State Rep. John V. Fernandes (D-Milford) last week backed a bill with the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation to create new reporting measures for anti-bullying and recognize certain populations as being more vulnerable to bullying.
Fernandes also voted in favor of another bill that was approved to further enhance the state's ability to anticipate, repair and guard against natural gas leaks.
Anti-Bullying Legislation Updates
The recent legislation, in which the House voted in favor 143-4, builds on anti-bullying legislation from 2010 that prohibited bullying and cyber-buylling and required schools to establish programs to address the issue. The recent updates were designed to increase the efficacy of the original legislation, according to an announcement by Fernandes Monday.
"Bullying can emotionally, physically and psychologically impact anyone at any given time in his or her educational environment," Fernandes said in a statement. "This comprehensive legislation will provide the tools for school districts to monitor the incidents of bullying, analyze potential trends and patterns of behavior, and focus resources on at-risk groups."
Provisions of the bill are based on recommendations developed by a special commission chaired by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and include the following:
- Schools must annually report bullying data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and submit aggregate data on bullying to the Attorney General and Legislature
- DESE is required to inform parents about its Problem Resolution System and the process for seeking assistance or filing a claim
- School bullying prevention plans must recognize that certain enumerated categories of students may be more vulnerable to becoming targets of bullying
Natural Gas Management and Expansion
The House also unanimously approved a bill that establishes an infrastructure replacement program to boost the process of replacing old and aging pipelines in a way that can lower capital costs for companies and gas rates for consumers.
The legislation aims to create uniform classification standards with corresponding requirements and timelines for repair, surveillance and reevaluation, according to Fernandes.
Moreover, the bill establishes a Gas Expansion program that makes natural gas service available to new customers and allows companies to offer financing programs to those wishing to switch to natural gas. Anticipated improvements are expected to reduce greenhouse emissions as an estimated 5,600 leak-prone pipes in the state are repaired.
"I personally received many postcards, emails, phone calls and letters from my local constituents expressing their strong interest in this safety-first, environmentally-friendly legislation and opposing any unrelated language involving a power plant," Fernandes said in a statement. "I am pleased to report that the final House bill removed that language on a separate power plant issue, implemented a statewide plan to address gas leaks in the pipelines, and provided an incentive program to facilitate the replacement of aging pipes, which will also reduce the future likelihood of gas leaks."
The bill, which is currently before the State Senate, looks to:
- Require gas companies to coordinate surveys, replacements and repairs with municipalities and state paving organizations
- Mandate gas companies to report location, classification and date of leak to DPU
- Authorize DPU to establish a minimum winter patrol standard for cast-iron pipelines
- Increase worker safety by requiring minimum safety standards for utility infrastructure.