Senator Julian Cyr (D-Cape and Islands) has filed twenty-three bills for the 2017-2018 legislative session. The proposed legislation focuses on tackling some of the major challenges affecting the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket: housing affordability, stewardship of our fragile environment, economic development, and public health.
“The legislation we filed this session is a reflection of the thousands of conversations that we had with the residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket over our year-long campaign. I’m excited to partner with district residents, business leaders, grassroots activists, seniors and industry experts to put forth a legislative agenda that begins to address the challenges we face in our unique corner of the Commonwealth.”
Senator Cyr’s legislative agenda includes:
An Act authorizing the establishment of first-time home buyer savings accounts: One of the biggest challenges for young residents on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket is being able to save for a down payment. This bill aims at making it easier for first-time home buyers to save for a single-family home in the Commonwealth. It allows any individual to open an account with a financial institution and designate the account, in its entirety, as a first-time home buyer savings account. The first-time home buyer savings account is tax deductible during each tax year.
An Act relative to the establishment of a means tested senior citizen property tax exemption: Addressing housing affordability on the Cape and Islands is multi-faceted. Many seniors struggle to afford their ever-increasing property taxes on fixed incomes. This bill creates a local option to allow residential property tax bills to be reduced for taxpayers who qualify for the existing senior circuit breaker tax credit.
STEWARDSHIP OF ENVIRONMENT
An Act relative to responsible emergency planning at power plants: This bill would extend the power of the Department of Public Health to make assessments against owners/operators of nuclear power plants for the purposes of defraying costs of radiation protection and control. Such assessments could also be made against plants that still harbor spent nuclear fuel in a spent fuel pool.
An Act for community empowerment: Transitioning to more renewable forms of energy is paramount to protecting and preserving our fragile environment. This bill would empower cities, towns, and community electric aggregators to use their residents’ electricity buying power to support renewable energy projects of the community’s choosing, where residents benefit directly from the projects.
An Act relative to the pesticide board: This would require the pesticide board to advise the commissioner of food and agriculture. The commissioner of food and agriculture is to consult with the commissioner of environmental protection and the commissioner of public health when making a decision relative to the protection of groundwater sources of drinking water from pesticide contamination.
An Act prohibiting the use of mobile gear in certain waters off the coast of the town of Nantucket: This bill would extend the same protections to the coastal waters of Nantucket which already apply to most of the coastal waters in Massachusetts. Specifically, this bill would prohibit mobile gear fishing within three nautical miles of Nantucket’s coastline from May 1 to October 31.
An Act supporting the establishment of employee cooperatives: This bill creates opportunity for owners to transition from their business in stages. Doing so allows buyouts to be more easily financed, while also increasing the owner's engagement in the business as the transition matures. This law creates specialized membership shares to allow original business owners to retain a majority share of the company to contribute their expertise and smooth the cooperative conversion process. These specialized membership shares constitute an exception to Mass. General Laws ch. 157, § 2, which requires that no person shall hold shares in any such corporation to an amount exceeding one thousand dollars at their par value, nor shall a stockholder be entitled to more than one vote upon any subject. The state will lower the risk owners face as they consider a cooperative conversion. This bill improves the accessibility of previous legislation (157 and 157a).
An Act relative to airport rescue firefighters: This bill would move Martha’s Vineyard Airport rescue firefighters into the Group 4 retirement group. This bill would also codify the existing Group 4 status of the Barnstable and Nantucket Airport rescue firefighters.
An Act relative to the disclosure of radiofrequency notifications: Cellphone manufacturers are required to include safety notices in the owner’s manual or other packaging. This bill would ensure that the full language of the safety notifications is plainly visible on the outside of the product packaging; or a label is plainly visible on the outside of the product packaging directing customers to the safety notifications within the manual.
An Act establishing a low vision registry: The Cape and Islands District is the oldest district in the Commonwealth, and as a result is one of the fastest growing regions in the state for visual impairment. While the MA Commission for the Blind provides many valuable services, the commission cannot aid a person until they are considered “legally blind.” This bill would lower the threshold which triggers the requirement for a physician or clinic to report the finding of vision impairment to the commission. If implemented, the low vision registry would allow for data collection to determine the extent to which low vision impacts residents of the Commonwealth. Specifically, this would mandate reporting for a visual acuity finding of 20/70 or above.
An Act relative to the availability of sunscreen for students: Sunscreen products are regulated at the Federal and State level pursuant to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as “drug” products. Drugs are specifically restricted in public schools and this law will specifically exempt sunscreens from those requirements. Students who take necessary precautions to protect their skin could be violating existing state laws, school district guidelines or other requirements. Skin cancer is the fastest growing form of cancer and experts note that much of the damage is generally based upon lack of adequate protection in the early years of life. This act services to allow the use of sunscreens in all public schools in the Commonwealth.
“I am proud of the legislation that our office has filed for the 2017-2018 session, but I recognize that these bills are not a panacea for all of the challenges facing Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. There is still a lot of work left to do, and many more conversations left to have as the legislative process commences in earnest.”
A complete list of the bills filed by Senator Cyr can be found at: SenatorCyr.Com/legislation
Senator Cyr will be hosting a Policy Summit on Saturday, March 4th at the Tilden Arts Center at Cape Cod Community College. The Summit had been previously scheduled for January 7th, but was cancelled due to weather. Senator Cyr is looking forward to discussing this legislation at the summit, expanding his legislative priorities with input from district residents, community leaders, industry experts, and grassroots activists.