To the Editor:
As the summer heats up and our lives and roads are filled with visitors, I hope you find a moment to read our update of the goings-on at the State House.
Abortion is legal in Massachusetts. The Supreme Court’s dystopian ruling does not change that, and we will do everything in our power to expand access to abortion and protect women’s rights in our state. We will also prepare to be a safe haven for women across the country forced to flee Republican-controlled states to get basic healthcare. The Supreme Court does not represent our country. History will judge them harshly.
In Massachusetts, Democrats passed the ROE Act, expanding access to care for vulnerable women. When our Republican Governor Charlie Baker vetoed it, we overrode his veto. This June, we doubled down on our efforts to fight back against the Republican effort to treat women as lesser people. The bill we passed protects healthcare professionals who provide abortions to people in our state and out of it, it expands emergency contraception, and it requires insurance companies to cover abortion care without deductibles or copays. We will not go quietly. Ultimately, there are more of us, and we will prevail, but we need everyone in the fight.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed our FY 2023 budget, which included $445,000 that I secured for our district. For Martha’s Vineyard, I negotiated $30,000 for Island veterans, $50,000 to provide off-Island medical transit for Islanders, and $20,000 to finance facility infrastructure upgrades at the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club. I also advocated for $330,000 in funding to protect and preserve the Vineyard’s environment, including $150,000 to support shellfish propagation, $150,000 to promote coastal water quality and natural resource monitoring in Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, and $30,000 for beach erosion control, monitoring, and dune stabilization at Joseph Sylvia State Beach. Included in the state budget were policy proposals that support our most vulnerable residents. The budget bans child marriage in the commonwealth, extends universal free school meals, expands treatment and access to care for minors with HIV, and eliminates phone call costs for incarcerated individuals and their families.
We are all tied to the ocean, and we must return to the sea to save our planet from the devastation of climate change. In the spring, the House passed groundbreaking offshore wind legislation that is a commitment to future generations to drive out fossil fuels. Included in that bill was our “community empowerment” legislation that allows cities, towns, and private companies to directly contract with offshore wind companies. For the first time, municipalities that have pledged to take climate action will now have the ability to power their communities directly with offshore wind. This bill also includes language we filed requiring companies to have environmental and fishery mitigation plans, and creates a seat at the table for the fishing industry in overseeing mitigation funds.
No one should be allowed to own the ocean or the sand beneath its waves. Yet Massachusetts law from nearly 400 years ago bars the public from accessing the vast majority of the coast. In fact, Massachusetts has the most restrictive beach laws in the country, while states like Texas allow public access all the way to the vegetation line. Currently, the public can use the intertidal zone, the area between high and low tide, for “fishing, fowling, and navigation,” and I filed legislation that would add the word “recreation” to that list.
As COVID dynamics continue to change and new variants emerge, the state must be responsive to health needs. We passed legislation to provide $101 million in COVID relief, with funding ensuring our schools had the testing resources they needed to stay open. We also passed legislation extending cocktails to go and outdoor dining, providing a helpful boost to our local restaurants. As Russia’s gutless assault on Ukraine continues, we allocated $10 million to help Ukrainian refugees settle in Massachusetts.
It’s not often that residents from our far-flung district make their way to the State House. But a few years ago, I was visited by a group of MVRHS students who traveled for six hours to advocate for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. They explained to me how difficult it was for them to get to sports practices or doctor’s appointments because they or their parents couldn’t get a license. This spring, the legislature passed the Work and Family Mobility Act, to allow undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses. The Democrats in the legislature overrode the governor’s veto, and Massahuchusetts now joins Utah, New Mexico, and 15 other states that have this law. Not only is this legislation about basic human dignity and respect, but it will make our roads safer by ensuring that all drivers are properly trained and are insured.
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is one of two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts, and it’s their land that we call home. This winter, we passed legislation to give the tribe a seat at the table on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, correcting a decades-old omission. Expanding equity means being inclusive of diverse groups, especially those that have been historically marginalized, and this bill will ensure the tribe has a voice in regional planning.
As always, my office is here for you should you need assistance, or if you have questions or concerns. Please don’t hesitate to reach out any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-257-1174.