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For More 'Equitable City,' Walsh Is Bringing 14 Bills — Several On Housing — Before Beacon Hill

With a focus on economic opportunity, housing security, inclusion and equity across the city, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Monday announced a bundle of 14 bills he plans to put before the state Legislature this session.

Walsh's "housing security and economic mobility" package includes legislation to allow the city to make changes to the program linking commercial developments to housing production, prohibit no-fault evictions for people older than 75, and expand the number of liquor licenses for the city.

Walsh's legislative bundle also includes bills that would require all companies with more than 100 employees to report the gender and race of certain managers to a new public state database, and to require the state to consider an employer's record of violations of health and safety standards, wage laws, civil rights laws and more before awarding a contract.

Also among the 14 bills Walsh announced are a handful with a statewide focus, including a bill to increase the deeds fees that fund the Community Preservation Trust Fund, legislation to essentially make Boston's tuition-free community college program available statewide, a bill to further expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a proposal to establish a statewide Commission on Tourism and Arts and Culture Investment.

The mayor's office said Walsh's agenda "serves all people of Massachusetts through its focus on equity and opportunity, ensuring Boston and Massachusetts' growth benefits all communities in the Commonwealth."

"Boston and the Commonwealth succeed when everyone has a chance to move forward," Walsh, a former state representative who is often mentioned as a future candidate for higher office, said in a statement.

Walsh is proposing a statewide replica of Boston's Tuition-Free Community College (TFCC) program, which currently serves 295 Boston students attending Bunker Hill, Roxbury or MassBay community colleges. Walsh's office said the program's students have a graduation rate of 70 percent.

The mayor is also pitching the elimination of a state cap on welfare benefits for families who have another child while already receiving public assistance. Last year, the state Legislature passed legislation to lift the cap on benefits but it was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Baker, who said he does not oppose lifting the cap but wanted it tied to changes to the way transitional aid to families with dependent children is calculated.

The Campaign to Lift the Cap on Kids said a family of three with no other income receives $593 a month in welfare benefits but would receive just $491 if one of the children is excluded by the existing state cap.

"We thank Mayor Walsh for recognizing that economic mobility has to start with meeting children's basic needs," Deborah Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said in a statement. "We hope the Legislature will move quickly to Lift the Cap on Kids — again — so children do not have to wait even longer for a clean diaper or winter boots."

On the housing front, Walsh is asking the state to sign off on allowing the city to formalize programs that generate affordable housing or funding towards affordable housing from commercial or residential developments. He is also seeking to provide certain low-income tenants who are facing eviction with a court-appointed attorney and to provide some tenant associations with the right of first refusal to purchase residential rental properties at fair market value.

The mayor's office said the housing-related bills expand upon "the work that Boston has done to address the region's affordable housing crisis and proposing new and existing tools to leverage Boston's prosperity and create sustainable wealth opportunities for a more inclusive and equitable city."

"Strengthening tools like the Inclusionary Development Program and Linkage to ensure that Boston will be able to build income-restricted housing in the future represents great forward-thinking," Association of Community Development Corporations President and CEO Joe Kreisberg said in a statement released by Walsh's office. "We'd like to see more cities and towns utilize these tools to build more affordable housing in their communities, and to adopt the needed tenant protections the package offers to the Commonwealth's most vulnerable households."

Walsh's office did not respond Monday to a News Service request for copies of the 14 bills the mayor announced he would file. His office said the package is the first of four the mayor plans to file.

Two years ago, Walsh announced that his state legislative agenda was to focus on measures to prevent the displacement of Boston residents by expanding tenants' rights, rewarding good landlords, and creating additional funding for affordable housing, and on "comprehensive education finance reform."

After being unable to reach an agreement to adjust the education funding formula last session, the topic is again on the legislative agenda this year, and Walsh is expected to join advocates, educators and state lawmakers Wednesday to promote legislation to reform the formula.

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