Coming up on Beacon Hill

Published: 11/12/2018 10:34:18 AM
Modified: 11/12/2018 11:02:15 AM


BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill (CIVIC EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS (S 2631) that will require Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one individual, small group, or class wide, student-led, non-partisan civics project for each student. The projects must be designed to promote student abilities related to the analysis of complex issues; consideration of different perspectives; engagement in civil discourse; and understanding of the connections between federal, state, and local policies. Another key provision establishes a Civics Project Trust Fund which will be used to create a statewide civic infrastructure and provide professional development to teachers, prioritizing underserved communities in “school districts with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students.”

“This bill could not have come at a better time,” said Arielle Jennings, Massachusetts Executive Director of Generation Citizen, a group that was at the forefront of the campaign to get this measure signed into law. “We are in a moment when so many young people are seeing the power of youth voice on the national stage and are eager to participate in the civic and political process. In order to do so, youth need educational experiences to help develop their civic skills and knowledge and real-world civic engagement opportunities that show them the political process is relevant to their lives.”

According to Generation Citizen, only one in four Americans can name the three branches of government and voting rates of young adults are at an historic low. Lower-income students often receive lower-quality civic learning education at school and demonstrate significantly lower levels of achievement in standardized tests of civics than their higher-income peers.

“This bill ensures that all students throughout the commonwealth will be exposed to robust civics curricula in order to prepare them to be informed and thoughtful participants in our democracy,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Chair of the Education Committee. “This bill, in conjunction with the Department’s new History and Social Science Curriculum Framework and a new assessment aligned with these standards, are critical to preparing students for a lifetime of civic responsibility.”

“I am incredibly proud that this bill is being signed into law because comprehensive civics education leads to more informed voters, better public policies, and a superior Commonwealth,” said Sen.  Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester). “So much work went into this bill: from the legislators to the educators, to the administrators, the students and the advocates, we could not have made this effort a reality without your hard work and dedication.”

“Massachusetts has moved forward to a leadership role on civics education,” said Steven Rothstein the executive director of the John F. Kennedy Library and the co-founder of the Mass Civics Learning Coalition. “This legislation will ensure that every student is ready for civic life. This is especially important at this time.”

TRAINING TO HELP COMBAT ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE — Secretary of State Bill Galvin unveiled a new training program to provide state and local law enforcement officials with free training and resources to help them recognize the red flags of elder financial abuse and fraud. “It is important for my office to collaborate with law enforcement throughout the commonwealth to combat elder financial abuse and securities fraud,” said Galvin.

The training highlights common schemes and hallmarks of financial abuse that harm older adults and others. It also provides law enforcement officers with resources on how to recognize warning signs and how to report suspected problems to collaborating agencies such as the Massachusetts Securities Division.

For more information or to set up a training program in your community contact the Massachusetts Securities Division at 617-727-3548.

SCHOOLS MUST REPORT ALL THREATS (H 302) — Approved by the House on June 8, 2017 and still stuck in the House Committee on Bills in Third Reading Committee is a bill that would change a current law that requires principals of all public and private school to immediately report to the local fire department any incidents involving the setting of unauthorized fires within a school building or on school grounds. The measure would expand the law and require the principals to report all threats including biological hazards, shootings or cyber threats.

FINANCIAL LITERACY (S 2343) — Approved by the Senate on March 2018 and still stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee is a bill that would require the state to develop and allow cities and towns to institute a program to teach financial literacy to students in kindergarten to grade 12. The topics covered would include understanding banking and financial services, loans, interest, credit cards, online commerce, renting or buying a home, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes and charitable giving.

MANY BILLS SENT TO STUDY COMMITTEE — Hundreds of bills were sent off to a study committee in the 2017-2018 session. Most measures that are shipped off to a study committee are never actually studied and are essentially defeated. Here are some of the unlucky bills:

MUST REGISTER BIKES WITH REGISTRY OF MOTOR VEHICLES (H 1832) — Requires anyone age 21 and older to register his or her bicycle biannually with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The state would establish a fee and issue a license plate that the bicyclist would be required to attach to his or her bike.

WEAR REFLECTIVE MATERIAL (H 1854) — Requires anyone walking outdoors in an unilluminated area after dusk to wear reflective material or carry a luminescent device like a flashlight, lantern or the flashlight application on a cell phone in order to help prevent accidents.

ORGAN DONORS (H 3434) — Automatically enrolls anyone who applies for or renews a driver’s license in the state’s organ donor program. The person could opt out of the program by signing a written notice. Current law only enrolls people who voluntarily sign up for the program when applying for or renewing their driver’s license.

TAX SUGARY DRINKS (H 3329) — Taxes sugary soft drinks which are currently exempt from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax.

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at




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