Now that the 191st Massachusetts legislative session is underway, I wanted to share with you some of my top legislative priorities. Below are five bills I hope you will agree can make a big difference for our Commonwealth. I look forward to working with you on these and many other important issues as the term progresses. To learn more about all of my priorities and stay updated about my work in the Senate, please visit my website!
1. Toxic Chemical Flame Retardants. My bill to ban the sale of residential furniture and children’s products with toxic chemical flame retardants almost became law in January. Unfortunately, the Governor exercised his veto at the last minute and now we must go through the entire hearing process again before the legislature can vote - as I hope we will - to remove these products from retail sale. TRIS, PBDEs and other fire retardant chemicals have been shown to put children, firefighters, and even pets at the greatest health risk. And the really tragic disappointment is that the chemicals actually create a toxic smoke – which is why firefighters are so strongly in favor of this bill.
2. The FUTURE Act- For Utility Transition to Using Renewable Energy. We must do much more to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and reach our goal of 100% renewable energy. This new bill updates policies on natural gas safety, and requires faster repair of dangerous leaks, including those near schools and those affecting trees. And, the bill has new provisions that could be a game-changer for gas utilities, which have been left out of the renewables conversation until now, by creating a path for them to begin delivering geo-thermal heat and other renewable district-generated energy. The bill also gives local governments and the public more of a voice at the table in planning our energy future.
3. Establishing a Moratorium on Face Recognition and Other Remote Biometric Surveillance Systems. New biometric identification technologies, like facial recognition software, are currently frequently inaccurate, especially when identifying darker skinned individuals, women, and young people. The risk of misidentification can lead to, at worst, wrongful conviction, and at best, disruptions in the lives of those falsely identified. While facial recognition technology will likely be a useful tool for law enforcement in the future, Massachusetts must press pause on its implementation until we can protect the rights and data of those impacted.
4. Election Day Registration. Last session I was proud to be the lead Senate sponsor of the successful new Automatic Voter Registration law, which will streamline voter registration at state agencies including the RMV and MassHealth. Now I am focused on enacting Election Day Registration (EDR) to benefit new voters (both first time voters and those who may have moved recently to a new district). In the 21st century, there are no technological reasons why eligible citizens cannot register and vote on the same day if ballots are available. We should do all we can to remove barriers to democratic participation, and enacting EDR will be a big step for voter rights.
5. An Act to Improve Food Allergy Awareness. I have been a longtime advocate for individuals with food allergies, and in 2009 I successfully sponsored the first in the nation food allergy law requiring training and information in Massachusetts restaurants. I have now filed a new bill which builds on current law by requiring restaurants to have a trained staff member available at all times to interface between customers with allergies and the kitchen staff, in order to do more to prevent accidental exposures, and make the public feel more secure about eating out. Learn more about why I filed this bill in the Boston Globe!