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January 31, 2024

Students rally at state house in support of climate, transparency bills

Young adults standing on steps in front of the state house Image | Courtesy of State House News Service The Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition advocated for a string of climate justice bills during a rally outside of the State House on Tuesday.

Nearly 200 high school and college students skipped classes Tuesday to advocate for a slate of climate resiliency and government transparency bills at the State House, starting with a chilly outdoor rally followed by meetings with lawmakers.

The students, representing 15 organizations within the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition, promoted a youth-written bill (H 496), filed by Rep. James Hawkins, that would implement a "climate justice" curriculum into K-12 public schools.

Student speakers, drawing car honks and applause from passers-by, also urged passage of bills that would improve indoor and outdoor air quality, create a "polluter pay" climate superfund, place a moratorium on new natural gas facilities or expansions, establish a zero carbon renovation fund to slash building emissions, and make legislative committee votes public, among other policies.

Orlee Bracha, who's on a gap year following her graduation from Brookline High School, said it's her fifth year being involved in the coalition.

"Every year, we have consistently seen bills not being voted for, or bills almost being brought into law, and it's so frustrating, yet motivating, to keep coming back and advocating for these bills," Bracha said. "Specifically one of my passions is for transparency. Massachusetts is one of the least transparent governments in the country, meaning that we often don't have access to the information about a bill or who is voting for or against these bills, and that's one of the focuses of this lobby week."

The so-called "Sunlight Act" (S 1963), sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, was reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Rules last week and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill would also require committee hearings to be scheduled at least one week in advance and subject the governor's office to the public records law.

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