OpEd by State Rep Christine P. Barber: Working Together For Change In 2019

With so much divisiveness throughout the country, coupled with hateful rhetoric and ill-conceived policies from the Trump Administration, right now it can feel like fear and despair are everywhere.
The silver lining of these challenges is the renewed interest in local politics and activism to support our communities. As a state legislator, I look forward to continuing to partner with people in Somerville, Medford and other communities in Massachusetts to uphold our shared values and push back against the harmful Trump policies that divide us, rip apart our safety net and make so many people feel unsafe. As we begin the 2019-2020 state legislative session, I am working to fight back against decisions being made in the White House and find opportunities to move forward and work together on issues at the state and local levels.
There are many ways that we can stand up for our communities’ values right now. Here are a few things that we can work on together:

· Amid serious threats at the federal level on reproductive health and women’s rights, I am pushing for polices to ensure women’s choices are protected. I’m also advancing gender equity through a bill, inspired by local teens, to provide free menstrual products in schools, homeless shelters and prisons in Massachusetts. As a Board member of the Massachusetts Women’s Caucus, I am partnering with women around the Commonwealth on proposals including addressing sexual assault and maternal health.

· Massachusetts has historically been a leader in health care, but there is more to do to improve access and reduce costs so everyone can get the care they need. I am leading on reforms with consumer advocacy groups to ensure better prescription drug affordability and access; and making sure families can find the right provider for them, particularly for mental health care for children. As a member of the Health Care Financing and Financial Services Committees, I am prioritizing equitable health care, and ensuring that health insurance is fair and attainable for all.

· I’m working to make sure that no one is targeted because of who they are, and that our state remains welcoming to all by supporting policies that create safe spaces for immigrants. I filed a bill, in partnership with groups including The Welcome Project, to improve safety for all by allowing driver’s license to be issued to all trained and insured drivers, regardless of immigration status. A person’s ability to get a driver’s license should be separate from federal immigration policy. Denying access to drivers’ licenses limits people’s ability to meet their basic needs, and puts immigrants who drive without a license at risk of detention and deportation every time they drive their children to school or the doctor.

· As a member of the Housing Committee, I am continuing to work with local and state affordable housing organizations to address our state’s housing crisis. I filed bills to incentivize all regions of the state to do their part in building affordable housing for families, and to increase options for people with disabilities and seniors. In my work on the Ways and Means Committee, I am prioritizing greater state funds for housing subsidies and supports for homeless families and individuals.
· I am working to ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead on climate change – by reducing costly and dangerous gas leaks in our communities, and pushing for greater renewable energy at the state level. Working with local groups like Mothers Out Front, I sponsored a bill to require utilities to quickly repair gas leaks, which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, and preventing them from passing the cost of leaks to ratepayers. I’m also working on an effort to phase all buses and large transportation fleets to zero emission vehicles.
I am proud to be working collaboratively with people from Somerville and Medford on each of these issues. It is important to remember that this work is only possible because of the thoughtful ideas, hard work, and activism of many people in my district. I look forward to staying engaged with you, and encourage you to reach out with ideas, questions, and comments.

Though we face many challenges in these uncertain times, we also have new opportunities to work together and move our values forward to create real change in our Commonwealth. Somerville and Medford are vibrant communities filled with active, engaged residents, and we can be the example for others. By working together, we can advance the values of our communities and ensure that basic rights and protections like health care, safety, clean air and housing, are available to all.

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