BOSTON — On April 25, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in passing legislation to enhance road safety for cyclists and pedestrians, establish a non-binary option for gender on drivers’ licenses and birth certificates, and lift the so-called “Cap on Kids,” overriding Governor Baker’s recent veto of the “cap on kids” bill. All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Friedman voted in favor of S.2204, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, which includes several measures that together will greatly improve road safety, lessen the severity of crashes, and standardize the collection and analysis of crash data.
“Earlier this year, I was devastated to hear that an Arlington resident was struck and killed after an unfortunate collision on the Minuteman Bike path in Lexington,” said Senator Friedman. “Today, I voted in favor of bicyclists and pedestrian safety legislation to ensure that an accident like this never happens again.”
The bill would classify several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as vulnerable road users and requires motor vehicles to apply a safe passing distance of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour.
It would further require trucks and similar large vehicles purchased, leased or under contract with the Commonwealth after a certain date to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors to reduce the risk posed to vulnerable road users who are susceptible to being unseen by truck drivers and slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents.
Additionally, the legislation would establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the possibility and severity of crashes. Finally, the bill would increase the flexibility of the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to reduce the speed limit in active construction zones thereby significantly increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers and first responders at the construction site.
Friedman also voted in favor of S.2203, An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification, which would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to allow an applicant to designate an ‘X,’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on a driver’s license or other forms of state ID.
The bill would also allow a person over the age of 18 or the parents of a minor to request a change in the sex on a birth certificate to include “female,” “male” or “X” to reflect the gender identity of the person. The legislation would ask the Attorney General to report on all state forms and instances where a gender choice is indicated, noting if this is by law, regulation, or just practice.
Finally, Friedman joined her colleagues in taking final action to “Lift the Cap on Kids.” The Massachusetts “Cap on Kids” policy – established in 1995 – was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The legislation passed earlier this month would repeal this ineffective policy. The new policy would start September 1, 2019, and makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019.
Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. On April 8, 2019, the Governor sent back the legislation unsigned. Following a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, the Legislature overturned the governor’s veto.
Bills concerning the “Gender X” designation and road safety now move to the House of Representatives for consideration. To continue tracking the legislation, visit www.malegislature.gov.
Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.