2021-2022 Legislative Agenda

This past year has been full of extraordinary challenges, but thanks to our community of support, we made powerful gains in the State House. Working with partners, we ensured that a language access provision was included in legislation to hold DCF accountable, successfully advocated for provisions in the sweeping police reform bill that protect the rights of Massachusetts youth, and more! Now, the 2021-2022 Massachusetts legislative session is here, and we’re ready to build on these successes. You have the power to help set the legislative agenda at the State House by taking action TODAY to support essential initiatives within Massachusetts Appleseed’s key policy areas, highlighted below:

Access to Justice

An Act Relative to Language Access and Inclusion: HD.3674 (Rep. Madaro) and SD.2251 (Sen. DiDomenico) would standardize and enforce language access protocols and practices at public-facing state agencies. In Massachusetts, nearly 1 in 10 residents speak a primary language other than English, and this statute would ensure that they have fair and equitable access to unemployment benefits, education, housing assistance, and healthcare – including getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

This bill is one of the key recommendations in our most recent report, Families Torn Apart: Language-Based Discrimination at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, and would help hold Massachusetts’ child welfare agency accountable to prevent limited English proficient families from being unjustly separated.

An Act to Create Access to Justice: HD.1968 (Rep. Meschino and Rep. Madaro) and SD.1893 (Sen. DiDomenico) would create a private right of action for individuals who have been subjected to disparate impact discrimination by Massachusetts state agencies and other government entities. “Disparate impact” means situations where laws, policies, and practices appear neutral on their face, but in practice adversely affect individuals who are members of a legally protected class (i.e. race, gender, age, disability, or national origin). This bill would fill a gap in existing federal civil rights law and enable individuals to bring claims of disparate impact discrimination under state law in Massachusetts, allowing for systemic change through our state court system.

This bill is also one of the key recommendations in our most recent report, Families Torn Apart: Language-Based Discrimination at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, and would enfranchise limited English proficient parents to take legal action in defense of their civil rights.

Keep Kids in Class

An Act to Ensure Equitable Access to Education, Including Special Education Services, for All Students in Massachusetts: HD.1433 (Rep. Decker) would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to publish demographic data on student discipline – such as race, gender, English-language ability, poverty, disability status, and discipline rate – in a form that could be cross-tabulated and allow for multi-variable analysis. Good policy starts with good data, and this bill will ensure greater transparency and enable advocates, grassroots organizers, and anyone in the Massachusetts community to better identify disparities and inequitable treatment of students, and hold schools accountable.

This bill is one of the key recommendations in our collaborative 2020 report, Protecting Girls of Color from the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

An Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles: HD.447 (Rep. Ultrino), SD.2349 (Sen. Gomez), and SD.1407 (Sen. DiDomenico) would amend existing state civil rights law to specifically ban discrimination based upon natural hairstyle. Young women and girls of color face disparate discipline in Massachusetts schools, and as we saw in 2017, hairstyle discrimination can play a significant role in pushing Black girls out of their classrooms. This bill would make sure no student is barred from their learning environment because of the way they wear their hair and is an important step forward to combat racial disparities in school discipline.


Youth Homelessness & Hunger

An Act to Provide Identification to Youth and Adults Experiencing Homelessness: HD.984 (Rep. Khan and Rep. O’Day) and SD.636 (Sen. Chandler) would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to waive the $25 fee for Mass ID applicants who are experiencing homelessness, and to accept alternative verifications of Massachusetts residency from state agencies and social service agencies.

Currently, many young people experiencing homelessness cannot obtain state ID, which they often need to apply for a job, access public services, open a bank account, and accomplish a host of other important life tasks. One entire chapter of the Massachusetts Homeless Youth Handbook, our online know-your-rights resource for youth experiencing homelessness, is devoted to helping youth navigate the difficult process of obtaining identification. This legislation is necessary to eliminate an enormous barrier youth and young adults face on their path to achieving safety and self-sufficiency.

What You Can Do:

  • Contact your Senator & Representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor all of the bills listed above.
  • Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator or Representative will co-sponsor these bills.
  • If you see your Senator or Representative listed here as a sponsor of one of these bills, give them a call and thank them!
  • Click here to find your Senator and Representatives’ emails and phone numbers.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for opportunities to take action in support of these policies!

Massachusetts Appleseed is supporting a number of other bills that will disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline, combat youth hunger, and prevent evictions. To see our full 2021-2022 legislative agenda, click hereThank you for advancing social justice in Massachusetts!


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