Check out Natalie on WBZ Channel 4, highlighting her work to end the backlog of untested Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits: https://boston.cbslocal.com/2022/05/10/untested-rape-kits-massachusetts-funding/
"Rep. Natalie Higgins, a sexual assault survivor and former rape crisis counselor, has been fighting to secure more funding.
WCVB Channel 5 covers breaking news of an arrest made in a 12 year old cold case of sexual assault, and highlights Natalie's work to end the backlog of untested Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits:
"The news of the cold case being solved brought "so many feelings" for state Rep. Natalie Higgins, herself a survivor of sexual assault and the legislator who fought to pass the law requiring testing.
"Each April, we honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I am thankful for the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators for bringing Denim Day to the Massachusetts State House. Since 1999, we honor Denim Day on the last Wednesday of April.
Peace Over Violence shares the origins of Denim Day: “The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it. Since then, what started as a local campaign to bring awareness to victim blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence has grown into a movement. As the longest running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history, Denim Day asks community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual violence.”
I am proud to co-chair the Sexual Violence Working Group within the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, and excited to get to work with Rep. Christina Miniccuci and use our decades of experience as rape crisis counselors to move this work forward.
There are a number of bills I am continuing to work on related to sexual violence services and prevention this session — An Act relative to a sexual assault counselor taskforce (H4330) and An Act establishing a bill of rights for sexual violence survivors (H1644) — and we’re continuing to monitor the progress of the Massachusetts State Crime Laboratory in ending the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits in Massachusetts. We also have a number of bills that were sent to study that we are planning on refiling in the new Legislative Session, including updates to the 258E Harassment Prevention Orders (H1820) and affirmative consent education (H615).
I cannot thank our Rape Crisis Centers enough for all of the support they provide survivors and their loved ones each and every day, 24/7, even with the challenges COVID-19 presented. We are lucky to have Pathways for Change in Worcester County working towards a world without sexual violence. You can learn more about their work at www.pathwaysforchange.help, and their 24-hour Support Line is available at 800-870-5905."
Natalie's December Column in the Leominster Champion: Here's how Massachusetts will spend ARPA, Surplus Funding
"Earlier this month, the Massachusetts House and Senate unanimously passed its spending proposal utilizing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Fiscal Year 2021 surplus funds.
The legislation addresses disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to facilitate recovery through one-time investments in housing, environment and climate mitigation, economic development, workforce, health and human services, and education.
I was thankful to partner with Sen. John Cronin to secure a number of Leominster-specific projects: $100,000 for HVAC Upgrades at Bennett School, $100,000 for an Early Education Center Feasibility Study, $150,000 for Water Filtration Updates in the Leominster Public Schools, $250,000 for the repair of Monoosnoc Brook, and $300,000 for portable classrooms for elementary schools in the Leominster Public Schools.
Notably, the GREEN Initiative, which I highlighted in October, is being piloted with $6.5 million. As you may remember from a previous column, this aims to retrofit existing low- and moderate-income housing in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities, as well as other communities with similar demographics. The retrofitted housing units will be highly energy-efficient, use clean heating technologies such as heat pumps, and where possible include on-site renewable energy generation like rooftop solar.
Health and Human Services: The legislation allocates vital funding for financially strained hospitals, community health centers, behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services and workforce needs, our local and regional public health systems, and programs that tackle food insecurity.
Workforce Development: The legislation includes premium pay bonuses for low- and middle-income workers who worked in-person during the COVID-19 State of Emergency, enhancements for workforce opportunities through workforce skills training, and investments in vocational and career and technical schools.
Affordable Housing and Homeownership: The legislation appropriates funds for affordable housing, focused on public housing maintenance, new permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, survivors of domestic violence, seniors, and veterans, homeownership assistance, and the production and preservation of affordable rental housing.
Environment and Climate Change Mitigation: The legislation includes environmental infrastructure and development spending, with a focus on environmental justice communities, climate change resiliency and clean energy, as well as infrastructure for communities to adapt and become climate resilient, and water and sewer projects.
Education: To improve indoor air-quality in schools and support healthy learning environments, this bill includes grants to public school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, along with additional investments in special education, including workforce development, and programs focused on recruiting and retaining educators of color.
Economic Development: The legislation includes $500 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund which will offset businesses’ contributions for unemployment programs, tax relief for small businesses, and grants to support small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, with a particular focus on minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. While my office continues to work remotely, we are still accessible by phone (978-227-5278) or email (Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov). We’ve moved our office hours online — Monday nights and Friday mornings. Please email or call to sign up."
The Department of Housing and Community Development has provided some money for noncongregate sites this year, said Pamela Schwartz, executive director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. But, the letter asks for the new funding system to ensure a mix of congregate and noncongregate sites.
Natalie's November Column in the Leominster Champion: Hearing held on bill to ban sale of cats and dogs in pet shops
Last month, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture held its public legislative hearing on H.384/S.230, “An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops,” which would close the puppy mill-to-pet shop pipeline.
This legislation would prohibit the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet shops unless the animals come from shelters or rescue organizations. Typically, pet shops obtain animals from substandard breeding facilities, which results in consumers unknowingly purchasing sick or genetically-compromised pets. Puppy mills, in particular, are large-scale commercial breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well-being of animals. Massachusetts state records consistently document such complaints from across the Commonwealth. State and federal records have also demonstrated that puppies from the worst “puppy mills” in the country have been sold to Massachusetts consumers via pet shops. These bills aim to protect both animals and consumers and would have no impact on responsible breeders.
The pet store industry is evolving, and the majority already partners with shelters and rescue organizations to host adoptions through their stores. Of the top 25 retailers in the country, only one sells puppies. While pet stores may claim that they obtain animals from small-scale, humane breeders, the reality is that pet stores cannot obtain dogs from responsible breeders because responsible breeders simply do not sell puppies to pet stores.
This legislation would not prevent consumers from acquiring one of these animals from a responsible breeder or a shelter or rescue organization. Further, it does not prohibit a pet shop from partnering with a shelter or rescues to provide animals in their store. California, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Illinois have similar state laws. There are more than 380 municipalities nationwide — including Boston, Cambridge, Holliston, Marshfield, North Adams, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Springfield, and Stoneham — that have passed laws prohibiting the sale of commercially-raised dogs and cats in pet stores.
I am proud to help lead the efforts to pass this legislation to protect puppies, kittens, and rabbits, as well as their human families, from the harmful practices of substandard out-of-state massive breeding facilities, like puppy mills. Beyond that, I am thankful to be teaming up with Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (7th Middlesex - Framingham), to launch a new Protecting Animal Welfare (PAW) Caucus in the Massachusetts Legislature. We want to continue to strengthen the voice of animal welfare advocacy, and work to pass vital legislation like H.384/S.230 into law.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. While my office continues to work remotely, we are still accessible by phone (978-227-5278) or email (Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov). We’ve moved our office hours online — Monday nights and Friday mornings. Please email or call to sign up.
Telegram & Gazette highlights legislation for fund sought to revive underutilized buildings across the State
BOSTON — A new state fund outlined in a bill before the Legislature would help facilitate improvements to underutilized commercial or industrial buildings in economically distressed areas, a measure that supporters say would help spur job creation and business, and maintain historic structures.
The bill (H 285), filed by state Reps. Patricia Duffy and Natalie Higgins, would task MassDevelopment, the state's development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies.
Check out the full article here: https://www.telegram.com/story/business/2021/11/26/fund-sought-revive-underutilized-buildings-across-state/8742288002/
"BOSTON — A new state fund outlined in a bill before the Legislature would help facilitate improvements to underutilized commercial or industrial buildings in economically distressed areas, a measure that supporters say would help spur job creation, business, and maintain historic structures.
The bill (H 285), filed by Reps. Patricia Duffy, D-Holyoke, and Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, would task the MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies. Duffy said the bill is “simple” as it seeks to help developers upgrade, renovate, or repair buildings in older cities and former manufacturing hubs."
Check out the full article here: https://www.gazettenet.com/Fund-sought-to-revive-underutilized-buildings-43714486
"The bill (H 285), filed by Reps. Patricia Duffy and Natalie Higgins, would task the MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies. Duffy, a Holyoke Democrat, said the bill is “simple” as it seeks to help developers upgrade, renovate, or repair buildings in older cities and former manufacturing hubs."
Check out the full article here: https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/fund-sought-to-revive-underutilized-buildings/article_2063827a-4d30-11ec-aae7-8b15389e59dd.html