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Legislature Passes Landmark Bill to Dismantle the Gender Wage Gap

July 23, 2016

Legislation will be the strongest pay equity statute in the nation

The Massachusetts Legislature today passed a measure to ensure that men and women receive equitable compensation for comparable work. The bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in the payment of wages for comparable work unless the variation is based upon a mitigating factor including seniority; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, sales, or revenue; education, training or experience.

Notably, the bill would prevents employers from requesting salary history in hiring, a measure designed to end the self-perpetuating cycle of wage disparity. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to adopt such a provision. However, prospective employees would not be barred from voluntarily disclosing their past salaries.

 “Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make a fraction of every dollar earned by a man,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “In January, the Senate unanimously passed the bill that I sponsored with Senator Jehlen to close this unacceptable gap, with strong support from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for Business Leadership. With this historic legislation finally on its way to the Governor’s desk, we make it clear that in Massachusetts, women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay.”

This bill represents a consensus-based effort to ensure that the legislation would be practical, effective and sustainable. Key to those efforts were defining “comparable work” and maintaining flexibility for performance-based compensation. The bill incentivizes companies to correct compensation disparities internally before going to court by creating three-year affirmative defense from liability. Within that time period employers must complete a self-evaluation of its pay practices and demonstrate reasonable progress in eliminating pay disparities.

It also:

  • Prohibits employers from reducing salaries in order to comply with law.
  • Prohibits an employer from preventing employees from talking about their salaries.

The legislation will take effect on July 1, 2018. It will now go to the Governor for his consideration.

 

Senate Passes Bill to Encourage Economic Development

July 14, 2016

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Today the Senate passed comprehensive economic development legislation including investments, initiatives and incentives to promote development and workforce training, create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. The legislation strengthens existing programs and authorizes $743.9M in capital spending over a period of three years for a range of economic development initiatives supporting workers, businesses and communities.

“This bill promotes economic prosperity for our residents, economic vitality for our communities and economic growth for our businesses,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We encourage job creation and support programs that connect people with the skills, training and education they need to pursue these job opportunities. We invest in the infrastructure necessary to allow the Massachusetts economy to continue to grow, lead and innovate.”

“Public policy and public investment is critical for Massachusetts to keep growing its economy and leading the nation in innovation and technology. This bill makes targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, and job creation strategies,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “Among one of the important provisions of this bill is the increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit by 5% for over 415,000 working families in the Commonwealth to continue the Senate’s work on addressing income inequality.”

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Senate Passes Juvenile Justice Omnibus Bill

July 12, 2016

Senator Spilka with teen advocates from Teens Leading the Way

Today the Senate passed legislation to promote transparency, best practices and better outcomes for children involved in the juvenile justice system in Massachusetts. The omnibus bill sponsored by Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), S.2417, updates various areas of the law relating to juvenile justice to encourage rehabilitation and positive future outcomes for youth, reduce recidivism and ensure fair treatment of children.

“These long overdue reforms reflect best practices in juvenile justice to reduce crime, save money and help children learn from their mistakes,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We divert our youngest children from the court system, ban the dangerous practice of shackling, allow for the expungement of certain juvenile misdemeanor records and make sure children are treated fairly and appropriately. All young people deserve a second chance and the support services and resources they need to get back on track, lead successful adult lives and positively contribute to their communities.”

Teens Leading The Way and UTEC applaud the leadership of Senator Spilka and the Senate on this great step forward for young adults. We are looking forward to the House acting on this bill quickly so that youth in Massachusetts, who earned a second chance, can create the future they deserve,” said Stephanie Bellapianta, Youth Organizer with Teens Leading The Way.

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Senate Passes Bill to Expand Language Opportunities for Students

July 7, 2016

Seal of Biliteracy

Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that updates the existing statute relative to English language education in public schools to encompass the latest and best practices serving English Language Learners (ELLs).

An Act for language opportunity for our kids, also known as the LOOK Bill, removes the current mandate requiring schools to use Sheltered English Immersion (SEI), or English-only programs, as the default ELL program model, thereby giving schools the flexibility to establish programs based on the unique needs of their students.

“This bill empowers parents and schools to develop high quality educational opportunities for English Language Learners, so that language is not a barrier to future success,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Further, the legislation includes my bill to create a new State Seal of Biliteracy to encourage more students to study a foreign language, expanding future career opportunities and promoting global trade. In our global economy, knowledge of other languages and cultures is a true asset.”

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Senate Passes Bill Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

July 7, 2016

Today the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to improve the lives of many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by enabling them to attend college with their same-aged peers in an inclusive setting.  The bill, originally sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) opens the doors of our state colleges and universities to students who have been historically denied access to higher education, and held back to complete additional years of high school, because their disability prevented them from obtaining a high school diploma.

“Like all Massachusetts students, students with disabilities deserve access to the academic, social and workforce training benefits of higher education. This bill reinforces the legislature’s commitment to inclusion and opportunity for people of all ages and abilities, helping students develop skills, live independently and transition to adulthood,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

The bill also codifies the very successful Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative Grant program, which allows high school students aged 18-21 with intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in an inclusive college course and the student life of college as part of their high school special education.  Thirteen colleges and universities already partner with nearly 70 school districts statewide to offer the program, and now it will be available statewide for the rest of the residents of the Commonwealth.

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Senate Passes Omnibus Energy Bill

July 5, 2016

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The Massachusetts State Senate last week voted to engross an omnibus energy bill to diversify the state’s energy portfolio by procuring additional clean energy resources to replace aging power plants that are going offline and move the Commonwealth closer to its emissions reduction goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act.

“This is a bold, aggressive and smart plan to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and help us meet our moral and legal commitments to clean energy under the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill is designed to foster open, competitive bidding and encourage economic development and innovative clean energy technologies, and it is a tremendous step forward in our efforts to protect our environment and ensure a sustainable future.”

The bill, S. 2372 – An Act to promote energy diversity, requires electric distribution companies, in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to solicit long-term contracts for at least 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027. The bill calls for successive, staggered solicitations to keep costs down through competition. Additionally, distribution companies would be required to purchase a minimum of 12,450,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy from hydropower and other Class 1 resources such as onshore wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and energy storage.

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Legislature Passes Balanced Fiscal Year 2017 Budget

June 30, 2016

The Massachusetts Legislature today enacted a $39.146 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that invests in key areas related to local aid, education, children’s health and safety, housing, health and human services, workforce training and economic development. The budget reflects a conservative tax revenue outlook and focuses on opportunities for savings while preserving key programs and services.

“This budget reflects our belief that we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, while keeping the Commonwealth moving forward on the path to resilience, especially during a time of fiscal uncertainty,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “We honor our commitment to increased K-12 education funding, preserve investments for our most vulnerable residents, including our youngest children, and continue to direct resources to address the opioid crisis. This budget also significantly increases local aid to help cities and towns address community needs. Despite the challenges of lower than anticipated revenue, I am proud to say that the conference committee worked swiftly and collaboratively to produce a timely budget that preserves critical services, allows for strategic reductions and makes modest investments in our shared future.”

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