Baker signs bill creating maternal health commission

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A new state commission, established under a law Governor Charlie Baker signed Wednesday, will be tasked with seeking out steps to address racial inequities in maternal health.

The panel will explore ways to reduce or eliminate inequities in maternal mortality or “severe maternal morbidity” and investigate barriers to accessing prenatal and postpartum care, the availability of doulas and birthing centers, and the impacts of “historical and current structural, institutional and individual forms of racism.”

In a statement issued last week after the bill (H 4818) cleared the Legislature, Sen. Becca Rausch said Black people giving birth in Massachusetts are twice as likely as their white counterparts to die due to complications during and after childbirth, and Rep. Liz Miranda said the bill “allows us to approach the maternal mortality crisis as both a racial justice and public health issue by seeking to understand both the socioeconomic determinants of health while also tackling the issue of racism head-on.”

The 27-member commission will have until March 2022 to file a report, recommendations and any draft legislation.

Continuing to work his way through the pile of bills passed in the final hours of the previous legislative session, the governor on Wednesday also signed an array of bills that mostly address local matters. They are:

  • H 4244 providing for certain tax assessments and pilot assessments for solar and wind systems in Mattapoisett;
  • H 5082 authorizing the town of Kingston to establish a special fund to process activity produced by non-town net metering;
  • H 5021 designating a certain bridge in the town of Rehoboth as the 1st Lt. Craig H. Waterman Memorial Bridge;
  • H 5221 authorizing the town of Athol to establish a special fund for the town of Athol Public Library;
  • S 2972 providing for the permanent protection and stewardship of Lampson Brook Farm in Belchertown;
  • H 4408 designating a certain bridge as the Corporal Orie. D.W. Sampson Jr. Memorial Bridge;
  • H 4904 exempting Richard Bruno and Michael Soltys from the maximum age requirement for firefighters in the town of North Andover;
  • H 5204 providing for a gender neutral charter in the town of Lynnfield;
  • H 5231 authorizing the commissioner of DCAMM to convey a certain parcel of land in the city of Northampton;
  • H 5233 authorizing the town of Saugus to designate a check-box on its municipal tax bills or motor vehicle excise bills for the Saugus Emergency Relief Fund;
  • H 5234 amending the charter for the town of Chatham;
  • H 5243 authorizing Quincy College to confer Baccalaureate Degrees;
  • H 5157 relative to property tax deferrals in the town of Lexington;
  • H 5010 relative to the Board of Selectmen in the town of Maynard.

As of Wednesday night, Baker had not yet acted on the climate change bill for which he faces a Thursday deadline. House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka said in a joint statement Wednesday that if he does not sign the bill, they are “united in our intention to refile and pass the conference committee bill in its entirety and get it onto the Governor’s desk in the coming days.”

With a new Legislature in session, Baker would have the opportunity to offer amendments to any bills that arrive on his desk this month.

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