Op-eds

July 28, 2017
By

Op-Ed: Conference on state budget

By Local State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez

In early July, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $40.2 billion FY18 Conference Committee budget. After the House and Senate pass their versions of the budget, three House and three Senate members meet to reconcile the differences between the budgets. The product of their work is the Conference Committee budget, which goes to both branches for a final vote of acceptance.

In the midst of a tough fiscal climate, we achieved a budget that makes targeted investments to protect our most vulnerable citizens. I am particularly proud of the work we’ve done on early education and care, as well as services for the disabled. The budget demonstrates the House’s continued commitment to the education, housing and the health of all Massachusetts residents. It includes funding to support evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism and provide job training for ex-prisoners, funding for anti-gang and youth violence prevention programs and funding to increase the salaries of early educators. Additionally, the House passed a bill allocating $26.1 million to pay attorneys who represented indigent clients this past fiscal year.

Given the uncertainty at the federal level, we must continue to fund social services and provide resources for the people of the Commonwealth. Below are some highlights of the FY18 Conference Committee budget.

-An increase of $119 million for school aid, which amounts to an increase of $30 per pupil

-Increase in the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution paid by employers to help cover the cost of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program

-Increase of $61.7 million for developmental services, particularly in support of the growing Turning 22 population

-$15 million for early educator provider rates

-Almost $96 million for the State Scholarship Program

-$100 million deposit in the state’s “rainy day” fund

-$132.5 million for the Bureau for Substance Abuse Services, including

  •  $150,000 for the Dimock Center’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health programming
  •  $150,000 for Self Esteem Boston to provide skill development training to homeless, substance abusers and individuals transitioning out of the criminal justice system

-$36 million increase in overall funding to the Department of Children and Families

-Almost $93 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which provides a permanent improvement in the lives of low-income families and individuals by offering both tenant- and project-based rental subsidies

-$91.7 million for child and adolescent mental health services including expanded case management services for young adults

-$4.3 million for youth violence prevention programs in the Commonwealth

-Almost $11 million for youth-at-risk programs seeking to reduce juvenile delinquency in high-risk areas

-$15 million to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, or RAFT, which enables families to avoid homelessness by providing the assistance necessary to maintain housing or move into housing

Massachusetts faces a tough fiscal climate as tax revenue growth continues to be lower than expected. This is part of the challenge that we face during this budget process and beyond it. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues to address these challenges.

Op-ed: New Baystate Law To Protect Pregnant Workers

By Local State Rep. Liz Malia

Nearly a year ago, the Massachusetts legislature passed the Equal Pay Act. That law took aim at some of the most pernicious sex and gender-based workplace discrimination we know. This year, we are establishing workplace protections for pregnant workers, because unfortunately gender-based employment discrimination doesn’t end with pay.

Today, women comprise half the workforce and are the primary breadwinner for over forty percent of households with children. At some point in their working lives, nearly eight-five percent of women will become mothers. Unfortunately, we’ve heard too many horror stories of employers in the Commonwealth not consistently offering accommodations to pregnant workers who must keep working to make ends meet, and even unjustly firing pregnant workers over increased bathroom breaks, medical appointments or the simple need to sit.

Until now, pregnant women in all industries of every ethnicity in every state were not guaranteed protections under our state law because pregnancy discrimination was subject to the court’s interpretation of the word “sex”. Despite the passage of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), which outlawed pregnancy discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions as illegal sex discrimination, unfortunately many courts interpreted the PDA narrowly, enabling employers to readily refuse workers accommodations arising from pregnancy.

That’s why as a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and the Caucus of Women Legislators, I voted in April to advance the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to end pregnancy discrimination, promote healthy pregnancies, and protect the economic security of pregnant women and their families. In late July, the Legislature sent the final version of the compromise bill to the Governor, and it recently became law.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act offers pregnant workers protection in the form of mandated accommodations that allow them to continue working without having to sacrifice their health or having a heathy pregnancy. Under the new law, employers must offer pregnant workers access to water and seating, private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, longer paid or unpaid breaks, time off with or without pay to recover from childbirth, job restructuring, or a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position. Additionally, the law bans employers from refusing to hire a pregnant woman solely because she requires a reasonable accommodation. It also prevents employers from requiring an employee to take a leave of absence if another reasonable accommodation may be provided without undue hardship to the employer. Going forward, I am hopeful these commonsense legal protections will enable women to have healthy pregnancies and to remain productive workers.

At the federal level, there is pending legislation to establish easy-to-apply legal standards to protect workers nationwide. It would answer the questions left open in 2015 by the Supreme Court in the case, Young vs. UPS, where the court ruled that pregnant workers must present evidence that employers are refusing to accommodate them while accommodating other employees whose ability to work is similar to their own. Even if the federal law remains, to date, twenty states, the District of Columbia and five cities have passed laws requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, making Massachusetts the twenty-first state to add greater protections for pregnant workers.

Female workers deserve respect, basic accommodations, and legal protections during their pregnancies. With the passage of this new law, we will help to solidify women’s security in their careers, increase predictability and productivity for employers, and prevent women from choosing between their health and a paycheck.

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Op-Ed: Imagine Boston 2030: Lifting Everyone up

By Mayor Martin Walsh

“We will listen. We will learn. We will lead.”

That is a promise that I made to Bostonians after being sworn in as the 54th Mayor of the City of Boston. Now, almost four years later, we have put forth Boston’s first citywide plan in over 50 years–Imagine Boston 2030—that will guide inclusive and long-term growth for our City’s future to boost quality of life, equity and resilience in every neighborhood in Boston.

Imagine Boston 2030 builds on our strengths and shares them more widely. This plan is about lifting people up, embracing our diversity and connecting people to good jobs. It’s about expanding opportunities to every corner of our City — and making sure everyone benefits from our success.

Boston is at a unique point in our history. Our population is growing, and we are expected to exceed 700,000 residents before 2030. We’ve been growing twice as fast as the rest of the nation, and we are more diverse than ever. The world’s leading employers and innovators are flocking here. We have so many positive attributions and assets, and our future is bright. To ensure our bright future helps everyone, we have to plan. That’s where Imagine Boston 2030 comes in. Through this plan, we’ll listen, learn and lead Boston to continued success.

We will listen.

        This plan is the result of 26 months of listening to residents who engaged in our workshops, left feedback in suggestion boxes, attended our “Forums on the Future” events and contributed to our online engagement tools.  

It has been shaped by over 15,000 voices who offered their input and contributed to our citywide plan. One Roslindale resident told us that they’d like to see “housing density close to public transit and near walkable main streets.” That’s exactly the future we see for Boston.

We will learn.

Through the engagement process, we learned what Boston residents consider to be the biggest opportunities and challenges for our future, which guided us to establish five action areas, which include: (1) enhancing our neighborhoods by strengthening the neighborhood services and connectivity, and investing in the public realm; (2) encouraging a mixed-use core that encourages a dense, walkable core in our job centers where more people live, work and gather; (3) expanding neighborhoods in key areas to guide new housing and commercial growth; (4) creating a waterfront for all Bostonians by activating open spaces, connecting neighborhoods to the waterfront, and investing in proactive climate planning and infrastructure; (5) expanding access to opportunity in the neighborhoods along the Fairmount Corridor through coordinated investments in transportation, neighborhood vibrancy and education.

We believe in the power of this plan to change our City for the better. Since we launched Imagine Boston 2030, we have never stopped listening and putting those ideas into action. This plan represents a living document that will evolve as our City evolves.

We will lead.

Our work is far from being done, but we are already well underway. We have aligned Imagine Boston with our City’s Capital Plan, so we can continue to implement projects.

Citywide, we are creating strategies to ensure that Bostonians have stable housing, support our neighborhoods with transit and green spaces, make our communities healthy and walkable, support our small businesses, and ensure our waterfront is resilient and accessible for all.

Please take a moment to view the plan at imagine.boston.gov. I look forward to building Boston’s future with you.

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