PROVINCETOWN — State Rep. Sarah Peake’s ninth term on Beacon Hill will be her last, she announced last week. Peake, 66, a Democrat who lives in Provincetown and whose Fourth Barnstable District includes the four Outer Cape towns plus Orleans, Chatham, and Harwich, is the second assistant majority leader. She was first elected to the Mass. House in 2006.
“I think every adult makes a decision that there comes a time to retire and go do other things. And for me, this is the year that it feels like it’s right,” Peake told the Independent on Tuesday, speaking from Washington, D.C., where she was attending a conference as the Mass. legislative commissioner on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Her Outer Cape colleague, state Sen. Julian Cyr of Truro, had gotten a heads-up about Peake’s retirement, he said. “When I found out, I was emotional,” he said. “I got a little teary-eyed. Sarah has been the most invaluable partner.”
With close to a year left in the legislative term, Peake said she is looking ahead to what she can accomplish in her final term, which ends on Dec. 31.
One priority, she said, is to maintain “a high level of constituent services,” responding to people who are struggling with issues related to unemployment insurance, MassHealth, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. That boils down to “untangling the red tape that sometimes exists in state government,” Peake said.
Peake’s other focus for the term is getting Gov. Maura Healey’s housing bill “over the goal line.” Among the bill’s key elements is a real estate transfer fee on sales above a certain price threshold.
Peake said that the specifics of the transfer fee still need to be worked out: “We’re going to have to take a look at how much, who pays, and make sure that the guardrails around how it can be spent are going to address what our needs are.”
Housing policy is also a priority for Cyr: “I’m excited to get some pretty significant housing policy passed, including a transfer fee,” he told the Independent about the current legislative term. “Sarah is going to be crucial to getting this done in the House.”
Peake said she wants to ensure that funds collected from the transfer fee go toward workforce housing that isn’t limited to those earning less than 120 percent of area median income. “As we know, there are people who are making 180 percent of area median income who can’t afford a place to live on the Outer Cape,” she said.
A press release from Peake’s office stated: “During her tenure in office, Rep. Peake was instrumental in enacting legislation ensuring that: marriage equality was preserved; abortions are safe and legal; Massachusetts has the strongest gun safety laws in the nation; and that Massachusetts is aggressively combatting climate change, including with offshore renewable wind energy.”
Speaking to the Independent this week, Peake admitted that the Cape’s abortion access crisis is far from solved. She cited “several conversations” with Dept. of Public Health Commissioner Robbie Goldstein about the danger of what are commonly referred to as crisis pregnancy centers.
Under Goldstein, DPH is “spending money on an outreach effort so that people know what charlatans these abortion counseling centers are,” Peake said. “They are people who are anti-choice, and that is what their sole aim is. They’re not any kind of clinic.”
Peake blamed the federal law known as the Hyde Amendment for the fact that only one clinic on Cape Cod offers prescriptions for medication abortion. Community health centers like Outer Cape Health Services have argued that they are prevented by that law from providing any kind of abortion care.
Peake said of the Hyde Amendment, “I think, on my next trip to D.C., I need to talk to my friends and colleagues down here about eliminating it.”
Reproductive health-care access, Peake said, is “something that we, and whoever my successor is, will have to stay very vigilant on.”
Gun regulations are also on Peake’s radar for this term. The House passed a bill in October that would address gun laws related to licensing, training, and registration, and “put more meat on the bones around the Red Flag law issues,” Peake said. These are also known as extreme risk prevention orders. The bill is in the Senate now, which Peake said is likely to pass a similar version.
“If history informs the present, we’ll have a conference committee and get it over the goal line by the 31st of July,” Peake said.
Cyr described Peake as “someone who had the courage to step up and run as an openly LGBTQ person at a time when very few of us were in office.” Her leadership inspired him “and scores of others,” he said.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” she said, “but it’s also time for me to step back and step down and let somebody else take us onward.”
In her press statement, Peake said, “It has been my honor to be there for my constituents when they needed help untangling the red tape of state government, and to help craft legislation making sure our environment, economy, and way of life can thrive here on the Outer and Lower Cape.”
“Those aren’t empty words,” Peake told the Independent.
Peake lives in Provincetown — “the greatest town in the world,” she said — with her wife, Lynn Mogell. Post-retirement, Peake plans to “enjoy all that Provincetown has to offer,” she said. “Stay tuned for whatever else might be next.”