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MA Rep. Farley-Bouvier to chair joint committee on internet, cybersecurity

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, speaking at an October 2021 campaign event for fellow State Rep. Paul Mark.
Josh Landes
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, speaking at an October 2021 campaign event for fellow State Rep. Paul Mark.

With committee assignments distributed, the three Democrats who make up the Berkshire delegation in the Massachusetts House are taking stock of their new positions. John Barrett of the 1st Berkshire District is chair of the House Committee on Ethics, Smitty Pignatelli of the 3rd Berkshire District sits on five committees ranging from education to tourism, and Tricia Farley-Bouvier of the 2nd Berkshire District has been named chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity. The state representative from Pittsfield also has her name on dozens of bills the body will consider during 2023 and 2024. Farley-Bouvier spoke with WAMC about the legislation she’s backing, her new leadership role, and more.

FARLEY-BOUVIER: So, I have been named chair of the advanced technology, IT, and cybersecurity committee. It's a joint committee, so I have a Senate co-chair. That appointment was made by Speaker Ron Mariano. And, you know, it's- The responsibilities are right there in the title. But what I find pretty exciting is the fact that there's so much that touches each person's, each person in the commonwealth’s life within that committee, right? So, there's public safety in this from national security issues to youth safety in that, and youth mental health. There's consumer protection, everything from ID theft, scams, a big issue around privacy when it comes to advanced technology. And then economic development and workforce issues. So, advanced technology is sort of the precursor for the next disrupter in our economy, right? So, looking forward to digging into all those issues.

WAMC: Now, in that capacity, do you receive briefings on cybersecurity threats that folks in Massachusetts might face?

I'm sure I will, yes.

Looking around the other committees handed out, anything stand out to you for your constituents in Western Mass as far as interesting appointments that might impact people's lives out in Berkshire County?

Well, I think the people of the Berkshires can feel very good about the fact that every one of their representatives are in key leadership positions, are voices at the table, when it comes to what is happening in the legislature.

Now, you've already sponsored or co-sponsored a number of bills this session. Walk us through some of them, what do you want to draw attention to? A number of them cover sort of classic Farley-Bouvier issues around the fostering world, things of that nature? What do you want to draw attention to that you're working on?

So yes, as you said, I do have quite a portfolio within the child welfare space. And I'll be working together with colleagues to really get into how we can make real structural change when it comes to how we approach caring for and protecting our most vulnerable children. I'm also doing some deep work – this isn't necessarily a bill, but – deep work on early education, especially the funding of early education, and more particularly paying our educators. And within that work, bringing equity to how these programs are funded. There is great disparity across the state about reimbursement from the commonwealth. Programs in Boston are reimbursed quite differently than programs in the Berkshires, for example. And I do have a new bill that I have not worked on before, and that is on human trafficking, which is a scourge across our commonwealth and our nation that people don't really like to talk about too much.

One bill making headlines from the House this session is HD 3822, an act to establish the Massachusetts incarcerated individual bone marrow and organ donation program where incarcerated folks in Massachusetts could see their sentences reduced if they agree to donate bone marrow and organs. What's your take on that? Do you support the bill? What are your thoughts on it?

So, I certainly have a lot of questions about it. I think it is particularly interesting that it has been filed by leaders in the Black and Latino caucus. That gives me an extra pause to say, instead of rejecting it outright, to say, this is something I'm going to talk to my colleagues about to better understand it. But it is not a bill that I feel comfortable with. I think that just has way too many red flags to that one.

Could you break down what those red flags are to you?

It just feels like taking advantage of very vulnerable people. And the idea that people who are in a very difficult spot- I guess, I would present it as maybe the lowest point in their lives, and then the idea that we're going to sell an organ or bone marrow for a lighter sentence, it doesn't add up to me. It just doesn't- It just, I feel like, would be too open to abuse.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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