BOSTON —State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate last week to pass legislation allowing for a non-binary option for gender on drivers’ licenses and birth certificates, new requirements for cyclists and motorists that promote safety for everybody who uses the road, and a final effort to lift the so-called ‘Cap on Kids.’ All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“I was happy to vote to vote promote cyclist safety, civil rights for transgender and non-binary residents, and to override Governor Baker’s cruel veto of legislation that would help struggling children and their families,” Senator Eldridge said. “Senator Jo Comerford’s terrific inaugural speech highlighted the immense challenges that transgender and non-binary people face every day across the state – I’m thankful for her leadership in filing this bill, and thankful to Senate President Karen Spilka for bringing this bill to the floor for a vote, and for filing similar legislation last legislative session.”
An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to allow an applicant to designate an ‘X,’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on a driver’s license or other forms of state ID, while prohibiting the requirement of documentation for such designations. The bill would also allow a person over the age of 18 or the parents of a minor to request a change in the sex on a birth certificate to include “female,” “male” or “X” to reflect the gender identity of the person. In addition, the bill would also authorize a study to identify other state documents or forms that can be updated to reflect a non-binary gender option.
The Massachusetts “Cap on Kids” policy was established in 1995 and was designed to punish families on welfare if they had additional children while receiving public benefits. The legislation passed earlier this month by the Legislature repeals this ineffective policy. The new policy would start September 1, 2019, and makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019. Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. On April 8, 2019, the governor sent back the legislation unsigned. Following a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, the Legislature overturned the governor’s veto.
“More and more working people in the communities I represent are struggling to make ends meet, and lifting the cap on kids will provide low-income families with the assistance they need to avoid homelessness and food insecurity,” Senator Eldridge said.
An act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities includes several measures that together will greatly improve road safety. The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as vulnerable road users and requires motor vehicles to apply a safe passing distance of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. The bill would further require trucks and similar large vehicles purchased, leased or under contract with the Commonwealth after a certain date to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors to reduce the risk posed to vulnerable road users who are susceptible to being unseen by truck driver’s and slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents.
The bill would additionally establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the possibility and severity of crashes. Finally, the bill increases the flexibility of the Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit in active construction zones thereby significantly increasing the protection provided to vulnerable workers and first responders at the construction site.
An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification and An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities now move to the House for consideration.