By; Eva Montabello – July, 2012
For more than a decade several pieces of child protection legislation have been in front of Massachusetts’s leadership, typically dying in the Judiciary Committee. Finally, many pieces of legislation are progressing through the process with help from Merrimack Valley advocates Laurie Myers, Founder and President of VOICES, Joseph DiPietro, Founder and President of Protect Mass Children and Gary Richard, Creator of the EZ-ID system. The legislative session ended on July 31, 2012, we saw the following progress:
• PASSED: Melissa’s Bill: Mandatory Minimums for Habitual Offenders calling for strong mandatory sentences for sex offenders and habitual offenders. The bill was signed into law on August 2nd, 2012, and is effective immediately. “The determination of Les Gosule and the family of Officer Jack Maguire, not only moved Melissa’s Bill forward, but they made sure the voices of the many victims of violent crime were heard loud and clear on Beacon Hill. This legislative session was very successful with the Human Trafficking Law and Melissa’s Bill, legislators from both sides of the isle put public safety first and as a result Massachusetts is a safer place. We were honored to stand with the victims, citizens and legislators who made these important bills a priority”, stated Laurie Myers, Founder and President of VOICES, a child protection and victim advocacy organization.
• CONFERENCE COMMITTEE: Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Reform HB 4329. The version passed by the Senate extends the statute of limitations from the victim’s 43rd birthday contained in the House version to the victim’s 45th birthday. This bill will now be sent to a Conference Committee, Speaker DeLeo will be appointing the committee to review the constitutionality of a retroactive provision, which will hopefully to be added. This bill allows victims of sexual abuse to charge their sexual abusers in Massachusetts Civil Court. Child advocate and survivor Kathy Picard states, “If this legislation goes through as many think it will, survivors of child sexual abuse will no longer be silenced. All we want is a fair shot at justice against the heinous crime of child sexual abuse. The time has come for the legislature to stand of the side of victims and not on the side of perpetrators.”
• STUDY: Molly’s Bill: Senate Bill 1798, EZ ID directs the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates that combine the traditional letters and numbers already used with universal, easily distinguishable symbols, such as triangles, squares and other geometric shapes. Efforts led by Gary Richard, Danvers, EZ-ID and Jay Gardiner, Molly Bish Center at Anna Maria College. The Bill has been engrossed (properly documented and fully reviewed) in the House and Senate; and is now awaiting a final informal legislative session vote. Advocates are hopeful of full support in the upcoming informal session. If successful, the bill would then head to the Governor’s desk for signing. “All of us are working selflessly for causes which protect children, and to help all of society. It has been a long 8 years to get EZ-ID this close to passage, and we are so thankful to the Bish Family, and to so many others for where we are today. By joining our voices together, these critical initiatives receive greater attention. My thanks go out to all of the legislators and citizens who have helped to bring us to this point, and a special thank you must go to Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who has tirelessly championed EZ-ID for 8 years”, stated Gary Richard of EZ-ID.
A recent rally at the Massachusetts State House on July 17th organized in collaboration with eight advocacy groups brought more than 80 citizens and advocates together to show a Zero Tolerance Stand for Child Sexual Abuse. “This new type of community collaboration of children’s advocates is what is making a strong difference in actually doing effective work. It is our commitment at Protect Mass Children to continue to bring together advocates to work tirelessly to implement and enact legislation, prevention and healing programs and awareness events to bring the safety of children up to a level that the public is committed to”, stated Joseph DiPietro, Founder and President of Protect Mass Children. “Further, in addition to a zero tolerance stand to child sexual abuse, we are finding that the people of the Commonwealth are quickly developing zero tolerance with legislators who do not stand with the people to protect children. The 2013-2014 legislative session will prove telling – we will see a whole new wave of community advocates who are stepping up and taking a bold stand to protect children.”
The Merrimack Valley has lots to be proud of as the 2011-2012 legislative session ends. With this team of advocates, it looks like we also have lots to look forward to! Great work Advocates!