Today, the Massachusetts House of Representative passed three bills necessary to improve the everyday lives of residents across the Commonwealth. They address the abuse of handicapped parking placards, commissions on the status of women, and safety for public employees.
Regional Commissions on the Status of Women
About 20 years ago, we established a Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, which has played a key role empowering women and offering policy recommendations that improve access to opportunities and equality. Most recently, they were a crucial partner as the House developed pay equity legislation last year.
Since women confront different challenges depending on where they live in the state, regional commissions were established to better address these issues. This bill creates three new regional commissions to ensure that all municipalities are represented. This means that every community in the Commonwealth will now have a regional commission on the status of women:
- Eastern regional commission on the status of women (including Brookline, Canton, Cohasset, Dedham, Boston, Braintree, Revere)
- Upper Middlesex Commission on the status of women (Acton, Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Somerville, Waltham, etc.).
- Plymouth County Commission
Currently, federal safety and health standards extend to executive branch employees and private sector employees. This bill directs the Division of Labor Standards to promulgate regulations to extend federal OSHA level protections to municipalities and quasi-state agencies when they act as employers.
It is important to make sure that all jobs in Massachusetts are safe. Each week, an average of 28 municipal workers suffer injuries serious enough to keep them off the job for five days. This bill will extend workplace protections to nearly 450,000 people in order to keep them healthy and safe on the job. It will ensure that all workers can return home to their families each night, regardless if they work a private or public sector job.
Handicapped Parking Placards
In response to a 2016 report by the Inspector General, the House passed legislation aimed at preventing the abuse of handicapped parking placards.
The report uncovered ongoing abuse of handicapped parking placards, and found gaps in both the RMV’s placard process and the state’s placard laws that make it easier for individuals to obtain and use placards inappropriately.
The Inspector General studied four Boston neighborhoods in July 2016 and found that 77 vehicles regularly displayed a placard belonging to someone other than the vehicle owner. An additional 57 hid critical information that would have revealed expired placards.
At the same time, disability advocates emphasized the difficulty of finding accessible parking in Boston and other cities and towns throughout the state.
The legislation tightens the application process by giving the registrar of motor vehicles the option of seeking additional information from an applicant for a handicapped placard or license plate to ensure eligibility. It also enhances penalties in order to discourage fraudulent use of handicap placards. Eliminating inappropriate use will free up much needed spaces for our friends and neighbors that need them.