2021-22 Legislative Wins
During the 192nd legislative session, my office worked
Also known as An Act prohibiting discrimination based on natural hairstyles, this bill is modeled upon the National CROWN Act and aims to combat hair discrimination in Massachusetts by defining natural hairstyles in statute and prohibiting discrimination based on natural hairstyles in schools, businesses, and other public spaces in the Commonwealth.
On average, 63.5% of people display moderate to strong implicit bias against textured natural hair. For Massachusetts in particular, African American girls are nearly 4 times more likely than their Caucasian peers to face suspension, often for wearing their natural hairstyles at school. As a result, African American women in America experience disproportionate discrimination, extreme anxiety, and often feel significant pressure as a result of wearing natural hairstyles in their day-to-day lives.
The CROWN Act in Massachusetts will specifically define natural hairstyles in statute, prohibit discrimination in the workplace, and ban policies that limit or prohibit natural hairstyles in all school districts and require charter schools to address natural hairstyles in their equal opportunity statements.
Also known as An Act requiring accountability for inequities in suspension and expulsion, this bill was drafted to address in-school disciplinary action that is disproportionately experienced by students of color by requiring all schools to document and attempt alternative methods before suspending or expelling students while also introducing narrower parameters for both expulsion and suspension.
In Massachusetts, African American students are 3 times more likely to be suspended than students identifying as Caucasian, while Hispanic students are 2.5 times more likely which leads to these students losing a significant amount of classroom time. The RAISE Act will require schools to attempt alternative disciplinary methods before suspension or expulsion, while also narrowing the acceptable parameters for suspension and expulsion.
Also known as An Act Relative to the Preparation of Certain Bilingual Ballots in the City of Malden this bill has made Malden's voting access more equitable by allowing Malden to transliterate the English names of candidates into Chinese characters, so that Malden's substantial Chinese-speaking community has full access to the election process.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the City of Malden currently provides bilingual election ballots in Chinese but is not authorized to phonetically spell out the names of the candidates in Simplified Chinese characters. Every eligible voter in our Commonwealth should be able to exercise their right to vote, no matter what language they speak. Thank you to everyone who has advocated for this bill, Mayor Christenson, and all my colleagues for supporting it. Language Access will remain a key priority for my office in the coming years.
On November 30th, 2022, Governor Baker signed H. 4793 into law, making Malden the SECOND city ever in the Commonwealth to have transliterated names on our ballots!
Medicaid Resource Limits Bill
Also known as An Act to update Medicaid resource limits for seniors, this bill has the support of over 100 legislators and seeks to provide relief to Massachusetts seniors by changing the asset limits for those on Medicaid support.
Massachusetts is currently the worst in the nation for elder economic security. 60% of all Massachusetts seniors living alone lack the income to cover even their basic needs, with 30% of elder couples facing that same struggle. While many factors contribute to this economic insecurity, healthcare expenses represent one of the largest challenges for these seniors. Nearly all Massachusetts seniors with income below the Medicaid eligibility threshold continuously spend more than 20 percent of their income on healthcare in the absence of other assistance.
By disregarding $2000 in assets per individual and $3000 in assets per couple, this bill effectively raises elders' asset limits to $4000 and $6000 respectively, and removes the cash surrender of life insurance policies from Medicaid’s countable assets. Through these small changes, we have the opportunity to lower an enormous barrier between seniors and the healthcare they need, allowing them to better save for emergencies and plan for the future without putting their wellbeing at risk.
Medicare savings programs eligibility Bill
Also known as An Act regarding Medicare savings programs eligibility, this bill aims to reduce healthcare expenses for lower-income seniors by expanding the Commonwealth's eligibility standards for the Federal Medicare Savings Programs.
Massachusetts low-income seniors on average spend 10 times more of their income on healthcare than those who are under the age of 65. This bill bridges the health care gap for low-income seniors who do not currently qualify for low-income Medicare coverage, opening the door to roughly $130 million in federal benefits for 45,000 seniors across Massachusetts.
By expanding eligibility for these programs to seniors with incomes at 200% of the federal poverty level, we are lightening an overwhelming burden for our elders and providing them with the access to the healthcare they need to live healthy lives, especially during these difficult times. Additionally, the bill also eliminates the asset limit for seniors applying for the Medicare Savings Programs such that they can't be turned away because of assets such as life insurance. Similar assets which can only be tapped once the holder has passed should never prevent seniors from getting much-needed care while they’re living.