Guest Op-Ed: A New Year’s Resolution for the MA Legislature

By Jonathan Cohnv

All eyes will be focused on the national level in 2020. We have a hotly contested presidential primary around the corner and then a hotly contested presidential election in the fall. If we are willing to do the work, we can—and will—make sure that Donald Trump does not get a second term in office.

When the next president takes office, there will be a lot of necessary work to undo all of the damage the administration has caused over the past few years. But we shouldn’t let an important fact slip by: there are steps Massachusetts can take right now.

So here’s a New Year’s resolution for the Massachusetts Legislature: With its strong Democratic supermajorities, it can and should be pushing back more assertively against the Trump administration and charting a progressive path forward. This is especially salient on the issues of climate change and immigration.

According to international climate experts, this new decade may be our last chance to meaningfully mitigate climate change. The Trump administration, by taking the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal and rolling back and repealing to the Obama administration’s climate regulations, has set us down the path of spiraling climate chaos.

But Massachusetts shares some of the blame. Although we tout our green credentials relative to other states (especially around energy efficiency), the Legislature hasn’t passed comprehensive climate legislation since the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008. We lag behind other states in our commitment to renewable energy and still heavily rely on unsustainable natural gas.

Last session, the MA Senate passed a gold standard climate bill that touched all sectors of the economy, yet the House insisted on doing only a series of half-measures. Such timidity doesn’t cut it when the clock is ticking. There are bills in the legislature to require a detailed plan for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, to set the goal of 100 percent renewable energy, and to put a tax on carbon emissions and fund green investment across the state, and the Legislature should take swift action on these—and others.

On the immigration front, we constantly hear stories about families being ripped apart at the border. But that’s happening in Massachusetts, too.

The Safe Communities Act is the best way to address that. The SCA would make sure that we aren’t deputizing state and local law enforcement to act as ICE agents — work they are not being paid to do anyway. We may not be able to stop every deportation, but we don’t need to be complicit.

By preventing state and local law enforcement from asking about immigration status, and by guaranteeing basic due process protections, it would make sure that our immigrant community feels safe to report crimes—and simply to exist in public life.

We also put our immigrant communities at risk by preventing undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses. For many, driving is essential to get to work, to school, to the doctor’s office, etc.—and people need to be able to drive safely and without fear. Another bill before the Legislature—the Work and Family Mobility Act—would help make that happen.

Here in Massachusetts, we like to think of ourselves as a beacon to other states (sometimes, even to other countries). But it would be a moral stain on our commonwealth if we spent the four years of the Trump administration without taking any meaningful action to prevent climate chaos or protect our immigrant friends and neighbors.

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