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2009-2010 Legislative Testimony

The following are examples of legislative testimony provided on behalf of NASW-MA during the 2009-2010 legislative session:

  • Casinos / Slots in Massachusetts
    Rebekah Gewirtz, June 2010

  • Education Parity Act (In-State Tuition) HB 1175 & SB 603
    Rebekah Gewirtz, January 2010

  • An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes HB 1728
    Melissa Savage, July 2009

Casinos / Slots in Massachusetts

June 8, 2010
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony opposing Casinos and Slots:

Dear Chairman Panagiotakos and Honorable Members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee:

Thank you for holding this hearing today and for the opportunity to testify before you on this critically important issue to the future of the Commonwealth. NASW MA-Chapter, a statewide organization and part of the largest professional association of social workers in the world, is opposed to introducing casino gambling in Massachusetts. We came to this decision after significant study of the costs and benefits and ultimately determined that the social and economic consequences are too high to justify the introduction of this industry to Massachusetts.

First and foremost, we are deeply concerned that government would seek to partner with an industry that is arguably one of the most predatory industries in America today. This is an industry that seeks to capitalize on people’s losses and addiction by harnessing a technology—in the form of slot machines—designed so that people "play to extinction”…until they have nothing left. The term "play to extinction” is an industry term, not a term created by us and it’s a term we have thought a lot about throughout the course of this debate. Social workers spend their lives analyzing social problems and the root causes of these problems. Where there is poverty, we ask why? Where there is crime, we ask why? Where there is addiction, we ask how come?

Not only do we seek to understand root causes but our members spend their lives trying to correct these wrongs, with very little fanfare. And today we are stepping forward to tell you we know the consequences of pathological gambling. And we know from all the empirical evidence that casinos will not solve our problems. In every other state and in every other region that has introduced casinos they have led to broken lives and shattered dreams. Casinos lure people in and keep them there by getting them to sit at slot machines, where they sometimes pour their children’s college savings or their own life savings into the machine. When there’s nothing left there are ripple effects throughout a person’s life with consequences on their job, their spouse, their relatives, their children, and their community.

A 1999 National Gambling Impact Study commissioned by the United States Congress documented increases in domestic violence and foreclosures in regions where casinos are introduced. And indeed the total cost of regional impacts and social services are not known, but estimated in the multi-millions. For people who live within a 50 mile radius of casinos, at least one out of every twenty becomes a gambling addict leading to personal financial ruin, the breakup of families, domestic violence, and child neglect.

It’s important to note that NASW MA Chapter has always been on the forefront of raising revenue in the commonwealth and advocating side by side with our brothers and sisters in labor for good jobs with fair wages. In 2006, we worked tirelessly on the successful campaign to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts and two years ago we led the coalition of statewide groups working to close corporate tax loopholes in Massachusetts. When the governor signed that bill into law, the commonwealth started saving $300 million per year. We have also stood by you for difficult revenue votes last year and have supported efforts you have undertaken to try to balance the budget.

However, on this we cannot stand with you. We know that casinos will not bring in anywhere near the kind of revenue these other initiatives have raised and we know the jobs estimates are bloated too. Indeed, a September 2009 report entitled, "For the First Time, a Smaller Jackpot: An Economic, Fiscal, & Social Analysis” commissioned by the Nelson A Rockefeller Institute found that casinos have contributed to not helped states’ fiscal meltdowns. And in addition, the Wall Street Journal notes, "a growing body of research and experience suggests the odds are not stacked in the state’s favor” when it comes to economic development. Even New Jersey, with its 17 casinos, had to shut down its state government due to a budget crisis.

The casino proposal, while laudable for it’s recognition that jobs are essential and revenue is needed, will not solve the problems it seeks to remedy. In fact, we are quite certain this proposal will only exacerbate our existing troubles and create more economic turbulence, more problems for families, and create more addiction than our state can afford to try to remedy.

We also fundamentally believe it is antithetical to the role of government to bank on people losing their money in order for the state to gain. Government is supposed to lift people up, not tear people down. We understand that some argue we already have a lottery here in Massachusetts. But we would contend the lottery isn’t designed so people "play to extinction”. The lottery doesn’t have ergonomically correct seating at slot machines that allow you to play 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year.

Today we are asking you to be like social workers. We are asking to ask yourself, who pays the price for the money raised at casinos? We all know someone pays. And it’s likely not just one addicted gambler. It’s their family, their children and their community too. As you enter this debate, we hope you will constantly be thinking about who pays.

We implore you to reject this proposal.


Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

Education Parity Act (In-State Tuition) (HB 1175 & SB 603)

January 2010
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of HB 1175/ SB 603: Education Parity Act (In-State Tuition):

On January 27, 2010, the Joint Committee on Higher Education held a hearing on the bill where Rebekah Gewirtz testified:

"NASW-MA Chapter has always strongly supported this bill for several reasons. First and foremost, each year hundreds of high achieving students, many of whom have lived in Massachusetts for most of their lives, are unable to pursue higher education because of their immigration status. The Commonwealth invests in these same students K-12 only to see them consigned to low wage jobs after high school since many cannot afford out of state tuition rates and do not qualify for loans. This barrier limits their earning potential and over the long term unnecessarily handicaps our state financially. Other states like Texas, Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska (to name just a few) have recognized the advantage of providing in state tuition to immigrants and have reaped the benefits of doing so.

"…Currently, students without permanent legal status must pay out of state tuition to attend universities and colleges in Massachusetts, which costs three to five times more than in state tuition. This denies students the opportunity to invest in the Bay State’s institutions of higher education and in turn the state and its colleges and universities miss out on the opportunity to fill empty seats in classrooms and increase revenue for their schools. The social work profession recognizes that a college education not only improves students’ chances at personal advancement but simultaneously benefits the Commonwealth and our future workforce."

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes (HB 1728)

July 2009
Melissa Savage

Testimony in support of HB 1728: An Act Relative to Gender Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes:

In July 2009, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on HB1728. NASW was asked to be on a panel to express the mental health standpoint on transgender discrimination and Melissa Savage testified:

"In my work as a social worker, I hear the stories of trauma experienced in the form of verbal abuse, sexual harassment, physical abuse, sexual assault, hate crimes, homelessness, military discharges, job loss and emotional abuse to name just a few and have witnessed the impact of discrimination, harassment, oppression, and violence in the lives of transgender people on a daily basis.

"...I have worked with at least 6 men who live with permanent head injuries as a result of being severely beaten, targeted for appearing effeminate or acting outside gender norms. Their lives were impacted in numerous ways that affected their emotional, physical and mental health. Several men found it difficult to leave their homes and feared harassment and physical assault when out in public, going to the grocery store or bank or when attending outpatient appointments. Symptoms of trauma such as depression, fear, anxiety, panic, insomnia and withdrawal from others impeded their ability to look for a job, function in social situations, and enjoy activities they previously had engaged in. Effects of gender identity-based hate crimes permeated all aspects of life and became financially, socially, mentally and physically devastating for them….HB 1728 represents a message of hope for a safer, more inclusive and productive society. Ending discrimination leads to healthcare savings, supports a healthier economy, and improves the quality of life for everyone."

Melissa Savage
Co-chair, LGBT Committee, NASW MA Chapter

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