Community Newsletter - Summer 2018
Budget Priorities | Bond Bills | Protecting Women's Rights |
Community Events | Intern Update | Clarendon Hill
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you have been enjoying your summer, and all of the festivals and concerts that it brings around our communities!
We are a few weeks from the end of the legislative session, and I wanted to give you a recap.
There were a number of really good things that we accomplished – protections for women’s rights; steps forward on clean energy and fixing gas leaks; a bold bill to address opiate addiction, particularly for those in criminal justice system; automatic voter registration rules; new benefits for veterans; and paid family and medical leave.
And there were a number of big things that didn’t get done – creating protections for immigrants and a new funding plan for a more equitable education budget – that are incredibly frustrating.
I am proud of what we’ve accomplished, and ready to continue the fight for what still needs to be done.
In this newsletter you’ll find a wrap-up of impacts on both state programs and a particular focus on benefits for Somerville and Medford. I hope you find information to connect you to the work at the State House to foster more activism. Please contact me with any suggestions, and feel free to share with a friend.
Last month, the Legislature passed the FY2019 budget and after Governor Baker sent it back with vetoes, worked to restore funding for many critical Massachusetts programs.
On the local level, the FY19 budget includes my amendments instructing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to make improvements to pedestrian crossings and access to public transportation on Mystic Ave in both Medford and Somerville.
An amendment I filed with Sen. Jason Lewis was also included to provide critical funding for the Housing Families Inc. GREAT Youth & Families program, which provides tutoring and counseling for homeless students in Medford, Malden & Everett.
As a member of the Massachusetts Autism Commission, I work closely with advocates and families to make sure services are available for autistic individuals and their families. I am proud that the FY19 budget increased funds for the Children's Autism Waiver Program, which provides intensive at-home supports for children with autism through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The budget also includes new state funding to support the Autism Insurance Resource Center, a program of the UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, which assists patients with information, technical assistance, and support to expand access to autism treatments.
The budget also includes a funding increase to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women that I filed as an amendment. This funding support the new regional women's commissions throughout the entire Commonwealth.
See more on the FY19 budget here.
State Primary Election
Tuesday Sept 4th, 7AM-8PM
Find your polling location here.
Medford Arts Center: Night for the Arts
Friday, September 7th, 6-8PM
Commerce Place, Malden
Join Medford Art Center Inc (MACI) for live music and visual art to enjoy. Medford art will be on display for the month of September.
Ryan Harrington Foundation Corn Toss
Saturday, September 15th, 10AM
Trum Field, Somerville
Join the Ryan Harrington Foundation for its 7th annual corn toss fundraiser. Proceeds to Somerville youth organizations. Tickets.
Gilman Square Block Party
Saturday, September 15th, 3-7PM
Gilman Square, Somerville
Join Gilman Square Neighborhood Assoc. for food, fun, and opportunity to discuss the Green Line Extension with MBTA reps.
From our summer intern from UMass UWIL (Women into Leadership), Casey Kelleher:
"This summer I had the opportunity to intern for Representative Barber, and through this I learned invaluable lessons about state government and gained a deeper appreciation for the work of public servants. I was able to do research on important topics such as justice-involved women and gas leaks, attend briefings, and walk the floor of the House Chamber. Throughout the summer State House interns are able to hear from various representatives, senators, and other public figures. What stuck out to me when I listened to these speakers was that they were driven, not by a desire for recognition and praise, but instead by their desire to improve their communities. As a person who is pursuing a career in public service, this is a lesson that I consider often as I determine exactly what community issues will drive and inspire my work. I’m so grateful for the opportunity Representative Barber and her legislative aide Claire gave me to learn from them and be a part of the important work they do."
Protecting Women's Rights
Faced with a president who disregards women's rights, we had many state level progressive wins in the legislature:
Last fall, after a Trump Administration rule allowed employers to deny birth control coverage to employees, the legislature took action. H.4009, An Act to advance contraceptive coverage and economic security in our state (ACCESS), guarantees coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives with no copay, ensuring 1.4 million Massachusetts women who use birth control have access when they need it.
This spring, the legislature passed S.2296, An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare, which protects confidentiality in patient-provider relationships. When a person gets health care services, insurers send an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to the primary subscriber. The EOB can contain sensitive information on reproductive health, mental health, or sexual assault treatment. For patients who are dependents on a health plan, their confidentiality is compromised when an EOB is sent to the primary policyholder. The PATCH act closes this loophole by instructing health plans to send EOBs to each individual with general information.
Repealing Archaic Laws
This July, the legislature passed legislation to repeal unconstitutional laws that impose criminal penalties for contraception and abortion in Massachusetts. After Supreme Court Justice Kennedy's retirement and fewer federal protections, Massachusetts took action. S.2260, An Act negating archaic statutes targeting young women, repealed decades-old laws, and ensures a woman's right to make decisions about her health care.
Bond Bills, Explained
Capital bond bills authorize the Commonwealth to borrow funding for large-scale projects, critical to infrastructure. The legislature recently authorized spending for affordable housing, local economic development, and environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Funding in these bills must be appropriated by the Governor, but passing a bond bill is a step toward building local projects.
In May, the legislature passed H.4536, a housing bond bill, which authorizes five years of funding for programs that are critical to preserve and build affordable housing. The programs, including the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Community-Based Housing, drive our investment in affordable housing, housing for people with disabilities, transit-oriented development, and transitional housing for families in homelessness. I was proud to work on this bill as a Housing Committee member.
This June, we passed H.4549, which funds projects to improve public higher education campuses, public safety complexes, and more. $2M was secured to address noise pollution along the I-93 corridor in Somerville, as well as $5m forimprovements to Somerville parks. $10M was included for a new public safety complex in Medford.
At the end of session, the legislature passed H.4835, an environmental bond bill that focuses on improving climate change resiliency and investments in our parks, and includes funding for improvements to Blessing of the Bay and Foss Parks in Somerville, as well as $5M to restore the Amelia Earhart dam on the Mystic River, which protects thousands of upstream homes and businesses from flooding.
In addition, H.4732, the economic development bond bill, authorizes spending in local infrastructure and $50M in funding for the Cultural Facilities Fund to enhance our creative economy. Included in this bill is $1M for the Clippership Connector.
Clarendon Housing: Update
Many community members have been involved in Somerville's work to rebuild public housing at Clarendon Hill. The city sent 2 home rule petitions needed for the development to the State House. Both bills (H4580 and H4856) passed on the last day of formal legislative session.
Without the home rule petitions, the project would not move forward. After State House hearings, it was clear that the bills would not advance without changes. H4580 was amended to require prevailing wage to be paid to workers on the entire project. The development team has said the full prevailing wage requirement creates a financing gap and are working to create a feasible project that covers these costs.
Although I do not know the final outcome for this project, I am hopeful that everyone will come together to create housing that is acceptable to Clarendon residents and neighbors.
Community Newsletter - Spring 2018
House Budget Debate | State House Updates | Legislative Report |
Community Events | Welcome Casey! | In the News
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
How time has flown! We are entering June, and that means the end of the 190th legislative session is near. I have several legislative priorities that I am working to finalize before then. I'm working with advocates, health providers and insurance companies to address a problem known as “ghost networks” that many individuals and families face when seeking physical or behavioral health care. Often, individuals seeking care are unable to find accurate and reliable information about the providers available in their insurance network. Directories may appear to have an extensive list of provider options but in reality many have moved, closed their practice, are not accepting patients, or are no longer in-network. After many meetings over the past several months, we have drafted a compromise bill that addresses these concerns to improve provider networks, and this redraft has been reported favorably out of the Financial Services Committee. Now, I am working to include this issue in the House’s upcoming health care bill.
Also during this legislative session I have been working with Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan on legislation to mandate domestic violence and sexual assault awareness training for salon professionals, including hair stylists. Recognizing that salon professionals often form a strong bond with their clients and are in a unique position to recognize signs of abuse, DA Ryan has been working since 2009 to offer Cut It Out Middlesex, a local version of a national training program on the warning-signs of domestic violence and that provides tools and awareness of local resources. DA Ryan and I worked with the Chair of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee to agree on a bill that requires cosmetology schools to make domestic violence training a graduation requirement, and instructs the Division of Professional Licensure to develop online training for domestic violence and sexual assault awareness. Now that it has been reported out of committee, I am working to gather support to pass this bill.
Finally, there are many other bills that the House may take up over the next few months, including bills on health care costs, housing and zoning reforms, and energy. I am looking forward to being a part of these policy discussions and will work to make these reforms as progressive and strong as possible.
As you read this newsletter, I hope you find information that helps to connect you to the work at the State House to foster more activism. Please contact me with any suggestions, and feel free to share with a friend.
Speaking in front of the State House to protest the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's decision to rescind TPS (Temporary Protective Status) for Hondurans.
House Budget Debate
Last month, the House debated the FY2019 budget, and I prioritized and supported increased investment in many critical Massachusetts programs.
On the local level, I secured funding for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to make improvements to pedestrian crossings and access to public transportation on Mystic Ave in both Medford and Somerville.
I also worked to increase funding for the Mass. Commission on the Status of Women, which supports the expanding network of regional women’s commissions and recommends solutions to increase opportunities and equality for women. My amendment, included in the House’s final budget, increases MCSW’s line item to $170,000.
Finally, I was very proud that the House again showed its longstanding support for low income families by refusing to accept Governor Baker’s proposed cuts to MassHealth, Massachusetts’ Medicaid program. Governor Baker’s plan would push over 100,000 families and individuals off of MassHealth, and into less comprehensive care that would be unaffordable for many families. By refusing to make harmful changes to MassHealth in the FY2019 budget, the legislature again shows leadership on health care.
The Senate just wrapped up debating its budget package. The House and Senate will now meet to compromise on differences between the budgets.
Joining local members of the Mass. Commission on the Status of Women, after speaking at their lobby day.
In the News:
Somerville House Delegation votes for gun control
"It has been incredibly heartening to see advocacy by families, especially students in Somerville, that brought attention to and garnered support for the ERPO bill," said Rep Barber.
Rep. Barber votes for FY19 House budget
"I am very thankful to the House for taking a strong stand against cuts to MassHealth, and for the legislature's commitment to maintaining and improving upon the strong health coverage it has led the nation on for so many years," said Rep. Barber.
Immigrants frustrated with Beacon Hill, not just DC
The loss of TPS status for thousands of Hondurans and Savadorans would mean the closing of immigrant-owned businesses, a loss of jobs and increase in foreclosures.
Somerville Cares About Prevention Annual Meeting
Thursday, June 7th, 5:30PM
Highlander Cafe at Somerville High School
Learn about what Somerville Positive Forces Youth are doing to promote prevention.
Save Our Homes Walk
Sunday, June 10th, 2PM
Somerville City Hall
Join the 15th annual walk to raise funds to prevent homelessness in Somerville.
Medford Climate Resiliency Public Meeting
Wednesday, June 13th, 6:30PM
Columbus Elementary School
Learn from Medford's climate change findings and work together to make Medford a more resilient city.
MacDonald Park Clean Up
Saturday, June 23rd, 9AM
Torbert MacDonald Park
Join Mystic River Watershed Association to clear invasive vines along the Mystic River.
Casey Kelleher is a junior political science and legal studies double major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her policy interests include affordable housing, coastal flooding, and issues pertaining to women. An alum of UMass's UWIL program, Casey is pursuing a career in public service because she believes that the government can be a force of positive change. She is looking forward to gaining knowledge about the legislative process through her internship with Rep. Barber.
Interested in interning, or know someone who is? Contact my office!
State House Updates
In March, Governor Baker signed a law I have been working on with Rep. Poirier, H.1110, An Act establishing regional commissions on the status of women and girls. This bill creates three new regional commissions, including one in Middlesex County.
When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month it would end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for thousands of Hondurans living in the United States, I joined Centro Presente and other advocates to protest this harmful decision. TPS holders are vital members of our communities, and should be allowed to stay.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council hosted its annual Amplify event at the State House in May, and I had the honor of introducing my constituent, Andrine Pierresaint, who has received an MCC Amplify grant to develop a curriculum of creative writing workshops for teens and preteens. Andrine is a talented spoken word artist and a published author - read more about her here!
I joined my Somerville colleagues Rep. Provost and Rep. Connolly to testify before the Committee on Public Service in support of H.4365, An Act authorizing the Somerville Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuel companies, which passed unanimously by the Somerville Retirement Board and Board of Alderman. While this bill must be refiled next legislative session, I am hopeful we can work with the Committee to allow retirement boards to make these changes.
In May, I joined a group of legislators in welcoming college students from all over the Commonwealth to lobby for legislation improving policies for sexual assault awareness and reporting on college campuses. I am supporting two bills, H.4159, An Act creating a task force on sexual misconduct climate surveys for colleges and universities in Massachusetts, and H.632, An Act relative to sexual violence on higher education campuses, which will improve campus policies on sexual violence and empower students with resources and support.
In April, the Legislature passed sweeping a criminal justice reform law that takes important steps to reduce incarceration levels and provide diversion options to people in the justice system. I mentioned in a previous newsletter my work to raise awareness and make changes to conditions and treatment of women in the prison system, and am excited that the new law includes the policy review panel on women. Women have different life experiences, responsibilities, and needs, and we must focus on how best to work with female offenders in a justice system that is primarily designed for men. I look forward to implementation of the law, including a path for juveniles to expunge their criminal histories, repeal of mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenses, and restorative justice programs, so that we can soon see impacts in our communities.
Tobacco to 21
The House recently voted to pass "An Act to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction," which raises the age for purchase of all tobacco and nicotine products to 21. This bill takes the lead of communities like Somerville and Medford that have made this change already, and helps prevent youth smoking.
"Red flag" / ERPO
Last week, the House passed common sense gun control legislation known as the “red flag” bill, which gives family members the ability to petition a judge to suspend a person’s license to carry or firearm identification card, if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. Also known as ERPO, the bill gives families and loved ones an immediate tool to prevent possible gun violence, and is another way Massachusetts is taking the lead on gun control. I have been incredibly encouraged by the advocacy from families, and especially students in Somerville and Medford, that brought attention and garnered support for this bill. I was extremely proud to vote for it.
Upcoming Office Hours
Friday, June 15th
With W7 Ald. Katjana Ballantyne
12:30PM - 2:30PM
Saturday, June 16th
Danish Pastry House
9AM - 11AM
Friday, June 22nd
Winter Hill Brewing Company
Stay tuned for more office hours to be announced soon!
Contact me any time:
Stop by: Room 473F to meet my aide, Claire, or email her for an appointment.
Bill Spotlight: Affordable Housing | State House Updates | FY19 Budget |
Welcome Kathleen! | In the News | Community Events
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy New Year! Welcome to a year of action and resistance. At the State House, 2018 starts the 2nd year of the state legislative session, and there is still a lot to do to get good bills over the finish line before the end of session. One of the first deadlines comes up in a few weeks, on February 7, when the majority of bills need to move out of their original Committee. If they don't, these bills will need to be re-filed next year.
I am working to get a number of bills over the finish line. One of my top priorities is my bill addressing gas leaks, which protects consumers from paying for gas that leaks out of old pipes and does not make it to their homes (currently, consumers do pay for this gas!). I'm also working on legislation to encourage better price transparency to target high drug prices, one of the major costs in our health system. In addition, I am working on a bill drafted with District Attorney Marian Ryan to train salon professionals, including hair dressers and aestheticians, to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of domestic violence.
At the same time, I am focused on pushing several bills that I co-sponsored. These include ensuring at $15 minimum wage and a fair tipped wage for all, banning conversion therapy, a bill to ensure confidential health information for consumers, steps forward on energy conservation and efficiency through RPS, and bills to support immigrants like Safe Communities.
Finally, we are about to go into budget season. Please see the information below and let me know your top state budget priorities soon!
I hope this newsletter provides you with information that helps connect you to the work being done at the State House to foster more activism. Please contact me with any suggestions, and feel free to share with a friend.
Last month I had the opportunity to preside over an informal session
as Acting Speaker of the House. It was great fun and such an honor!
Bill Spotlight: Affordable Housing
Securing affordable housing is a major challenge for many families and individuals in our region, but the crisis is particularly acute for low-income families. Many who have lived in Somerville and Medford for years are being displaced as rents continue to rise.
I have filed two bills this session to address the housing crisis - H2237,an Act for Equal Access to Housing through Local Zoning, and H3024,an Act for Preventing Discriminatory Land Use and Permitting Decisions. I am pleased that both of these bills are currently moving forward, as part of omnibus housing production and zoning bills.
H2237 would require cities and towns to zone at least one district for multi-family housing, meaning 3 or more residential units or 2 or more buildings on the same lot. These districts must be suitable for children or seniors, and ideally would be near transit centers or local amenities.
This bill would ensure that cities and towns keep local character, while creating more housing affordable for working and middle class families. More multi-family housing means a decreased environmental impact compared to large-lot homes, and allows more land for public spaces.
My bill is now part of a larger housing production bill, H3845, and is before the House Committee on Ways and Means.
H3024 addresses the housing shortage by making it unlawful for land use decisions to discriminate against affordable housing simply because the developments include lower income residents. This means that communities can limit development due to other issues, like environment or traffic, but not because it’s housing that is more affordable.
Some of our current housing shortage is due to restrictive local zoning regulations and land use decisions in cities and towns that impede the development of all but single family homes on large lots. This bill is part of H2420, the omnibus zoning reform bill.
Given all of these opportunities, I am hopeful that we will continue to move forward legislative changes that shift to more housing being built, particularly for families, people with disabilities, and people with lower incomes.
Budget Season is Here
Recently, you may have heard that Governor Baker agreed to release FY18 funds for local projects, including funds appropriated for these important programs in our community:
- $100,000 to add a crosswalk on Alewife Brook Pky between Dilboy and Capen Ct in Somerville
- $100,000 for Housing Families' after-school program for homeless children in Medford
- $50,000 for more improvements to MacDonald Park in Medford
- $100,000 to support Teen Empowerment
- $350,000 for aquatic invasive species control, which keeps the Mystic River clean and healthy
I'm glad these funds will go to our important community partners soon, but the work doesn't end there. Budget season has come again, and it is time to begin working on FY2019 funding priorities. If you have suggestions for programs needing state funding, please let me know.
As I develop priorities for my fourth budget season at the State House, I remain committed to supporting state funding for many important programs that impact our neighbors across the state. This includes funding to support affordable and transitional housing and prevent homelessness, legal aid, youth programs, home care and early education.
Kathleen Melendy joins Rep. Barber’s office as an intern through the Barbara Lee Family Fellowship Internship Program at Simmons College. Kathleen is a senior majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and double minoring in Sociology and Management. Particularly interested in violence prevention, women’s rights, and sex education, she has dedicated her time to numerous women’s-serving organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Kathleen is excited to learn more about the legislative process and how to affect policy change. Upon graduation, she hopes to work for the state or for a nonprofit agency advocating for gender equality and otherwise marginalized populations.
Interested in interning, or know someone who is
Clarendon/North St Housing Redevelopment Community Meeting
Monday, January 29, 6:30PM
West Somerville Neighborhood School
Join other community members as the developer team shares the updated urban design and traffic impact study.
Somerville COA's Bring a Friend Monday
Monday, January 29th, 10AM
Cross Street Senior Center
Starting in January, join the Council on Aging once a month and bring a friend to meet new people, learn what the Council has to offer, and to get involved.
Medford First-time Homebuyers Workshop
Begins Tuesday January 30th, 6PM
Medford Housing Authority
Thinking of or in the process of buying a home? This Medford Community Housing Education Program is certified by MassHousing and Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA). $65/household. Learn more here.
Words and Music: Why Black History Month Still Matters
Friday, February 2, 8PM
West Medford Community Center
Listen to live music, learn about African-American history and join in a discussion. Find out more here.
State House Updates
Now that the House has resumed its formal schedule after the holidays, we are busy workiing to move bills before Joint Rule 10 Day (February 7th), the final date by which legislation must be reported out of committee to continue to move forward in the 190th legislative session, and as budget season approaches.
After the recent Equifax credit breach and the Federal Communications Commission's vote to repeal net neutrality protections, I am supporting two pieces of legislation which offer consumers state-level protections against unfair internet practices and credit fraud. HD4432, An Act Protecting Consumers by Prohibiting Blocking, Throttling, or Paid Prioritization in the Provision Of Internet Service, modeled after legislation filed in Washington, aims to ensure open internet access in response to the FCC's decision.H134, An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports, will help consumers by eliminating fees to freeze credit and will give consumers control over their personal data.
In the past few months, I've attended rallies, held briefings, and stood with Centro Presente and our immigrant communities in Massachusetts inopposition to President Trump's decisions to end Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, Hondurans, and Salvadorans. Immigrants with TPS have lived in our neighborhoods for years, and are important members of our community. I am proud to stand with them to push the federal government for reforms that allow TPS holders to stay in the U.S.
This month, I joined Chairman Pignatelli and my colleagues on the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for a briefing from the Mass Department of Environmental Protection on the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). NPDES is a water quality program that regulates and issues permits for facilities that discharge pollutants into surface waters, and Governor Baker has filed legislation to delegate its administration from the Federal EPA to the Commonwealth's own environmental agency. I have concerns about DEP's already stretched budget and current permitting backlog, and am following this legislation closely.
This week, I was proud to join Speaker DeLeo at his annual veterans luncheon in the Great Hall of the State House, which is a great opportunity to honor our veterans in Massachusetts and ensure they receive services they need in the community.
On January 30th, I am looking forward to joining my colleagues in House and Senate for the Women's Caucus Annual Meeting. As Vice Chair of the Women's Caucus, I greatly enjoy organizing with my colleagues to support legislation to promote gender equity in the Commonwealth.
With Somerville Ward 7 Alderman and new President Katjana Balantyne at Somerville's mayoral and board of aldermen inauguration on January 1st!
Last month, I had lunch with the Women In Public Service Network, a networking group of women currently working in government. We had a great conversation about women in politics!
Upcoming Office Hours
Saturday, February 3rd
With W4 SC's Andre Green & Alderman Jesse Clignan
Winter Hill Brewing Company
8AM - 10AM
Saturday, February 10th
Whole Foods Medford
9AM - 11AM
Stay tuned for more office hours to be announced soon!
Contact me any time:
Stop by: Room 473F to meet my aide, Claire, or email her for an appointment.
In the News:
As Green Line Extension moves forward, locals hope for expansion into Medford
"The Route 16 stop in particular is one of the busiest stops, so it would pull more cars off the road and pull in more riders than [many] other stops of the Green Line Extension," Barber said. "The ability to increase mobility and increase ridership by going to Route 16 would improve the entire Green Line Extension."
DA aims to cut down on domestic violence
In an effort to expand Cut It Out training across the Commonwealth, Middlesex DA Marian Ryan has partnered with state Rep. Christine Barber to spearhead legislation that would require licenses aestheticians, hairdressers, manicurists, and others to complete one hour of domestic violence and sexual assault awareness training.
Panel would examine how criminal justice system affects Massachusetts women
The Massachusetts House unanimously passed an amendment to its comprehensive criminal justice bill establishing a new panel on justice-involved women. The panel would look at the impact of Massachusetts' criminal justice laws on women to develop gender-specific recommendations.
The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber, D-Somerville... "This amendment ensures policy changes in the bill will be implemented in a manner that most benefits women in the justice system," Barber said.