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Senator Patricia Jehlen was first elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 2005. She represents the Second Middlesex district, which includes Medford, Somerville, Winchester, and Cambridge. She is Senate Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Education. She is Co-chair of the MBTA Caucus and chair of the Mystic River Caucus. She also serves on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Healthcare Financing, Housing, and the Judiciary.
Jehlen represents the Senate on the Special Commission and the Supportive Housing MOU Working Group. She recently served on the Long Term Care Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the committee on Adult Day Health and the Expert Panel on End of Life Care at the Department of Public Health.
Jehlen's top legislative priorities are equitable and excellent education, universal and affordable health care, and jobs with decent wages and benefits, including earned sick time. In the area of elder services, her priority making sure that seniors of all income levels can find housing and services that meet their needs, whether in the community or in institutions.
In August 2012, Gov. Patrick signed Jehlen's animal control bill. This legislation was a priority for many groups that advocate for animal welfare including MSPCA, the Humane Society, the Animal Control Officers Association, the Animal Rescue League, the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association and others. It will improve animal control officer training, paid for through a voluntary tax check off on tax returns. It prohibits cruel methods of euthanasia for dogs and cats, defines “dangerous dogs” based on their behavior not their breed, and standardizes the holding time for stray animals before they can be re-homed which will save municipalities money and allow these animals to find new and loving homes more quickly. It also updates laws and fines that have not been updated in the last 30 to 70 years. Senator Katherine Clark added an amendment to include pets in protective orders. This will protect both victims and animals, as pets are frequently used as a means of control in domestic violence situations.
In July 2012, Gov. Patrick signed the budget, which contained Jehlen's bill to extend hospice care to MassHealth Basic and Essentials Programs. She filed this bill based on one of the recommendations in the recently released "Report and Recommendations of the MA Expert Panel on End of Life Care." Jehlen served on the panel and learned that currently those plans do not include the hospice benefit. Hospice provides care without costly interventions for terminally ill people at home or in a nursing facility which most people cite as a preferred option if at all possible. It seemed hardly fair that certain MassHealth members could make this important choice at the end of life and other members could not.
In March 2012, Gov. Patrick signed Jehlen's Supportive Housing bill. This will lead to the development of up to 1000 units of supportive housing over the next three years. Supportive Housing, which is affordable housing linked with supportive services designed to help tenants with modest incomes maintain housing stability and maximize their independence, is a national best practice to end homelessness and is critical to enabling persons with disabilities and seniors with service needs to live independently in the community.
In April 2012, Gov. Patrick signed Jehlen's bill that will expand HIV testing. It makes testing easier by removing burdensome written consent testing requirements. It puts us in line with 48 other states in allowing patients to verbally consent to HIV tests. The new law will save lives, expand testing, and reduce new infections. It is the result of collaboration among many groups, including doctors and advocates for those living with HIV.
In 2010, Gov. Patrick signed her bill banning the use of lacquer sealers in floor finishing. Jehlen filed the bill after a 2004 fire in Somerville killed two workers and destroyed the home. Marcy Goldstein Gelb, Somerville resident and director of MassCOSH, convened a coalition of workers, business owners, and safety experts, who found that the use of lacquer sealer was both unnecessary and extremely dangerous, having caused other deaths and many other fires.
In 2010, she worked to pass the Silver Alert bill to help find people with dementia who wander and the Commission on Falls Prevention to educate people to prevent the most common cause of injury for seniors and a frequent cause of their hospitalization and death.
In 2007, Sen. Jehlen passed the first reform of child labor laws since the 1930s. With new enforcement powers, the Attorney General has taken action in the cases of hundreds of minors working in violation of child labor laws, after decades of inability to enforce the laws.
Jehlen's most satisfying legislative achievement as a state representative was the Wrongful Convictions bill which allows people who have been incarcerated but later proven not guilty to receive compensation.
Jehlen, a former history teacher and VISTA volunteer, graduated from Swarthmore College, received a Masters degree in teaching from Harvard University, and completed Master's course work in history at University of Massachusetts Boston. From 1976 to 1991, she served on the Somerville School Committee, as chairman in 1980 and 1988. She was among the founders of the CHOICE program, a public school alternative elementary program, which is has continued and expanded for almost 30 years. On the state level, she helped found the Council for Fair School Finance, which brought the successful lawsuit which led to the education reform of 1993, and brought hundreds of millions of dollars in new state aid to communities.
Jehlen served from 1991 to 2005 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where she served as Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus, Co-Chairman of the Progressive Legislator's Group (PLG), Co-Chairman of the Elder Caucus, and Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Elder Affairs. Among her successful legislation were bills to increase literacy for blind people, ensure the rights of people living with mental illness, and provide compensation for the wrongfully convicted. She helped lead the fight to increase the minimum wage, and to target tax cuts to working families by increasing the earned income tax credit and child care credit, and increasing the senior circuit breaker.
Photo by Marjorie Nichols 2012
Pat Jehlen lives in Somerville with her husband, Alain. The Jehlens have three children, who all graduated from Somerville High School. Nick is a graphic designer and consultant with The Action Mill. Peter, a program manager for medical trials, lives near Magoun Square with his wife Sarah Shugars. Wendy, a dancer/choreographer and ASL interpreter, lives with the Jehlens and her daughters Anika and Kayala.
Pat’s favorite extracurricular activity is teaching stilting and tumbling-for-two with the OPENAIR Circus, which she helped start 25 years ago.
Pat was born in Austin Texas, and moved to Massachusetts at the age of 6. Her father, Paul Deats, was a Methodist minister and professor of social ethics at the Boston University School of Theology. Her mother, Ruth, was a community activist, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday School teacher/trainer. Together they formed one of the first Parkinsons’ Support Groups. Jehlen had two sisters, Carolyn and Fran, and a brother Randy. She has a niece and nephew, Kathleen and Chris Poe.
Bay State Stonewall Democrats
Boston Teachers Union
Clean Water Action
Mass. League of Environmental Voters
Mass. Women's Political Caucus
National Association of Social Workers
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
Young Democrats of Massachusetts