FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PEABODY MA January 8, 2015
In the final hours of the legislative session, the Mass Legislature on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 almost passed S2329, a bill that would have confirmed the Commonwealth as a leader in protecting the rights of citizens living in subsidized housing by shielding them from bullying. But the bill had made exceptional progress on Beacon Hill. Encouraged by the strong response to their efforts, legislators and advocates are poised to move for early passage in the new session.
Although their first effort to pass a bill (S2329) to create a legislative study commission on bullying was not approved by the House, it did receive the endorsement of the Senate, and momentum for passages has built in the Capitol on Beacon Hill and in the Commonwealth.
The bill, sponsored by the Joint Committee on Housing, and approved by the powerful Senate Ethics and Rules Committee, would have created a legislative commission tasked with identifying the causes of bullying and with proposing remedies that would protect elderly and disabled residents of public and subsidized multifamily housing. While the bill did not win passage by the House, observers of Beacon Hill note that this bill passed important milestones in the Senate.
Jerry Halberstadt, Coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition, said, "In our first attempt, we came very close to passage. This is the fruit of cooperation among lawmakers, citizens, and members of the Stop Bullying Coalition."
Efforts to pass a bill (S604), proposed by Halberstadt through Senator Lovely (D, Peabody), to stop bullying had been stalled until Rep Brad Hill (R, Topsfield) suggested creating a commission that could bring together stakeholders and experts as well as elderly and disabled residents to work through the complex issues. This idea quickly gathered broad bipartisan support, followed by drafting a new bill, S2329, to create a legislative study commission on bullying. The Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing, Rep Kevin Honan and Sen Jamie Eldridge championed the bill, and the Joint Committee on Housing sponsored S2329. Although reported out favorably by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules, it was not acted on in the House.
Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, asserted, "Violence and discrimination towards people with disabilities and seniors is on the rise. This legislation hopefully will be passed quickly by our new state legislature and speedily signed by Charlie Baker, our new governor. It is one key strategy to address safety and quality of life for people living with disability and seniors. This commission will begin a dialogue on how the Commonwealth can stop violence and bullying in public and subsidized housing. We all deserve to be safe in our homes."
Halberstadt added, "We see this as a new beginning. We have accomplished much in this first effort to win legislation to protect elderly and disabled persons from bullying. We had a very positive hearing before the Joint Committee on Housing, we found many legislators eager to act on this problem, and we received enthusiastic support from legislators from all parts of the Commonwealth. We will keep up the momentum and work for action early in the new session."
"We strive to kindle a beacon of hope for those who are victimised by bullying, and signal the beginning of the hard work among all the stakeholders needed to craft fair, effective solutions."
The Commission would be tasked to bring together legislators, state agencies, and consumer advocates to understand the causes of bullying, to seek solutions, and to provide a report on their findings to the legislature with recommendations for action. They would gather information and testimony from experts, stakeholders, and the public, holding hearings in several parts of the Commonwealth. The work of the Commission is expected to raise public awareness of the problem of bullying affecting the elderly and disabled.
Shawn McDuff, Deputy Director of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, Inc. (ILCNSCA) added, "this anti-bullying commission can be an important first step to developing mechanisms to end the needless and harmful bullying of people with disabilities and seniors in housing."
Halberstadt added, "In partnership with the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, we will develop a grass-roots informational and educational campaign working with agencies and the community to raise awareness of bullying in our communities."
Halberstadt concluded, "We all look forward to the creation of a commission and to specific legislation which can bring relief and once again confirm Massachusetts as a leader in securing the rights of all citizens."
Partners of the Stop Bullying Coalition
The Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann Inc. (ILCNSCA) is a service and advocacy center run by and for people with disabilities. "Services and Advocacy for an Independent Life" ILCNSCA supports the struggle of people who have all types of disabilities to live independently and participate fully in community life.
The Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, a branch of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, is a multi-cultural, tenant-controlled alliance of tenant organizations in privately-owned, multifamily HUD-assisted housing. Hundreds of tenant associations representing thousands of tenants in every region of the country are already involved, working together to preserve affordable housing, protect tenants' rights, and promote tenant ownership and control.
Michael Kane, Executive Director
Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants
Mary Margaret Moore, Executive Director
Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann
Resolve S.2329 188th (2013-2014) Resolve creating a commission to study ways to prevent bullying of tenants in public and subsidized multi-family housing.
Development of the movement