The Massachusetts State Senate passed an unprecedented police reform bill early Tuesday morning when most people were sleeping after many hours of debate. The bill passed 30-7, and would do many things including ban the use of chokeholds by police; limit the use of tear gas; create a committee that would certify all law enforcement officers; prohibit police from shooting into moving vehicles, except for limited circumstances; create uniform standards for training police across the commonwealth. The House will debate the bill before July 31 when the current legislative session ends. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he wanted to hold a virtual hearing on the Senate bill this week. Last month Governor Charlie Baker filed his own legislation to create a system that would license police and hold them accountable to a set of professional standards.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, and state Rep. Nika Elugardo were among elected officials of color to speak at a press conference on Tuesday outside of the State House, and released a 10-point plan to combat systemic racism. Pressley joined the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and other elected officials of color from across the state to "speak directly to the pain and injustice facing our communities and to advocate for police accountability and reform." You can view the entire press conference here. Elugardo said that she worked closely with African American Coalition Committee (AACC), a group of "inside the wall" advocates incarcerated at MCI Norfolk who, before Elugardo was elected, helped draft the original bill to establish the Commission on Structural Racism referenced in priority #7. (Graphics from Boston At-Large City Councilor Julia Mejia)
Local state representatives were championed for guiding a new state law that puts a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Governor Charlie Baker signed into law on Monday, prohibits all non-essential evictions and foreclosures, and additional tenant protections. Residential landlords cannot terminate tenancy or send notice to evict due to non-payment or for no-fault evictions. Landlords are also not allowed to charge a late fee for non-payment of rent or give data to a credit reporting agency if the tenant provides documents showing why COVID-19 prevented them from paying rent. Creditors must also grant a forbearance on mortgage payments for up to 180 days if requested.
In different ways the city and state are working to advance equity, diversity and opportunities for the marijuana industry. The city recently announced five members to its newly established Cannabis Board. "The purpose of Boston's Cannabis Board is to make sure our actions continue to match our values: supporting equity, diversity and local ownership in this new industry," said Mayor Marty Walsh via press release. "I'm proud to appoint these exceptional members to the Cannabis Board as we work to ensure every resident has access to the same opportunities in our growing city." The new board was part of an ordinance created in November that established equitable regulation of the marijuana industry in the city.
With English High School students gathered in a packed gym, Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that boosts investment in public schools by $1.5 billion annually over the next seven years. Baker was joined by numerous elected officials and business leaders, including Mayor Marty Walsh, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Boston School Committee Chairman Michael Loconto, State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, City Councilors Matt O'Malley and Annissa Essaibi-George, and more on Nov. 26. The Student Opportunity Act will particularly provide new funding to school districts with high percentages of low-income students and English Language learners who often live in some of the highest-need communities. “This is a monumental moment for the future of our Commonwealth.