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Five minutes to shake up the status quo?

January 23, 2017

petervickery

President Reagan had this to say about the status quo: It’s Latin for “the mess we’re in.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we shook up the status quo here in Massachusetts by starting to roll back the regulatory state?

Representative Peter Durant (R-6th Worcester) is sponsoring a bill to do just that. It’s called “An act streamlining the investigation process of discrimination complaints” (HD 133) and it would bring a much-needed reform to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

And that’s the reason for this request. I am asking you to call or email your state representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor the bill. The deadline for signing on as a co-sponsor is Friday, February 3, by the way.

We’re trying to solve a real problem here. Running a small business is hard enough without having to deal with unfair charges of discrimination. But as a report by the State Auditor showed, the MCAD routinely investigates cases that are outside its statutory remit. This not only contributes to the agency’s four-year backlog, but is also fundamentally unfair to the individuals who are haled in and investigated without justification. Click here for my article on the subject in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyers Journal.

The goal of Representative Durant’s bill is simple: To ensure that the MCAD only handles cases where it actually has jurisdiction.

That’s pretty reasonable, wouldn’t you agree?

The bill would not take away anybody’s rights, and it would not make it harder for people to file discrimination complaints. It would simply require the MCAD to investigate a complaint if — and only if — it has the legal authority to do so.

The bill even puts the onus on the respondent (the person being accused of discrimination) to apply the brakes. A respondent would have to file a motion to dismiss in order to stay (i.e. pause) the investigation until the MCAD determines that it does, in fact, have jurisdiction.

That’s even more reasonable, isn’t it?

Now we need co-sponsors. Building a strong list of co-sponsors will send a message that the measure has broad support among politically engaged and active citizens — citizens like you.

So would you set aside just five minutes today to make one phone call or (if you prefer) send one email?

If you don’t know the name of your state representative, go to malegislature.gov, click “Find Your Legislators” on the left side of the page, and fill in your address. When you see your representative’s picture, click the name and the contact details will appear.

Then please call your representative’s State House number or send an email.

Tell the aide that you are a constituent and you want your representative to consider sponsoring “An act streamlining the investigation process of discrimination complaints” (HD 133) sponsored by Representative Peter Durant. Close by thanking the aide for their time and for the representative’s consideration. And that’s it!

So will you set aside five minutes to help shake up the status quo?

Thank you.

— Peter

P.S.  Just in case you want to know exactly what the bill says, here is the text in full:

“SECTION 1.  The second paragraph of section 5 of chapter 151B as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition is hereby amended by inserting after the first sentence the following:- If within 21 days of service of the complaint a respondent files a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction such a motion shall act as an automatic stay of the investigation pending the adjudication of the motion.  The investigation shall not resume unless and until the commission determines that it has jurisdiction.”

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Peter Vickery, Esq.

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