Six months in, Miranda discusses maternal health fund and reparations bill

A $50 billion-plus state budget. A push to electrify the Fairmount Line. A proposed commission to study reparations in Massachusetts. Six months into her job as a state senator, sitting in a seat of “Black power and Black community here in Boston,” Liz Miranda has a list of things she’s working on that contains more than those three agenda items.

After winning last fall’s election to replace Sonia Chang-Diaz as the state senator for the Second Suffolk District (Roxbury, and parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park), Miranda became one of 40 lawmakers in the Legislature’s upper house. “Now as a freshman senator, I feel strongly I can make a big impact,” she told the Reporter in a recent interview.

Miranda, who serves on four times the number of committees she sat on as a state representative, when she was one of 160 members of the House – chairs the Joint Committee on Racial Equity and Civil and is a member of the budget-writing Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

In the interview, she touted several items that she worked to get into the Senate version of the budget that House and Senate lawmakers are currently hashing out to send as a final version to Gov. Healey’s desk, though it will be late; the new fiscal year started on July 1. Lawmakers have approved a minibudget that funds services through the end of July as a stopgap measure.

Miranda pointed to a $1 million fund now in the Senate version that is aimed at helping the development of nonprofit birth centers at a time when Massachusetts has just one birth center in operation. The fund’s money would prioritize centers that serve areas with high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Miranda, who pushed through the amendment, said Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women.

Separately, a bill that she filed with East Boston state Sen. Lydia Edwards to spur the electrification of the Fairmount commuter rail line cleared the Transportation Committee in June and has moved on to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill also calls for “frequent and affordable” service on the line, which runs between South Station and Readville and has multiple stops in Dorchester and Mattapan.

Miranda noted that with the “slow zones” plaguing the Red Line and other parts of the MBTA, the commuter rail lines are seeing an increase in passengers, since it’s a quick ride to where the jobs are downtown. Electrification of the line would shorten the commute even further, she said, and would also reduce air pollution, since the current engines run on diesel.

Another Miranda bill that is in the early stages of making its way through Beacon Hill calls for a nine-member commission to study reparations in Massachusetts. Filed jointly with Mattapan state Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley, the bill notes that reparations can take multiple forms, including compensation, care, and services beyond monetary payments, and public apologies for slavery and racism.

Miranda said that while Massachusetts often touts its abolitionist history, the Bay State profited from the transatlantic slave trade. Higher education institutions, locally and nationally, including Harvard University, have started to look into into their ties to the slave trade, she added.

“I believe Black people are owed at least the telling of truth but also the reparative justice to right the wrongs,” said Miranda, who is Cape Verdean.

The city of Boston has a reparations task force underway, with members appointed last February and recommendations to be released next year. The town of Amherst, in Western Massachusetts, has its own panel.

“I believe strongly that when we help and address issues of systemic barriers, it impacts all of us,” Miranda said. “It helps all of us.”

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

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