Boston Herald: Non-competes out of control Teenage camp counselors, personal trainers, salon assistants and even interns are being forced to sign controversial noncompete agreements typically reserved for high-tech executives in a sign the practice of blocking employees from jumping to a competitor may be going too far, critics say.
Noncompetes can be enforced even if an employee is laid off
Rosen, Michael. “Layoffs and Noncompetes” (blogpost), Massachusetts Noncompete Law (blog published by Foley Hoag LLP), November 24, 2008. . (This URL cannot be accessed directly; instead, go to the blog’s home page look for “Topics” in the menu on the left, click on “Noncompetes,” and search for “layoffs” on the resulting page.)
Nondisclosure agreements (also known as confidentiality agreements) — different and separate from noncompete contracts
Employees are typically required to sign nondisclosure agreements, which bar them from divulging confidential information and trade secrets. Nondisclosure agreements are separate and distinct from noncompete agreements and are enforced separately. The present bill does not affect nondisclosure agreements.
Nonsolicitation agreements, in which the employee agrees not to solicit customers of the former employer, and anti-piracy agreements, in which the employee agrees not to induce former co-workers to join his or her new company, are also not affected by the present bill.
Massachusetts prohibits noncompetes for certain professions
Massachusetts General Laws prohibit noncompetes for employees in certain professions. In addition, lawyers are forbidden by their code of ethics (Rules of Professional Conduct) from requiring noncompetes in their own profession (except in the case of the sale of a practice).
Employee Non-Compete Agreements: Protecting Innovation or Stifling It? panel discussion at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, June 19, 2008, description. (If the video URL is not directly accessible, go to the Berkman homepage and click on “Interactive” on the menu bar at the top; videos are ordered by date, most recent first.)
For the third session, Representative Ehrlich will file legislation addressing natural gas leaks. Currently, the Commonwealth's natural gas pipeline infrastructure has more than 20,000 known leaks contributing to between 8-12 billion cubic feet of annual unaccounted for natural gas in Massachusetts according to the Federal Dept. of Transportation, which oversees pipeline. Over 3,400 have been detected in Boston alone from a recent survey and study. (See Abstract below and visualization left) Awareness of the danger that represents tends to come into sharp focus during the occurrence of explosions, which are often fatal. Because of our sixth highest in the nation amount of cast iron and bare steel combined with our New England winters, it's not surprising that we have nearly the highest explosion rate in the nation.
Public safety alone warrants a focus on prevention but there are other reasons we should focus on keeping the natural gas (methane) in the over 20,000 miles of infrastructure under our feet. Those reasons include the overwhelming cost to ratepayers of an estimated $38.8 million annually in Massachusetts alone and $3.1 billion nationally.
There is a cost burden to municipalities as well when the roots of urban trees are suffocated by gas leaks which are not repaired, many of which have been leaking for decades. Dead trees are removed at great expense and then replaced by trees only to meet the same fate.
Another consideration is that methane is a greenhouse gas estimated to have 27 times the impact on our climate as carbon dioxide or CO2. For all of the environmental impacts known from extraction of natural gas, and how it is often touted as a transition fuel from coal, this is a foolish and damaging waste.
The bill requires utilities to grade and systematically repair known leaks in their pipeline structure under our streets, homes, and buildings. Grades range from 1-3, with a Grade 1 representing the highest degree of danger to a 3, which is not near a structure. Utilities in Massachusetts have long kept records inventorying their leaks but it's currently voluntary and is not uniform among the various companies. Uniformity will permit the Department of Public Utilities to better hold the gas companies accountable.
Repairs are required for Grade 1 and Grade 2 leaks. There are special circumstances which require survey and replacement in school districts and at the time of road projects, no matter their Grade. It costs approximated $2,500 to repair a leak, a cost significantly less than complete replacement and considering the cost of lost natural gas from the leak, the breakeven point for repair is under 2 years depending on the severity of the leak and the integrity of the pipeline.
Leaks never get better, they only get worse as pipes continue to decay, which is why they need to be closely monitored. A Grade 3 leak is so graded based on its proximity to a structure, not on the magnitude of the leak. Many grade 3 leaks are massive and have been leaking for over a decade.
Cast iron mains have a long life span but can be dangerous if they are not monitored and maintained. They are most susceptible to significant damage during below freezing weather. Frost heaves can wreak havoc on cast iron due to its brittle nature. When heavy frost or oscillating temperatures below and above freezing are present, this is the time to be performing surveys known as "winter patrol". Winter patrol is a survey performed by driving a gas sensing vehicle over all cast iron mains during these weather conditions to locate any gas leakage before it becomes a danger or even an explosion. This legislation ensures that gas companies perform winter patrols on a regular and timely schedule.
During the 2011-2012 legislative session, this bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and subsequently emerged from Committee with a "favorable" recommendation. Unfortunately, it was not able to get before the Senate for a vote so it has now been slightly updated and refiled for the 2013-2014 session.
We've all seen these non-biodegradeable petroleum-based bags stuck in the trees but as they travel they also threaten marine life and clog sewer drains. They cannot be recycled, only down-cycled (see article below) and contaminate other recycling waste streams. If passed, retailers may still choose to provide plastic check out bags to their customers but they must conform to the highest possible ASTM standard for compostability and biodegradeability. The bill was updated this session to include an emerging standard for marine biodegradeable plastic.
Right now, only Hawaii has passed a plastic bag ban but did not do so through its state legislature but instead employed an effective county by county approach. California is pursuing this same strategy. Dozens of countries, cities, towns, islands, and counties have been successfully banned or "taxed" plastic bags, most notably Nantucket in 1990, the city of Brookline, MA and Washington DC recently. Be sure to click on the interactive map below to stay updated as to where these efforts are succeeding.
This legislation is a roadmap for a cost-effective transition from coal burning to cleaner, less carbon-intensive energy generation. 100% of the coal burned in Massachusetts is imported from other states and countries, and often mined under perilous conditions. This legislation will create local jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants, provide assistance to displaced workers, support host communities, provide funding for the protection of public health, and ensure responsible disposal of toxic waste generated by coal plants.
Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) cause serious health issues such as cancer, reproductive health issues, and respiratory problems. Because of their toxicity and often known carcinogenic effects, they are measured in pounds not tons when emitted. In addition to the human costs, these pollutants also have adverse environmental and ecological effects.
This legislation assesses a fee to major stationary sources (facilities categorized in the Clean Air Act) for every pound of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) they release into the atmosphere. The fees assessed will be collected by the Department of Public Health to provide funds for the study of the public health impacts from air pollutants, including but not limited to acute local impacts such as asthma, upper respiratory conditions or premature death; such research or studies may be conducted by the department or by a qualified independent medical or public health expert, organization or educational institution.
To fund these studies, large stationary sources will be assessed a fee for each pound of HAPs emissions released into the air. This bill hews closely to the language and framework set by the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Trust Fund.
This legislation would make three changes in the current law to deter persons from criminal conduct in courthouses and against person engaged in the performance of official duties in the courts, including court staff, jurors, prosecutors and attorneys. These changes would assure that those who work in the court system or come to our courts as jurors, witnesses, parties or attorneys seeking justice or performing acts relating to the administration of justice will be safe and secure.
Section 1 makes certain assaults and assault and battery offenses that are committed on court property while courts are in session or open to the public felony offenses. Section 2 increases the potential penalty for willful disruption of court proceedings from a one-year misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison. Section 3 establishes an enhanced penalty for certain threats to do bodily harm to court staff as well as to jurors, prosecutors and attorneys, due to their performance of official duties, to a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison.
This proposal does not establish any mandatory minimum sentences, does not restrict the discretion of prosecutors, and has no fiscal impact.
This bill seeks to get about 50 communities still beneath the 17.5% foundation funding floor caught up to that minimum limit in the next two years. During the last budget cycle in 2012 progress was made halfway to this goal but there is still a way to go.
This bill will modify what is known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by gradually increasing the percentage of renewable energy that electricity providers supply to customers. Currently the amount of electricity from renewable sources has to go up by just 1% per year. This bill will increase that to 10%.
In Massachusetts we obtain a growing proportion of our electricity from natural gas. Although natural gas has lower CO2 emissions than coal, it emits much more methane which is far more problematic. Recently the attorneys general for seven states (including Massachusetts) issued notice of their intent to sue the EPA over its failure to regulate methane. Why? Because pound for pound, it warms the climate about 25 times more than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Thanks in part to the legislature's enactment of the Green Communities Act, Massachusetts has reduced its CO2 output markedly. But our growing dependence on natural gas is more than undoing that good work.
Boosting renewable energy will reduce our dependence on natural gas and, in turn, lower our methane emissions. In 2010, the Patrick-Murray administration published the Massachusetts Clean Energy Plan for 2020, which projects that by 2020 approximately 22% of our electricity will come from renewable sources. That's better than today's level, but nowhere near what we need if we are serious about tackling climate change. We should -- and can -- set and reach a higher renewable energy portfolio standard.
A fair comparison is Scotland, which with a population of approximately 5.25 million is only slightly smaller than Massachusetts. In 2011, Scotland generated about 35% of its electricity from renewable sources. As a result, the Scottish government revised its target for renewably-generated electricity upward: its new goal for 2020 is 100%. This bill is somewhat less ambitious, giving us ten more years to match Scotland. If the bill becomes law, by 2030 practically all of our state's electricity and many more jobs will come from renewables.
This legislation encourages the early aggregation of claims arising out of the same transaction, resolution of claims on a pre-suit basis or through alternative dispute resolution, the efficient litigation and administration of such aggregated claims, and the sound financial and tax planning and fiscal management of settlement funds for the beneficiary’s benefit.
Tax Deduction for Public School Athletic and Activity Fees
This legislation allows the payer of a user fee for public school athletics to file an income tax deduction for these fees. This bill seeks to recognize the participatory responsibility of the Commonwealth to contribute to the cost of athletics as part of educating the whole child.