The Legislature has passed a bill creating a commission to study the issue of bullying in public housing complexes, an issue raised by Attleboro residents over the years.
State Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, said he has been pushing for action for 2 1/2 years after hearing from residents.
He said City Councilor Richard Conti helped raise awareness of the issue in 2013, when he brought Attleboro residents with him to a hearing on Beacon Hill on the subject.
The bill mandates that a commission study the issue and recommend guidelines for anti-bullying policies.
A coalition of groups that advocated for the bill said elderly and disabled residents are often harassed and threatened in housing complexes.
Jonathan Gale, co-coordinator of the Stop Bullying Coalition, said the bill could help the situation.
“Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of people with disabilities find themselves living in public housing because they rely on a fixed government supported income,” he said.
“All too often, simply because of their disability, they are the victims of bullying, not only by other tenants, but by management as well. Now, for the first time, thanks to the hard work of our coalition partners and the positive response of the Legislature, we can finally start the process of listening, learning, educating, and putting into place laws and regulations that will give all of us the opportunity to live in a safe home and community.”
Heroux said the problem often comes down to residents not respecting boundaries.
For instance, he said one issue he was made aware of was residents threatening others so they would not have to share public spaces such as laundry rooms.
Heroux said he had filed a separate bill that would have required all public housing authorities to adopt policies dealing with bullying, but was agreeable to having a commission develop guidelines first.
The passage of the bill was one of the late-night moves by the Legislature over the weekend as its session came to a close.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said most of the big bills that were pending ended up getting approved, some at the last minute.
She said they included legislation involving economic development, ride-sharing services such as Uber and energy.
“It’s a crazy place. Everything seems to come together at the last moment,” she said of the midnight session at the Statehouse.
“Tremendous concessions” had to be made to get the Senate and House to agree on items such as the energy bill, she said. The bill has incentives for offshore wind power and purchasing hydroelectric power from Canada, a priority of Gov. Charlie Baker.
Heroux said there are positive aspects to the energy bill, but he was disappointed it did not do anything to support solar power.
State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, said the bill could help bring down the state’s high energy costs by providing new sources of power, but it will take time for powerlines and towers to be erected to carry the power to Massachusetts.
Poirier said one concern of hers is that the Legislature overrode so many of Baker’s budget cuts.
She said her concern is that if state revenue remains sluggish, larger cuts will have to be made halfway through the budget year.
Howitt said he tried to weigh the value of each veto being voted on.
For instance, as a member of a committee on tourism, he voted to override a veto of funding for cultural councils. He said he knows the funding pays dividends for the state.
Howitt said he was disappointed House and Senate conferees could not come to an agreement on a “non-compete” bill. The legislation would have eased restrictions some companies impose on employees who want to take jobs with competitors.