Submitted by State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington)
Local State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his Senate colleagues to pass a bill requiring cable companies to provide High Definition (HD) capability to Community Access channels and to include detailed programming information in viewers’ electronic guides.
The bill means that community TV will be on the same playing field as bigger channels. It allows local media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to pay stations — now and in the future.
“My constituents often keep their channel listings limited to HD so they simply never see what Community Access Television has to offer,” said Barrett, Senate Chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee. “At a time when the integrity of the media is being questioned, and civic engagement is growing, these local channels are more critical than ever.”
Town Meetings, zoning board meetings, school committee meetings and the like are covered by local TV channels, meaning they play a key role in keeping citizens informed and aware of current events in their communities. Over 75% of local cable stations in Massachusetts have HD equipment and are ready to make the switch to the HD tier.
The Senate also passed a bill making it possible for homeless people to obtain a State ID. Currently, a person who is looking to obtain an ID card must provide a proof of residence — a task that is unnecessarily burdensome for persons experiencing homelessness.
ID cards are essential items for applying to jobs, enrolling in schools, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, opening financial accounts, and many more basic services that many take for granted. The current financial and form-filling barriers that exist within the process to obtain a state ID encourage a cycle of poverty and prevent many people from getting back on their feet.
The approved legislation waives fees associated with obtaining a state ID for persons who are experiencing homelessness and implements a process for those persons to apply for an ID using alternative proofs of residency.
Another bill to pass the Senate would establish a non-binary gender identity option for Massachusetts licenses. The bill requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to allow an applicant for a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card to choose “X” instead of “male” or “female.” The bill also prohibits the RMV from requiring documentation for such designation.
In a bid to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth, the Senate passed a bill that raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to 21. This includes nicotine delivery products that are often marketed to young people, such as flavored e-cigarettes. The bill also prohibits the use of these products on school grounds and other places where smoking is not permitted and bans the sale of all tobacco products in health care institutions, including pharmacies.