Bills > 2013-2014 Session

Representative Ehrlich's Bills

Non-competition Agreements, everything you ever wanted to know

H.1715 An Act Relative to Non-competition Agreements

Servicemaster in Seattle: $15/hr job comes with Non-compete, threat of legal action

House Democrats call for investigation into Jimmy John's Non-compete clauses 

Huffington Post: Jimmy John's makes low wage workers sign oppressive non-competes

Boston Business Journal In the end, noncompetes stay the same

The New York Times has run an excellent front page story and an editorial about Non-competes including Rep. Ehrlich's work to reign them in Massachusetts. 

Noncompete clauses increasingly popping up in an array of jobs by Steven Greenhouse

Clauses that Hurt Workers by the New York Times Editorial Board

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. 

Non-compete cartoon

The Boston Business Journal: Non-competes holding back Mass IT Sector

Boston Globe: It's time to reform Mass Jobs-Killer

Letter: Non-compete agreements must go Swampscott Report

Marblehead State Rep eyes Non-compete agreements Marblehead Reporter  

Patrick threatens enforcement ban on Non-Competes Boston Business Journal  

Non-compete bill step in right direction Mass Lawyers Weekly, Nov 22, 2011  

Massachusetts should ease up protecting ‘noncompete’ clauses Boston Globe Editorial, October 30, 2011  

Some common sense on noncompete clauses Boston Globe  

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).

Noncompetes and the Massachusetts economy

The following sites and papers present information, research, and opinion on the effect of noncompetes on the Massachusetts economy.

Natural Gas Pipeline Safety, Cost, and Arboreal Damage from Leaks

SIGNED INTO LAW JULY 7, 2014

BOSTON GLOBE, FRONT PAGE STORY: New law aims to speed repair of gas leaks

Filings this session:

H.2933 An Act Enhancing Natural Gas Pipeline Safety 

H.2934 An Act to Prevent Unnecessary Arboreal Costs Due to Natural Gas Leaks 

Boston Gas Leaks

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. 

Media coverage 

US Senator Markey's Report on Gas Leaks

House approves bill aimed at spurring Mass. utilities to fix leaky natural gas pipes Boston Business Journal

House passes bill to fix gas pipelines The Boston Globe

For third session, Ehrlich files gas leak bills Marblehead Reporter

The Valley Advocate News Flash: Leaking Lines

The Valley Advocate A Bomb Under our Streets

Valley Advocate Horns and Halos

Boston Globe Lawmaker wants laws on risk of gas leaks 

WBZ-TV Methane Gas Leaks Common Across Massachusetts 

The Lynn Item Marblehead rep aims at regulating gas leaks 

The Morning Call (a great in-depth examination of the issue) No Quick Fix for aging gas lines

The Conservation Law Foundation Report Risky Business Leaking Natural Gas Infrastructure and How to Fix It

Mapping urban pipeline leaks: Methane leaks across Boston a joint study between Duke University and Boston University

WCVB, Channel 5 Community fears grow after (Winthrop) house explosion 

NPR's Living on Earth "Rampant City Gas Leaks"

Rep. Ehrlich's Column: Hazardous Natural Gas Leaks need immediate attention 

Boston Globe: Mayor Mennino says state needs stronger response to city's many gas leaks

ProPublica: Pipelines Explained: How Safe are America's 2.5 Million Miles of Pipelines? 

Swampscott Patch Ehrlich sponsors legislation to curb gas leaks

BU Today: Fueling Global Warming, not homes

Channel 5, WCVB Boston, 3 part Team 5 Investigates series:

Part I Thousands Of Gas Leaks Kill Mass. Trees  

Part II Gas Companies Fall Short On Safety Regulations  

Part III Gas Co. Failing To Fix Hazardous Leaks

WBZ-TV News Methane Gas Leaks Common Across Massachusetts 

Boston Globe Thousands of gas leaks in Boston area   

Boston Globe Lawmaker wants laws on risk of gas leaks 

Plastic Bags

Update: Appropriately on Earth Day, 2013, H.696 was reported out favorably from the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. Here is the story in The Boston Globe 

Rep Ehrlich's appearance on Radio BDC

H696 An Act to Reduce Plastic Pollution

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. 

Media:

State Could be First to Ban Plastic Bags The Boston Globe

Interactive map of bag ban/fee legislation in cities, towns, counties, islands, countries throughout the world.

Ehrlich sees momentum in bag ban Salem News

Bag it! showing in Beverly, MA Salem News See it!

An Act relative to plastic bag reduction HO1990 also filed in the Senate by Senator James Eldridge as S.353

Radio BDC Podcast November 27, 2012

Boston Globe: The Plastic Bag Wars 

Salon: Plastic Bags and Recycling 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch has increased 100 fold since the 1970's  

Associated Press: Mass advocates see momentum for plastic bag ban

Margery Eagan Boston Herald Columnist: Time to trash plastic bags

Trouble Afloat: Ocean Plastics Harvard Science

Support Ban of Plastic Shopping Bags South Coast Daily

Marblehead/Swampscott Rep sponsors biodegradeable bag law Marblehead and Swampscott Reporter

CNN: Plastic Wars   

Plastic Aplenty Green Living Magazine

Good Morning America Scientists estimate that it takes 1,000 years for a polyethylene bag to break down, and as polyethylene breaks down, toxic substances leach into the soil and enter the food chain.

The bags also take a more immediate toll on the environment: Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die per year by ingesting plastic bags.

NYTimes: How to Rid the Seas "Plastic Soup"   

NPR/WGBH Does Massachusetts' plastic bag ban stand a chance?  

LA County is (now) the largest city to pass a bag ban LATimes

Hawaii is the first state to pass bag ban using county-by-county approach MSNBC

H.695 An Act prevening the disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater 

New Jersey legislature passes fracking waste bill, Gov. Christie vetoes

Coal

H.694 An Act to Regulate Coal Ash as Solid Waste

H.2935 An Act to transition to a Clean Energy Commonwealth

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.

Currently coal ash, which has contaminated drinking water for tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents, enjoys a regulatory loophole that permits this heavy metal-laden waste to be treated as ordinary fill. This legislation would classify coal ash as solid waste and ensure that it is disposed in such a way to protect drinking water. Please read the story of Wenham Lake, a near tragedy, involving Queen Victoria, the ice trades of the early 1800's, 3-6 feet of toxic coal waste at the base of the drinking water for 80,000 local residents of Salem, Beverly and parts of Wenham.

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)

H.1944 An Act Relative to the public health effects of Hazardous Air Pollutants

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.

Courthouse Safety and Security

H.1305 An Act to enhance safety and security in courthouses

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. 

Education

H.381 An Act Relative to Chapter 70

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.

Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards

H.2932 An Act modifying the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard

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. 

Class Action Law Reform

H1304 An Act to establish a Claimants Trust Act

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

An Act Providing for a 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.

Quarries

H.692 An Act Relative to the Department of Environmental Management Duties

H.1943 An Act Relative to Noisome Trades