For Immediate Release
February 16, 2018
Contact: Natalie Higgins, email@example.com, 978-227-5278
House Passes Legislation to Enhance Consumer Protection Following Data Breaches
Legislation removes fees for security freezes and increases access to credit reports
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation providing added protections and resources for consumers in the event of a data security breach that impacts a credit agency or other business.
Under this legislation, credit freezes, lifts or removals must be provided to consumers without a charge. Credit agencies or businesses must provide one year of free credit monitoring after any breach.
“This legislation includes many powerful consumer protection tools that also modernize the way we do business,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “I thank Chairman Chan for his exhaustive study into this complex problem and Chairwoman Benson for her ongoing commitment.”
“I am proud to see the House of Representatives vote today to protect Massachusetts residents from data breaches and modernize our current laws,” said Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), House Chair of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “Particularly following numerous high profile breaches over the last year, this legislation is urgently needed to ensure that consumers have more control over their credit protections. This is an issue that impacts every individual, organization and business in the Commonwealth, and I am grateful for the valuable input from so many stakeholders, committee members, and colleagues throughout this process to ensure that we produced the best possible policy for our residents.”
“As an advocate for consumer protection, I filed legislation to make it easier for consumers to freeze their credit reports so that victims of identity theft and fraud could more quickly regain control of their credit,” said Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “In the wake of the Equifax hack last year, I worked with the Attorney General and advocates to strengthen the bill with additional language offering further protections. I’m proud of my colleagues in the House for coming together to pass this important legislation to protect and empower Massachusetts consumers.”
The legislation updates the framework for the implementation of a freeze and related communication including:
For the first time in Massachusetts, this legislation establishes specific guidelines for parents and guardians to freeze accounts of children under the age of 16 and incapacitated individuals.
The legislation also updates notification guidelines for breached entities and third party affiliates.
Additionally, the Attorney General must provide information online to consumers regarding the breach.
This bill also updates current law to require companies and organizations to obtain consent before running a credit report.
The case for paid family leave and a boost in minimum wage -- 25 years after federal leave law passed, it's time for Massachusetts to step up
Rep. Higgins co-authored this op-ed about paid family medical leave and a living wage with Representatives Provost & Rushing. Thank you to CommonWealth Magazine for publishing: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/politics/case-paid-family-leave-boost-minimum-wage/
25 YEARS AGO, on February 5, 1993, President Clinton signed into law the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows certain workers to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with a serious health condition, have a baby, bond with a newborn or adopted child, or take care of a seriously ill relative.
The FMLA was a major stride forward for the rights of workers and their families, but after a quarter century the program’s major gaps are clear. The FMLA does not cover about 40 percent of the workforce, including workers at smaller companies and those who have recently changed jobs. And many workers who are eligible FMLA can’t afford to take unpaid time off from work in an emergency. They’re often left to choose between taking care of a child they love or keeping the job that puts food on the table.
A few years before the FMLA was passed, another aspect of Massachusetts labor laws was at a low point. The state’s $3.75 minimum wage in 1991 was only worth $6.90 in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars, the lowest real value in modern state history. Since then, we’ve made progress, most recently in 2014, but today’s minimum wage is still not enough for a full-time worker to get by on. Many workers earning the minimum wage work two or three jobs and still can’t afford the cost of groceries, housing, heating, and other basic needs.
Today, 25 years after the FMLA was signed, a grassroots coalition of community organizations, faith groups, and labor unions is advancing a pair of policies that would help fix these problems and strengthen our Commonwealth’s economy. This fall, the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition collected over 274,000 signatures from registered voters across the state to place two questions on the November 2018 ballot: paid family and medical leave and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
Over the next five months, the Legislature has the opportunity to pass these policies ourselves and avoid the need for an expensive ballot campaign. As members of the House Progressive Caucus, we will be fighting for strong paid leave and minimum wage legislation that covers all workers, and that doesn’t hurt any single group or leave vulnerable families behind.
When it comes to paid family and medical leave, the example of the FMLA shows how important it is that a paid leave program cover all workers. Family and medical emergencies can happen to people who work for small companies, those who just started new jobs, and independent contractors. This legislation should make sure they are covered.
Opponents of the minimum wage increase are already calling for a sub-minimum wage for teen workers, but this legislation shouldn’t discriminate against youth who are saving for college or helping their family make ends meet. Teens are only about 10 percent of workers that would be affected by a minimum wage increase to $15 by 2022, but teen workers in low-income families account for an average of 17.7 percent of their family income. Teen workers are often important wage-earners for their families, and we shouldn’t cut their pay.
A sub-minimum wage would also hurt our college completion rates. In Massachusetts, college students at public institutions already work about 28 hours per week, on average. When students work too much, it can hurt their GPAs and lead to dropouts. Ensuring that teen workers can earn and save money for college will help let college students focus on their studies.
In 2016, teen unemployment in Massachusetts and overall unemployment rates fell to their lowest rates in the past 18 years – despite minimum wage increases during this same period. At the same time, income inequality in Massachusetts is at record levels, and the gap between the very rich and the rest of us keeps growing.
It’s clear that the big problem in our economy isn’t that low-wage workers are being paid too much, or that benefits for working people are too generous. It’s that too many people are working every hour they can but still can’t get ahead, and that for too many working people, a family emergency can quickly turn into a financial disaster.
This spring, let’s change that by passing paid family and medical leave and a $15 minimum wage for all workers in Massachusetts.
Natalie Higgins is a Democratic state representative from Leominster; Byron Rushing is a Democratic state representative from Boston; Denise Provost is a Democratic state representative from Somerville.