2015-2016: Legislative Session Wrapup

It’s a good time to review highlights of the 2015-2016 legislative session, focusing on the major policy bills.

The first big one for me was the MBTA reform bill.  In the spring of 2015, Governor Baker proposed a strong control board for the MBTA and I was pleased to support his proposal in the heated debate we had about it.  It was necessary strong medicine which is starting to have an effect.  I think the new management team is making the T much more transparent and so making better long term decisions.   There are lots of good people at the MBTA and strong leadership is what they need to succeed.

The most emotional issue for me was our transgender rights bill.  It only affects a small number of people and, even for them, it is just a law, not a magic wand that can wave away all discrimination.  But it reinforces an important message about our values — we respect the rights of each individual to be who they are and love who they love; we aspire to protect people who are different from hate; we value the talent that everyone brings to the table.  I’ve had the privilege of meeting some spectacularly talented people who really have had to struggle to survive because of discrimination.

The big long-term issue for me is criminal justice reform.  Serving as Senate Chair on the Judiciary Committee, this is the most important issue in my committee portfolio.  I gave hundreds of hours to hearings, meetings and research on this issue over the past two years.  We are locking up 5 times as many people as we were 40 years ago and, to my mind, just way too many people.  And when we release them, we saddle them with completely unmanageable handicaps and obligations that make it very hard for them to ever get back on track.

We made a start on reform with some modest legislation that had broad support:  We repealed the law that takes drivers’ licenses away as a result of a drug conviction.   Young men who make the mistake of dealing drugs, and do their time for it, should be able to drive to work when they get back on the street, or they will inevitably revert to their old patterns.  It’s hard enough to get a legitimate job coming from some neighborhoods.

We have a long way to go to real reform.  I hope to be in the saddle as Senate Judiciary Chair for the decade or two that it will us take to turn things around.  I am heartened by the interest that Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo and President Rosenberg have taken in the ongoing policy conversations we are having.  I am very hopeful that 2017 will be a big year for this issue.

The increasingly evident reality of climate change hangs over everything we do.  The work we did in 2008 to establish commitments for greenhouse reduction is paying off now as the Supreme Judicial Court has upheld those commitments as binding.  The Baker administration is moving forward on a number of positive steps in this area.  In the legislature, we passed a good energy bill.  But nothing we are doing yet globally will sufficiently bend the curve and there is much we need to do to prepare for the changes ahead.

The session is not quite over — I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to hit some more singles and doubles in the typically busy weeks after the election.  Senate President Rosenberg‘s team has prepared a comprehensive summary that offers much more detail about what we have done so far.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

20 replies on “2015-2016: Legislative Session Wrapup”

  1. Congratulations for all your hard work, Senator WB.
    Question:
    What is the result on the $144M new School proposed?

  2. Thank you for your (very!) hard work, Senator. You’re just about everything a citizen could want in a legislator: smart, energetic, available to other legislators and, more importantly, your constituents. You work shows you to be compassionate and forward-thinking. I sure hope you like your job because I look forward to keeping you in office for a while.
    Kind regards,
    Janet Kenney

  3. I appreciate those reforms and bills you have passed.

    I hope you would do for drivers licenses for dead broke parents, usually a dad, what you have done for drug offenders. It is counter productive.

    I hope in the future, rather than kill it at the last minute, you will provide the proper input to pass ASAP the Child Centered Family Law bill so that children can enjoy both of their parents. The argument that non cooperative parents make it difficult is an empty one, for one parent, usually a mother knows today that if she does not cooperate, than SHE gets the kids and the kids lose a dad. I believe you made a mistake on this bill and you could have provided your input for over two years while it was crafted and did not. Lets hope you can provide what you feel is needed so this important legislation can finally pass as it should have.

    1. “the Child Centered Family law” bill offers the opportunity to be effective in making changes that will protect the parent-child relationship when parents live apart.

      Likes! Peter G.Hill comment

    2. There is a perverse an obvious profit motive in all of this. Just another cynical consumer fraud and example of the real need for criminal justice reform. Why an incompetent bunch of .. etc etc, yada yada, ad nauseum, professionals ended up with such a ludicrous amount of power over individuals and families, supposedly protected by the Bill of Rights, in this century, within their little fiefdom, is an interesting question. Maybe one that policy makers can more easily analyze than shared parenting.

      1. Last post on the summary of legislative accomplishment and release of the new mission statement. There is also this phenomenon, sort of the opposite of Stockholm Syndrome, not what they call Lima syndrome, where people in the game depend on their prey so much they become dependent on them emotionally, and financially even, beyond the normal graft, been there done that. I guess couple that with Stockholm syndrome and you have quite a hayride.

  4. Sen Will, I agree that criminal justice reform is so important of an issue now. There is unfair, and unequal enforcement of laws against the poor and minorities with court appointed attorneys who are essentially useless. This must absolutely change.
    I think it would be very helpful to very publicly broadcast the cost to taxpayers of this high rate of prisons, guards, and incarceration for non-violent crimes.

  5. Thank you, Senator. I really appreciate your hard work on all of these important issues, and for keeping us informed!
    -Stephanie Henry

  6. Thank-you so very much for your continued excellent representation of our district and state — this is a fantastic report summarizing the legislative bills– very good graphics,layout and content — makes a huge difference for understanding all the work that gets done!

  7. THANKS Sen. Brownsberger for your continued advocacy on behalf of people in the courts and corrections systems. Let’s hope that the Council of State Governments proposes some substantial change that will reduce our unconscionable rate of incarceration and over-punishment.
    I appreciate your dedication to public service, which requires many personal sacrifices. I’d vote for you if I could !

  8. I thank you for your work on behalf of prisoners.It’s hard enough to re-enter society without added punishments.

  9. Will,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. I somehow have a slightly different perspective and here are my comments:

    (1) MBTA

    winter is not here yet but the T is starting to fall apart (again). I just experienced a 30 minutes delay on Orange line ( 18:00pm September 28th). This happens day in and day out, the whole platform is full of frustrated commuters. Do we really have any records for anyone being held responsible for not doing their job right at MBTA?

    Let’s not forget the 25 million or 35 million $ price tag for waverley square station ADA compliance improvement.

    Until we see a solid record of mistakes and punishments, I am afroad that MBTA will continue the dowars spiral.

    1. It is 18:15pm. And I am still stuck at Orange line Chinatown station. How can we address the lack of capacity and reliabilites of our public transportation system?

      1. That is the central question that the Governor and his team are wrestling with, using the tools the legislature has given him. I think they are doing a pretty good job taking on the challenge, although we have a long way to go.

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