(BOSTON) – After filing her bills for the 192nd Session of the Massachusetts Legislature, State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) highlights three bills among her legislative priorities for the session. While pertaining to different areas, all three bills strive to promote social justice and equity. An Act to create access to justice (H.1792), An Act establishing a community college campus hunger pilot program (H.1350), and An Act relative to a streaming entertainment operator’s use of the public rights-of-way (H.130) advance civil rights justice, support academic attainment by addressing food insecurity among community college students, and support local public access channels, respectively.
Representative Meschino’s top priority, An Act to create access to justice (H.1792), empowers an individual to seek redress against discrimination by government policies. This bill restores the right of an individual to bring a claim in state court when a government policy creates disparate impact, meaning that there is an unintended discriminatory effect on individuals of a protected class when implemented.
This bill provides access to justice for numerous constituencies, including for people seeking to enforce environmental justice, language access, fair housing, and equitable healthcare and education, and it promotes overall social justice within Massachusetts. Key mechanisms of the bill include injunctive and equitable relief through awards for damages and attorney’s fees.
“In the wake of the disastrous siting of the Weymouth Compressor Station, An Act to create access to justice is timely and necessary, particularly for environmental justice communities,” said Representative Meschino. “This bill, along with my other two priority bills, foremost aim to advance equity in the Commonwealth. Until individuals have their civil rights restored and access to the courts, fundamental inequities will persist within the state.”
Her other two priority bills tackle specific instances of inequity. An Act establishing a community college campus hunger pilot program (H.1350) establishes a non-competitive grant program through the Department of Higher Education to address food insecurity on community college campuses, which are by their nature most supportive of low-income communities and communities of color. The program would invest in projects such as meal cards, meal plans, meal vouchers, and other campus-designed initiatives to support community college students in attaining their degrees.
An Act relative to a streaming entertainment operator’s use of the public rights-of-way (H.130) will create an equal playing field between media providers. The bill ensures that local cable and community media centers continue to be financially sustainable by including streaming services among those entities assessed a fee for their use of the municipal public rights-of-way, the revenue of which is returned as local aid. By assessing streaming services in the same way as cable providers for the use of public infrastructure, this bill maintains consistent and secure revenue to support the local public access programming that our local communities value.
H.1792 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, H.1350 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Higher Education, and H.130 has been assigned to the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet, and Cybersecurity. Each bill now awaits a hearing. Residents can follow the progress of these bills by creating an account on malegislature.gov.