Virtual event

The Recorder – Community advocates present legislative priorities at virtual event

Published: 04/11/2022 16:26:54

Modified: 04/11/2022 16:26:36

Advocates from nine regional agencies took the opportunity Wednesday afternoon to tell a few state lawmakers which bills they support the most ahead of the legislative session that begins in January.

The Franklin and North Quabbin County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) Network hosted a virtual “Legislative Priority Pitch Night” for local agency employees to ask State Sen. Jo Comerford , D-Northampton, and State Representative Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, to fight for certain pieces of legislation that supporters believe will generate more social equity in Massachusetts. CHIP is a program of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).

Becky Himlin, director of resource planning and development at Community Action Pioneer Valley, highlighted the importance of the so-called “Common Boot Bill,” which if passed would improve access to childcare services and preschool education. She said social interaction is essential for brain development and there has long been a child care crisis in the state.

“It’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.

Himlin noted that many child care providers have gone out of business over the past two and a half years. She said passage of the bill would also provide educators with better pay and benefits.

Amy Timmins, vice president of community relations at ServiceNet, advocated for a bill that would eliminate wage disparities between the salaries of some social service workers employed by nonprofits and those working for state agencies. . She said the legislation could help ease a crippling labor crisis in the industry.

Massachusetts Citizens for Children (MassKids) board member Tricia Wells spoke about a bill that would update the definition of child pornography for the digital age. She explained that the legislation would update an existing law that allows an innocent photo of a naked child to be combined with sexually explicit images. She said one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse. Wells also said sexual abuse is linked to a lifetime of mental health issues, including suicide.

According to Wells, 13 states have already updated their child pornography laws.

“Let’s bring this law into the digital age,” she said.

Megan Tudryn, a public health nurse with the Greenfield Health Department, advocated for the support and passage of the “I AM” bill, which would ensure access to free disposable menstrual products in prisons, homeless shelters and public schools. She stressed that menstrual products should be as common in bathrooms as toilet paper, and argued that some people have to choose between food and shelter and their menstrual products.

“And that’s not fair,” Tudryn said.

The first CHIP network meeting of 2023 is scheduled for 3 p.m. on January 18.

Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-930-4120.