BOSTON – The 191st legislative session of the Massachusetts General Court is underway on Beacon Hill with a record number of women represented in the first year class. The House of Representatives welcomes 12 women among its 23 new legislators. In the Senate, 3 of the 5 newly elected Senators are women.
The Senate is led by its third female President, Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), and Representative Patricia A. Haddad (D-Somerset) resumes the role of Speaker Pro-Tempore in the House, a position she has held since 2011. Women legislators now comprise 28.5 percent of the Massachusetts legislature. The previous high point reached last in 2009 (as well as 2003, 2000, and 1999) was 52 women or 26 percent of the legislature.
The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators, is chaired this session by Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston). The Caucus’ Board of Directors also includes: Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) as vice chairs, Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) as treasurer, Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), and Representative Carole Fiola (D-Fall River).
“As Senate chair of the caucus, I look forward to working with caucus members to push our agenda forward and elevate important issues that impact the well-being of women across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman. “I am encouraged and hopeful that we can build on the success of last session to accomplish many of our shared goals this session.”
The Caucus has convened four taskforces to examine the following issues: sexual assault, led by Representatives Ehrlich and Farley-Bouvier; pre-term birth and maternal health, led by Speaker Pro-Tempore Haddad; justice- involved women, led by Representatives Khan and Barber, the latter of whom also spearheads the caucus bylaw review process.
At the start of the New Year, the caucus was pleased to see the passage of a long-time priority, An Act providing for equitable coverage in disability policies, an initiative championed by Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton). This law prohibits gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. Following that strong start, the caucus named seven priorities for the new session.
The caucus continues to prioritize combatting sexual assault on college campuses and express strong support for H.1208/S.736, An Act requiring sexual misconduct climate surveys at institutions of higher education.The Joint Committee on Higher Education will publicly hear the bill on Tuesday, April 9.
Other caucus priorities include:
- S.980, An Act amending the statute of limitations regarding criminal prosecutions of the crimes of sexual assault and rape of child;
- S.24/H.1478, An Act to end child marriage in Massachusetts;
- H.3332, An Act relative to the penalties for the crime of female genital mutilation;
- S.408/H.639, An Act supporting parents running for public office;
- H.1182, An Act relative to Medicaid coverage for doula services; and
- S.1082/H.1617, An Act requiring one fair wage.
Senator Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7.