- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Files Legislation to Protect Massachusetts Residents
Boston — The first of many of bills that AG Healey plans to file or support this session include legislation to combat human trafficking by regulating bodyworks practices, ban the competitive electric supply market for residential customers, improve the AG’s ability to address violations of wage and hour laws, allow continued use of statewide grand juries, ensure the confidentiality of sensitive victim information, and protect bees and other pollinators from dangerous insecticides.
In addition to this initial set of bills, the AG’s Office plans to work with the Legislature in the coming months on various other priorities including increasing funding across public school districts, prosecuting illegal gun dealers, expanding violence prevention education to students, ensuring access to reproductive health care, combating wage theft, and protecting students and consumers from unfair practices.
“My office works every day to protect all Massachusetts residents,” said AG Healey “These bills will strengthen our ongoing work and improve the lives of people across the state.”
The bills filed last week, which are sponsored and supported by various legislators, District Attorneys, law enforcement organizations, and advocates, are as follows:
- An Act Regulating Bodyworks
- An Act Relative to Protecting Residential Electric Customers
- An Act Relative to Enhanced Enforcement of Civil Penalties
- An Act Relative to Statewide Grand Juries
- An Act to Protect the Privacy of Crime Victims
- An Act Protecting Massachusetts Pollinators
[SD 1840], An Act Regulating Bodyworks
Sponsored by: Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)
An Act Regulating Bodyworks creates a regulatory structure for bodyworks practices to prevent criminals from using these currently unregulated businesses as fronts for human trafficking. Over the past two years, the AG’s Office has pursued indictments in connection with five separate criminal enterprises involving 10 individuals who set up illicit massage or bodyworks establishments where they trafficked victims for sex. This legislation will close a loophole that exempts these businesses from state oversight by adding bodyworkers, bodywork therapy, bodywork facilities and schools to the current state licensing structure overseen by the Division of Professional Licensure. The bill also restructures the current oversight board to include membership from the bodyworks industry as well as a law enforcement representative who focuses on human trafficking.
[HD 1204/SD 880], An Act Relative to Protecting Residential Electric Customers
Sponsored by: Representative Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) and Senator James Welch (D-West Springfield)
An Act Relative to Protecting Residential Electric Customers would ban new competitive electric supply contracts for residential customers beginning in 2020. In March 2018, the AG’s Office released a report that found that Massachusetts residential consumers paid competitive electric suppliers $176.8 million more than they would have paid for electricity from their utility between July 2015 and June 2017. A third year of data shows residential customers lost another $76.2 million, for a three-year total of $253 million. The report also found that low-income consumers are disproportionately affected. In October, AG Healey sued competitive electricity supplier Starion Energy for allegedly using unfair and deceptive marketing and sales tactics to lure more than 130,000 Massachusetts consumers into expensive contracts with high electricity rates, overcharging consumers by $30 million. To prevent further harm, this bill bans new competitive supply contracts in the residential retail market.
[SD 809], An Act Relative to Enhanced Enforcement of Civil Penalties
Sponsored by: Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)
An Act Relative to Enhanced Enforcement of Civil Penalties allows the AG’s Fair Labor Division to better address violations of our state wage and hour laws—including those requiring payment of wages, minimum wage and overtime—by filing civil cases in Superior Court. Today, workers have a legal right to go to court to address violations of wage and hour laws, and this proposal gives the AG’s Office that same right.
[HD 2641/SD 783], An Act Relative to Statewide Grand Juries
Sponsored by: Representative Paul Tucker (D-Salem) and Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont)
The AG’s Office uses the statewide grand jury to present evidence and witnesses in one location, to one grand jury and with one supervising judge. The availability of a statewide grand jury is particularly important when crimes are alleged to have been committed in multiple counties and/or an investigation crosses county lines. The AG’s Office has used statewide grand juries to prosecute human trafficking, drug trafficking, theft rings, computer crimes, complex white-collar crimes, and environmental crimes. The AG’s use of the statewide grand jury will expire on December 31, 2020, so this legislation would make the statewide grand jury a permanent resource for the office.
[HD 3377/SD 1418], An Act to Protect the Privacy of Crime Victims
Sponsored by: Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston) and Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton)
This bill would statutorily protect the confidentiality of information contained in a crime victim’s compensation application. These applications routinely contain considerable private information that the victim and the victim’s advocate want to keep confidential. For example, applications may include the victim’s home or work address and telephone numbers, names and addresses of the victim’s family and friends, medical history, behavior health history and doctor information.
[HD 3339], An Act Protecting Massachusetts Pollinators
Sponsored by: Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston)
In an effort to address the declining health and numbers of honeybees, wild bees and other pollinators in Massachusetts, AG Healey is cosponsoring An Act Protecting Massachusetts Pollinators. Neonicotinoids have become the most widely used insecticide and are considered systemic pesticides, meaning once sprayed or coated on plant seeds, the chemical is taken up into plant tissue and can remain in plants and soil long after application. Recent studies show that neonicotinoids can devastate both managed and wild populations of pollinators. This bill restricts sale of neonicotinoid pesticide products to certified commercial applicators, private applicators, or licensed applicators and incorporates violations into the current penalty framework. The bill also directs the Department of Agriculture to include pollinator protection in the licensing and evaluation materials for applicators.
In the last legislative session, 2017-2018, AG Healey successfully advocated for several important measures that were passed into law including sweeping criminal justice reform, automatic voter registration, protections for victims of security breaches, limitations on the ability of drug manufactures to use discount coupons for opioids and the creation of extreme risk protection orders for individuals at risk of harming themselves or others. She also successfully increased the fine corporations must pay if convicted of manslaughter. AG Healey supported legislation to better protect pregnant workers, ensure adequate contraceptive coverage and access to confidential healthcare, and to repeal outdated and unconstitutional restricted access to contraception and abortion services.