity to succeed and contribute to society, thereby reducing crime long term.

 

Rep. Khan with ACLU members and House colleagues (top) ; Speaking on the floor in support of her juvenile justice amendments (bottom-right) ; With Rep. Claire Cronin, House Chair of the Judiciary Committee (bottom-left)

DISTRICT PROJECTS AND AWARDS

Auburndale Commuter Rail Station Update
 

As many of you know, I have been working for over 15 years to improve accessibility at the three MBTA Commuter Rail Stations in Newton. The MBTA has committed funds to rebuild Auburndale Station first.  Over the past few months, I have held meetings with local disability advocates, transit advocates, City Council members, the Mayor’s office, the MBTA, DOT, and the Secretary of Transportation. I have been advocating for a station design that allows full accessibility with no decrease in service. I am pleased to report that the MBTA is working hard on this design for Auburndale station. In addition, the recently released Capital Investment Plan also included $500,000 to study a redesign of all three stations; West Newton, Newtonville, and Auburndale. I will continue to work with the Secretary of Transportation, the MBTA, and the community stakeholders to improve commuter rail service and accessibility in Newton.

NCSL Women in Politics Making a Difference Award / 
BBA Distinguished Legislator of the Year

Every year, the National Conference of State Legislatures gathers Representatives, Senators, Assembly members and legislative staffers from across the country to meet one another, share ideas and best practices, and become better law makers. This year’s conference was held in Boston, and I had the great honor of receiving the Woman in Politics Making a Difference Awardfrom the NCSL. It was an incredible honor to be recognized by a national network of my colleagues for my work.

Later this year, I was greatly honored to receive the 2017 Distinguished Legislator Award from the Boston Bar Association, for my work on juvenile justice, criminal justice reform, justice-involved women and my bill to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors. These are critical issues, which I have dedicated my career to, and I am so humbled to have the support of the BBA.

I am grateful for these awards, and for my staff and colleagues at the State House who work with me every day on these important matters.

Aquatic Invasive Species Removal


This year, I once again filed an amendment to fund the removal of invasive water chestnuts in the Charles River. I am pleased to report that the $350,000 line item was included in the final budget. This money will be used by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, in conjunction with the Charles River Watershed Association, to ensure these invasive weeds do not return. This project has been incredibly successful over the past few years. I had the pleasure of taking a trip along the river to observe the progress, and am proud to say that the weeds are almost completely gone. 

Grant Funding for Bike Trails
 

I am excited to announce that Newton has received a $46,700 grant through DCR's Recreational Trails Program! These funds will be used by Bike Newton to survey, study and design bridge and trail improvements along the Charles River Trail. Thank you DCR for making this investment in our community, everyone looks forward to working with the Lower Falls community to improve access to walking trails along the Charles and create safer connections to Riverside and beyond.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about my work here in the State Legislature.  I hope you have a safe and happy new year!

Sincerely,

Kay Khan
State Representative
Eleventh Middlesex District
House Chair, Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities