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Eyes & Ears on Beacon Hill

Massachusetts Legislature is considering repealing punitive student loan legislation, approving civics education funding, and protecting non-profits from terrorist attacks and hate crimes.

 

Punitive Student Loan Legislation Could Be Repealed

A bill before the Judiciary Committee would repeal a current law passed in 1990, which created professional licensure consequences for anyone who defaults on their student loan. Under existing law, the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority and the American Student Assistance can request that a borrower’s state-issued professional or occupational certificate, registration, or license be suspended, revoked or cancelled for default on educational loans made or administered by either group.

   “Taking away a borrower’s ability to engage in their profession does not put them in a better position to be able to repay the loan,” said Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate.

Senate Approves Civics Education Funding

 The Massachusetts Senate voted 39-0, approving an amendment providing $1.5 million for the Civics Project Trust Fund to promote civics education in the state. Groton State Senator Ed Kennedy was present and voted in favor of the bill.

   Amendment supporters said that this funding is a beginning and will capitalize the Civics Project Trust Fund, created by the Legislature last year as part of a broader civics bill, to support the infrastructure, curriculum resources and professional development needed to integrate high-quality civics education into our schools beginning in September 2020. 

   “This money is a down payment on the future of civics education in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), sponsor of the amendment. “Students that will take these history courses and participate in these civics projects are the future leaders of this state. The future leaders of this state deserve a curriculum that has received robust investment.”

   The civics education law that was signed into law last year added more topics the civics courses must cover including the function and composition of the branches of local, state and federal government; the roles and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy; development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics; community diversity and historical trends in voter registration; civic participation relative to disenfranchised voter populations; opportunities to identify and debate issues relative to power, economic status and the common good in democracy.

   Other provisions include requiring each public school serving grades eight to 12 to provide at least one student-led civics project for each student; and requiring the state to provide information to cities and promote youth membership on municipal boards, committees and commissions.

State Funds For Non-Profits At High Risk of Terrorist Attacks or Hate Crimes

The State Senate 40-0, approved an amendment that would provide $500,000 for a nonprofit security grant program to provide support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attacks or hate crimes and are ineligible for the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Urban Area Grant Program based on their location.

   Groton State Senator Ed Kennedy was present and voted in favor of the bill.

   “Unfortunately, we have seen a troubling rise in hate crimes across Massachusetts,” said Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), sponsor of the amendment. “These incidents are meant to intimidate some people in our communities, and they tear at the fabric of who we are as a country based on the equal right of everyone to participate in our democracy. With these security grants for synagogues, mosques, community centers and other organizations, we have made clear that hate has no place in our commonwealth.”

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