I hope this legislative update finds you and your loved ones healthy in the New Year. I wanted to provide a recap of the end of the 2020 legislative session.
Clean Energy Legislation
Earlier this week the House and Senate passed a comprehensive energy bill that builds on the Commonwealth’s commitment to a clean energy future that includes a 2050 Net Zero roadmap, solar incentives for businesses, an opt-in municipal net-zero stretch energy code, low-income solar initiatives, as well as a substantial increase in offshore wind power generation. The legislation improves gas safety provisions in response to the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.
Importantly this bill supports the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to encourage further work-force development programs. As we have recently seen with the life science industry in our state, our Commonwealth’s job market will benefit in the long-term from investing in future-growth industries including the clean energy sector.
In November, I joined with the Piazza Family, City, and State officials in honoring Angelo “Angie” Piazza by dedicating the Salem Street Bridge in Woburn in his name. Angie is one of Woburn’s greats, having been a United States Marine Corps combat veteran during the Korean War where he earned the Bronze star for valor, Purple Heart, and many other decorations. A Woburn native, Angie would return home after his service to our country and serve our community as a Woburn Police Department officer for 34 years.
There are many people to thank for this event from the Piazza Family, the Woburn Police Department, my colleagues Senator Cindy Friedman and Representative Ciccolo for helping to pass the legislation, Mayor Scott Galvin and the Woburn City Council, VSO Larry Guiseppe, Lenny Burnham, MassDOT, and my dedicated staff.
Protection of Local Aid
My colleagues and I were finally able to pass a bipartisan, balanced FY21 budget funded at $46 billion in November. Keeping our commitment to local communities and protecting the most vulnerable among us were driving forces in this budget debate, with COVID-19 placing incredible pressure on families, businesses, and government. I am proud this budget reflects our commitment to combating COVID while strongly supporting education, food security, addiction services, housing, and economic growth.
Some key provisions included in the budget for Woburn and Reading are:
• Chapter 70 Funding
• Unrestricted Government Aid
$200k for Schools and Telework
The supplemental budget also prioritized COVID-related support for our students and developmental services. I am happy to report that I secured $200,000 for the City of Woburn for distance learning and telework expenses due to the novel coronavirus. These funds will help compliment the City’s commitment to educating our students and supporting our teachers, with municipal resources like this going a long way in helping our community and our schools better address the known and ongoing expenses related to COVID-19. I applaud Mayor Galvin, the school administration, School Committee, and our teachers for their commitment to our students’ well-being and education during these challenging times.
Funding for Local Coalitions Against Substance Abuse
As part of the House budget process, I was able to secure a $10,000 appropriation for the Woburn Coalition Against Substance Abuse (WCASA) and an additional $10,000 for the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA). It is always great to be able to support such an important mission in our communities, and this funding will go a long way towards continuing the hard work in reducing substance misuse and improving mental health promotion. Additionally, these resources will be used to help educate students, parents, and the public about substance use awareness and prevention.
The House and Senate recently passed An Act Promoting a Resilient Health Care System that puts patients first. Amidst a global pandemic we have a responsibility to help adjust the way medical care is delivered in Massachusetts. Telehealth services are going to play a much larger role in healthcare and this bill lays the foundation for the future of medical care in the Commonwealth. Pushing forward telehealth reform, recognizing the opportunity technology presents, and protecting the public from surprise billing has never been more important. We have learned many hard lessons in 2020, and this landmark legislation included components that:
• Protects patients against unfair surprise medical billing;
• Requires insurance carriers (including MassHealth) to cover all COVID-19-related emergency, inpatient, cognitive rehabilitation services, and medically necessary outpatient testing without out-of-pocket costs to patients;
• Solidifies telehealth services in Massachusetts by requiring insurance carriers (including MassHealth) to cover telehealth services in any case where the same in-person health care service would be covered, and the use of telehealth is appropriate;
• Allows health care providers to work to the full extent of their training and licensure, expanding access to high-quality medical care;
• Authorizes enhanced monthly Medicaid payments for certain community hospitals for two years, helping mitigate the unprecedented financial challenges community hospitals continue to face during the pandemic.
This session I have been proud to support the reproductive health care rights of women. To be candid I have been disappointed and dismayed by the misinformation being spread about the recently passed legislation. I understand this is a sensitive, deeply personal issue and I am always available to listen to constituents around this topic and others.
I cosponsored, and the Governor recently signed, legislation to protect our families and firefighters from harmful flame retardants. The law bans 11 toxic flame retardants in children’s products, mattresses, household furniture, carpeting and window coverings. It also gives the Department of Environmental Protection the authority to ban additional flame retardants that are hazardous to human health and the environment.
The Commonwealth will now join forty-six other states who have similar police officer certification requirements. Although I opposed earlier versions of the bill the reason for my vote from no to yes was due to the substantive changes in the compromise legislation.
At the outset of this debate, I shared my concerns about the makeup of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST). While I am in agreement with having a Commission that would include civilian commissioners who bring an independent view to provide judicial balance, a Commission of this magnitude should also include law enforcement professionals who understand policing and are open to improving training practices. I felt the commission would be well-served to have commissioners who understand first-hand the inherent dangers faced by our police officers. The bill now includes three law enforcement officials on the POST Commission and requires one of the commission members to be from Labor.
In the original (Senate) bill I also had serious concerns about the open-ended changes to Qualified Immunity, a complex legal doctrine that provides important protections for police officers to ensure these individuals can do their job without fear of civil liability. I advocated for and I am pleased that the legislation now only makes changes to the application of qualified immunity to decertified law enforcement officers – no-one else. The original bill gave a civilian-controlled panel the authority to approve training regulations, but the final bill will keep training oversight within a committee under the Executive Office of Public Safety. The POST Commission and the Municipal Police Training Committee will now have joint responsibility in approving, promulgating and implementing use of force regulations.
This legislation was worked on by Democrats, Republicans, and although contentious at times, ultimately it received strong bi-partisan support and was signed by a Republican Governor. Notably this bill was supported by two State Representatives who served as a Police Chief and a State Trooper respectively. Massachusetts has some of the most well-trained and professional police departments in the nation and I believe there is a willingness within law enforcement to do even better. I joined many others in fighting for a meaningful piece of legislation that supports law enforcement’s mission and brings more accountability to policing.
I would like to end this update by thanking our frontline workers for their perseverance and dedication each day, and it continues to show the true resiliency of our communities through this public health emergency. My office continues to have monthly virtual office hours and I stand ready to listen and help in any way I can. If you have questions, please contact my Legislative Aide Anthony Langone at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-722-2090.