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Four Bills the Legislature Needs to Act Upon

July 7, 2018

The fate of several important pieces of legislation remain in the hands of state lawmakers as the Statehouse session deadline of July 31 approaches. While some bills contain more weightier matters than others, we believe they all deserve action by legislators before they adjourn.

The newspaper has made its opinion known on many of these unresolved bills, some of which we will reiterate here:

* HOUSING BOOST -- Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed legislation to facilitate the construction of more affordable housing by allowing communities to adopt certain zoning changes by a simple majority vote rather than the existing two-thirds requirement.

With that technical tweak, along with $10 million in incentives to boost development, the Baker administration has established a goal of providing 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

The lack of housing inventory pushed the median price of a single-family home to $400,000 in May. It’s time the House and Senate reconcile their differences and pass this desperately needed legislation.

* OPIOID CRISIS -- Baker seeks to build on the opioid-abuse bill passed in 2016 by again advocating for holding addicts involuntarily for up 72 hours, to provide the help they need.

The bill also seeks to establish standards for credentialing “recovery coaches” who help people to overcome addiction, allow pharmacies to carry overdose-reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), create a trust fund to help finance expansion of educational and intervention programs in schools and make it easier to prescribe smaller amounts of opioid painkillers.

Lawmakers, who previously rejected some of these provisions, should appreciate its potential and pass this bill.

* PERSONAL DATA SECURITY -- The “Equifax bill” initially failed to advance beyond the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. Both branches have since produced versions of the bill, which aims to shield residents from future large-scale security breakdowns. The main difference between the two revolves around language concerning encryption of personal information contained in credit reports.

This matter is too important to be sidelined by technical differences. It’s time to reach a compromise.

* CIVICS EDUCATION -- Lawmakers can pass a common-sense bill designed to give students the real-world knowledge required to make informed decisions.

In March, the Senate passed “An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement.” It directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure that all public schools provide instruction in American history, civics and media literacy, including participation in a civics project that becomes a graduation requirement. It also creates a Civics Project Trust Fund and authorizes funding to support civics education projects in schools throughout Massachusetts.

The House passed a watered-down measure that doesn’t include a civics graduation requirement. The Senate’s graduation requirement adds serious weight to the law’s purpose and should be enacted.

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