Community advocates pitch legislative priorities at virtual event

  • The Franklin County and North Quabbin Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) network hosted a virtual “Legislative Priority Pitch Party” so local agency workers could ask state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Natalie Blais to fight for certain legislation. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2022 4:26:54 PM
Modified: 11/4/2022 4:26:36 PM

Advocates with nine regional agencies took an opportunity Wednesday afternoon to tell a couple of state lawmakers which bills they most support ahead of the legislative session that starts in January.

The Franklin County and North Quabbin Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) network hosted a virtual “Legislative Priority Pitch Party” to allow local agency workers a chance to ask state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, to fight for certain pieces of legislation the advocates feel will generate more social equity in Massachusetts. CHIP is a program of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).

Becky Himlin, director of planning and resource development at Community Action Pioneer Valley, stressed the importance of the so-called “Common Start bill,” which, if passed, would improve access to child care and early education. She said social interaction is key for brains in development and there has been a child care crisis in this state for a long time.

“It was only exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.

Himlin noted many child care providers have gone out of business in the past 2½ years. She said passage of the bill will also provide educators with better pay and benefits.

Amy Timmins, vice president of community relations at ServiceNet, advocated for a bill that would eliminate pay disparities between the salaries of certain human services workers employed by nonprofits and those working for state agencies. She said this legislation could help alleviate a crippling workforce crisis in the industry.

Tricia Wells, a board member of Massachusetts Citizens for Children (MassKids), spoke about a bill that would update the definition of child pornography for the digital age. She explained the legislation would update an existing law that allows an innocent photo of a nude child to be combined with sexually explicit images. She said one in every four girls and one in every six boys will experience sexual abuse. Wells also said sexual abuse is linked with a lifetime of mental health problems, including suicide.

According to Wells, 13 states have already updated their child pornography laws.

“Let’s bring this law into the digital age,” she said.

Megan Tudryn, a public health nurse with the Greenfield Health Department, advocated for support and passage of the “I AM” bill, which would ensure access to free disposable menstrual products in prisons, homeless shelters and public schools. She stressed that menstrual products should be as commonplace in bathrooms as toilet paper, and argued that some people have to choose between food and housing and their menstrual products.

“And that’s not fair,” Tudryn said.

The first CHIP network meeting in 2023 is slated for 3 p.m. on Jan. 18.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-930-4120.


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