Category: Press

We need to talk about periods – Bill would make menstrual products available in schools, shelters, prisons

IN 2014 a German nongovernmental organization called WASH United dubbed May 28 “International Menstrual Hygiene Day” to raise visibility around the daily struggle many people face with menstrual hygiene management. The date was chosen intentionally as a reference to the average length of the menstrual cycle – 28 days.

Since then nine states in the US have exempted tampons from taxation, acknowledging that the state budget should not be funded by a cost borne by only half the population. In 2016, New York City passed legislation to make menstrual products available in all public schools, shelters, and prisons. And, just a few months ago, we saw a short documentary, Period. End of Sentence, take home an Academy Award and watched the filmmakers give an impassioned acceptance speech about the need for better menstrual health education and access to menstrual products across the globe.

Right here in Massachusetts, Somerville, New Bedford, and Brookline student activists are organizing to demand that bathrooms be stocked with menstrual products. And town meeting in Brookline voted last week to do just that. It can’t be denied that the menstrual equity movement is growing.

Today, our Massachusetts Legislature has an opportunity to lead the country in menstrual equity legislation by passing Mass NOW’s new bill, An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters, and Public Schools. (It’s nicknamed the “I AM. Bill.”) The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Reps.  Jay Livingstone of Boston and Christine Barber of Somerville, contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.

As it stands, over 70 legislators have signed on in support of our bill and more than 40 menstrual activists, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and public servants in Massachusetts have signed onto the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition. But the path forward is long and our work toward ending the stigma around menstruation is far from over. There is a dearth of information about what the state of access to menstrual products is in schools, prisons, and shelters. We’re working with stakeholders across the state to gather stories from all those who would be impacted by this bill to develop an implementation strategy that’s feasible, economical, and truly a service to those it’s meant to support.

Language matters because it is a part of how systems of oppression operate. That’s why the bill refers to “menstruating individuals” – because we know that not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators identify as a woman. We also avoid using the word hygiene because periods are not something dirty that needs to be cleaned away.

Meet the Author

Sasha Goodfriend

Massachusetts chapter National Organization of Women

Mass NOW is calling on menstruators and non-menstruators alike to talk about periods. The power in the stigma and shame around menstruation – and around female and femme identifying bodies more broadly – lies in our refusal to even talk about it. We have the power to break this cycle through conversations around the dinner table, in health education classes and  with Mass NOW; in consciousness raising style in living rooms across the Commonwealth. We shouldn’t need a day to talk about periods, but once you start talking about it, you’ll find that the conversation doesn’t stop flowing.Sasha Goodfriend is the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.

Metro-Boston Communities Endorse Cape Bill

    
From MassDivest…

FALMOUTH – Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ bill to allow the 104 independent retirement systems in Massachusetts to divest from the fossil fuel industry (H.3662) has gained the support of two cities in the Metro-Boston region. The city councils of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to pass the Cape bill.

Somerville City Council President Katjana Ballantyne introduced the resolution April 25 and gained unanimous support from the Council. According to Ballantyne, “We all need to get out of these fossil fuel investments before we lose everything. We need to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels before all is lost.”

This development came on the heels of a similar resolution passed in February by the Cambridge City Council.

“I support H.3662 to give cities and towns local control over divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels,” said Jan Devereux, vice mayor of Cambridge. “Many Cambridge residents, businesses and municipal employees are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints, and it sends a mixed message for the city’s retirement fund to hold investments that are in direct conflict with the goals of our Net Zero Ordinance and action plan.”

MassDivest introduced these resolutions in Somerville and Cambridge.

“With climate risk increasingly threatening the future, it is important for retirement systems to have the option to protect their assets from the decline of the fossil fuel industry,” said Jessica Hanway, of MassDivest.

Fernandes’ bill provides legislative authorization deemed necessary by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) via a local option mechanism that allows independent retirement systems to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The bill does not mandate divestment in the way that the Legislature has previously done with regard to tobacco and apartheid South Africa.

“The local option bill would allow fossil fuel divestment to move forward in Massachusetts,” said Randi Mail, legislative director of MassDivest. “Instead of a top-down approach, it would be bottom-up. This bill would empower 104 independent retirement systems at the city and county levels.”

Cambridge and Somerville have long histories of supporting fossil fuel divestment. Somerville has advocated for this move since Mayor Joseph Curtatone called for it in 2014.

“The need for urgency when it comes to cities addressing climate change cannot be understated,” Curtatone said. “Every city and town needs right now — not later — to be taking a close look at their carbon output, setting ambitious carbon reduction goals, and following through. Some of that work will be challenging and complex, but fossil fuel divestment is an impactful and fiscally responsible step we could all easily take right now with the help of Rep. Fernandes’ important bill.”

Fernandes cited this legislation in remarks to the organizers of Harvard University’s recent Heat Week event: “Investing is putting down money now for a long-term future gain, and you can’t name a worse long-term future than one where climate change continues to ravage our cities and towns. That’s why we need to divest from fossil fuels. As a millennial, there is no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation or my children’s generation than that of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. We need to get serious about this, and we need to get serious about it here in Massachusetts, which is why Rep. Jay Livingstone and I filed a bill that allows our 104 independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuels.”

About MassDivest

MassDivest is a coalition working to divest pension funds in Massachusetts from fossil fuels. They have partnered with Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Rep. Jay Livingstone on H.3662. MassDivest also works with Senator Marc Pacheco, who has introduced S.636, a similar bill in the Senate.

State Unveils Conceptual Plans for Craigie Bridge Bike Lane

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) unveiled conceptual plans for the installation of a bike lane on the Craigie Bridge (a/k/a Charles River Dam Road) at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at the Museum of Science.

MassDOT Highway Engineer Andy Paul outlined the state’s proposal to add dedicated the bike lane from Land Boulevard to Leverett Circle, which would reduce the existing six travel lanes to five.

The 5-foot bike lane and 11-foot travel lanes would be separated by a 1½-foot buffer area with flex-posts and painted markings. In the opposite direction, the travel lanes would measure 10 feet wide.

Bike signals would be installed at Land Boulevard and Museum Way, as would a new left-turn lane to provide access to the Gilmore Bridge, Paul said.

Also, the left-turn lane from Land Boulevard onto Charles River Dam Road would be modified from double-left to a single-left.

At Museum Way, the buffer between the travel and bike lanes would be reduced to a single lane.

Flex-posts would be removed coming over the bridge past the museum towards Leverett Circle while the bike lane would be reduced to 4 feet and travel lanes would be narrowed to 10 feet, Paul said.

A left-turn would also be installed to provide a bike crossing at Martha Road.

Heading towards the museum, the bike lane would measure 6½ feet over the bridge.

The project is scheduled to start next month after ongoing construction on the Gilmore Bridge wraps up, with Phase One entailing the addition of new pavement stripings, signage and flex-posts while the second phase would involve the modification of traffic signals.

The first public meeting on this matter took place at MIT last December, followed by a “Road Safety Audit” the following month, Paul said.

“MassDOT and [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] did a great job of taking feedback from all stakeholders,” State Rep. Jay Livingstone told this reporter. “I think the final product will greatly improve the experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Seniors blast state for ‘failing elders’

By Katie Lannan / State House News ServicePosted Mar 13, 2019 at 2:01 AM  

BOSTON – Gathering in the State House Monday, dozens of senior advocates chanted to state legislators: “Massachusetts can do better.”

Kathy Paul, president of the North Shore chapter of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, led the chant, encouraging advocates to keep pressure on their lawmakers.

“We will not stop until we see the senior health care gap close,” Paul said at a lobby day hosted by senior and home care groups. “We will not stop until every senior can afford food. We will not stop until housing and health care is a right, because Massachusetts can do better.”

Paul and other speakers at the event urged seniors and caregivers to share their stories and make sure their issues remain top-of-mind for the lawmakers who will build next year’s state budget and consider the many priority bills filed by supportive members this year.

“This system is broken, and it is failing our elders, and it is time to change that,” said Sarah Blakeney of the Senior Action Council. “I stand here before you, at the age of 91, to say, we should take a stand.”

According to statistics presented by advocacy groups, one in 10 adults age 60 and over in Massachusetts receive food assistance benefits, more than 844,000 Bay Staters are caring for aging parents or loved ones, and the average Social Security benefit for a family of adults 65-years-old or older is about $16,791 per year.

At 1.4 million, adults 60 and older make up 21 percent of the state’s population.

The event was organized by several groups, including the Senior Action Council, the AARP of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Councils on Aging, Mass. Home Care, the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts and the Home Care Aide Council. Advocates highlighted legislation addressing access to health care for seniors, support for family caregivers and home care workers, and housing affordability.

Mattie Lacewell of the Senior Action Council’s Springfield chapter said caring for an ailing loved one can take a toll. An 82-year-old who described herself as a “fairly healthy old lady,” Lacewell said her sister-in-law suffers from Alzheimer’s and her brother, who had been his wife’s primary caregiver, is now in declining health.

Lacewell said her brother has had to fill out an “overwhelming” number of forms, but has not been able to get MassHealth coverage for his wife. Applying for food assistance has also “been tough,” she said.

“It’s like you’re going around in a circle. What I hope for is that the application process could be a little more simplified, because it’s frustrating, it really, really is,” Lacewell said. “When we see our representatives today, we’re going to tell them — we’re not going to ask them anymore, we’re going to tell them — that we need a better system. We want to end the struggle of applying for the help that we’re entitled to.”

Bills filed by Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Jay Livingstone (S 678, H 1173) would create a common application for benefits, including MassHealth and the supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP), or food stamps. According to the Law Reform Institute, allowing simultaneous applications for MassHealth and SNAP would increase food access for more than 100,000 elders in Massachusetts.

Lacewell called it “atrocious” that someone on a fixed income might need to choose between paying for groceries and medication.

Gov. Charlie Baker, in his fiscal 2020 budget, proposed expanding eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program, which help seniors pay for Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Baker’s proposal would increase the income limits for different tiers of the program — currently ranging from 100 percent to 135 percent of the federal poverty level — to 130 percent to 165 percent of the federal poverty level.

Advocates on Monday voiced support for that plan, but also called for the passage of bills (S 640, H 615) that would expand Medicare Savings Program eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty level.

Other bills backed by the groups include one that would require Massachusetts Senior Care Options plans to provide consultations with experts when members are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias (H 614, S 367), and another to establish a tax credit for family caregivers (H 2608, S 702).

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a 75-year-old Somerville Democrat who chairs the Elder Affairs Committee with Newton Rep. Ruth Balser, told the senior advocates that they are “helping to change the image of old people.”

“I think you’re changing the image of us as being victims, of people who need help — we all need help, but as people who are problem solvers as well,” she said.

https://www.patriotledger.com/news/20190313/seniors-blast-state-for-failing-elders

https://www.heraldnews.com/news/20190313/seniors-blast-state-for-failing-elders

https://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20190311/seniors-blast-state-for-failing-our-elders

https://somerville.wickedlocal.com/news/20190312/seniors-blast-state-for-failing-our-elders

Should ‘lifers’ get a chance for parole?

Bill would make those serving life sentences eligible for hearings after 25 years

 SARAH BETANCOURT Feb 28, 2019

SOME BEACON HILL LAWMAKERS are making another push for legislation that would allow the 1,050 Massachusetts inmates serving life prison sentences to be eligible for parole hearings.

Rep. Jay Livingstone of Boston and Sen. Joseph Boncore of Winthrop have filed legislation that would allow all those serving life sentences – most of whom are in prison for murder – to be eligible for a parole hearing after 25 years of incarceration.

Livingstone on Thursday participated in a panel discussion on the issue before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Caucus; joining him were Marc Mauer, who leads the Washington, DC-based Sentencing Project, and Donald Perry, a former inmate who served over 18 years in prison.

Mauer, one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, said a record number of 206,000 people are serving life terms in prisons across the US. “Life without parole is not an alternative for the death penalty. It’s an alternative for life with parole,” he said.

The only other way an inmate serving a life sentence can get out of prison is to have his or her sentence commuted, but no governor has commuted a life sentence in Massachusetts since 1997, according to data from the Governor’s Council.

A 2016 Department of Correction annual report shows that $50,000 a year is spent on housing an inmate, with sick and elderly inmates costing up to three times as much. Mauer said older and sicker offenders in their 70s pose a diminished public safety risk and should be released and reintegrated into society to save on these costs.

A number of states are considering proposals to reduce their prison populations. In Missouri, bills have been filed that would grant a parole hearing after no more than 30 years in prison for lifers, and allow early parole for certain offenders over 65 in geriatric units. Both were proposed by Republican legislators.

“President Obama, in his last two years, issued 1,700 sentence commutations,” said Mauer. About a third of those who received commutations had been sentenced to life in prison, often as a result of the “three-strikes” laws mandating life imprisonment for some third-offense drug cases.

Perry received the maximum penalty for armed robbery in 1983, and was on parole for 14 years following nearly two decades behind bars. He now works on criminal justice reform and is a co-founder of Black Behavioral Health Network, which addresses a gap in health services for African-Americans who face incarceration.

Perry said some lifers were classified by the Department of Correction in the 1970s as no longer a threat to society, and could go out on weekends to teach at local universities. “That doesn’t exist now,” he said.Meet the Author

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who attended the State House event, said afterwards that she is in the “information gathering phase” when it comes to the bill to establish parole for those convicted of first-degree murder. “None of us would ever want to be defined by the worst acts of our lives. And then you have to think about that victims’ families are suffering,” she said.

“Our goal is the protection of the public’s safety,” Ryan said, but added that it’s worth assessing “when or if a person is ready to come back out into society.”