Marking Purim, activists urge Safe Communities Act passage

TAUNTON DAILY GAZETTE – BOSTON – March 21, 2019 – Advocates on Thursday marked Purim by delivering hamantaschen — the Jewish holiday’s traditional baked good — to state lawmakers, asking them to honor the spirit of the occasion by passing a bill restricting state and local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

“Ultimately, Purim is a holiday about justice and protecting the vulnerable, and that is why we are all here today,” said Cindy Rowe, the executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Social Action, which sponsored the event. “Immigrants in our state and throughout the country are under threat from the federal government.”

Purim, Rowe said, is a holiday about remembering “the lives of the Jewish people that were threatened by a powerful king and his cruel advisor, Haman.” She said the heroine of the story is Queen Esther, who “speaks truth to power in order to protect her people from bigotry.”

The so-called Safe Communities Act (H 3573, S 1401), filed this session by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Ruth Balser, would bar local police and court officers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status, and would stop them from notifying federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement about someone’s impending release from custody unless they were finishing a criminal sentence.

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Let’s secure a healthy energy future

Commonwealth Magazine, February 27, 2019

LOOKING AT RECENT HEADLINES, one sees that climate change—and the call for pioneering solutions to combat it—are now front and center in the public consciousness.

We are at the forefront of an opportunity to truly modernize the Commonwealth’s energy economy, improve the health of its communities and become a producer and exporter of renewable power rather than an importer of fossil fuels.

The majority of the newly elected Massachusetts state representatives – 14 freshman lawmakers — are united in their vision to build a renewable energy economy that will rein in greenhouse gas emissions and grow the 21st century green-tech job sector. Informally dubbed “GreenTeamMA,” this ambitious crop of legislators wants to reform the way that energy is made and used in the Bay State. Like many of the new faces in Congress who are working to educate voters on the benefits of a renewable energy economy for the country through the Green New Deal, GreenTeamMA supporters understand the economic, environmental, and human health imperative of swiftly shifting to a renewably-powered Bay State.

Last month, state Sen. Marc Pacheco and state Rep. Ruth Balser jointly filed An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future. This powerfully bold, visionary piece of legislation is something like a Green New Deal for Massachusetts; but rather than a broad resolution to be hammered out later, the bill presents specific prescriptions and timelines designed to guide businesses, municipalities, manufacturers, and electricity producers in transforming the way that energy is produced, stored, distributed and used. It considers where Massachusetts stands now with respect to climate change preparedness and fills in the gaps to get us where we need to be by 2050.

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Bill seeks to speed state’s transition to renewable energy

January 21, 2019- Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — A bill filed at the Massachusetts Statehouse seeks to help speed the state’s transition to renewable forms of energy.

The bill would update the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act by setting new emissions level requirements: 50 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2030, 75 percent below by 2040, and net zero emissions by 2050.

The Global Warming Solutions Act requires the state to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The bill was filed jointly by Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat and Representative Ruth Balser, a Newton Democrat.

Lawmakers last year proposed a bill that would press Massachusetts to achieve total renewable electricity generation by 2035 and phase out fossil fuels across all sectors, including heating and transportation, by mid-century.

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Gov. Charlie Baker signs bill banning disability insurers from charging women more than men

Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill Thursday banning insurers from charging women more than men for disability insurance policies.

“I am pleased to sign this bill ensuring everyone in the Commonwealth has fair and equal access to disability insurance,” Baker said in a statement. “Discrimination of any kind has no place in Massachusetts, and I thank the Legislature for passing this legislation and working with our Administration to continue to support women across the state.”

The new law will prohibit insurers that offer disability insurance from charging higher premiums or otherwise setting terms and conditions of coverage based solely on gender, race, religion, national origin, or other personal characteristics.

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Newton Legislative Delegation announces support for climate legislation

NewtonTAB-Posted Jan 18, 2019 at 9:12 AM

Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, and Rep. Ruth B. Balser, D-Newton, have announced that more than 80 state legislators have united in support of climate solutions in 2019. The statement circulated by Pacheco and Balser, A New Year’s Resolution: Committing to the Enactment and Implementation of Bold Climate Solutions in 2019, signals support for climate action in the upcoming legislative session. Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, and Rep. Kay Khan, D-Newton, both co-signed the statement.

“With the Trump administration’s refusal to address climate issues, the job of saving our planet falls to the states,” said Balser. “Recognizing that Massachusetts has always led the way, and aware of the fact that the latest scientific data informs us that we need to step up our efforts, I am pleased to join many of my House and Senate colleagues in committing to making climate solutions a top priority for this legislative session.”

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Governor Baker should sign these bills left over from 2018 session

January 4, 2019-Boston Globe mentions a bill championed by Rep. Balser that was ultimately signed into law.

The new legislative year on Beacon Hill is off and running, but there remain a few leftovers from the 2018 session still sitting on the governor’s desk. Two of them ought to become law.

The so-called Equifax bill to protect consumers in the wake of data breaches was amended at the request of the governor as formal sessions ended last summer. Its technical flaws fixed, it should surely now be ready for the governor’s signature.

Another bill, long overdue, was a surprise end-of-the year entry. It would ban sex discrimination in disability insurance sold on the individual market, where women have paid premiums averaging some 23 percent above those paid by men for the same coverage. Gender neutrality is already the rule on group policies for disability insurance — those purchased through an employer. Yet it’s not the rule for the estimated 11 percent of women who buy individual policies. Health insurance is already gender neutral, and in this state so are auto and homeowner’s insurance.

The bill, filed by state Representative Ruth Balser of Newton, has long been on the agenda of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and was supported by a legislative commission set up to study the issue. It’s simply a measure whose time has come.

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Should Massachusetts institute same-day voter registration? Yes

Representative Ruth B. Balser writes in support of same-day registration
Boston Globe
February 23, 2018

Among the most troubling aspects of the 2016 election were the reports that many Americans who wanted to vote were turned away from the polls. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the outcome of the presidential election would have been different had it not been for voter suppression in some key states. The Supreme Court’s dismantling of the core provisions of the Voting Rights Act and the adoption in many states of voter restriction policies moves our nation in precisely the opposite direction from where we should be heading. With only about 60 percent of those eligible voting in presidential elections, and still fewer voting in midterm and local elections, policy makers should be making it easier to vote, not harder.

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Baker Trying to Have it Both Ways

Opposes Medicaid cuts in Washington, but backs them here
Commonwealth Magazine, July 23, 2017
By Reps. Ruth B. Balser, Jay Livingstone and Christine Barber

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER has publicly criticized Republican efforts in Washington, DC, to roll back health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act. He rightly argues that such changes will have tremendously negative effects on the health care of hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts, our economy, and our budget. We commend him for these words. Unfortunately, his recent actions in Massachusetts are at odds with these statements.

During recent state budget negotiations, Baker sent a last-minute reform plan to the Legislature that included dramatic changes to MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. If the governor’s proposal had been adopted, Massachusetts would have become the first state in the country to roll back Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act.

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Yes: Cable Companies Should Offer High-Definition Channels for Local Access Programming

Boston Globe  |  June 23, 2017

Along with more than 80 legislative co-sponsors, I filed a bill this session that would help to ensure that our local public, education, and government (PEG) channels survive and thrive. An Act Supporting Community Access Television requires cable operators to carry local access channels in the same manner as all other primary broadcast channels by making them available in the high-definition tier, and by giving the local stations the ability to display the electronic program guide.

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The Argument: Should Massachusetts raise the smoking age to 21?

Boston Globe  |  January 1, 2016

Should Massachusetts raise the statewide smoking age to 21?

YES

By: Ruth B. Balser
State representative, Newton Democrat, House vice-chair, Joint Committee on Public Health

I am proud to be one of 56 cosponsors of House Bill 2021, “An Act further regulating the sale of tobacco products to teenagers.” This important public health legislation, filed by my colleague, Representative Paul McMurtry of Dedham, would raise the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 across the state. I am also proud that Newton, the city in which I live and that I represent in the House, is among the approximately 80 Massachusetts communities that have adopted this policy at the municipal level.

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