As winter bears down upon the Island, I hope you can take a moment — preferably with a cup of tea by the fire — to read our State House legislative update.
During my first week in office, I filed a bill convening a state commission of scientists, shellfishers, and policy makers to address ocean acidification. The ocean dissolves roughly a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, which depletes the carbonate shellfish use to grow shells and could collapse Massachusetts’ half-billion-dollar shellfishing industry. If left unchecked, ocean acidification, often referred to as global warming’s evil twin, could lead to a mass extinction of marine life. During the last days of the session, Sen. Cyr and I passed our ocean acidification bill, enacting the state’s first legislation to address this growing crisis.
Moving to a clean energy future is the most important step we can take to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2016, the legislature authorized energy procurement from a first-in-the-nation deepwater offshore wind farm. This legislative session we doubled down, allowing the project to be built out to 3,200 megawatts — enough to power over 2 million homes, which is nearly every household in Massachusetts. This project, which is 12 miles south of the Vineyard, is an example of our state and our district leading the nation. When Massachusetts takes action on innovative policies, other states follow. Since the passage of our legislation, states up and down the East Coast enacted have offshore wind legislation, a domino effect that will put a significant dent in carbon emissions.
The Legislature repealed and amended a number of archaic laws still on the books from an era when women had little economic and social power. These dystopian statutes banned access to contraceptives and prevented a woman’s right to control her own body. Although these laws have not been enforced for decades, with a new Supreme Court that could turn back Roe v. Wade, it is critical that Massachusetts stand ready to protect women’s reproductive freedom.
The opioid and heroin epidemic has claimed more lives in our country than the Vietnam War. We built off the legislature’s 2015 opioid bill with another piece of legislation that aims to expand prevention, treatment, and recovery. The comprehensive legislation has many components, including the creation of a permanent trust fund for prevention programs for children and young adults and the extension of medication-assisted treatment to emergency rooms and several prisons. The bill also establishes commissions to investigate policies on holding pharmaceutical companies accountable, the effectiveness and legal implications of safe use sites and involuntary treatment, and guidance on the efficacy of treatment options. The opioid and heroin epidemic is a public health emergency, and, while this bill is a positive step, we have a lot more work to do.
Our law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to serve our local communities. They support us, and we took a big step in supporting them by passing their priority legislation, creating a dedicated revenue stream for police training. The revenue, which comes from a $2 surcharge on car rentals, will be used to equip officers with the best training and resources available to stay safe in the line of duty and serve our local communities. This legislation was a top priority of our entire Cape and Islands legislative delegation.
In my last update, I highlighted legislation on automatic voter registration and comprehensive civics education requirement for students. These bills have since been signed into law. This legislation expands access and engagement in government and strengthens our democracy. Part of public distrust of government comes from not understanding how it works and feeling left out of the process. These bills will give people the tools to participate in our democracy and create change.
We also passed two Island bills which resolve an unpaid bill in Tisbury and allow Dukes County Airport to procure the funds necessary to build wastewater infrastructure.
It is an honor to wake up every day and serve the district I grew up in and love. I am deeply grateful to the residents on the Vineyard for electing me to a second term, and our team has already rolled up our sleeves to work on new, innovative legislation for next session. As always, we are here for you. Reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-722-2430. Happy Holidays!