SENATE PASSES BILLS ON NON-BINARY GENDER LICENSE OPTION, CYCLIST SAFETY; OVERRIDES WELFARE CAP VETO
BOSTON —The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation allowing for a non-binary option for gender on drivers’ licenses and birth certificates, new requirements for cyclists and motorists that promote safety for everybody who uses the road, and a final effort to lift the so-called ‘Cap on Kids.’ All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“I am thrilled by my colleagues’ support for these important bills in today’s session,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am particularly grateful for today’s bi-partisan vote on the ‘Gender X bill,’ which was initiated by a young constituent of mine and is very special to me. The simple, inclusionary change of providing a gender neutral designation for state licensees and birth certificates is long overdue. It’s time for our government to recognize people for who they are.”
An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to allow an applicant to designate an ‘X,’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on a driver’s license or other forms of state ID, while prohibiting the requirement of documentation for such designations. The bill would also allow a person over the age of 18 or the parents of a minor to request a change in the sex on a birth certificate to include “female,” “male” or “X” to reflect the gender identity of the person. In addition, the bill would also authorize a study to identify other state documents or forms that can be updated to reflect a non-binary gender option.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the Senate President for giving me the opportunity to join her on this gender identity legislation,” stated Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), the lead Senate sponsor of the ‘Gender X’ legislation. “People know what gender they are. This bill simply affirms the ability of individuals to identify by their preferred gender on state documents and forms. With this legislation, the Senate has recognized the civil rights issue that is at the heart of the call for visibility for all, ensuring the dignity that manifests when all people have the opportunity to self-identify.”
“Massachusetts has always led on equity and justice, especially in our proud bi-partisan support of LGBTQ people. Today the Massachusetts Senate continued that tradition by passing legislation that provides the opportunity for Massachusetts residents who are transgender or gender non-conforming to self-identify on all Massachusetts identification documents,” said Assistant Majority Whip Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The legislation passed by the Senate allows for accuracy, privacy, and safety for individuals who do not fit neatly into a specific gender identity. I am grateful to my colleagues for their support of gender non-conforming people; our vote today recognizes the dignity of all, no matter their gender identity or expression.”
An act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities includes several measures that together will greatly improve road safety. The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as vulnerable road users and requires motor vehicles to apply a safe passing distance of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. The bill would further require trucks and similar large vehicles purchased, leased or under contract with the Commonwealth after a certain date to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors to reduce the risk posed to vulnerable road users who are susceptible to being unseen by truck driver’s and slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents. The bill would additionally establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the possibility and severity of crashes. Finally, the bill increases the flexibility of the Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit in active construction zones thereby significantly increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers and first responders at the construction site.
“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the traffic fatality reduction bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”
Massachusetts’ ‘Cap on Kids’ policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The legislation passed earlier this month by the Legislature repeals this ineffective policy. The new policy would start September 1, 2019, and makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019. Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. On April 8, 2019, the governor sent back the legislation unsigned. Following a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, the Legislature overturned the governor’s veto.
“I am proud that the Senate has once again taken action to put an end to our Commonwealth’s ineffective and unjust family cap policy,” said Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico. “Lifting the ‘Cap on Kids’ is simply the right thing to do to ensure that families are not denied basic benefits simply because of when their children were born. This is a critical policy change that will help thousands of children across the Commonwealth, and I would like to especially thank Senate President Spilka for continuing to make this a Senate priority and addressing this issue at the very beginning of our session.”
An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification and An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities now move to the House for consideration.