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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 Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Senate Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs, Vice Chair of the Committee on Education, and Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Innovative and Alternative Education. She also serves on the Committees on Housing and the Judiciary.

The Senator co-chairs the LGBT Aging Commission and the Elder Economic Security Commission. She is also a member of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Commission, the Criminal Justice Commission, and the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

Her 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.

Senator Jehlen lives in Somerville with her husband, Alain. She has three children and two grandchildren. 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 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. 

Pat’s favorite extracurricular activity is teaching stilting and tumbling-for-two with the OPENAIR Circus, which she helped start over 25 years ago.


Pat's Legislation Signed Into Law

2014 An Act relative to the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Acute Care Advisory Committee created an Advisory Committee to address dementia-capable care in all acute care settings in the Commonwealth.

2014 Senator Jehlen, along with Representative Denise Provost, cosponsored successful legislation relative to breast cancer early detection, which changes the information reported to women about their mammogram results, including that having dense breast tissue slightly increases the risk of breast cancer, as well as sometimes obscuring tumors on mammograms.

2014 An Act increasing the exemption for residential real property from 30 per cent to 35 per cent in the city of Somerville.

Following the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, legislation sponsored by Senator Jehlen and fellow district legislators authorized the posthumous appointment of Sean A. Collier to the Somerville police department. Collier was killed in the line of duty on April 18, 2013 by the alleged Boston Marathon bombing suspects while serving as a police officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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 January 2012, Gov. Patrick signed Jehlen's bill preventing abusive debt collection practices which had been revealed by 2006 Globe Spotlight reports.

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.


Education and Experience

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.


  • 2014 Legislator of the Year Home Care Star Award from the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts
  • 2014 Greyhound Leadership Award, G2K USA Worldwide
  • Legislator of the Year, Mass. Developmental Disabilities Council and the Arc of Massachusetts
  • Advocate for Public Education Award, Citizens for Public Schools
  • Legislator of the Year, National Organization for Women, MA Chapter
  • Senator of the Year, Silver-Haired Legislature
  • Legislator of the Year, Friends of the Middlesex Fells
  • Legislator of the Year, National Association of Elder Law Attorneys
  • Beacon of Justice Award, Equal Justice Coalition
  • IMPACT Award, Animal Control Officers Association of MA
  • Distinguished Public Service Award for service to elderly, Harvard U Extension Student Association
  • Ben Gill award for activism for Single-Payer Health Care, Mass Care
  • Award for "tireless work on behalf of indigent MA prisoners," Mass. Correctional Legal Services
  • Award for “compassionate leadership on behalf of children, adults and families living with mental illness," Mass. Department of Mental Health
  • Award for work on child labor reform, Teens Lead @ Work, Mass. Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
  • The Peggy Munroe Home Care Advocacy Award, Mass. Council of Home Care Aide Services
  • The John Philip Sousa Award, Somerville Cambridge Elder Services for “outstanding advocacy efforts on behalf of Cambridge and Somerville Elders”


2014 Endorsements

American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts
Boston Teachers Union
Clean Water Action
Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Mass Alliance
Mass Equality
Mass. Teachers Association
Planned Parent Advocacy Fund
Sierra Club

2012 Endorsements

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
SEIU 509
SEIU 1199
Sierra Club
Young Democrats of Massachusetts

2010 Endorsements

  • American Federation of Teachers, MA
  • Bay State Stonewall Democrats
  • Boston Teachers Union
  • Clean Water Action
  • Humane Massachusetts
  • Mass. AFL-CIO
  • MA PACE/National Association of Social Workers
  • Mass Alliance
  • Mass Equality
  • Mass. Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus
  • Mass. Teachers Association
  • Mass. Women's Political Caucus
  • Medford Democratic Committee
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts
  • National Organization for Women, Massachusetts
  • Progressive Democrats of Somerville
  • Retired Educators Association of Massachusetts
  • Sierra Club
  • SEIU 615