BOSTON – As the deadline for the Legislature’s bill filing approaches on February 19, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday a legislative agenda for the 2021-2022 session focused on what she says is “promoting equity and social justice and protecting vulnerable communities”. The nine bills filed on Wednesday represent the start of AG Healey’s legislative advocacy this session, and include proposals to better protect nursing home residents, victims of crime, consumers, workers, and ratepayers across the state.
“My office is dedicated to ensuring justice for all of our state’s residents – especially those in our most vulnerable communities and as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” AG Healey said. “These bills will allow us to better support and protect the well-being of people across our state. We look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure these critical protections are in place, and on our other shared priorities, including promoting racial equity, seeking environmental justice, increasing voting access and protections, and recovering from the pandemic.”
Comprised of new and refiled legislation, AG Healey’s legislative proposals would reform the current hate crime statutes, enhance tools used by the AG’s Office to address abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled patients, strengthen the law prohibiting firearm silencers, and modernize protections for consumers who buy a used car or lease a vehicle.
The AG’s Office also refiled legislation to combat human trafficking by regulating alternative healing therapies, bar competitive electric suppliers from signing up new individual residential customers, improve the Office’s ability to address violations of wage and hour laws, codify the confidentiality of victim compensation applications, and protect pollinators from harmful insecticides.
In addition to this initial set of bills, the AG’s Office plans to work collaboratively with the Legislature in the coming months on other shared priorities, including promoting racial equity, addressing climate change and environmental justice, increasing voting access and protections, investing in the health and wellbeing of young people, recovering from COVID-19, combating wage theft, and protecting students and consumers from unfair practices.
A list of the proposals in the AG’s legislative agenda are as follows:
An Act to reform the hate crime statutes
An Act strengthening the Attorney General’s tools to protect nursing home residents and other patients from abuse and neglect
An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions
An Act relative to silencers
An Act relative to electric ratepayer protections
An Act to protect the privacy of crime victims
An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators
An Act regulating alternative healing therapies
An Act relative to enhanced enforcement of civil penalties
Summaries of new legislation filed this session:
SD972 / HD1653, An Act to reform the hate crime statutes
Sponsored by: Senator Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover)
An Act to reform the hate crime statutes reworks the two seldom-used statutes to better reflect their purpose – to charge individuals who target a person based on their membership in a protected class. Bias-related incidents and hate crimes are currently on the rise in Massachusetts and across the country and this change will strengthen the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to better protect victims. This proposal consolidates the two current General Law sections into one statute, provides clear definitions, and structures separate crimes and accompanying penalties based on the seriousness of the underlying offenses rather than grouping all alleged offenders together.
SD1028 / HD1575, An Act strengthening the Attorney General’s tools to protect nursing home residents and other patients from abuse and neglect
Sponsored by: Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton)
An Act strengthening the Attorney General’s tools to protect nursing home residents and other patients from abuse and neglect strengthens the civil enforcement tools used by the AG’s Office to address abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled patients, whether they are cared for at home or in nursing homes. The bill increases the civil penalties that the office can seek for the mistreatment, abuse or neglect of nursing home residents or other covered patients. It also increases the time in which the office can bring a civil suit from two years to four years. In 2019, the AG’s Office announced settlements with seven nursing homes for systemic issues that tragically led to the death, injury or potential injury of nursing home residents.
SD1027 / HD1676, An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions
Sponsored by: Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) and Representative Carlos González (D-Springfield)
An Act modernizing protections for consumers in automobile transactions enhances consumer protection laws related to the purchase of used or leased automobiles. A vehicle is one of the largest purchases consumers make and can significantly impact residents’ economic security, as many people need a safe and reliable car to maintain their job, transport children to school, and access health care. Year after year, auto issues are the most frequent consumer complaint the AG’s Office receives, and this bill aims to directly address the issues raised by consumers. The bill seeks to strengthen the state’s Lemon Aid Law to ensure consumers can obtain a timely inspection of their newly purchased vehicle, increase the maximum mileage for coverage under the Used Vehicle Warranty Law to 200,000 miles, improve a consumer’s ability to file a claim against a car dealer’s surety bond, establish the ability of the AG’s Office to file on behalf of a class of consumers, and add notice and right to cure period requirements prior to repossession for leased vehicles.
SD1030 / HD1605, An Act relative to silencers
Sponsored by: Senator Michael Moore (D-Worcester) and Representative Paul Tucker (D-Salem)
An Act relative to silencers will strengthen current state law prohibiting the purchase, possession and use of silencers by amending the definition of “silencer” to mirror the definition in federal law. At a time when law enforcement officials are seeing an increase in the purchase and possession of illegal firearms, including ghost guns, and firearm accessories, this bill will strengthen enforcement capabilities and protect public safety by helping to keep these devices out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
The AG’s Office is also refiling:
SD674 / HD1614, An Act relative to electric ratepayer protections
Sponsored by: Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Representative Frank Moran (D-Lawrence)
This bill bars competitive electric suppliers from enrolling new individual residential customers in contracts. The bill is part of AG Healey’s ongoing efforts to protect Massachusetts residents from the unfair and deceptive practices in the competitive electric supply market for residential customers. The AG’s Office has issued two reports on the impact of the market in Massachusetts, which together with additional analysis found that, from July 2015 through June 2019, customers in the state who switched to a competitive electric supplier paid $340 million more for their electricity than if they had stayed with utility company. The AG’s reports also found that low-income, elderly, and residents of color are disproportionately affected by these practices.
SD712, An Act to protect the privacy of crime victims
Sponsored by: Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston)
This legislation would statutorily protect the confidentiality of information contained in a crime victim’s compensation application. The AG’s Victim Compensation & Assistance Division administers the state’s Victim Compensation Fund, which provides financial assistance to eligible victims of violent crimes prosecuted by the state, for crime related expenses including medical and dental care, funeral and burial costs, mental health counseling crime scene clean-up services and security measures. The applications for assistance from the fund routinely contain private information including the victim’s home or work address and telephone numbers, the names and address of the victim’s family members, and the victim’s medical information.
HD1267, An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators
Sponsored by: Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston)
This bill restricts the use of neonicotinoid pesticide products to certified commercial applicators, private applicators, or licensed applicators and incorporates violations into the current penalty framework. The bill also requires licensed applicators notify the customer of any warnings concerning bees when applying the insecticide. Neonicotinoids have become the most widely used insecticide and once they are sprayed or coated on plant seeds, the chemical is taken up into the plant tissue and can remain in plants and soil long after application.
SD1068 / HD1708, An Act regulating alternative healing therapies
Sponsored by: Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) and Representative Michael Day (D-Stoneham)
This legislation creates a regulatory structure for alternative healing therapies to prevent criminals from using these currently unregulated practices as fronts for human trafficking. The proposal incorporates current certification and accreditation standards for each modality and provides a process for current practitioners to become licensed.
SD262, An Act relative to enhanced enforcement of civil penalties
Sponsored by: Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)
The bill allows the AG’s Fair Labor Division to better address violations of the state’s wage and hour laws, including those requiring payment of wages, minimum wage and overtime, by bringing civil cases in Superior Court.