Sen. L'Italien says good-bye, with a legislative wish list 

In her final wish list, outgoing Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, left, who did not seek reelection this year, said the time has come for Massachusetts to ban handheld cellphone use while driving. Sen. Barbara L'Italien, right, of Andover, who gave up her Senate seat for an unsuccessful run in the Third Congressional District, said the practice of inclusive concurrent enrollment, or "the concept that we allow people with disabilities to have lifelong learning experiences on any higher education campus," should be codified. 

 

BOSTON — Two departing senators who officially said goodbye to their colleagues this week also offered up holiday wish lists of unfinished legislation they're hoping to see become law in the final days of the session.

Sens. Kathleen O'Connor Ives of Newburyport and Barbara L'Italien of Andover, both Democrats, each took a moment in their farewell speeches Monday to pitch their priority bills for the session that ends Jan. 2.

O'Connor Ives, who did not seek reelection this year, said the time has come for Massachusetts to ban handheld cellphone use while driving.

"No matter your race, age or economic status, we and our loved ones are all equally vulnerable to getting hurt or killed by a distracted driver, and we're all guilty of distracted driving," she said. "This bill, once passed, will save lives. That's not too much to ask for Christmas."

The Senate in June 2017 passed a bill barring the use of handheld cell phones and other electronic devices behind the wheel. That bill is before the House Ways and Means Committee. The House in June gave initial approval to a similar bill but has not returned to the issue since then.

O'Connor Ives followed up with a request that another Senate-backed bill -- a ban on flame-retardant chemicals in certain household goods -- pass the House and become law "for my birthday," which won't come around again until July 23.

"I'm certain if we follow California's footsteps and ban the use of these carcinogens which expose families and firefighters to cancer-causing chemicals, consumers will flock to our state to purchase items because they know they will be free of these harmful chemicals," O'Connor Ives said.

L'Italien put three items on what she called "my wishlist for this season." One is in the Senate's hands, another is current practice L'Italien said should be enshrined into law, and the third is one advocates since said will not make it over the finish line this session.

L'Italien brought up the so-called "Equifax bill," a suite of consumer data protections that have been in limbo since Gov. Charlie Baker returned the bill with an amendment in August. The two other major bills that met a similar fate after the July 31 end of formal sessions -- one dealing with civics education requirements and the other taxing and regulating short-term rentals -- have now made it through the Legislature, and the civics bill is now law.

L'Italien and Rep. Tackey Chan, the co-chairs of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, have shepherded the data security bill through their respective branches. The House on Nov. 29 agreed to a modified version of Baker's amendment, and the bill is now pending before the Senate.

"We need to get that Equifax bill done," L'Italien said. "We need to get it signed into law and I hope that happens. I think it's pretty close so hopefully it will happen, but hoping that will happen before the end of this year."

L'Italien, who gave up her Senate seat for what was ultimately an unsuccessful run in the Third Congressional District, said the practice of inclusive concurrent enrollment, or "the concept that we allow people with disabilities to have lifelong learning experiences on any higher education campus," has been going on for over a decade and should be codified.

She also singled out a bill that would create a registry of individuals found to have abused people who they were supposed to be caring for.

"We've always got to be about caring for and taking care of the most vulnerable among us," L'Italien said.

The Arc of Massachusetts, which backs the registry bill, said Wednesday it was sunk after the Committee for Public Counsel Services raised due process concerns. Rep. Kay Khan, the House chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, said discussions are continuing on the bill and she hopes the House will take it up early next session.

Former Sen. Eileen Donoghue, now the Lowell city manager, resigned her Senate seat in April and returned to the State House on Monday to give a belated farewell address.

While the former lawmaker did not use her address to highlight any specific legislation she wanted to see pass, she good-naturedly told her erstwhile colleagues they should expect to hear from her at budget season.

Donoghue, who served as a Lowell city councilor and mayor before joining the Senate, said her return to municipal government this year gave her a new perspective on the budget items, grants, and other matters approved by the Legislature.

"It's real now. It's not just printed on a page," she said.

 

 

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