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Criminal Justice, Health Care, Immigration: Tops for Black, Latino Caucus

It's being called a novel approach - a legislative caucus says it relied on listening sessions with hundreds of community members to figure out which bills they should support. (MA Black and Latino Caucus)
It's being called a novel approach - a legislative caucus says it relied on listening sessions with hundreds of community members to figure out which bills they should support. (MA Black and Latino Caucus)
March 27, 2017

BOSTON -- A new legislative agenda ties neighborhood concerns to bills pending at the State House.

State Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Dorchester, called it a first. Holmes, the chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus, said the new legislative agenda is unique because it is the result of listening sessions in neighborhoods attended by hundreds of constituents.

He said the agenda has identified 19 bills that align most with the concerns of voters, and those bills were then ranked based on the areas where representatives heard the most concerns.

"For the top three - that would be criminal justice reform, health care and immigration - folks in the neighborhood were very clear that they have been following everything since the election and there is an enormous amount of anxiety,” Holmes said.

He said he is relieved that the Trump administration failed in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Massachusetts was a leader in health care even before passage of the ACA, Holmes said, and his caucus did not want to see things going backward.

With the Trump administration taking a tough stand on “law and order" issues, residents at the listening sessions made clear their feelings that the commonwealth needed to step up the pace of criminal justice reforms.

"We need to do things around the police officers that are in training,” Holmes said. “We need to eliminate mandatory minimums, and we still need to make sure that if something happens between a police officer, and [if] unfortunately there's a death, then we need to have an independent investigator."

Holmes said economic development also is on the agenda in advance of the fiscal year 2018 budget debate.

"We're going to go out again, hear from our communities, and then tie our priorities for our budget to what we just heard from the neighborhoods,” he said.

The Communities of Color Agenda Listening Tour made stops in Boston, Lawrence and Springfield and was attended by 350 residents.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA