Newly Filed Bills for the 191st Legislative Session
As the new session begins and committees start to receive the bills they have been assigned, I wanted to take an opportunity to share an overview of the new legislation I have filed.
Building on my success in passing two landmark gas safety bills in 2014 and 2016, this topic is the biggest tranche of my new bills. The deadly gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley brought the issue of gas safety into sharp focus so I am pleased to partner and co-lead with several of my Merrimack Valley colleagues to bring about meaningful, structural change in this industry. Here are the four of my new bills:
An Act for utility transition to using renewable energy (FUTURE) filed with Rep. Christina Minicucci (N. Andover) and Sen. Cindy Creem (Newton) would create a gas utility path to transition to renewable energy for all heating in the state by 2048, put the public back in the Department of Public Utilities, and require more aggressive repairs of gas leaks.
An Act ensuring gas safety and consumer fairness filed with Sen. Jamie Eldridge (Acton) and Rep. Christine Barber (Somerville) would also require aggressive repairs of gas leaks, while also preventing natural gas utility companies for charging customers for lost or unaccounted for gas.
An Act to ensure safety and transparency in pipeline repair filed with Sen. Paul Feeney (Foxborough) Rep. Marjorie Decker (Cambridge) ensures that all construction, reconstruction, installation, alteration, or repair projects on public infrastructure that are not performed by the employees of the public utility are put out for public bid. Requires gas and electric companies to request prevailing wage rate sheets for each municipality they work in at least once every six months. Requires the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to develop a standard training model and requirements for all gas and electric workers. Would require workers to have OSHA 10 safety training as part of the effort to standardize training requirements.
An Act relative to natural gas safety and responsibility filed with Sen. Barry Finegold (Andover) and Rep. Frank Moran (Lawrence) requires aggressive repairs of leaks as well and requires greater preparation for future gas-related disasters from utility companies, as well as steep fines as the Gloucester Times reports.
Turning away from gas, I am proud to join Senator Eric Lesser this session as the House filer of An Act to protect innovation and entrepreneurship in the Commonwealth, which deals with the issue of so-called “patent trolls.” Patent trolls, more formally known as “non-practicing entities,” are patent-holding organizations that file many bad faith lawsuits with spurious claims that their patents have been violated.
In light of the recent consolidation of ownership of Massachusetts news outlets in the hands of a couple hedge funds coupled with a rash of layoffs in the journalism industry and shuttering of newsrooms, I have partnered with Sen. Brendan Crighton (Lynn) to file An act establishing a commission to study journalism in underserved communities. As Katie Lannan of the State House News and WBUR report while the Milford Daily Lynn Item (twice)and Marblehead Reporter editorialize, this bill creates a commission to examine the challenges local news outlets are facing and provide actionable ideas to strengthen local journalism. As our newsrooms are shrinking or drying up we will have less information and accountability, and that’s not good for democracy.
Finally, I have filed a bill in called An Act to advance modern and sustainable solutions for transportation. This bill creates legislative guardrails on how funds received from the proposed Transportation Climate Initiative, which Massachusetts is set to join, is used to benefit communities most impacted by climate change and to fund public transit options that reduce emissions.
I greet the new session with optimism and excitement as we go forward together working on new bills and building on the hard-earned progress of some other previously filed priority bills involving animal welfare, lead in school drinking water, plastic bag pollution, and sexual assault on college campuses. Onward!