PROVINCETOWN — As the deadline for filing legislation came into view last Friday, state Rep. Sarah Peake had turned in a number of bills to be considered by the Mass. legislature in its 192nd session.
Among the Provincetown Democrat’s submissions are two climate risk-related bills, a ban on helium balloons, limitations on data collected by automated license-plate readers, and a home rule petition to institute a 0.5-percent real estate transfer fee in Provincetown.
Peake said the American Civil Liberties Union had approached her about filing the bill limiting the use of data collected by license-plate-reading cameras. Data are collected in more ways than just by traffic cameras in fixed positions, like those on the Sagamore and Bourne bridges, she explained.
“There are private companies with cameras who drive around looking to find cars to be repoed,” Peake said. “They collect tons and tons of data and sell it.”
The bill would prohibit the use of license-plate-reader systems to track or monitor activities protected by the First Amendment. It would also prohibit keeping the data longer than 14 days, except in connection with a specific criminal investigation. It would limit access to the automated license reader data except as required by court proceedings, and would make it hard to obtain without a valid warrant.
Use of the controversial traffic camera system — a statewide network of cameras monitored by the state police — has been temporarily halted since late December because of a technology glitch. The date and time stamps recorded by the machines were found to be inaccurate going back as far as five years, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
On climate risk issues, Peake refiled a sustainable development and infrastructure bill that would integrate current climate science into residential and commercial building codes. It directs the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to work with the state’s Div. of Professional Licensure on that. The purpose is to take into consideration the potential for coastal and inland flooding and the effects of extreme temperature changes.
The bill would also give communities the option of setting their own floodplain maps, as long as they are stricter than the federal maps used for flood insurance purposes. The local maps would regulate land use and building codes, not insurance rates, Peake said.
A second climate-related bill filed by Peake would institute a state flood-risk protection program. Under the program, the state would purchase from willing owners coastal properties that have repeatedly flooded in the past or are projected to flood in the future. The properties would be kept as open space.
Noting the high cost of coastal real estate, Peake said acquisition of those kinds of properties “will probably be too much for a state trust fund to handle.” She believes, however, it could provide a way to protect certain areas such as marshes, estuaries, and natural barriers.
Students in the Provincetown Schools will be glad to hear that Peake is taking another shot at passage of a statewide ban on helium balloons. Provincetown, along with a handful of other communities on Cape Cod, already has a local ban in place. And the state bill was drafted after a presentation by a group of Provincetown elementary school students in 2017 on the effects of helium balloons on wildlife.
“I worked with the class on the bill and we filed it,” Peake said. “It was kicked to study in the past two sessions, but this time it may have more interest. I’m hoping the third time’s the charm.”
There is also an omnibus bill on waste reduction that is expected to include a ban on helium balloons, she said.
Among a handful of home rule petitions Peake has filed is a proposed 0.5-percent fee on all real estate transfers in Provincetown, to be paid by the buyer. The first $250,000 collected would be placed in a capital improvement stabilization fund. Any money beyond that initial $250,000 would go into the town’s general fund.
Peake received a promotion earlier this month: House Speaker Ron Mariano appointed her second assistant majority leader — a step up from her previous position as third division chair. Peake called it “an honor and privilege to be part of the leadership and to climb up a rung.
“With Julian [Cyr] in the leadership in the Senate, and me in the leadership in the House, it gives an outsized voice relative to the size of our district,” she said.