As lobbyists and interest groups grow antsy waiting on a House energy bill, transportation officials are set to unveil a new Green Line extension project scope and cost estimate this week, the House plans to tackle legislation assisting veterans, and the Senate is ready to take up a transgender rights bill that’s been broadly debated outside the Legislature for months.
The Senate on Thursday plans to take up legislation (S 735), which proponents say will prevent discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations, including at restaurants, hotels and other public places. The bill has stirred debate over access to sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms. Bill supporters say the legislation ensures that transgender individuals are able to use the facilities associated with their gender identity and Gov. Charlie Baker recently said he believes “people should use the restroom facility they feel comfortable using.”
House leaders are behind a bill that includes language proposed by the Senate but also includes provisions aimed at giving businesses clear guidance to implement the law and guarding against its improper use. Carly Burton, campaign manager of Freedom Massachusetts, which is leading the push for the transgender rights bill, told the News Service Friday that “we are concerned that language added in committee puts law abiding members of the transgender community at risk of improper law enforcement even though we know that is not the intention.” Burton added, “The legislative process is very dynamic and we look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers. We are aware that every day that goes by without explicit protections, transgender people face discrimination and harm, and we look forward to this bill becoming law as soon as possible.”
Debate on the bill is set for Thursday, when the Senate also plans to take up a bill requiring regional nondiscrimination advisory boards to include gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender individuals (S 989), and bills that would allow municipalities to establish tax exemption or abatement programs for volunteer firefighters (S 1537) and deaf residents (S 1959).
Click the audio player to listen to State House News Service reporter talk about the week ahead in Massachusetts politics with NEPR’s Henry Epp.