State representative, Leominster Democrat, former executive director of Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts
I am a proud first-generation college student, and graduate of UMass Amherst. My younger brother earned his associate’s degree from MassBay Community College. Thanks to our parents’ dedication to make sure we had more opportunities than they had, we earned our degrees without taking on student debt.
Our story is not the norm. The average graduate in Massachusetts is left with a student loan burden of $33,256. Graduates in Massachusetts who attended a public institution are more likely to incur student debt, and in higher amounts relative to their college costs, than those who attended private ones. The average student debt grew faster in Massachusetts than in all but one other state from 2004-2016, and more than 855,000 Massachusetts residents owe student debt.
Debt-free public higher education was a reality for the majority of Massachusetts students as late as 1988 (the year I was born), when the MassGrant covered 80 percent of tuition and fees at public institutions. Today, the maximum MassGrant covers less than 14 percent of tuition and fees at UMass Amherst. And higher education funding has not recovered since sharp cuts in 2001, with per student funding down 32 percent and student scholarships also dropping 32 percent between 2001-2018. A UMass Amherst student has to work more than 23 hours per week, just to cover tuition and mandatory fees, never mind the other costs of attendance, such as housing, food, textbooks, and transportation. Just adding room and board brings that to 44 hours each week.
Debt-free public higher education is an important investment in our communities. Among Massachusetts high school graduates who attend college, 62.6 percent choose a public college or university. Ninety percent of public higher education graduates stay in Massachusetts, according to 2014 figures. This is also an equity issue. While more than 43 percent of Massachusetts residents hold a bachelor’s degree, many Gateway Cities have college completion rates half that, including Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, and Lawrence. Massachusetts is home to one of the nation’s highest-paid workforces because of college attainment, and we need to ensure Massachusetts residents in low-income communities and communities of color have that same access.
Read the full article: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/10/22/metro/should-massachusetts-public-colleges-universities-be-tuition-free/
Sentinel & Enterprise: Tri-City Legislative delegation to hold mental health public listening session on Tuesday
FITCHBURG — State Reps. Mike Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner, and state Sen. John Cronin, D-Lunenburg, recently announced they will hold a virtual public listening session for mental health matters in North Central Massachusetts at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
Higgins, Zlotnik, Kushmerek and Cronin have come together to create a regional legislative task force with the intention of addressing the mental health crisis that has continued to worsen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal of this public listening session is for Fitchburg, Gardner and Leominster residents to attend and share the experiences and interactions that they or their family have had with the regional mental health system.
Check out the full article here: https://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/2021/09/28/tri-city-legislative-delegation-to-hold-mental-health-public-listening-session-on-tuesday/www.sentinelandenterprise.com/2021/09/28/tri-city-legislative-delegation-to-hold-mental-health-public-listening-session-on-tuesday/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 10, 2020
Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-227-5278
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BOLSTERS COMMITMENT TO CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Legislation targets accountability and analysis amidst COVID-19 and racial equity crises
BOSTON – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families, which strengthens the laws ensuring the safety and well-being of the Commonwealth’s youngest and most at-risk residents.
Building on the House of Representatives’s steadfast commitment to those served by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), this legislation addresses the needs of vulnerable children and families that have also been amplified by the COVID-19 public health crisis and further illuminated through the lens of racial equity. Specifically, this legislation strengthens DCF policies and operations, develops a tool to retain and recruit foster families, holds DCF accountable for timely, accurate and relevant reports, and clarifies communication by the Child Advocate to the Legislature and state officeholders. The legislation compels data to analyze the impacts of remote learning on all children during the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on understanding the disparate educational impacts on children served by DCF. Additionally, the bill calls for a public service campaign to increase awareness of child abuse and neglect.
The legislation addresses the needs of at-risk children and families through five major initiatives:
Measuring the Impact of COVID-19. The public health pandemic has exacerbated concerns regarding all children across the Commonwealth, particularly those served by DCF. Since the declaration of the state of emergency on March 10th, reports of abuse and neglect have alarmingly decreased 51%, while home removals have dropped 60% over the same period of time.
In order to best understand the effects of the state of emergency related to COVID-19, this legislation requires DCF to report on various aspects of the child welfare and education system during the state of emergency. Specifically, the bill requires:
Quality Improvement. The House of Representatives remains committed to ensuring accountability related to critical incidents that result in a fatality or near fatality, while also reviewing those critical incidents that are highlighted by systemic weaknesses.
This bill installs certain safeguards, including requirements for DCF to review the case transfer policy to improve protocols for complex cases, and create a managerial review in reunification decisions. It also requires social services programs to communicate more promptly with social workers conducting client and collateral checks.
Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights. Concerns of uncertainty regarding the rights of foster parents and the responsibilities of DCF related to training and processes have been intensified by COVID-19. This bill requires DCF to create a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights outlining the relationship between the department and foster parents. A clear articulation of the rights of foster parents and the responsibilities of DCF will increase confidence and trust and is designed to retain and recruit foster families.
Strengthening the Integrity of the Office of the Child Advocate. The Office of the Child Advocate is statutorily required to ensure the highest quality of services and supports are provided to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of all children receiving services across the Commonwealth. This bill requires the Child Advocate to report any findings of critical incident reports that result in the death of a child due to a reasonable belief that a state agency failed in its duty to protect a child, jointly and simultaneously, to the governor, attorney general, speaker of the house, and senate president before the agency in question.
Data Reporting Initiative. In response to serious events and concerns about children in DCF care, the Legislature has historically directed DCF to complete various reporting requirements; however, the agency has been unable to fulfill its statutory requirements to complete all reports. This bill updates and streamlines DCF reporting requirements to ensure the delivery of timely and relevant data in both a comprehensive annual report and robust quarterly reports. In addition, DCF is required to detail actions it has taken to provide culturally competent services to children and families and report on transition planning, fair hearings, reports made to the Ombudsman, and a detailed accounting of services provided through contracted agencies.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
Legislature Passes Bill Authorizing $200 Million for Municipal Road and Bridge Maintenance
(BOSTON) – Last week, Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing legislation last week to provide $200 Million in funding for local road and bridge repairs across the Commonwealth.
Amid a difficult fiscal climate, the bill maintains Chapter 90 funding at a $200 Million level for key repairs for the maintenance and upkeep of municipal roads and bridges in Massachusetts. It also extends the term of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board, which was set to expire on June 30, 2020, for one additional year.
“These Chapter 90 funds will not only support road and bridge repair projects, which strengthen our transportation infrastructure, but keep work going, which helps the economy,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “I’m grateful to Chairs Straus and Michlewitz, Senate President Spilka, and my colleagues in the Legislature for their work on this bill.”
“Chapter 90 funding is critical to the road repair needs of our towns and cities, and I am pleased this program could at least be level funded at $200 million by the House and Senate during today's difficult financial circumstances,” said Representative William Straus (D-Mattapoisett), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 global pandemic has created a significant financial strain on municipal budgets across Massachusetts,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “By authorizing a new round of Chapter 90 funding, the Legislature is fulfilling its ongoing commitment to maintaining strong state-municipal partnerships by providing our communities with the resources needed to carry out important transportation upgrades.”
“FY21 will bring more than $1.1M in vital funding for transportation infrastructure in Leominster,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to find additional funding for these important investments in our communities.”
The bill has been signed into law.
BOSTON – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature last week to pass a bill that expands voter access and ensures voters have safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020 general election, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19 was subsequently signed by Governor Baker.
The legislation, for the first time in state history, would establish a vote-by-mail option and early voting period for the upcoming fall elections. In addition to those options, the bill also addresses polling place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person.
The components of the bill are as follows:
Implements an early vote-by-mail system: An application to receive an early voting ballot for the primary will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15, 2020. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election by September 14, 2020. Both applications and ballots will have postage costs already paid for.
Ballots postmarked on or before November 3, 2020 will be counted until Friday November 6, 2020 at 5:00 P.M. Applications for early voting and absentee voting must be received 4 business days before the election, by Wednesday August 26, 2020 (for the primary election) and Wednesday October 28, 2020 (for the general election).
Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods: For the first time in Massachusetts, early voting will be available for the state primary, and will take place from Saturday, August 22, 2020 through Friday, August 28, 2020. Early voting for the general election is scheduled to take place from Tuesday, October 17, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020.
Makes in-person voting safer and more efficient: The bill allows municipalities, with proper notice, to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.
Provides tools to assist clerks: Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill also provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.
Tasks the Secretary of State with creating an online portal and promoting voting options: To make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting, the bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal not later than October 1, 2020. Electronic applications for early voting will be available for the general election, and if feasible, for the primary election.
The bill also requires the Secretary of State to conduct a public awareness campaign to inform and notify voters of the many options available to cast a vote in upcoming 2020 elections.
Catherine Gaudet of Leominster recognized for her contributions to the community
MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
ANNOUNCES COMMONWEALTH HEROINES OF 2020
Catherine Gaudet of Leominster will be honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2020 class of Commonwealth Heroines. State Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) recommended Catherine Gaudet for this recognition because of her contributions to the community as a nurse and mental health advocate. The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women will be virtually celebrating the seventeenth-annual Commonwealth Heroines Class of 2020. The Commission will be sharing a slideshow provided through a shared link on the original date of the event of June 24, 2020 on our social media platforms.
Catherine "Cathy" Gaudet is the Nurse Leader for the Leominster Public Schools and a Clinical Nursing Instructor at Mount Wachusett Community College. A graduate of Fitchburg State University and Walden University, Cathy worked for HealthAlliance Leominster Hospital prior to joining Leominster Public Schools. Cathy also gives back to the community in so many ways, including as a member of the Leominster Lions Club and leading the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of North Central Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. Thousands of women in every community of the state perform unheralded acts on a daily basis that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live. Commonwealth Heroines use their time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others in their community. They are mentors, volunteers, and innovators who strive to protect and represent the interests of seniors, victims of violence, children, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations. They are the glue that keeps a community together.
“I am proud to honor Cathy Gaudet and the many ways she contributes to Leominster and North Central Massachusetts,” said State Rep. Natalie Higgins. “Cathy’s commitment to ending the stigma and breaking down barriers to mental health care continues to make Leominster a brighter community.”
A complete list of this year’s honorees is available by contacting the Commission at email@example.com.
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.
Women’s Caucus Seeking Diverse Applicants to Serve as Commissioners
Commission on the Status of Women Plays Critical Role
In Advancing Women and Girls in Massachusetts
BOSTON – Representative Natalie Higgins is pleased to announce that her colleagues in the Caucus of Women Legislators are seeking applicants for the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW). The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators is a bicameral and bipartisan Caucus encompassing the female elected members of the Massachusetts House and Senate. It is one of four appointing authorities to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission was created in 1998 and is tasked to review the status of women and girls in Massachusetts and to offer policy recommendations to improve equality and access to opportunities for all women throughout the Commonwealth. The Commission consists of nineteen volunteer commissioners who serve staggered three year terms. The Caucus appoints six of these commissioners and is currently seeking interested applicants to fill two current openings.
“I am proud of the work that the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women does for women and girls across the Commonwealth, and I encourage any interested community members to apply to be a Commissioner and make their voice and our community’s voice heard through this important work,” said Rep. Higgins.
The MCSW was established by the state legislature and studies, reviews, and reports on the status of women and girls throughout the Commonwealth. The Commission serves as a liaison between the public, organizations, and the government. Annually, the Commission hosts four public hearings throughout the Commonwealth soliciting on the ground feedback from residents and local service providers. The Commission works with its legislative partners to recognize “Unsung Heroines” in every community and with its regional entities to coordinate a legislative advocacy day on Beacon Hill to help advance issues facing women and girls. Commissioners are encouraged to participate in a “Speakers Bureau” and to participate in committee work. The committees are: Program and Planning, Legislative and Public Policy, and Personnel and Budget
The Commission strives to be representative of women throughout the Commonwealth and, as such, the Caucus is looking for diverse applicants who have varied backgrounds and resumes—specifically diversity in race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, geography, and socio-economic status. Commissioners are expected to commit to meeting attendance, participation, and collaboration with fellow Members of the Commission. Potential applicants should have a background in advancement work for women and girls or a strong interest in it.
More information about the Commission on the Status of Women can be found on their website: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-commission-on-the-status-of-women. Interested applicants are asked to submit a copy of their resume and a letter of intent to the Caucus’ Executive Director at Nicole.firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, November 4th at 9AM for appointment consideration. Additional details regarding the application process can be found on the Caucus’ website: http://www.mawomenscaucus.com/.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2018
Contact: State Representative Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
House Reflects on 190th Session Accomplishments
Focus on Supporting Communities, Fighting the Opioid Epidemic,
Reducing Gun Violence, and Helping Vulnerable Residents
(BOSTON) – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop) joined with State Representative Natalie Higgins (D - Leominster) and her colleagues in the Legislature to mark the end of the legislative session and highlight accomplishments of the productive 2017-2018 session that included the passage of several landmark bills. Over the past two years, the Legislature passed major bills relating to criminal justice, gun safety, those struggling with addiction, women’s rights, economic development, veterans benefits, consumer data protections, and energy and the environment.
“We’ve had a productive and successful session the results of which provide real-world and balanced solutions to save lives, support our communities, empower working families and businesses as well as address the effects of climate change,” said Speaker DeLeo. “I’m pleased that amid a charged national political atmosphere, we were able to agree to a fiscally-responsible budget and a bundle of legislation that serves our vulnerable residents and keeps our cities and towns safe by supporting children, first responders, veterans and small business.”
“I am proud of the work we have done together to lift up the Leominster community, with support to our youngest and most senior members and their families,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins. “
Resting on a longstanding practice of strong fiscal management, the House passed two balanced state budgets – with landmark investments in early education, benefits for low-income families, workforce development, housing as well as programs to prevent and treat opioid addiction. These included no new major taxes. This year the budget surplus increased the state’s Stabilization Fund, which is expected to surpass $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2019.
With the tragic events resulting from mass shootings unfolding across the country, the House took action twice this session to pass Massachusetts’ already nation-leading policies designed to promote gun safety. This session Massachusetts took another leap forward with new laws aimed at preventing those individuals who pose a risk of causing bodily injury to themselves or others from owning or possessing a firearm as well as providing them with crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling services. In addition the House passed legislation banning the sale, purchase or ownership of a “bump stock” device, which is designed to increase a weapon’s rate of fire and mimic automatic gun fire. These laws build on the House’s landmark 2014 gun legislation, which led to Massachusetts being found one of the safest in the nation.
While focused on protecting our residents from gun violence, the House took action to address the opioid crisis with sweeping initiatives to promote behavioral health for adults and children and measures to prevent substance use disorders. The legislation takes measures including expanding access to non-opioid treatment options for pain management; establishing grants to benefit substance exposed newborn children and prohibiting discounts and rebates for certain prescription opioids. It also took steps to improve the quality of patient care at treatment facilities, expands access to Narcan and increases training for law enforcement to respond to behavioral health crisis.
This past spring the House passed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation in a generation to establish a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety. As part of the reforms, the House also acted on its long-standing legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children by raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from age seven to age twelve and decriminalizes first offense misdemeanors.
The reforms also bolster the House’s multi-tiered approach to combating the opioid epidemic by creating the nation’s strongest law for trafficking Carfentanil and by strengthening the Fentanyl trafficking law. The legislation requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues. It removes the age restriction to participate in a diversion program, as they are currently only available to defendants 22 and under.
The legislation also includes the following provisions.
Building off its tradition of protecting women’s rights, the House passed landmark legislation to guarantee reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. With an uncertain future for federal action on reproductive rights, the Legislature took decisive action to protect the rights for women across the Commonwealth by passing legislation to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to repeal outdated state laws directed at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health.
Balancing the needs of workers and small businesses, the House passed legislation to raise the minimum wage; create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers; and to establish a permanent sales tax holiday.
Facing an unprecedented number of data breaches across the nation from national credit reporting entities and retailers, the House passed a bill to put into place enhanced protections for consumers against data breaches, making it easier for consumers to monitor their credit and request security freezes on data. The bill requires entities that have been breached to limit fees associated with data breach protections as well as requires transparency from breached companies and their affiliates. In addition, breached entities are required to provide more detailed consumer notifications about data breaches and options to help consumers better protect themselves.
Recognizing the critical needs of the Commonwealth’s first responders, the House passed a bundle of bills aimed at supporting enhanced police training, provisions to protect firefighters as they recover from work-related cancer illnesses, and providing access to confidential mental health services for those responders recovering from traumatic events.
The House also passed legislation to spur economic development across the Commonwealth with investments including public infrastructure projects like street and sewer improvements and for multi-family housing and mixed-use development, and transportations in communities across the Commonwealth. The legislation also includes investments to boost manufacturing innovation; grow jobs in coastal communities; support technology development and innovation; and expand career technical training programs. The legislation also establishes and apprenticeship tax credit for employers and limits the enforcement of and sets standards for non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. The legislation funds initiatives that help small businesses grow and establishes tax credits for businesses that occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas.
This session the House took action to foster an inclusive and just elections process by establishing automatic voter registration.
In response to calls for increased awareness of students of how the U.S. democratic system works at the local, state and federal government levels, the House passed a bill requiring schools to incorporate civics education with a focus on hand-on learning voting activities and media literacy.
As part of an ongoing effort to protect the health of our youth, the Massachusetts Legislature raised the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 or older.
Massachusetts is a known national leader in environmental policy and this year’s environmental bond bill bolsters that position by dedicating $2.4 billion to improving climate change resiliency and adaptation; enhancing environmental and natural resource protection; and investing in parks and recreational assets. The legislation passed ensures that Massachusetts can continue to plan for global warming and a changing climate, including along vulnerable coastlines with $225 million in community investment grants, $100 million for energy and environment coastal infrastructure, and $54 million in rural investments.
Finally, this year the House passed a bill to enhance certain benefits for Massachusetts veterans including increases to assistance with funeral and burial expenses; relating to property taxes, and designating April 5 as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September to Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Highlights
Children and families
State Police Oversight
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: State Rep. Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
Massachusetts Legislature Passes $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill
August 1, 2018 (BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Legislature who voted today to pass a $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill focused on improving climate change resiliency and adaptation; enhancing environmental and natural resource protection; and investing in parks and recreational assets.
The legislation passed today ensures that Massachusetts can continue to plan for global warming and a changing climate, including along our vulnerable coastlines.
“Climate change is a real and present threat to Massachusetts, and we must treat it as a priority,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These investments in our communities, coastlines, and in overall climate resiliency highlight our joint focus with the House on preparing Massachusetts’ infrastructure for the future, and safeguarding our residents from potential environmental disasters. I thank the conferees for their dedication to preparing this vital legislation.”
“These investments protect critical natural resources, preserve our parks and recreational areas and aim to make our Commonwealth is more resilient to the threats of climate change for years to come,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to fund these important initiatives.”
Among other spending, the bill appropriates:
Today’s bill also requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to coordinate and strengthen the Commonwealth’s climate resilience and prepare for climate change impacts; publish an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan every five years; and establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments to be included in the state plan.
Additionally, the legislation creates and funds a Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund to fund the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, and state and local strategies for climate adaptation.
The Environmental Bond Bill also emphasizes the importance of public and parkland throughout the Commonwealth, appropriating $150,000,000 to tree planting, urban and suburban parks, EEA land acquisition, and trails.
“As Chairman of the Environment Committee, I am proud to say this bill is an amazing example of bipartisan effort and compromise,” said Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), Chair Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “I’m grateful to Speaker DeLeo for including me in this conference process, and to my colleague, Representative Nangle for his leadership and understanding while we championed the issues we believed were most necessary for the environmental benefit of the Commonwealth. I understand neither side got everything it wanted out of the compromise, but I believe we’ve come out with a strong bond bill, funding necessary projects and environmental investments across the state, including an agricultural estate tax credit, integrated state climate adaptation plans, and an investment in preserving our cities and towns. This bond bill aims to preserve our land, restore dams and seawalls, and support various community investment grants which will all have lasting effects on our communities.”
Other highlights of the bill include the creation of the Agricultural Innovation Fund to finance grants for the Commonwealth’s agricultural and cranberry producers; and the Fishing Innovation Fund for the design, construction and modification of commercial fishing vessel; and for research, development, acquisition and deployment of advanced or innovative technologies such as sonar, satellite, radar and radio communications.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: State Rep. Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
House Passes Bill Establishing Campus Climate Surveys at Higher Education Institutions
Surveys promote safer campuses with published results; expert task force to oversee the effort
July 31, 2018 (BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation requiring Massachusetts higher education institutions to conduct surveys assessing the campus climate relative to sexual misconduct every two years.
With the goal of fostering safe and inclusive campus environments, the surveys – known as campus climate surveys – will assist institutions with gathering sexual misconduct data, including the number of incidents of misconduct as well as provide information about student awareness of campus policies and procedures, and help campuses identify at-risk groups.
“Massachusetts is home to thousands of college students and this bill will promote safer campus life and build transparency into the reporting of occurrences of sexual misconduct at institutions across the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Thank you to Representatives Scibak, Ehrlich and Farley-Bouvier for their work to move this forward and to the students who helped to advocate for this important measure.”
“Sexual violence and misconduct continue to be a problem on many college campuses,” said Representative John Scibak (D-South Hadley), Chair of the Committee on Higher Education. “While several of our colleges have led the way in utilizing climate surveys to address the issue, not all institutions have done so. This bill, which was championed by students across the Commonwealth, is an important step in addressing this problem and ensuring the safety and well-being of students on all of our campuses.”
“I want to thank the Speaker and Chairs Sánchez and Scibak for their support in passing this critical legislation to protect Massachusetts students,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), Chair of the Committee on Export Development. “I am proud to have filed and championed this bill. Every campus is different in regards to the prevalence and nature of sexual violence -- but what is true of all of them is that all students deserve a safe place to learn, study, and grow, as well as transparency from school administrations about sexual violence.”
The legislation requires universities and colleges use model surveys based on the recommendations provided by a 21-member task force, which is co-chaired by the Commissioner of Higher Education and the Commissioner of Public Health.
The task force is charged with developing a model climate misconduct survey based on peer-reviewed research for statewide distribution to higher education institutions. Its members include the Attorney General, the Secretary of Public Safety and Security, representatives of rural and urban rape crisis centers, the Victim Rights Law Center, Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, public and private higher education institutions, survey analysis researchers, and students. The task force is due to complete its work by March 31, 2019 and the legislation would take effect on Aug. 1, 2019.
The legislation requires that the surveys are anonymous with no identifying information collected and that the results be published on institution websites 120 days after the completion of the survey.
Under the legislation colleges and universities may use their own campus-specific surveys if approved.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.