Commonwealth Magazine


FRAIDY REISSwho heads the New Jersey-based advocacy group Unchained At Last, has been fighting for six years to end child marriage in Massachusetts, lobbying lawmakers and testifying at hearings.

Supporters created a coalition of 50 organizations opposed to child marriage, and there was no vocal opposition. During the first legislative session, Reiss was told that this was too new a problem. In the second legislative session, the Senate passed the bill unanimously, and then COVID hit. This year, as the Judiciary Committee blocked passage of the bill, House Minority Leader Brad Jones introduced a budget amendment to ban child marriage, which was passed unanimously by bedroom.

On Monday, the Legislature banned the marriage of minors under the age of 18 as part of the final state budget bill that emerged from a conference committee on Sunday. If Governor Charlie Baker signs the provision, Massachusetts would become the seventh US state to ban child marriage.

Rep. Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat who was a key sponsor of the measure for years, spoke passionately on the floor of the House. “Early marriage jeopardizes a child’s health, education and future economic opportunities,” she said.

Reiss notes that 59 of the more than 1,200 teenagers married in Massachusetts since 2000 were too young under state law to legally consent to sex. None of these young women were old enough to file for divorce or enter a domestic violence shelter.

Reiss’ reaction to the passage of the bill was a joyful cry. But even she recognized the strange path prohibition takes to become law. “Ideally, politics shouldn’t be done in the budget,” Reiss said. “But when you have to put an end to a human rights violation, you use all the means available, and that was the means available.”

In theory, the budget is the vehicle used to fund state government. In practice, the state budget is frequently used as a catch-all political vehicle, a way to use a bill that is guaranteed to move on to other policies that for some reason have not not been adopted as stand-alone legislation. This year is no different, with policies included in the fiscal year 2023 budget that range from extending universal free school meals to all students, regardless of income, to requiring sheriffs and corrections officials to provide free calls to inmates. Lawmakers sent the bill to Baker on Monday.

Some of the provisions have a clear link to government spending. But other “external sections,” as the politicians are called, have little connection to the budget itself.

For example, advocates for some segments of the Asian community have had a longstanding disagreement about the types of demographic information to collect when a form asks about ethnicity. The problem is that the Asian-American label is too broad and does not distinguish between distinct ethnic groups.

An outer section of the budget states that any government agency that collects demographic data on race and ethnicity must have separate tables for a large number of subpopulations, including Asian groups (such as Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, etc.), Pacific Islander groups (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian, Samoan, etc.), Black groups (African Americans, Jamaicans, Haitians, etc.), Latino groups (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans ) and white (German, Irish, English, etc.).

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues says he doesn’t think there’s more politics in this year’s budget than usual. “It’s a matter of tradition,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I resist making policy changes in budget vehicles as much as possible, but it happens every year.” Rodrigues added that often outside political sections are needed to implement spending arrangements.

Certain sections of the policy fall into this category. For example, an outdoor chapter creates a scholarship fund to attract more public school teachers from underrepresented populations, and the budget capitalizes the fund.

House Ways and Means Speaker Aaron Michlewitz said that since many bills go through the Ways and Means committees, the budget gives lawmakers the opportunity to pass bills that the committee considers valuable, often those that have a financial impact.

For example, the Chamber increased funding for early childhood education and also changed the way money is paid by basing payments on enrollment rather than attendance. In this case, the budget provided a means to quickly implement the recommendations of an early education commission report released in March. “On the House side, there were other elements that had a financial impact and contained a bit more politics than perhaps traditionally – like toll-free calls [for inmates] and some of the early education pieces,” Michlewitz said.

But many outdoor sections go beyond that.

The budget bill would create a new board of directors to ensure that any veteran who received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity under the old Don ‘t Ask Don’t Tell will receive state-based veterans benefits. . The policy banned openly gay and lesbian service members from serving for 17 years, beginning in 1994.

Advocates for the poor have for years urged the government to put in place a common app that people can use to apply for a range of social benefits, rather than having to apply for each benefit individually. The state has made progress, but the budget would require the administration to create a common app that someone could use to simultaneously apply for MassHealth, food assistance, cash assistance, veterans benefits, childcare subsidies, housing subsidies, fuel assistance, and “other needs-based health care, nutrition, and housing benefits.”

The bill establishes a new program under which people with severe intellectual or developmental disabilities can participate in the activities of public college campuses as non-registered students – by taking undergraduate university courses or participating in internships, on-the-job training, or extracurricular activities, even if they did not graduate from high school or pass a college entrance exam.

The bill requires anyone seeking to open a quarry to seek permission from a state geologist, provide information about quarry operations, test for pyrite or pyrrhotite, and comply with ESA standards. State for pyrrhotite. This appears to be an answer to the problem in parts of Massachusetts where home foundations have become contaminated with pyrrhotite, which crumbles over time.

State officials would be required to review data and release a report on prescribing and treatment history, including court-ordered treatment or treatment under the criminal justice system, of Massachusetts residents. who suffered fatal opioid overdoses between 2019 and 2021.

Jails and jails would not be allowed to charge more than 3% of the cost of purchasing Commissary items.

The bill would require anyone seeking to open a clinical laboratory independent of a hospital or licensed health clinic to obtain a license.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services would be responsible for reviewing the data and issuing a report to ensure that health care services are adequate to meet the needs of people with sickle cell disease.

Amid a debate over whether to let the state build additional correctional facilities, the Legislature would require the Department of Correction and county sheriffs to provide an annual public report on their housing inventory, capacity, number of detainees held there and the amount of exits. cell time offered to prisoners.

There are also many commissions created to study different issues. A commission is reportedly examining the creation of a Middlesex County ‘recovery centre’, where people with mental health or substance use disorders who end up in court can be diverted and released from jails towards the center.

Meet the author

Journalist, Commonwealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter for CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for over seven years at Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, issues with the state’s foster care system and the elections for US senators. Elizabeth Warren and Governor Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Excellence in Legal Journalism Award in 2018 and several articles have won awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered New Hampshire’s 2012 presidential primary for The Boston Globe. Prior to that, she worked for the Concord (NH) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, city hall, and Barack Obama’s 2008 primary campaign in New Hampshire. Shira holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter for CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for over seven years at Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, issues with the state’s foster care system and the elections for US senators. Elizabeth Warren and Governor Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Excellence in Legal Journalism Award in 2018 and several articles have won awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered New Hampshire’s 2012 presidential primary for The Boston Globe. Prior to that, she worked for the Concord (NH) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, city hall, and Barack Obama’s 2008 primary campaign in New Hampshire. Shira holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

UMass Amherst is reportedly exploring the possibility of building a new Massachusetts Health Sciences Teaching School and Health Workforce Innovation Center on the Mount Ida campus in Newton.

There would be commissions to study oral health, chronic kidney disease, and the history of public institutions for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

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