January 17, 2019
NOTE: As of this writing we have still not heard back from Rep. Hill’s office regarding scheduling a meeting in-district.
Rep. Hill, Chris (staff), Ruby (staff)
Constituents: Terri Davidson, Lauren Gomes, Pavica Kneedler, Charise Rohm Nulsen, Sharon Schiffer, Bambi Snodgrass, Renee from Healthquarters
We met with Rep. Hill and his legislative aides at noon. The agenda:
Healthy Youth Act
The ROE Act
Three budget line items: funding for Family Health Services, Teen Pregnancy Prevention & HIV/AIDS/HepC funding
We discussed the Healthy Youth Act first. Pavica and Charise spoke to this issue as they both serve on their town school committees. Pav stated that the Ipswich sex ed class is sorely lacking in preparing students to be sexual beings as adults. Pav also brought up the fact that much of the information students get about sex is from the internet – pornography specifically. She also mentioned the need to have science-based and inclusive sex ed. Charise also stated that teaching consent begins early, and is another important component of a sex ed program.
Rep. Hill said that he is hearing from people that they want to have an opt-in, rather than an opt-out sex ed program. “Parents get about 50 papers at the beginning of the school year to sign, and they just go ahead and sign them. Then a student ends up in sex ed and I get a call.” Charise asked if it would be helpful to get signatures from constituents who support the opt-out program. He said it would be helpful.
Rep. Hill also said that he felt that the bill would become an “unfunded mandate” because “If this bill passes, every city and town in MA would adopt it, and there would be no funding for this change.” When asked if he would propose an amendment that would make the bill more palatable and able to move forward, he agreed. He also indicated that we should find out why the Democrats in the House have not supported this bill in the past – as it has never gotten to the floor for a vote.
The constituent from HealthQuarters quickly brought up the budget items that impacts funding for her organization, which is a reproductive health provider on the North Shore. The budget items were 4513-1000 (Family Health Services), 4530-9000 (Teen Pregnancy Prevention), and 4512-0103 (HIV/AIDS and Hep C Services). Rep. Hill has been a supporter of this funding in the past and indicated he would continue to support it.
Next up was the ROE Act, which seeks to remove barriers to abortion. Terri Davidson started the conversation. The first part of the bill seeks to remove the requirement that girls under the age of 18 must appear before a judge to get permission to have an abortion if they cannot get parental consent. This barrier is a hardship on teens, who must miss school for these meetings in addition to the days required to recover from the abortion. The teen must meet with a lawyer and a judge to tell her story – both of whom she does not know. Terri said that there are no requirements for becoming a parent at the age of 16, but there are many requirements for girls to get an abortion to avoid becoming a parent at 16. Sharon Schiffer offered a situation where the teen lives in an abusive situation – either because of incest, or living in an abusive situation where the minor could be in danger of physical harm or being kicked out of the house for having an abortion. Rep. Hill is emphatically against this. He will not support it. He said that he has spoken with many lawyers who tell him that the current system is working well.
Rep. Hill stated that the main focus of the Legislature in this session is the opioid crisis in MA. After a few minutes listening to the importance of this issue, the group called him back to the items at hand for Sexual Health Lobby Day.
Another piece of the ROE bill would allow for abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy in the case of fatal fetal anomalies. Under current law, a pregnant woman who is carrying a fetus that has died or will die soon after birth because of severe health issues – must carry the fetus to term. Cases where the mother contracted a severe infection that impacted the health of her baby past the 24 week mark were cited to defend this position. Women have to travel to other states to receive proper medical care in these circumstances. Pav Kneedler, a maternity nurse, teared up when recounting a story of a fatal fetal anomaly case that she worked on, stating that these tragedies also impact caregivers who are unable to provide adequate care in these instances. Rep. Hill indicated that he would have to do additional research on this matter.
Terri Davidson then brought up what she called ‘the elephant in the room’. On election day at the polls in Rowley, Terri was verbally assaulted by Rep. Hill’s wife and daughter, after she introduced herself at the polls. Terri was holding a sign in support of Allison Gustavson, Rep. Hill’s challenger. The wife and daughter falsely accused Terri of lying about Rep. Hill’s voting record, said that his campaign could have said bad things about Allison as well, and indicated that they have no respect for people who vote for Democrats. Rep. Hill chided Terri, and defended the behavior of his wife and daughter. He echoed the accusation of the lies about his record, and said that he retained FaceBook posts that showed the lies.
Bambi then spoke up. Bambi received a call from Rep. Hill on Monday afternoon in response to an email she sent in the morning to let Rep. Hill know she would be there for Sexual Health Lobby Day. Read the email here and her contemporaneous notes on the call.
Bambi told Rep. Hill that he works for his constituents, not the other way around. She told him it was inappropriate to try to intimidate constituents – as he did to Terri in the office, and Bambi on the phone. She indicated it was inappropriate that he shared her email with his colleagues around the State House (he said he misspoke) – but his words were -‘I shared the email with my colleagues and it was unanimous; they all found it offensive.’
Bambi also inquired as to whether or not Rep. Hill had in-district office hours & how to find out when they are held. He said yes, he has monthly office hours posted on FaceBook and in the newspaper, but office hours are not for discussing legislation, but rather for getting assistance with things like housing.
The meeting ended with Bambi reminding Chris (staff) that Wendy Dabkovich wanted to schedule an in-district meeting to discuss these, and other, issues but had not heard back from him even though she called on Monday. Chris and Rep. Hill indicated they would get back to her to discuss a meeting in March, but as of this writing there has been no response from Rep. Hill’s office.