Ensuring that our communities are safe is one of the most important duties of our government. Every citizen has a right to feel safe in their home, their neighborhood, as well as their school. In the Legislature, we must do everything we can to protect the residents of the Commonwealth from harm and to keep our communities secure. Throughout my tenure in the Massachusetts Senate, I have worked hard to ensure the safety of my constituents, as well as residents throughout the state.
Every student deserves a school that provides a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment. A positive school climate has been shown to increase student achievement and decrease the chances of students suffering harm from threats or hazards. As legislators, it is our responsibility to provide a framework for these safe learning environments within our schools so teachers and students can focus on what is truly important: learning.
In 2014, I was appointed to Governor Patrick’s Task Force on School Safety and Security, charged with compiling best practices and policies and making recommendations to help schools prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from an emergency. After hearing from teachers, law enforcement and experts from a variety of fields, I filed legislation that encourages Massachusetts schools to implement a flexible framework that is proven to foster a safer and more supportive school environment by addressing mental health issues and training within our schools, and allowing school faculty to better identify and work with at-risk individuals.
This bill was ultimately included in a Gun Safety Bill signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2014 that was designed to combat gun violence and suicide in our schools and communities. Also included in this omnibus legislation was a Safe and Supportive Schools Grant program to fund exemplary schools that serve as models for creating nurturing educational environments. I am very proud of this safe and supportive schools framework and grant program, and in my role as Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means, I will continue to advocate for funding to ensure that our students have safe, healthy, and positive learning environments.
Ensuring safety in the workplace must also be a top concern for the Legislature. One of my proudest achievements in the Senate is the passage of my Social Worker Safety Bill, which was signed into law by Governor Patrick in 2013. Social workers are on the front lines of public health, caring for and working with individuals and families who are struggling through troubling and often precarious circumstances. Many other industries invest significant resources in workplace and worker safety; I believe that social and human service workers who are dedicated to helping people in need should be afforded the same expectations of a safe and secure work environment. This legislation provides critical safety protections for these employees.
I also sponsored an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget that gave police valuable tools to combat crime against public employees, such as transit workers. Our employees like bus drivers, train operators, public utility workers, and emergency medical technicians, often work later house and are isolated while on the job providing vital services to the residents in our communities. As legislators, it is paramount that we give police the best and most effective tools to combat crime and ensure that everyone has a safe workplace.
I also believe that we must do all that we can to support our men and women who put themselves in harm's way each day to protect our communities. I have repeatedly advocated for the inclusion of resources for our first responders - police officers, firefighters, and emergency management technicians - to ensure their safety and to allow them to do their jobs more effectively. Each year, I have worked to include hazmat funding for Boston, Cambridge and Everett Fire Departments in our state budget to give our firefighters the proper tools and training to prepare themselves for a hazardous materials emergency. With many institutions in our vicinity that pose a potential threat, these resources allow our first responders to be ready for any circumstances that may come their way
One major safety concern that I have repeatedly addressed throughout my time as a State Senator is preventing the transport of ethanol by rail through Massachusetts communities.
This issue first arose in 2012 in response to a proposed plan to transport increased quantities of ethanol via MBTA commuter rail tracks, which run through a number of urban communities, like Boston, Everett, Cambridge, and Chelsea, to a facility in Revere. The plan to bring increased quantities of ethanol via train through these communities raised serious public safety concerns for residents of my district. Ethanol is an extremely dangerous substance and the safety of my constituents or any Massachusetts resident should not be compromised for the sake of expediency and profit. As such, I repeatedly filed amendments to the state budget and supported legislation that prevented ethanol from being carried by train through my district.
Protecting our neighborhoods has also been one of my top priorities in the Legislature. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home and their neighborhood, and I strongly believe that we must do everything we can to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth are safe, no matter what community they reside in.
Massachusetts’s Shannon Community Safety Initiative (CSI) plays a critical role in keeping our communities safe by helping to reduce gang violence across the Commonwealth. By offering social intervention programs for at-risk youth, as well as education, training and employment programs for gang-involved and high-risk young adults, Shannon CSI plays a vital role in keeping our communities safe. Providing the Commonwealth’s youth with job opportunities also plays a vital role in keeping teens off the streets and provides them with the skills they need to contribute both civically and economically to our society. This is why I have been a consistent supporter of funding for Shannon grants and youth-at-risk summer jobs during my tenure in the Senate. I have repeatedly advocated for additional funding for these programs and initiatives during Senate budget debates, and I will continue to do so in my role as Vice Chair of Ways and Means.