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WBA Legislative Achievements

Domestic Violence/Housing: An Act Relative to Housing Rights of Victims of Domestic Violence, Rape, Sexual Assault and Stalking was signed by Governor 1/13.  It amends the existing housing discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination against victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking (while also preserving the rights of property owners), to create a defense to eviction if the landlord attempts to evict a tenant because he/she was the victim of one of these crimes and a vehicle for victims, with appropriate documentation, to vacate their lease or rental agreements without penalty.

Domestic Violence: The Governor signed a law in 7/12 which included language that allows domesticated animals to be included in abuse protection orders.  Seventeen other states have similar laws to address the well documented correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence.  Studies have shown that up to 48% of people in a violent relationship will not leave, or will return to, the relationship due to a fear for the animal’s safety.

Midwifery: An Act Relative to Enhancing the Practice of Nurse Midwives, was signed into law by the Governor on February 2, 2012 as Chapter 24 of the Acts of 2012.  The law increases the autonomy of certified nurse-midwives, and among other provisions authorizes certified nurse-midwives to issue written prescriptions and order and interpret tests and therapeutics.

Transgender Civil Rights: The law to add “gender identity or expression” to hate crimes and employment, housing, credit and education non-discrimination laws, joining 15 other states in recognizing transgender people as a protected class, was signed by Governor 11/23/11.

Human Trafficking: The WBA supported anti-human trafficking legislation, which was signed by the Governor on 11/21/2011.  This law makes human trafficking a crime in Massachusetts.  The law makes patronizing a human trafficking victim a crime and creates higher penalties for victims who are minors.  This law also allows forfeited assets and fines related to human trafficking to be distributed to victims. It further creates an inter-agency task force to study human trafficking in the Commonwealth.  

Alimony: The WBA worked to update/reform Mass. alimony law which benefits all parties to alimony arrangements by creating different categories of alimony with set limitations.  The law also provides an important safeguard for families that do not fit squarely within the guidelines by including discretion for courts to address their needs in alimony orders.  Signed by Governor 9/26/11

Guardianship Reform: Because of concern for children and families and about exploitation of dependent elders and other incapacitated persons, the WBA supported the guardianship reforms provisions contained in Article V of the Mass. Uniform Probate Code.  Signed into law 1/15/09; Article V to take effect 7/1/09.

Nursing Mothers: An Act to Promote Breastfeeding gives women the right to breastfeed in a public place and makes it clear that a woman nursing her child in public is not engaged in lewd or lascivious behavior or indecent exposure under MGL c. 272 §§16 and 53.  Signed into law 1/9/09

Equal Rights Amendment: An Act Relative to Equitable Coverage in Annuity Policies ended annuity pricing and practices which violate our state ERA, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, marital status or national origin. Signed by Gov. Patrick in 2008.

Civil Rights: The WBA supports full implementation of the Goodridge decision on same sex marriage. One barrier, the 1913 anti-miscegenation law, was repealed and signed into law 7/31/08
The WBA’s concern for protecting the interests of families required that we oppose enshrining discrimination and prejudice in the Massachusetts Constitution.  An initiative Amendment, “The Protection of Marriage” defining marriage as only between a woman and a man was defeated in the legislature in joint Constitutional Convention in 2007.

Reproductive Rights: The buffer zone between reproductive health clinics and protesters was expanded to 35 feet effective 11/13/07 when the Governor signed the law with an emergency preamble.  It replaced 2000 law which created an unworkable “bubble zone” of 6’ around a person when with 18’ of entrances or direct path to door of health clinics.
An Act to Provide Timely Access to Emergency Contraceptive by requiring appropriate health care for rape survivors and allowing pharmacists to provide emergency contraception directly to women. Signed into law in 2005.
An Act Providing Equitable Coverage Under Health Plans –to require contraceptive and hormone replacement therapy coverage under insurance plans regulated by the state.  Signed into law in 2/02.
The WBA supported legislation which ended the discrimination suffered by, and lifted the ban on abortion coverage for, public employees and their families.

Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Workplace Discrimination: The WBA-supported bill to extend the statute of limitations for all forms of prohibited workplace discrimination from 6 months to 3 years became law in 2002.

Low Income Tenants’ Rights:  The WBA successfully opposed a 2002 Mandatory Rent Escrow bill, the real estate industry's attempt to completely emasculate tenant defenses in eviction actions.

Children’s Health:  The WBA supported a bill to establish a commission to study and evaluate the delivery of mental health services to children.  Enacted in 2001

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault: The WBA supported the Address Confidentiality Program which allows victims to obtain an alternate address through the Secretary of State's office which can be used for receiving mail, service, voting, receiving benefits, etc.  
The WBA supported An Act Protecting Children from Domestic Violence in Custody and Visitation Proceedings - which creates a rebuttable presumption that a child not be placed in shared, sole, legal or physical custody of a parent who commits a “pattern or serious incident” of abuse against the other parent and ensures that visitation orders make adequate provision for the safety of abused parent or child.  Signed into law 7/98.
The WBA assisted in drafting and the successful passage of two bills designed to protect victims of domestic violence: one which requires the confiscation of weapons and of licenses to carry guns and federal identification cards on issuance of a TRO and the second which allows for the admission of evidence of past abuse on behalf of battered women accused of fighting back against their batterers.
The WBA supported the bill which extended to victims of rape or assault with intent to rape to same voter registration confidentiality which was provided to victims of domestic violence in 1995.  Signed by Governor 4/98.

Commission on the Status of Women:  The WBA endorsed the bill which established a permanent, statutory Commission on the Status of Women. Having just a Governor’s Advisory Ctte. on Women’s Issues, Mass. was one of only 11 states without such a permanent commission.  Signed by Governor 5/98.

Court Child Care project: WBA supported the funding of child care centers for courts of the Commonwealth. The efficiency of the courts is well served when children are not in the court rooms and when those having business before the courts know their children are in safe educational settings with referral services available.  Funds for existing and new centers included in FY1999 budget.  

Children’s Issues: The WBA supported the inclusion of funds in budget item 4130-3300 (Income Eligible Child Care) to help 6,000 working families off waiting lists for affordable childcare.  The requested $25 million was included in the FY1999 Budget.

Sexual Harassment:  The WBA supported legislation which mandated education of employers and employees about what constitutes sexual harassment, about its illegality and facilitate reporting mechanisms in the workplace.


(The WBA's legislative policies do not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsors.)