Continuing the Work of MLK to Advance Racial Justice in our Communities and Commonwealth

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said that “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Great civil rights leaders like MLK or Fannie Lou Hamer or John Lewis have rightfully earned their place in American history for their extraordinarily courageous leadership in fighting for racial justice in our country. But the hard work of pursuing justice and building a more perfect union is also powered by ordinary people and community groups that contribute to this struggle every day, in many different ways, large and small. As we celebrate MLK Day this week, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each one of you!

One of the important ways that we can advance racial justice is by passing laws that make our Commonwealth more just and equitable — laws that help dismantle systemic racism and provide redress for past wrongs.

Thanks in part to the tireless efforts of advocates in our communities and all across Massachusetts, our state legislature has made some major strides in recent years to pass laws that are advancing racial justice in healthcare, education, housing, criminal justice and law enforcement, economic opportunity, and in addressing climate change. Some of these landmark new laws include:

Criminal justice reform legislation that is changing many aspects of our criminal justice system that have disproportionately targeted and harmed people of color.

An increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour and a universal paid family and medical leave program that is increasing economic opportunity and fairness for low-income workers, who are overwhelmingly people of color and immigrants.

The Student Opportunity Act that is expanding the promise of a high-quality public education to all students, including those in historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

Law enforcement and policing reforms to increase transparency and accountability, especially in the policing of communities of color.

Climate change legislation that will make Massachusetts a national leader not just in transitioning to a clean energy economy but also in advancing environmental justice in communities of color that have disproportionately borne the burden of pollution and environmental degradation.

Various pandemic relief and recovery bills that have prioritized health equity and addressing racial health disparities that have been further exacerbated by the current public health crisis.

While these new laws are all important steps forward for racial justice in Massachusetts, there is much more that still needs to be done. As Dr. King said “This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

In my role as Senate Chair of the legislature’s Education Committee, I’m particularly focused on steps we can take to advance racial justice and anti-racism in our public schools.

One bill that I have sponsored, An Act relative to educator diversity, would accelerate efforts to recruit, support, and advance more teachers and school administrators of color. Extensive research shows that all students, but especially students of color, benefit from having teachers and school leaders of color.

Another bill that I am championing, An Act relative to anti-racism, equity, and justice in education, will promote a more inclusive curriculum and teaching practices that improve educational outcomes for students of color. This bill was drafted in partnership with students, teachers, and community activists in Malden, and I am immensely grateful for their civic engagement and commitment to racial justice.

Let us continue to be inspired by the legacy of Dr. King and other courageous civil rights leaders as we each, in our own way, help “bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”

State Senator Jason Lewis

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotahistoricalsociety/5355384180/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Senator Lewis and Representative Day Secure $100,000 for Greater Boston Stage Company for COVID Safety Upgrades

State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Michael Day are pleased to announce that they successfully secured a $100,000 appropriation for the Greater Boston Stage Company, as a part of the COVID pandemic recovery bill recently passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker.

The funds will be used by the Greater Boston Stage Company, a non-profit regional theatre located in Stoneham, to make COVID health and safety facility improvements and upgrades.

“The Greater Boston Stage Company is an integral part of our local arts and culture scene and this funding will help ensure that they can continue safely welcoming audiences,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “The pandemic has had a particularly devastating impact on our cultural institutions, which are such an important part of our local economy and thriving communities.”

“The Greater Boston Stage Company isn’t just an economic anchor for the Stoneham downtown, it’s a cultural asset for the entire region,” said Representative Michael Day. “Ensuring that our cultural institutions have the financial support they need to recover and adapt after over a year of restrictions and darkened stages is a priority and I am glad to have partnered with Senator Lewis to secure these funds.”

“Greater Boston Stage Company is thankful for the advocacy of our state delegation in securing this recovery funding,” said Heather Mell, Development Director at GBSC. “These funds will make it possible for the theatre to cover the added costs we have incurred due to new COVID health and safety protocols and will allow us to make vital updates to our facility to support greater accessibility for our artists, patrons, and community.”

The bill, known as An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs, uses federal monies received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as well as the state’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget surplus.

Minimum Wage Set to Increase as Result of 2018 Law Negotiated by Senator Lewis and Representative Brodeur

As a result of the 2018 landmark labor rights law, known as the Grand Bargain, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is set to increase to $14.25 per hour on January 1, 2022. The minimum wage will increase again, reaching $15 per hour on January 1, 2023.

The Grand Bargain law was negotiated by State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Paul Brodeur (now the Mayor of Melrose) who served as the co-Chairs of the legislature’s Labor and Workforce Development committee. They worked closely with stakeholders representing labor and the business community in the Commonwealth to negotiate and pass this important legislation.

“I’m proud to have helped lead the effort along with Representative Brodeur to pass legislation in 2018 that continues to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Bay State residents,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour is helping us tackle income inequality in Massachusetts, and make our economy stronger and more fair and just.”

“The Grand Bargain is an excellent example of individuals working together for the betterment of the people,” said Mayor Paul Brodeur. “Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate members, and the business and labor community came together and forged a workable compromise on a set of complex issues. The final bill received bipartisan support in the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Baker. The wage increase will occur amidst a surge of inflation, helping one million workers in the Commonwealth and their families meet their basic needs.”

In addition to raising the minimum wage, the Grand Bargain law also created a new universal Paid Family and Medical Leave Program in Massachusetts. This program entitles most workers to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paid leave to care for a new baby or sick family member, and up to 20 weeks of job-protected, paid leave to recover from one’s own serious illness or injury.

Increases in the minimum wage have been shown to stimulate consumer spending, improve worker productivity, and reduce employee turnover.

image attribution: Ramontxotx, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commonsi

Senator Lewis Successfully Leads Negotiations to Ensure Affordable and Stable Egg Supply

(BOSTON – 12/22/2021) Following action by House and Senate lawmakers earlier this week, a bill to ensure a more secure egg supply chain in the state, was signed into law Wednesday. The legislation updates Massachusetts’ farm animal welfare standards passed by voters in 2016 to align with other states.

“When Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot question guaranteeing animal welfare in 2016, our state had the strongest protections for farm animals in U.S. history,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Since then, national and industry standards have shifted towards even stronger animal welfare and consumer safety protections. With this law, Massachusetts is taking action to prevent cruelty to farm animals and ensure that our state has continued access to eggs that meet the expectations of the Commonwealth’s residents. I want to thank House Speaker Mariano, for his collaboration, Senator Lewis for his steadfast focus on this issue, his fellow conferees and their staffs, and the residents of Massachusetts, including animal welfare advocates and egg-producers, for their support for this legislation.”

“In 2016, the advocacy of animal welfare groups across the Commonwealth and overwhelming support from voters passed Ballot Question 3 to ensure that the factory farming industry provides more humane standards for pigs, calves and egg-laying hens, representing a historic victory for animal welfare,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “Since then, the standard around the country for egg-laying hens has evolved, and Massachusetts is now an outlier, which could threaten our supply of eggs. Fortunately, the egg producers and animal welfare groups have come together to agree on this legislation, ensuring safe and humane conditions for egg-laying hens and affordable eggs for Massachusetts consumers. I appreciate the leadership of the Senate President and the support and guidance of my fellow conferees, Senator Rausch and Senator Tarr, in getting this bill passed.”

“Senator Lewis has been leading the way for farmed animals since he joined the Massachusetts legislature, culminating today in passage of a bill that will improve the lives of millions of egg-laying hens each year,” said Laura Hagen, Massachusetts state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The mandate of cage-free conditions with critical environmental enrichments for chickens, including areas for them to dust bathe, perch, scratch and lay eggs in nest boxes, marks a critical upgrade in the welfare and treatment of these birds.”
An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards updates a 2016 law passed by the voters of Massachusetts. It would align Massachusetts’ standards to that of other states by:
• Providing detailed cage-free standards that consist of one square foot of usable floor space per hen in multi-tiered aviaries, partially-slatted cage-free housing systems or any other cage-free housing system that provides hens with unfettered access to vertical space so that hens can engage in vital natural behaviors such as perching, scratching, dust bathing and laying eggs in a nest.
• Ensuring protections for various types of egg products. As passed in 2016, the law applied to shell eggs, but not egg products. This legislation would also cover egg products, mirroring legislation passed in other states.
An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards is endorsed by New England Brown Egg Council, The Country Hen (a major egg producer in the Commonwealth), United Egg Producers, and the Massachusetts Food Association, which notes that the language in this legislation offers a “readily available solution” to ensure retail-endorsed cage-free standards. The bill also has the support of numerous animal protection organizations, including the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Rescue League of Boston, Animal Equality, Animal Outlook, The Humane League, Harvard Law School Animal Law & Policy Program, Mercy for Animals, Compassion in World Farming, and World Animal Protection—all groups that have been working to increase welfare for farm animals for decades.

Text of An Act to upgrade hen welfare and establish uniform cage-free standards can be found at malegislature.gov.

Image Attribution: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons

Senator Lewis and Representative Day Secure $3 Million for Solar Array at Stone Zoo

In early December, State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Michael Day successfully secured a $3 million appropriation for Zoo New England, as a part of the COVID pandemic recovery bill recently passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Baker.

The funds will be used by ZNE, the nonprofit that operates the Franklin Park and Stone Zoos on behalf of the Commonwealth, to install a new solar power array at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. This exciting renewable energy project will provide nearly all of the power required by the zoo, reducing carbon emissions and lowering operating costs.

“I’m thrilled that Rep. Day and I were able to secure this funding for such a orthy project at the beloved Stone Zoo,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “A new solar array at the zoo is a great way to tackle climate change, help the zoo save money, and provide a wonderful educational opportunity for the many families and young children that visit the zoo each year.”

“The Stone Zoo has positively impacted the lives of children and families in our community for years,” said Representative Michael Day. “Making critical investments in green infrastructure like this solar array not only cuts down on utility costs and carbon emissions but reinforces the Stone Zoo’s mission of practicing responsible stewardship over our natural resources.”

“We are extremely grateful and excited about the clean energy solar project from both a mission and conservation perspective. The solar array will provide almost 100% of Stone Zoo’s electrical needs. This switch to solar is the equivalent of planting 800 acres of trees or avoiding 700,000 pounds of coal each year,” said John Linehan, President and CEO of Zoo New England. “Nature has great healing capacity and, if given the chance, can be very effective in combating the negative impacts of climate change. We are at a critical point in ensuring that we have a healthy planet for generations to come, and we need to take action now to strategically preserve and protect the incredible biodiversity and resources. This clean energy project and others like it can be part of the climate solution. “

The bill, known as An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs, uses federal monies received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as well as the state’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget surplus.

Senator Lewis Joins Senate Vote for Nero’s Law to Protect Police Dogs

State Senator Jason Lewis recently joined a unanimous vote in the Massachusetts State Senate for An Act allowing humane transportation of K9 partners, also known as Nero’s Law, ensuring law enforcement officers’ K-9 partners can receive life-saving medical attention and transport if injured in the line of duty. The bill comes in response to the tragic events in 2018 that took the life of Yarmouth Police K-9 Sergeant Sean Gannon and severely injured his K-9 partner, Nero. 

“Police dogs often assist our law enforcement officers in dangerous and sometimes deadly situations to protect public safety,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m very pleased that the Senate has passed Nero’s Law in honor of the memory of Sgt. Sean Gannon.” 

In April 2018, Sergeant Gannon was shot and killed while serving a warrant in the Town of Barnstable. Despite the multiple empty ambulances on site, Nero had to be rushed to the animal hospital in the back of a police cruiser. Current Massachusetts law prohibits emergency medical personnel from treating and transporting animals. Fortunately, Nero survived his injuries, but the inability to transport him showed that reform is needed to better care for police working dogs who risk their lives every day to serve the Commonwealth.   

Nero’s Law authorizes emergency medical service personnel to provide emergency treatment and transport of K-9 partners. This includes basic first aid, CPR, and administering life-saving interventions such as naloxone. 

This legislation now advances to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration. 

Sen. Lewis Joins Bipartisan Vote for Sweeping Legislation to Improve Access to Mental Health Care

On Wednesday, State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass the Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act 2.0, comprehensive legislation with the goal of ensuring that all residents of Massachusetts can access the mental health care they need when they need it. This legislation builds on previous mental health reforms made by the state legislature, and comes at the same time that the Senate is proposing to invest $400 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to strengthen our state’s behavioral health system.

The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The bill proposes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care, and to remove barriers to care by supporting and growing the behavioral health workforce.

“Health care should be a basic human right, but too many people in Massachusetts right now struggle to access high quality, affordable, and timely mental health care,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m very pleased that the state Senate has prioritized improving access to mental health care through the passage of this critical legislation, and I’m grateful to all the constituents and advocates who have shared with me their heartbreaking struggles in accessing the care that they or a loved one desperately need.”

“The need and demand for mental health services has soared as a result of the pandemic, and anyone who has tried to find help for mental health concerns will vouch for the many barriers that still exist,” said Danna Mauch, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH). “This bill tackles some of our most difficult challenges. These challenges include insurance company policies that make it hard to pay for care, a lack of providers across the Commonwealth but especially in communities of color, and care that too often is fragmented and siloed. The bill’s provisions provide creative, practical steps toward addressing these issues and it looks ahead to creation of a comprehensive system of effective crisis services.”

Key provisions in this sweeping legislation include:

Guaranteeing Annual Mental Health Wellness Exams. The idea that a person’s mental health is just as important as a person’s physical health is the cornerstone of this reform. This bill would codify this principle by mandating coverage for an annual mental health wellness exam, comparable to an annual physical.

Enforcing Mental Health Parity Laws. Mental health parity as a concept is simple: insurance coverage for mental health care should be equal to insurance coverage for any other medical condition. This concept has been codified in federal and state law for decades, but enforcement of the law has been challenging. As a result, inequities persist, and patients are often denied coverage for mental health treatment that is every bit as critical to managing their health as treatment for diabetes or heart disease. This bill provides the state with better tools to implement and enforce our parity laws by creating a clear structure for the Division of Insurance to receive and investigate parity complaints to ensure their timely resolution. Other tools include parity enforcement for commercial, state-contracted and student health insurance plans, greater reporting and oversight of insurance carriers’ mental health care coverage processes and policies, and reasonable penalties and alternative remedies for when an insurance company does not comply with the law.

Addressing the Emergency Department Boarding Crisis. For many adults and children in the grips of a mental health crisis, the fastest way to get help is to go to a hospital emergency department (ED). Sadly, when they need to be admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit, it can be days, weeks, or even months before they’re admitted. Meanwhile, the person must often wait in the ED, receiving little to no psychiatric care. This is referred to as ‘ED boarding’ and it has increased up to 400% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The bill takes multiple steps to address and reduce ED boarding.

Reimbursing Mental Health Providers Equitably. Mental health and primary care providers are reimbursed at different rates for the same service. The bill seeks to level the playing field for reimbursement to mental health providers by requiring an equitable rate floor for evaluation and management services that is consistent with primary care.

Reforming Medical Necessity and Prior Authorization Requirements. When an adult or child arrives in an emergency department in the throes of acute mental health crises requiring immediate treatment in an appropriate setting, clinical determinations should be made by the treating clinician. In practice, however, insurance carriers impose too many restrictions on providers’ clinical judgement in terms of prior approval and concurrent review requirements for mental health services. The bill mandates coverage and eliminates prior authorization for mental health acute treatment and stabilization services for adults and children, and takes other steps to streamline access to care.

Removing Barriers to Care by Supporting the Behavioral Health Workforce. Lack of adequate mental health providers constrains access to care, so the bill includes multiple initiatives to better support and grow the behavioral health workforce, such as allowing for interim licensure for licensed mental health counselors.

Establishing an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion. Current behavioral health services are spread across state agencies. This dilutes the responsibility for mental health promotion and focus on the issues and undermines the important work being done. This bill would establish an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to coordinate all state initiatives that promote mental, emotional, and behavioral health and wellness for residents.

Having passed the State Senate, the Mental Health ABC 2.0 Act now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration.

Sen. Lewis to Host Dec. Office Hours in Malden, Melrose & Wakefield

Senator Jason Lewis is resuming in-person District Office Hours, where any resident is welcome to drop in to speak with him about help they need with state agencies or issues that are important to them.

Senator Lewis will also continue to host monthly Virtual Office Hours via the Zoom videoconferencing platform. The dates of Virtual Office Hours and the link to join can be found at senatorjasonlewis.com/contact/district-office-hours/.

December District Office Hours:

  • Malden Office Hours: 12/6/2021 at 10:30am, Malden Senior Center, 7 Washington St, Malden, MA 02148
  • Melrose Office Hours: 12/6/2021 at 12:00pm, Melrose City Hall, 562 Main St, Melrose, MA 02176
  • Wakefield Office Hours: 12/6/2021 at 1:30pm, McCarthy Senior Center, 30 Converse St, Wakefield, MA 01880

Office hours in Reading, Stoneham and Winchester will follow on the first Monday in January.

Office hours may be subject to cancellation due to public health mitigation measures or other contingencies, and residents are encouraged to contact Senator Jason Lewis at (617) 722-1206 or Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov with questions, concerns or any other requests.

Sen. Lewis Joins Bipartisan Vote to Pass American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Spending Bill to Support Pandemic Recovery

State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate last week to unanimously pass a $3.82 billion spending bill that directs federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to assist the Commonwealth’s ongoing recovery, with a particular focus on making equitable investments and ensuring that communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are prioritized. As Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Senator Lewis played a leadership role in the development and passage of this important legislation.

“Thanks to President Biden and Congressional Democrats, Massachusetts is seizing this historic opportunity to invest in a strong and equitable pandemic recovery for our communities and Commonwealth,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m very grateful for the extensive and constructive input we received from stakeholder groups, advocates, and members of the public, which enabled the Senate to craft legislation that clearly reflects the urgent needs and priorities of residents and communities across the Commonwealth.”

Investments included in this bill are as follows:

Health Care and Public Health

The Senate’s ARPA spending plan helps families, vulnerable populations, and historically underserved communities by investing more than $1 billion to support the state’s healthcare system and confront the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate’s bill invests $400 million in mental and behavioral health supports, including over $122 million to expand loan repayment programs for behavioral health professionals, including substance use disorder professionals. This investment is expected to help recruit and retain nearly 2,000 mental health professionals across the continuum of care.

The Senate’s plan also revolutionizes the state’s local and regional public health infrastructure and makes a historic investment of $250 million to ensure the Commonwealth can protect the public health of residents, workers, and businesses for years to come. This funding includes $118 million for public health infrastructure and data sharing upgrades, and $95 million for direct grants to local boards of health to be prepared to respond to future public health threats.

Other health care investments include:

  • $300 million for the Home and Community-Based Services Federal Investment Fund to address workforce needs for those caring for vulnerable populations,
  • $200 million for acute care hospitals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,
  • $60 million to address food insecurity
  • $55 million to support a robust and diverse home health care and human service workforce through recruitment, retention, and loan forgiveness programming,
  • $50 million for nursing facilities, including $25 million for capital support, to increase the quality of patient care and $25 million for workforce initiatives,
  • $25 million for a grant program for community violence prevention and re-entry organizations, focused on communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,
  • $5 million for Health Care For All to conduct a community-based MassHealth redetermination and vaccination outreach, education, and access campaign targeted in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,
  • $5 million for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to study and review the interrelationship between service-providing agencies for individuals with disabilities within the Commonwealth and to design and implement a system for an interconnected network that will provide a continuum of care for those individuals,
  • $5 million to support grants to higher education institutions to address student behavioral and mental health needs,
  • $2 million for unreimbursed COVID-19 costs for Early Intervention providers, and
  • $500,000 to establish transportation services for participants in the Massachusetts Veterans’ Treatment Courts.

Economic Recovery and Workforce Development

The Senate’s ARPA spending plan invests $1.7 billion to robustly support an equitable economic recovery for all by supporting workers, businesses and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill dedicates $500 million towards premium pay bonuses for essential workers, up to $2,000 per worker, providing much needed relief to the workforce who served on the front lines during the pandemic.

Other economic recovery and workforce development investments include:

  • $500 million for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, providing necessary relief to employers,
  • $200 million in tax relief for small-business owners who otherwise would be required to pay personal income taxes on state or federal pandemic relief money,
  • $100 million for vocational school infrastructure and capacity building needs,
  • $75 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to support organizations working with people displaced from jobs during the pandemic, historically underserved populations, and individuals reentering their communities from the corrections system,
  • $75 million for equitable and affordable broadband access and infrastructure improvements to close the digital divide,
  • $75 million for Mass Cultural Council grants to support the arts and cultural sector,
  • $50 million for direct grants to minority-owned small businesses,
  • $30 million for regional high-demand workforce training at community colleges,
  • $25 million for the expansion of Career Technical Institutes,
  • $24.5 million for workforce development and capital assistance grants to the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, and the Alliance of Massachusetts YWCAs,
  • $15 million to enhance and diversify the cybersecurity sector with partnerships between public higher education institutions and private businesses,
  • $20 million for the resettlement of Afghan and Haitian refugees
  • $10 million for regional tourism councils, and
  • $14 million for agricultural economy supports.

Housing

The Senate’s ARPA bill acknowledges the critical role that housing plays in economic recovery. Over a year and a half into the pandemic, access to stable and affordable housing remains at the forefront of the state’s strategy to ensure economic security for all.

Investments in affordable, accessible housing, as well as supportive housing include:

  • $150 million for supportive housing, including $75 million for the chronically homeless population, and $20 million to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for veterans not primarily served by the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea or Holyoke,
  • $150 million for public housing authorities to maintain and upgrade existing infrastructure,
  • $125 million for the Commonwealth Builders Program to support housing production and promote homeownership among residents of disproportionately impacted communities,
  • $125 million for affordable rental housing production and preservation for the workforce and low- and moderate-income individuals,
  • $50 million for homeownership assistance tools, including down payment assistance, and mortgage interest subsidy supports

Environment and Climate

This legislation prioritizes building a more resilient Commonwealth and ensuring a healthier environment for all. The bill seeks to combat climate change through mitigation initiatives, strengthen environmental infrastructure, fix aging water and sewer infrastructure, and modernize marine port infrastructure to support the state’s emerging offshore wind industry.

Environment and climate investments include:

  • $175 million for water and sewer infrastructure investments through the Clean Water Trust,
  • $125 million for environmental infrastructure grants, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program,
  • $100 million for marine port infrastructure investments focused on the promotion of offshore wind development,
  • $25 million for the Greening the Gateway Cities program to support tree planting,
  • $15 million for parks and recreational assets,
  • $10 million for clean energy retrofitting in affordable housing units,
  • $7.5 million for community colleges to help train underserved populations for green jobs, and
  • $5 million for the advancement of geothermal technologies.

Transparency and Oversight

To support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and prioritize historically underserved or marginalized populations, the Senate’s ARPA bill establishes an equity and accountability review panel for federal funds to track in near real-time the amount and percentage of ARPA funds spent in these communities and awarded to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises. The bill also takes steps to ensure minority-owned and women-owned businesses have fair participation on procurements issued under the act.

The Senate and the House of Representatives will now reconcile the differences between their respective ARPA bills, and the final bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Baker before the end of the year.

With Support from Education Committee Chair Jason Lewis, Senate Passes Genocide Education Bill

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed An Act concerning genocide education to provide education to middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues. As Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Senator Jason Lewis was a key supporter of the legislation. 

The bill requires every middle school and high school in the Commonwealth to include instruction on the history of genocide. Similar legislation was advanced by the Senate in prior sessions, but this most recent iteration comes as incidences of hate and antisemitism are on the rise across the country, with several incidents reported in Massachusetts over the past year.  

“It is shocking how many young people today have never heard of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Holocaust, or other heinous genocides perpetrated in the past,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “This important legislation will ensure that more students understand the history of genocide so that it never happens again. I’m grateful to all of the educators and advocates who have worked so hard to get this bill passed.” 

In 2020, a widely reported survey commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which gauged Holocaust knowledge among millennials and Generation Z populations, found that 63 per cent did not know six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. The survey also found that nearly half were unfamiliar with Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz. Massachusetts does not currently require Holocaust education or other genocides as part of classroom curriculum.  

This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to support the instruction of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and ensure the development of curricular materials, as well as to provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide. Schools and districts can apply for programming support through a competitive grant program. 

“We are grateful to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Chair Lewis, and their fellow Senators for moving forward a bill that includes strong provisions to ensure that schools across the Commonwealth have access to Holocaust and genocide education programs,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “Numerous incidents over the last year have shown us that this coursework is as critical and relevant now as it has ever been. We are eager to see this bill make it to the Governor’s desk as swiftly as possible.” 

An Act concerning genocide education now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.