Massachusetts Genealogical Council
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How a Bill Becomes a Law
MGC is willing to provide workshops about how a bill becomes a law. The workshop focuses on the times that are most effective for citizens to discuss upcoming bills with legislators.
2019-2020: The 191st General Court
Now that the two-year 191st Legislative Session is off and running, I’ve been working to identify the newly submitted legislation that might have an impact on genealogists. At the same time, I’ve been coming up to speed on the skill set I need to do this job, including navigation of the legislature’s website and using a smartphone app to follow legislation. I want to express my appreciation to the Lawyers Clearinghouse for their free seminar on the Massachusetts State Lobbying Law for Nonprofits. Not only did it cover important legal points but I also made a great contact in one of the presenters who gave me many things to think about on strategy.
I hope you stopped by our booth at NERGC Thursday 4th and Friday 5th. We had printed Massachusetts legislation that MGC is following and had copies available to conference attendees in order to expose them first-hand the actual verbiage as well as the process.
By the time of the Summer issue of the newsletter, I hope to report on activities involving outreach both to my local legislator and to the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association. Keep tuned as well to learn about our plans in the works for a members-only event in Boston, under a dome, a golden dome. It’s all still in the planning stage, but we’re thinking of you and your needs as we plan this.
APRIL 2019 OBSERVATIONS: Current identified legislation MGC is following have new bill numbers and have moved forward in process and span sundry committees: Public Health (no upcoming hearings), Judiciary (meet hearing April 30th), Transportation (no upcoming hearings), Financial Services (May 2nd), State Administration and Regulatory Oversight (no upcoming hearings), Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure (April 29th) . Matters that address electronic communications, such as email, are complex in current form.
ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES OF BIRTH FOR ADOPTEES
For adoptees doing genealogical research, life is complicated. They have the certificate of birth showing their adoptive parents as their parents. However, if they do genetic genealogy, they have no certificate of birth on which to base their relationships. Gaining access to the information on their original (pre-adoption) certificate of birth will lend accuracy and speed to their process.
During Deval Patrick’s term of office as governor, he signed into law an act to permit some Massachusetts adoptees to obtain a copy of their original certificate of birth. This copy does not bear an indicia and couldn’t be used as identification, but it does contain the information a researcher needs. That act, however, left a donut hole you could drive a truck through. Adoptees born between 17 July 1974, and 1 January 2008, were not permitted access except by court order.
For this session, two submitted bills have lots of support from other legislators, both called “An Act Granting Equal Access to Original Certificates of Birth to All Persons Born in Massachusetts.” Both bills have been sent to the Joint Committee on Public Health for study and a hearing. Sen. Anne. M. Gobi submitted S 1267 which now has fifteen other senators supporting it. Rep. Sean Garbally and Rep. Daniel Culinane submitted H 1892 which now has 41 other representatives supporting it. With such strong, bipartisan support, adoptees in the donut hole might be successful in gaining the same access rights as other adoptees in Massachusetts.
There are several rights groups involved in a nationwide effort to open Original Certificates of Birth. A group called Bastard Nation has a Massachusetts information page http://bastards.org/states-mass/.
The Department of Public Health has a list of eligibility requirements https://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-eligibility-to-get-a-pre-adoption-birth-record, and application forms and instructions https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-a-pre-adoption-birth-record for people who are already able to obtain their original certificates of birth.
ARCHIVES RECORDS OPEN AFTER 75 YEARS
MGC initiated efforts several years ago to open records at the state archives after a period of time has elapsed. That effort was taken up by William F. Galvin, the Secretary of State, whose petition was submitted by Rep. Angelo M. Scaccia as H 2779, “An Act relating to access to public records.” The bill has also been assigned to the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.
OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS AND MARRIAGES
Since the 1930s, adults and children born out-of-wedlock have been stigmatized by the way their birth and marriage records are handled by town and city clerks and the vital statistics registry. They are closed records in an open records state. MGC initiated efforts to end this stigmatization several legislative sessions ago. In the 191st session, we see that the efforts have gained steam.
Rep. Michael J. Moran introduced bill H 2751, “An Act relative to restricted vital records.” Five representatives are co-sponsoring. It has been referred to the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee.
MGC knows of no other state that limits records access specifically for this issue.
THIS JUST IN
The Boston Globe has used the Freedom of Information Act to request a digitized index to Massachusetts birth records. During its first court proceeding, the Globe lost to the vital statistics office’s concern that records available in print might be misused in digital form. Recently the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court developed a list of questions for the local judge and the decision has been sent back.
C. Yvonne Hickey
Civil Records Director, State, firstname.lastname@example.org, 857 241 6317 / 508 208 5556
Bill Status Updates, 191st Session
Download the November 2019 Update on Bill Statuses from Yvonne.
Visit the Adoptee Rights Law Center to see the current status for Mass. adoptees.
C. Yvonne Hickey
Our hardworking volunteer Massachu-setts Civil Records Director is always found in the thick of things. This Red Sox fan from birth is partnered with a NY Yankees fan, but nonetheless has total household commitment to the Bruins and New England Patriots. When not working for Xerox, traveling, cheering her heroes, or attending genealogy society meetings, Yvonne stops by the statehouse on Beacon Hill, searches the bill database, tracks activities on the bills we're concerned about, and makes sure we all know about it. The Program Committee would be lost without her graphics creativity and marketing skills. Thank you Yvonne for all your volunteer time!