Legislators Return to Beacon Hill, and ‘It Feels So Good'

Legislators are returning to vote or attend events that are attracting activists and advocates again

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The lunch counter is back at the Capitol Coffeehouse, a favorite of lawmakers steps from the Massachusetts Statehouse -- a bug indication normalcy is starting to return to Beacon Hill.

"Every week we will see an improvement from the previous week," Capitol Coffeehouse owner Sam Maione said.

And while the statehouse is still not open to the public and many are still working from home, legislators are returning to vote or attend events that are attracting activists and advocates again.

"It feels so good to be back at the statehouse," state Rep. Jake Oliveira said.

He is appreciating the break from Zoom calls, too: "It's nice to interact with your colleagues instead of seeing them in a little box on the screen."

State Rep. Vanna Howard returned to the statehouse for the first time since she was sworn in back in January. And she has a clear focus: "Equity, equity, equity."

Latoyia Edwards is joined by a panel of changemakers who take a deep dive into systemic racism in our area from classroom to career. They delve into the problems, what is being done, what needs to be done, and we shine a light on beacons of hope, one of which is Nativity Prep in Jamaica Plain.

Lawmakers say equity is more than just a buzzword. Especially since the racial unrest that surfaced following the death of George Floyd last year.

"Things were exposed. But even though I say the word exposed, they've always been there," state Rep. Kipp Diggs of Barnstable said.

Former state Rep. Marty Walz said, "The pandemic has revealed the inequities in our society. And the legislature is responding."

Walz is not surprised that police reform became a priority last year and that laws relative to mail-in voting, remote participation in town meetings and telehealth were being debated Thursday.

"Whether it's housing, whether it's tax policy, whether it's education funding," she said.

State Sen. Diana DiZoglio said that, while many felt the legislative process had become inaccessible, "today, we are seeing that that is shifting. People are starting to come back out again and they're demanding to be heard."

A bill that would extend the life of several pandemic-era policies passed in the Senate Thursday and is now headed for a vote in the House.

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