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PRESS RELEASE- Downing Outlines Legislative Priorities: Public Safety, Transportation, and Judiciary Matters- Second in a Series of 3 Releases
February 08, 2007

BOSTONState Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) today outlined his legislative priorities regarding public safety, transportation, and the judiciary.

 

 

PUBLIC SAFETY INITIATIVES:

 

“Providing the resources and tools necessary for those who put their lives at risk each day to protect the public is a responsibility I take seriously,” stated Downing.  “I have co-sponsored several bills that I believe will enhance public safety and ultimately create a more secure environment for all citizens across the Commonwealth.”

 

Western Massachusetts Fire Training Academy

Establishes a Western Mass Fire Training Academy to be located in Springfield.  A significant percentage of the Western Massachusetts firefighters volunteer or are call firefighters who serve in small departments with minimal budgets. There is a large backlog of firefighters waiting to enter the Stow facility, with a more significant impact the further from Stow that firefighters live. Furthermore, recruits who live far away have to stay over, and the cost of doing so are prohibitive for these departments and many of the individuals involved. Communities have trouble recruiting members and are further hampered by the cost of training them. 

 

Increasing the Buffer Zone at Reproductive Health Facilities

The current Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law establishes an 18-foot buffer zone outside of reproductive health facilities.  This legislation will establish a wider, fixed, 35-foot buffer zone surrounding the entrances and driveways of all of the reproductive health facilities in the state.  This new legislation also aims to fix complexities in the current statute regarding the enforcement of the Buffer Zone.

 

Challenge Course Requirements

This provides for the definitions of “challenge course” and “climbing wall facility” as being separate from “Amusement Devices”.  The legislation also serves to regulate such facilities by requiring operators to have a license from the Commissioner of Public Safety.  The legislation subjects licensees to mandatory insurance, reporting, training, inspections and violation penalties. 

 

TRANSPORTATION:

 

“I will work hard to encourage, establish and support a competitive business environment.  This includes proper funding of our existing transportation systems as well as upgrading transportation infrastructure to allow for easy transit into, out-of and throughout the district,” vowed Senator Downing.

 

Regional Transit Authority Financing

Provides for current funding of regional transit authorities rather than lag funding that has been the case for many years.  This, as proven with the MBTA, will save annual interest charges on the money borrowed as Regional Transit Authorities await state appropriated funds.  The legislation also contains a multi-year commitment for the restoration of services that were cut during the most recent fiscal crisis and the expansion of services for the mobility impaired and demand increases.

 

Handicapped Parking

This legislation forbids parking in the “cross hatch access aisle” abutting a handicapped parking space.  Currently, any vehicle can park in the space abutting a marked handicapped spot featuring blue painted markings and intended for use by the handicapped parker.  Such spaces, while not identified as handicapped spaces, wide enough for vehicles to park in, do not carry parking penalties for non-handicapped spots.  This legislation aims to close this loophole and protect the safety and access of all handicapped and disabled individuals.

 

Bicycle Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

The Bicycle Bill of Rights and Responsibilities would establish a series of training and safety guidelines for bicycles, motorists, and public safety officers.  This requires a bicycle safety enforcement class be developed and added to police training schools.  Bicyclists shall not ride more than 2 abreast and any person violating bicycle laws can be ticketed and fined by the police for $20 to $50.  Any business renting bicycles must make helmets available.  Before taking a right hand turn, motorists must have overtaken a bicyclist at a safe distance.  No one shall open a door to a motor vehicle unless it won’t interfere with traffic of face a $100 fine. This comprehensive bill aims to make the roadways safe for all types of travel.

 

JUDICIARY:

 

“Each session the Legislature considers bills concerning the criminal justice system.  I thought it was important to support legislation strengthening victims’ rights and further protecting the general public from potential predators,” remarked Downing.

 

Protect and Enhance the Rights of Child and Adult Victim and Witnesses of Crime

This bill amends various provisions relative to the rights of victims and witnesses of crime and family members of same.  The legislation requires courts to designate waiting areas and develop safeguards to minimize contact between victims and the defendants, and the defendants' family, friends, attorneys or witnesses.  Defense counsel would be prohibited from interviewing child victims or witnesses without the permission of adult family members.   Additionally, child victims or witnesses would be entitled to have parents, friends or other supportive adults in the courtroom during testimony.  The legislation authorizes the use of audio and video tape to submit testimony of victims.  Furthermore, this legislation allows victims to confer with prosecutors prior to the entry of pleas and entitles victims to notice of their rights to submit victim impact statements.

 

Further Regulating Sex Offender Registration

This legislation takes away a felon’s ability to change their name in order to avoid detection.

The bill closes a loophole that permits sex offenders to change their name without notifying the Sex Offender Registry Board.  The new law would require sex criminals to register any change in name within seven days.  There would be new penalties for failing to report a name change.

 

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