#Law Reform
House, Senate, and Governor of Massachusetts
United States of America

Creating a Special Commission to Review Legislation Impacting the Health and Welfare of Young People in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Whereas, laws affecting children and adolescents in the name of child protection have been passed episodically through the legislature over the past two hundred years¬¬—many of which are still in force, and in many respects too costly.

Since some of these statutes impacting the conditions in which our young people live and develop have been studied extensively by many experts, and found to be ambiguous, contradictory, antiquated, counterproductive, unconstitutional, or otherwise harmful to the health and welfare of young people in the Commonwealth, we believe it is necessary to carefully improve upon all laws impacting child development and maturation.

Considering that many of our statutes, in some measure, no longer serve the function of protecting the health and welfare of young people, nor promote their well being, it is the consensus of the vast majority of experts in child development and education that although statutes which attempt to create laws that better protect our young people’s health and welfare is indeed an important and compelling subject of thoughtful legislative action, it is crucial that the issues be carefully examined by specialized experts to implement consistency throughout our laws, regulations and policies.

Moreover, since we now have amassed over a century of experience with existing statutes and policies gathered by hospitals, psychologists, university professors, social workers, teachers, activists, psychiatrists, doctors, sociologists, child development specialists, politicians, parents, churches and many other individuals and institutions which act to serve the interests of young people, we now have access to more salient, complete and relevant data through expert studies and empirically determined observations as to what conditions are detrimental to our young people and which are helpful. We therefore find it prudent to reform the entire set of interlocking laws, regulations, rules, institutions, entitlements and policies which impact upon our young people, retire those statutes that do not work or cause harm to our youth, revise those statutes which can be transformed into positive contributions to the well being of our society in general, and frame new legislation to address problems not currently addressed by existing statutes or institutions to make the Commonwealth a place that does all in its power to promote the well being of our young.

We also believe that a more comprehensive approach to reviewing the existing context of laws influencing child development and maturation requires specialized consideration of all related areas, which therefore requires a large enough body of experts to competently examine which laws are harmful and to suggest the necessary reforms.

Be it proposed that the House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor review this legislation and deliberate in all due haste its implementation in order to reduce unnecessary harm being done to young people by laws which, while well intentioned themselves, are causing a economic burden to the Commonwealth and harm to the public safety, and to young people in particular, who are negatively impacted by their unintended consequences as a result of their misdirection—having been passed during times we were less familiar with the facts about child development and maturation.

Therefore, be it enacted by the legislature the provisions of the following Act, Creating the Special Expert Commission on the Review of Legislation Affecting the Health and Welfare of Young People in th4e Commonwealth of Massachusetts, hereinafter known as the “Child Protection Act of 2009.”

Section One: Term and Composition of the Commission:
1.1 This act will expire in five years from the date of its enactment, giving five years for it to accomplish its intended purposes,
1.2 There shall be created in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a ‘Child Protection Commission’ consisting of 39 members with the following qualifications:
1.3 There shall be 5 members who are licensed and published psychologists or psychiatrists holding a PhD in the field of psychology who have spent not less than ten years studying child development in all of its manifestations including maturation, childhood psychological issues, sexual development, factors leading to successful lives and those leading to impediments to thriving. One such member shall be a clinical psychologist who treats young people for general disorders, a second member shall be an educator who teaches at an accredited university about child development, and the third member shall be a specialist holding either a PhD, an Ed.D, and/or an M.D. who specializes in the development of sexuality, including all of its manifestations and common behaviors inclusive of; gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender orientations and their healthy development. The two additional members shall be psychologists holding a PhD who are specialists in the treatment of sex offenders who have competently worked for at least ten years in the Commonwealth with sex offenders who shall examine the root causes of sexual abuse and recidivism in all categories of abuse and submit reports to the legislature.
1.4 There shall be 3 members who are trained sociologists who have worked with child development issues and who possess a PhD in the field and have worked at least ten years in studying the behavior of young people in work settings, gang and group behavior, schools, various family settings, and who have studied their sexual and psychological development as manifested in sociological terms which includes young people in the labor force, family, school, streets, homeless young people, young people who have been adopted, young people after divorce and other traumatic or uncommon circumstances that some young people live with, to identify and document conditions and laws that have any negative impacts on their healthy development and maturation.
1.5 There shall be three attorneys who practice law in the Commonwealth from the public defenders’ office who have special expertise in all legal issues surrounding the current S.O.R.B. for alleged child abusers or sex offenders who shall in part, determine the effectiveness and accuracy of said board’s determinations and the effects those determinations have on those impacted, either directly or indirectly, and shall submit their findings to the commission.
1.6. There shall be three anthropologists who specialize in the various child development customs of the many different cultures, religious and linguistic groups, how those practices are perceived by those who do not share the cultural context of these families and how child development is influenced by these cultural differences into the context of our poly-cultural society and submit reports to the commission their expert opinions concerning the negative impacts our laws may have on our youth.
1.7 There shall be three members of the legislature each who shall serve as co chairs of the commission and who shall be picked respectively by the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the Governor to serve as their emissaries and who shall form a “sub-commission” charged with ethically documenting and reporting all findings and conclusions of the entire expert commission for final review and revision prior to submission to the House, Senate, and Governor.
1.8 There shall be three teachers from the public school system of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who have successfully taught for not less than fifteen years, one of whom shall be a high school teacher, one of whom shall teach from middle school, and one of whom shall be from a grammar school, who shall submit written reports to the commission for review concerning their opinions as to the methods of better educating our youth about our laws pertaining to physical, sexual, social, and domestic behaviors.
1.9 There shall be a high school principal on the commission who has competently served in said position for not less than fifteen years, who shall be chosen by the members of the Massachusetts Teachers Union and who shall prepare a report to the expert commission his/her opinions concerning the administration of programs designed to better educate our youth about the laws pertaining to physical, sexual, social, and domestic behaviors.
1.10 There shall be in addition, three qualified people chosen by representatives of the major faith groups in the who shall represent their best understanding of the development of the morals of our young people under their guidance, chosen by the leaders of each of the variety of religions practiced within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who shall submit written reports to the expert commission concerning their experiences with the moral and ethical dilemmas our young people face as a direct result of our related laws.
1.11 There shall be in addition, three attorneys specializing in human rights, each who has served competently for not less than ten years in said field, chosen by directors of the America Bar Association, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and The American Civil Liberties Union, who shall prepare reports to the expert commission addressing the human rights issues presented by our laws related to physical, sexual, social and domestic behaviors.
1.12 There shall be in addition six young people under the age of 18, one of whom has served time pursuant to being convicted of a crime, one of whom shall be an honors student in a public high school, three of whom shall be female and three of whom shall be male, one of which shall be or has been homeless, one of which shall be living in foster care, one of which shall be a self acknowledged gay male, and one of which shall be a self acknowledged gay female. The composition of this group of six young people should reflect the differing youth cultures within the Commonwealth and shall change every six months, to the extent it is possible, to include representatives from each community given the limited number of seats, and time to identify any existing laws and policies that have a negative impact on their well being. These young people shall submit written reports to the expert commission addressing any and all concerns with laws that have negatively impacted upon their lives, and may suggest specific reforms.
1.121 There shall be three constituents representing people who have been the victims of abuse during childhood, one of which is a victim of childhood physical abuse, one who is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and one who is a victim of childhood hate crimes, each who shall prepare a written report to the expert commission concerning the impact that our laws related to childhood abuse impacted upon them and may suggest specific reforms.
1.122 There shall be two members who are recovering sex offenders, one male and one female offender who had previously been found guilty of serious sexual offenses against children but who have lived in the community without further legal or social difficulty for not less than five years who shall also submit a report to the expert commission concerning any obstacles or circumstances under our laws which hindered them in their reform and reintegration back into society.
1.13 The members of the Expert Commission shall be chosen by the office of the Governor, with the counsel and consent of the offices of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, by a majority vote of those nominated by (the best suited) members our most respected Colleges and Universities in the Commonwealth.

Section 2 The Conduct of Business of the Commission:
2.1 The commission shall be convened by the chair of the commission who shall be a member of the commission rotated among the members of the legislature who serve on the commission, each of whom shall serve as chair for a period not to exceed one year.
2.2 In the event the commission has not been convened for a period of 30 days, any ten members of the commission have the authority through submitting a letter informing the chair of the commission signed by each that they are taking such action, to convene the commission.
2.3 The commission shall meet not less than once every month and shall conduct its business using Robert’s Rules of Order. Actions of the commission shall require a majority vote of a quorum, which shall consist of 15 members of the commission.
2.4 The commission shall have sufficient staff, space, and resources to conduct its business and shall specify the commission’s needs in terms of staffing, space and equipment to the Office of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who shall take the necessary action to accommodate such needs.
2.5 The Commission shall have access to any and all spaces subject to competing demands owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in which to convene its sessions.
2.6 All meetings of the commission shall be recorded and transcribed.
2.7 The commission shall submit press releases every six months as to the commission’s progress.

Section Three: Powers and Responsibilities of the Commission:
3.1 Notwithstanding any act to the contrary, the expert commission may subpoena any documents, individuals, members of state agencies, institutions, or materials it finds necessary to effectively conduct its business of identifying and reporting its findings of harmful or conflicting laws and policies in the Commonwealth affecting our youth,
3.2 The commission shall review any and all legislation, rules, regulations, public policies, entitlements, institutions or conditions that directly impact, address, limit, provide resources to, or in some other way affect’s citizens under the age of 18. The commission is empowered to form committees and sub-committees, and to solicit expert help in order to focus upon each issue with the most competent professionals available who specialize in specific areas of concern, and said committees and sub-committees assembled by the expert commission shall submit written reports to said commission annually concerning their findings on all aspects of legislation, rules, regulations, public policies, entitlements, institutions or conditions which they have been assigned to focus upon and which shall be made available for public review.
3.3 In accordance with the ethical mandate to do no harm, the expert commission shall identify and prioritize for action any pieces of legislation, policies, rules or regulations or their implementation it finds detrimental or contradictory to the health and welfare of our young people and decide upon recension or repeal of such legislation. Upon such a finding the Expert Commission shall inform the legislature of said finding, and the legislature shall vote upon any measures framed in legislation brought before it by the expert commission through the office of the Speaker of the House who shall prioritize the measure among the matters before the House, and upon action by the House of Representatives, shall pass the matter on to the Senate which shall act accordingly through the offices of the President of the Senate, and finally to the office of the Governor for his/her review.
3.4 Among the institutions, laws, statutes, rules, regulations and implementing bodies that the commission shall review are any criminal statutes affecting young people, including drug and sex related laws, the Sex Offender Registry Board, the Office of Young People, the Young People’s Unit of the Offices of the Attorney General, the various institutions young people are placed into through the actions of any court or state agency including jails, detention centers, hospitals, foster care, adoptions, parental custody, halfway houses, special homes, and any other institutions intended to protect and help young people develop healthy lives. The special expert commission shall review every law affecting young people, prioritizing those that the experts feel are the most egregious in harming our young people and prepare a report to the House of Representatives as to its findings.
3.5 The commission shall review said institutions, statutes, laws, regulations, rules, policies and any other artifacts of the Commonwealth affecting young people, and shall hold open hearings at least once a month to hear testimony from experts as well as members of the general public concerning these issues and shall record or transcribe said hearings for further consideration by concerned others.
3.6. The Commission shall accept any written materials, documents, testimony or observations regarding its work offered to it from members of the public and archive such materials that shall become public documents.
3.7 Upon finding any young people are suffering harm, the Commission may order that the laws, institutions, agencies, rules or regulations be in whole or part suspended in their operations, including the request to the legislature that they be suspended to the extent this is possible, pending the completion of a complete analysis of said law by the Commission. The commission shall report its preliminary findings to the legislature by submitting a report with the Speaker of the House, incorporating what action the Commission recommends the legislature take regarding the matter in order to better protect the health and welfare of our young people.
3.8 The Legislature shall first act upon any recommendations from the Commission and may at its discretion choose to refer the matter back to the commission with its objections, concerns, advice, modifications or suggestions, as an alternative to voting the matter brought before it up or down.

Section Four: Purview of the Commission:
The special expert commission shall review labor laws, laws impacting sexual development and education practices, other laws regarding schools, child support, homelessness, medical and mental health care, abuse, criminal statutes regarding young people and any institutions or agencies involved in the implementation of public policies, entitlements, laws, regulations, rules and other matters affecting young people.
4.1 The Commission shall allow and encourage young people to submit written or oral testimony regarding their personal experiences with existing institutions, laws, regulations, rules or agencies affecting them including any reflections they may have upon improvements that they would suggest be made to them.
4.2 The Commission shall incorporate quantifiable goals in any new legislation it frames, and shall specify a time frame not longer than five years after which without a successful empirical demonstration of the legislation having reached such goals, the legislation shall be null and void. Legislation that has been rendered null and void through this process may not be re-introduced to the legislature without substantive alterations to address the problems identified by the Commission within its purview.

4.3 Any and all legislation affecting young people shall be reviewed by the Commission with regard to its impact upon the health and welfare of young people and the Commission is empowered to frame new legislation to amalgamate existing efforts or to address new issues not yet addressed toward the goal of protecting the well being of our young.

4.4 For the purposes of this act, a young person is a human being under the age of 18, and a child is a prepubescent young person under the age of 13.
4.5 This act shall take effect upon the signature of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

We the undersigned do hereby support this bill and request that it be considered in all due haste and submitted to the house the senate and the governor as quickly as possible.

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The Support the Child Protection Act of 2009 petition to House, Senate, and Governor of Massachusetts was written by National_Coalition and is in the category Law Reform at GoPetition.