The Massachusetts Senate plans to vote Thursday on a wide-ranging bill that would create a process for certifying and de-certifying officers and impose new limits on use of force, including a ban on chokeholds and restrictions on the use of tear gas.
Mobilized by the social unrest gripping the country, the state’s top political leaders of color gathered Tuesday to urge action across all levels of government, their words underwritten by a docket of resolutions, policies, and legislation they say are designed to transmute anger into change, increasing police accountability and chipping away at structural racism.
“Ensuring people have safe, reliable housing throughout this crisis is one of the most important things we can do to flatten the curve and save lives right now,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-2nd Suffolk).
“This is both a critical and efficient step in delivering on the requirement that money from marijuana tax revenues be spent on restorative economic development for communities harmed by the War on Drugs,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, the chair of the joint committee.
Massachusetts will invest an additional $1.5 billion in K-12 public education over the next seven years after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a funding reform bill, touted by supporters as a generational change, into law Tuesday.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, a former Education Committee chair and a leader on education funding reform, said, “This bill stands as our commitment that, in Massachusetts, zip code must not be destiny.”
"Our session today continues nearly a half-century of work for educational equity. And this bill would not exist without the generations of Bay Staters who tirelessly and passionately kept the cause alive. Who saw the work ahead and never gave up, even when political insiders believed the issue was dead."
Fulfilling the promise of public education as the great equalizer is our next big goal. Bay Staters believe in it. It’s a goal our constitution anchors us to. Now, that collective effort in advocating, crafting policy, and working together has given us a chance to deliver on it.
Chang-Diaz noted that mass shootings, especially those involving middle-class white children, make headlines. But she asked fellow lawmakers to have that same “sense of horror, unacceptance, urgency when shootings happen in Dorchester or Roxbury or Springfield or Holyoke or other urban communities, when the child’s riddled body is black or brown and their family is low-income, doing their best to make ends meet.”
“There’s no reason it had to be this way, the situation we find ourself in now is due to years of deferred maintenance. Deferring maintenance is a habit that State leaders need to break,” Chang-Diaz said.
“At what point does ‘we’re working on it’ become justice delayed and denied?” Chang-Diaz said the Senate has passed the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission multiple times. “The Legislature has had nearly four years to consider the recommendations — that’s half a kid’s elementary school years,” she said. “There’s no good reason that students will go back to school with no foundation funding plan in place.”
In an extended interview during and after The Horse Race podcast last week, Chang-Díaz told the Reporter that the dramatic funding boost is necessary to fully meet the state’s obligation to provide a quality education to its students while grappling with the greater cost of educating disadvantaged children. It expands on the bipartisan though last-minute efforts of the last cycle.
Chang-Diaz said the difference in funding between the PROMISE Act and Baker’s plan is “stark” and represents the difference between a school district hiring a fraction of a school counselor or starting a quality preschool program.
“Massachusetts still has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation between rich and poor students,” state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said in her testimony. “Everybody knows that money alone won’t do it, but we also know that you can’t do it without money.”
Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz has announced neighborhood office hours for February 2019. Office Hours, held by Sen. Chang-Díaz and her staff, will take place within each of the neighborhoods of the Second Suffolk District.
JP Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz took the podium at the 49th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in the South Boston Convention Center and used the shining light of Dr. King’s example to call for another local fight for justice – that being the justice of equal education funding.
Seeking to accelerate Beacon Hill’s often glacial pace, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz on Wednesday rolled out a revamped version of the Senate’s funding bill from last session alongside four dozen legislators, mayors, and other advocates gathered behind the podium.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat who was the main architect of the Senate's $1 billion school funding bill last year, Wednesday morning filed a similar bill -- dubbed the Education Promise Act -- that includes language addressing some concerns raised with the previous version.
Educators, local leaders, and state legislators united at the State House today to call for passage of the Education PROMISE Act in 2019. The bill is backed by a broad coalition of students, teachers, parents, superintendents, school committees, legislators, and experts from the heart of Boston to the outskirts of Western Massachusetts.
"Every year that we wait as a legislature to act on a highly-vetted, highly-researched, highly-debated road map that this bipartisan group of experts has given us, is a year that students can't get back," Chang-Díaz told me in a recent interview.
"I'm proud to see this important civics education bill signed into law," Massachusetts state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Democrat who heads the Joint Committee on Education, said during the signing. "In light of recent reports of voter suppression and the perilous state of our country's civic and political life today, this legislation is especially critical."
Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, a Newburyport Democrat, and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat, also addressed the protesters gathered outside Baker's office together. Chang-Diaz had her toddler son strapped to her chest.
Stronger laws are needed to address illegally obtained guns, Chang-Diaz said, telling her colleagues that if they think the inconvenience of limiting individuals to purchasing no more than 15 firearms a year is too much then she would invite them to join her at next funeral of teen in her district.
Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz has announced neighborhood office hours for the Summer of 2018. Office Hours, held by Sen. Chang-Díaz and her staff, will take place within each of the neighborhoods of the Second Suffolk District.
Recently, I was thrilled to stand on the Senate floor as every single one of my fellow Senators voted in favor of passing deeply-needed reforms to our K-12 education funding system. The bill has now moved to the House.
“It’s a huge historical turning point for our state when you set it in the context of the last several decades,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat and longtime proponent of many of the changes in the package.