On the day before the final day of the 2011 session, the House completed work on five good bills:
- Transgender rights — the House passed a trimmed version of the transgender rights bill by a 95-56 margin. I have consistently supported this bill. The most controversial provisions, relating to use of public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms, were dropped before the bill came to the floor, but the bill protects transgender persons from employment discrimination and hate crimes. The Senate is expected to act on the bill tomorrow.
- Congressional Redistricting — the final map creates for the first time a minority-majority district; it also simplifies the other districts greatly. It is widely perceived as a very fair plan by editorial boards who have been critical of legislative redistricting plans.
- Human Trafficking — this legislation, which passed the House some months ago and increases penalties for human trafficking, was finalized by a House/Senate conference committee and passed today. There is a growing problem of income-producing sexual servitude imposed by gangs on young girls.
- Pension reform — the final bill goes with the Senate language increasing the minimum retirement age to 60 for most employees. This is economically significant because early retirees generate significant health care costs. In addition, the bill includes a number of rules to reduce abuses and control costs in the system. Reform could go further many respects — as I have outlined elsewhere — but it is an important step forward. In broad strokes, the bill follows the Governor’ proposed legislation. See my statements comparing and contrasting my vision for pension reform with what the governor recommended.
- Scrap metal recycling controls — a bill to better regulate scrap metal sales to reduce theft of exposed metal such as copper flashing and gutters, manhole covers and statues.
I was pleased to support all of these bills.
In addition, the conference report on the casino legislation was approved. I voted in the minority against this bill, as I have consistently.
The last major issue before the House tomorrow is expected to be habitual offender legislation. This will be an important debate, because “three strikes” rules make a lot of sense but often produce unintended consequences.
I am disappointed that Cambridge may be split between the 5th and 7th congressional districts. We are a increasingly diverse city that needs a unified voice for strength in Washington.
Yes, many people feel that way and Alice Wolf did a great job advocating for an amendment to remedy that split. But in end, it did not pass. A dozen other cities are also split and the Cambridge split serves the goal of creating a majority-minority district which is likely to send, for the first time, a minority representative from Massachusetts to Washington.
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