A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 8, 2001
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240
2001: OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
This January, we will bid farewell to Bill Clinton after two terms as President of the United States. As the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, Clinton has been, at the very least, a unique president. Bill might not have been loved by all, especially Newt Gingrich and Congressional Republicans, but he certainly gave us something to talk about for the past eight years. Putting partisan policy matters aside, we can all remember Bill playing the saxophone on national television, jogging to McDonald's for a snack, and of course, being only the second president in the history of our nation to have been impeached.
Yet, despite the fact that Bill Clinton will be taking his leave this month, there will be plenty of "bills" to take his place. January, 2001, also marks the beginning of a new legislative session on Beacon Hill, and with it, thousands of new bills for us to consider.
Filing a bill is one way for a legislator to bring the needs and concerns of his constituents to the attention of the state. This session, I filed close to 30 bills dealing with a variety of issues that are important to the citizens of Massachusetts.
In the area of public safety, I sponsored a groundbreaking bill to establish crime victim restitution. This legislation would allow victims to be compensated for reasonable expenses related to the crime suffered. Victims would be able to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral services, property damage and loss, and travel expenses. At the heart of this bill is the recognition that victims actually pay for a crime several times after the initial offense, whether it be for physical therapy, counseling, or workplace absenteeism. By forcing perpetrators to pay for these additional costs (to the best of their ability), we are effectively carrying out our constitutional obligation to "establish justice" and "ensure domestic tranquility." In light of the recent tragedy in Wakefield, this bill is quite appropriate.
Another important bill would study the possibility of implementing a program of voluntary chemical treatment for sex offenders. Those convicted of sex crimes would be given a choice to take a prescription drug that would diminish their sex drive, thus making them less dangerous to society. The chemical treatment bill would greatly supplement a bill I filed in last year's session (which became law) to commit sex offenders in treatment centers once their prison term had expired.
To protect citizens who fulfill their civic obligation by serving as jurors, I authored a piece to prevent their identities from being released to the general public until 10 days after the verdict is delivered.
A final public safety measure was a bill to require the Registrar of motor vehicles to include a section on motor vehicle accident reports that would indicate if a cell phone was involved in the crash. Because the issue of cell phones and driving has been gaining momentum on Beacon Hill, it is crucial that we provide a statistical basis upon which we may build further legislation.
As an avid outdoorsman, the environment has always been important to me. The beauty of Spot Pond, the Middlesex Fells, and other natural resources in our region make it imperative to enact laws to preserve these areas for future generations to enjoy. I co-sponsored several "green" bills, and also took the initiative on a proposal to earmark funds to the State Fire Marshal to provide training and resources to cities and towns for hazardous materials (haz-mat) response activities.
In last year's session, we passed a landmark "Patients' Bill of Rights" to increase the quality of health care in Massachusetts. I filed several health care bills this year to expand upon these protections for the benefit of all patients. The most important of these was An Act to Protect Breast Cancer Patients. This bill would require health plans to provide for a minimum 48 hour inpatient stay following a mastectomy and a minimum 24 hour inpatient stay after a lymph node dissection. These minimum standards are strong countermeasures to the "drive-thru" surgeries that are common today.
The bills mentioned above are only a fraction of the issues that we will be deliberating over the next two years. We will certainly be discussing the implementation of Phase II of Education Reform, giving careful thought to ways in which we can further improve our educational system. The Legislature will also take a keen interest in supervising major transportation projects like the Big Dig to ensure that the project is completed on time and within the budgetary limits we established.
Familiar topics like the death penalty and gun control are also likely to find their way to the House floor for debate, along with other issues that become relevant as the year progresses.
Having just taken our Oath of Office, in which we swore to uphold the Constitution and perform our duty to the best of our ability, all legislators are eager to get to work on these bills as soon as possible. After all, some of our nation's most important accomplishments have been achieved through legislation. In Massachusetts, we abolished slavery, created the first public school system, and established the first public library with bills passed by the Legislature. It is no coincidence that our very first bill, the Massachusetts Constitution, is the oldest living constitution in the world. Of course, to the citizens of our great state, this should come as no surprise.