Thank You to Those That Make our Elections Possible

I wanted to take a moment to thank the hardworking people who make sure our elections run smoothly.

Our local clerks, clerk’s office employees, poll workers, police details, postal workers, and municipal leaders play a critical role in protecting every person’s right to vote. I am personally grateful for each of their roles in safeguarding the democratic process during this global pandemic.

Never before have we relied upon these guardians of democracy the way we have the past few and next few months.

Our local clerk’s offices worked tirelessly for the past many weeks making sure every person who had the right to participate in our election process had the chance to do so. They stood up early voting for a primary election for the first time, processed thousands of no-excuse absentee ballots, and made various accommodations to in-person voting to protect the public’s health.

Never before have we relied upon our postal workers to deliver ballots to people’s homes and then back to city and town halls in the numbers we did this past month. These postal workers performed their duties day in and day out making sure voters who were concerned about their health could still vote.

Thank you to all our local poll workers who showed up despite this public health crisis to help run our elections and help make sure every vote got counted. And our police details again provided a secure place for people to vote and participate.

We are so fortunate to live in the greatest nation on earth and while we have more work to do – it is comforting to know that each of these groups remain committed to democracy – and a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thank you all.

-Rich Haggerty

Haggerty Summer 2020 Legislative Update

I hope this update finds you all well, and you are staying healthy as we continue to navigate the challenges presented to us through this public health emergency. With summer in full swing I hope you and your loved ones have been able to get outside and enjoy the festivities responsibly, as we all need something to help lift the spirits. I want to provide you all with another update of some of the actions taken by my colleagues and myself at the State level as we continue to work hard on your behalf, effectively addressing the issues raised during this COVID-19 pandemic.

To begin, my decision making has remained focused on the three main components highlighted in my last update as this situation has continued to evolve. First and foremost, protecting the health of our fellow residents has remained a top priority of mine. Secondly, providing the support for our critical safety net programs such as unemployment assistance, and lastly to promote our small businesses and encourage economic recovery here in the Commonwealth.

Local Legislation

During this time, I was able to work to pass several bills that directly affect Woburn and Reading. In June I was proud to lead the effort to pass legislation allowing for the granting of additional liquor licenses in the City of Woburn. The bill provides economic opportunity in our city and is an important component to moving Woburn into this next decade, also being a key part of the redevelopment of the Woburn Mall site and the continued improvement to our downtown area. I also worked to pass a Home Rule petition that will allow our community to move forward with building a 21st century fire station and headquarters in Woburn. This new fire station will serve both our city and our first responders well, and as the grandson of a firefighter it’s great to see our city’s commitment to our fire department’s mission. As part of that bill we were also able to support our community’s commitment to open space by protecting the Spence Farm parcel on Wyman Street – a purchase that I was happy to be a part of years ago on the City Council.

In July, I was able to work with my colleague in Reading, Minority Leader Brad Jones, to secure $15,000 in state funding for the Reading Food Pantry to help address food insecurity issues due to COVID-19. Additionally, I was able to file a similar request for Woburn to secure $15,000 for the Woburn Council of Social Concern’s food pantry. Food insecurity continues to be a very difficult issue affecting our communities, it is my hope that these resources will assist the food pantries in providing the support that individuals and families need. As we deal with the economic fallout from this pandemic, we must be mindful of the everyday challenges faced by our friends and neighbors.

Local Aid, Chapter 90, & Education Funding Update

Our students, teachers, parents and support staff are currently facing unprecedented challenges as they prepare to enter an uncertain school year this fall. The House, Senate, and Baker Administration have fortunately been able to find agreement on Chapter 70 education funding and unrestricted local aid that commits to providing a baseline amount for Fiscal Year 2021, providing the critical support for school districts and municipalities as they finalize their budgets. The funding also ensures that our communities will be able to continue providing the best education in the country to our students despite the issues and disruptions they have experienced this year.

WOBURN – Chapter 70: $9,555,857 – Local aid: $6,357,286,

READING – Chapter 70: $14,438,034 – Local aid: $1,627,400

In June I was happy to support a statewide bond authorization that will provide Woburn and Reading with Chapter 90 funding to help fund local transportation infrastructure upgrades in Fiscal Year 2021.

WOBURN – Chapter 90: $1,268,029

READING – Chapter 90: $594,643

COVID-19 Related Laws

As the COVID-19 pandemic endures, I continue to work hard to address the needs of the residents of our district and respond to the virus. I was pleased to support many pieces of legislation that address the many different affected areas, and during this update I want to showcase the critical pieces of legislation my colleagues and I have been able to pass these last 5-months to help our communities. Here is a comprehensive list of the COVID-19 related laws that have been enacted throughout this crisis:

  • An Act making $15 million in Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations Relating to the Coronavirus (H.4561)
  • An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4586)
  • An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19 (H.4616)
  • An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency (H. 4615)
  • An Act Granting Authority to Postpone 2020 Municipal Elections in the Commonwealth and Increase Voting Options in Response to the Declaration of Emergency to Respond to COVID-19 (S.2608)
  • An Act Authorizing Waiver of the One Week Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits (S.2599)
  • An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline (H.4677)
  • An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System (H.4648)
  • An Act addressing COVID-19 data collection and disparities in treatment (H.4672)
  • An Act financing the general governmental infrastructure of the Commonwealth (H.4733)
  • An Act Relative to Voting Options in Response to COVID-19 (H.4762) – [Mail-in ballots]

Additionally, there are several pieces of legislation that is currently awaiting final passage at the State House that we will continue our work on this session:

  • An Act Relative to Long Term Care Facility and Elder Housing COVID-19 Reporting (H.4667)
  • An Act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic (H.4767)

Unemployment Assistance

With the unemployment rate skyrocketing as result of this virus, hundreds of thousands in the Commonwealth have gone through the to-often difficult process of claiming unemployment benefits to continue providing for themselves and their families. With the influx of applicants and widespread fraud seen in recent months the system has at times come to a grinding halt, leading to a backlog in claim approvals and calls from the Department to claimants. My office continues to be hard at work throughout the summer helping many constituents navigate this difficult process between them and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). As stated previously, I have shared the frustration of many applicants who ran up against a DUA system that was technologically antiquated and not user friendly. I continue to communicate my concerns to the House’s COVID-19 Working Group and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development as they work through these difficulties to develop and deploy an updated online benefits delivery system. In the last 5-months we have endured this unemployment crisis, our office has helped process many combined Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Standard Unemployment Insurance cases for our constituents, helping them and their families receive the benefits they rightfully deserve.

Safeguarding our Upcoming Elections

To prepare and safeguard our upcoming elections the I voted in favor to pass a bill that expands voter access and ensures safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1st state primary and the November 3rd general election. The legislation, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, was signed into law by the Governor on July 6th . To protect the vote in the fall 2020 elections, the bill implements a system for no-excuse absentee voting, creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods, makes in-person voting safer and more efficient, provides tools to assist local clerks, tasks the Secretary of the Commonwealth with creating an online portal and promoting voting options.

I also recently joined a strong bipartisan group to send a letter to Congress regarding the United State Postal Service. I strongly support our postal service and the incredible work of its employees. Due to our genuine effort to protect public health and our expansion of vote-by-mail it is more important than ever to make sure the postal service has the tools it needs to deliver for the American people. This is not a partisan issue but rather a moment where we must come together to support the postal service and the critical role it plays in the everyday lives of every American, every American business, and every American’s right to vote.

My Thoughts on Police Reform

Back in July, my colleagues and I debated legislation that would bring reform to policing in our Commonwealth. My decision to vote against the police reform legislation was due to three main factors:

  1. The potential and untested impacts of Qualified Immunity changes
  2. The makeup of the Police Standards & Training Commission and
  3. The rushed approach to this legislation.

Over my 11+ years in elected office and public service, I have had the distinct privilege of working with the women and men of our local police departments who have always done an exemplary job serving our communities. These individuals are tasked with the very difficult job of keeping our communities safe and put themselves in harm’s way each and every day.

There are several elements of House Bill that make good sense and have the potential to improve policing in our Commonwealth – including proposed additional types of training, and creating a certification process for police officers and a system that provides for the decertification of an officer in specific instances when that officer has violated the public trust. I also support a duty to intervene requirement as well as restrictions on the use of choke holds.

Please know how strongly I support all efforts to bring together law enforcement officials, legislators, members of the Black and Latino Caucus and outside experts to build a Police Officer Standards and Training system that improves and builds upon the strong training foundations we currently have in place in our state. Massachusetts has some of the most well-trained, highly regarded and professional police departments in the nation and I believe there is a willingness within law enforcement to do even better.

Importantly, and should be highlighted, this legislation includes the creation of a permanent Commission on the status of African Americans that will play a key role by informing government officials on additional steps we can take to combat racism in our Commonwealth. This legislation continues to be a complex and contentious debate and I am disappointed, so far, in the outcome. But let me remind us all that we can stand for racial justice and support police officers – the reason I know it is because I do.

Other Important Legislation I Supported

  • With my House colleagues voted 158-0 to support a bill I cosponsored designating Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday, helping to remind all of us of the work we have left to do and to raise awareness of the corrosive effect of racism and inequality.
  • I was able throw my support behind House Bill 4841, expanding DCF’s reporting requirements and establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights, and holds the agency more accountable along with helping to recruit new foster families.
  • Supported the passage of House Bill 4218, the Breakfast After the Bell Initiative, to help vulnerable school children in the Commonwealth by providing them with a meal to start their day and help them to become better learners

Final Thoughts

I would like to end this update by again thanking our steadfast healthcare professionals, our dedicated parents, teachers and support staff who are beginning their preparations to head back to school to provide our youth the quality education they deserve, the essential workers, and public service heroes who suit up each day to keep our economy moving and look out for us all. We all thank you for your hard work and dedication each day, and it continues to show the true resiliency of our communities and our Commonwealth.

There is still plenty of work to be done, and my office stands ready to continue working hard on behalf of the residents of the 30th Middlesex District. If you have an questions or concerns, please reach out to my office by phone at (617) 722-2090 or by email at Richard.Haggerty@mahouse.gov.

Jones, Haggerty part of bipartisan effort to protect mail-in voting

Call on Congress to provide resources to ensure timely delivery of ballots by post office

BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) are part of a bipartisan effort calling on Congress to provide the U.S. Postal Service with the resources needed to ensure that ballots cast by mail for the fall election will be delivered to city and town clerks in time to be counted.

Jones, along with House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), co-authored a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging Congress “to take immediate steps to support the operations of the United States Postal Service and to ensure the safe and timely delivery of mail-in ballots for the November 2020 election.” The letter was signed by 141 members of the House of Representatives, including Representative Haggerty, with copies of the letter mailed to all 11 members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

“The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy that must be protected,” said Jones. “The legislature embraced a variety of expanded opportunities to vote this election cycle in response to the COVID-19 crisis, a central piece of which is an expanded use of the mail. As such, it is imperative that we be able to rely on a safe and efficient USPS to ensure everyone feels empowered to participate in the way that most safely suits their situation. Adequate funding and focus on timely delivery of ballots is essential.”

“I strongly support our postal service and the incredible work of its employees,” said Haggerty. “Due to our genuine effort to protect public health and our expansion of vote-by-mail it is more important than ever to make sure the postal service has the tools it needs to deliver for the American people. This is not a partisan issue but rather a moment where we must come together to support the postal service and the critical role it plays in the everyday lives of every American, every American business, and every American’s right to vote.”

Jones said the letter was sent after the U.S. Postmaster General informed Massachusetts and 45 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, that the post office could not guarantee all mail-in ballots for the November election would be delivered in time to be counted. In their letter, lawmakers called this announcement “completely unacceptable, as it would effectively disenfranchise a significant number of American voters.”

The Postmaster General later announced a temporary delay in the implementation of certain planned organizational changes until after the November election. “It is critically important that Congress take steps now to ensure the Postal Service has the resources it needs to continue to deliver mail in a safe and timely fashion, particularly for the November election,” legislators wrote. “All voters deserve the opportunity to safely cast a ballot by mail this fall, and they should be able to do so with assurances that their ballot will actually be delivered in time for their vote to count.”

Haggerty secures $15,000 in funding for Woburn Food Pantry

BOSTON – State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) has successfully secured $15,000 in state funding for the Woburn Council for Social Concern’s (WCSC) Food Pantry to help address food insecurity issues due to the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Food insecurity continues to be a very difficult issue affecting our community, it is my hope that these resources will assist the food pantry in providing the support that individuals and families need,” said Representative Haggerty. “As we deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19 we must be mindful of the everyday challenges faced by our friends and neighbors.”

Richard Haggerty was able to successfully advocate to insert the funding into a $1.1 billion supplemental budget designed to help Massachusetts leverage federal funding for costs related to the state’s COVID-19 response. House Bill 4808, An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to authorize certain COVID-19 spending in anticipation of federal reimbursement, was enacted in the House and Senate on July 16 and was recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker.

The WCSC’s Food Pantry is in need of critical donations to help our neighbors in need during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information on how you can help keep the shelves stocked during this difficult time by donating, call (781) 935-6495 or email Paula Matthews directly at paula@socialconcern.org. WCSC’s Food Pantry hours are (by appointment):

• Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:45am – 12pm and 1:30-3pm.
• Wednesday Evenings from 6-7pm

If you cannot make an appointment, Emergency boxes are available Monday – Friday from 9am – 4:30 pm. Monetary donations are also welcome, and can be made at www.socialconcern.org.

Haggerty supports Breakfast After the Bell to address food insecurity

BOSTON – State Representative Richard Haggerty (D-Woburn) recently supported passage of the Breakfast After the Bell initiative, which provides for expanded school breakfast options for Massachusetts students in low-income communities.

House Bill 4218, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, will help ensure students are better prepared for learning by providing them with a healthy breakfast at school. The bill was enacted by the House and Senate on July 28, and is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

According to the Ending Hunger in Our Classrooms 2019 Annual Report, Massachusetts ranks 33rd out of 50 states in the percentage of low-income children who eat a school breakfast every day. The report estimates that nearly 159,000 low-income students in the Commonwealth do not have access to a nutritious morning meal at school.

To address this problem, House Bill 4218 requires public schools to provide a school breakfast after the beginning of the instructional day, beginning with the 2022-2023 academic year, if at least 60% of the students attending the school are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program. Schools will have the flexibility to choose which breakfast service model best suits their students’ needs, including breakfast in the classroom, grab and go breakfast served from mobile carts or kiosks located in the school, or a second chance breakfast offered during breaks between classes.

“This legislation will help our young people be better students by providing them with the meal they need to start their day and be better learners,” said Representative Haggerty. “Sadly, we all know that hunger continues to be a real problem in many of our communities and this approach will provide the help our kids need and deserve.”

House Bill 4218 directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop guidelines and regulations to assist schools with implementing breakfast after the bell. DESE must also conduct an initial assessment of all schools required to offer breakfast after the bell by December 31, 2021.

The bill contains provisions allowing schools to obtain a one-year waiver from the breakfast after the bell requirement if they already have a breakfast participation rate of 80% or higher, or if the school demonstrates an extreme hardship related to implementation.

Representative Haggerty Statement on Police Reform Bill

As we approach just over the halfway point of 2020, we have faced enormous challenges including a global pandemic, navigating the uncharted waters of education and childcare, economic collapse, job loss and the deep wounds of race and social injustice, just to name a few. None of us are immune to the many difficulties that are in front of us today and that lie ahead of us tomorrow.

Over this past week, my colleagues and I in the Massachusetts House of Representatives have been debating legislation that would bring reform to policing in our Commonwealth. It is in this statement I would like to address to you the reason why I voted to oppose House Bill No. 4860 relative to police reform. 

My decision to vote no on this legislation was due to three main factors: 1. The potential and untested impacts of Qualified Immunity changes 2. The makeup of the Police Standards & Training Commission and 3. The rushed approach to this legislation.

Over my 11+ years in elected office and public service, I have had the distinct privilege of working with the women and men of our local police departments who have always done an exemplary job serving our communities. These individuals are tasked with the very difficult job of keeping our communities safe and put themselves in harm’s way each and every day. 

Qualified Immunity is a complex legal doctrine that provides important protections for police officers, fire fighters, others and their families to ensure these individuals can do their job without fear of frivolous lawsuits. I advocated for and I am pleased that the House legislation now only makes changes to the application of qualified immunity to decertified law enforcement officers – no-one else. However, I would have strongly preferred the matter be sent to committee for further review to ensure we protect the rights of all people.

I also raised concerns around the makeup of the Police Standards and Training Commission as outlined in the Bill. While I am in agreement with having a Commission that would include civilian commissioners who bring an independent view to provide proper oversight and judicial balance, a Commission of this magnitude should also include law enforcement professionals who understand policing and are open to improving training practices. My concern is that H4860 reads, “no commissioner shall have previously been employed as a law enforcement officer, previously been employed by a law enforcement agency or be a retired law enforcement officer or retired from a law enforcement agency.” To this end, I voted for an amendment to this bill, although unsuccessfully, that would have allowed people with law enforcement experience as mentioned above to have a seat on such Commission.

I support several of the proposed additional types of training and feel strongly the state should fund this additional training. I was proud to co-sponsor Amendment 23 with former Salem Police Chief and current State Rep. Paul Tucker that requires further training for police officers in their interactions with people with disabilities or those on the autism spectrum. I was also pleased to advocate for an amendment that substantially improved the due process system for officers suspected of wrongdoing. The bill now requires a preponderance of evidence to have an investigation into an officer; and clear and convincing evidence for suspension or revocation of an officer’s certification.

There are several elements of House Bill 4860 that make good sense and have the potential to improve policing in our Commonwealth. Creating a certification process for police officers and a system that provides for the decertification of an officer in specific instances when that officer has violated the public trust. I also support a duty to intervene requirement as well as restrictions on the use of choke holds.

Please know how strongly I support all efforts to bring together law enforcement officials, legislators, members of the Black and Latino Caucus and outside experts to build a Police Officer Standards and Training system that improves and builds upon the strong training foundations we currently have in place in our state. Massachusetts has some of the most well-trained, highly regarded and professional police departments in the nation and I believe there is a willingness within law enforcement to do even better.

Importantly, and should be highlighted, this legislation includes the creation of a permanent Commission on the status of African Americans that will play a key role by informing government officials on additional steps we can take to combat racism in our Commonwealth. The commission will be a critical resource on issues affecting African Americans and will advocate for important next steps in combating systemic societal racism. It will be a primary function of the commission to make policy recommendations, based on research and analysis, to the general court and executive agencies. As your State Representative, I am ready to do all that I can to end racial inequality.

This legislation has been a complex and contentious debate and I am disappointed in the outcome. But let me remind us all that we can stand for racial justice and support police officers – the reason I know it is because I do.

Reading legislators secure $15,000 for local food pantry

BOSTON – Reading’s State House delegation has successfully secured $15,000 in state funding for the Reading Food Pantry to help address food insecurity issues due to the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), State Representative Richard Haggerty (D-Woburn) and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) worked together to insert the funding into a $1.1 billion supplemental budget designed to help Massachusetts leverage federal funding for costs related to the state’s COVID-19 response. House Bill 4808, An Act making appropriations for the fiscal year 2020 to authorize certain COVID-19 spending in anticipation of federal reimbursement, was enacted in the House and Senate on July 16 and is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has led to double-digit unemployment rates and has left many people struggling to pay their bills and put food on their tables,” said Representative Jones. “The Reading Food Pantry has done a tremendous job serving local individuals and families in need, and this funding will go a long way towards helping the food pantry continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives during these difficult times.”

“Food insecurity continues to be a very difficult issue affecting our community, it is my hope that these resources will assist the food pantry in providing the support that individuals and families need,” said Representative Haggerty. “As we deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19 we must be mindful of the everyday challenges faced by our friends and neighbors.”

“The simultaneous public health and economic crises facing our community make the work of the Reading Food Pantry more important than ever, as so many of our neighbors and loved ones face food insecurity,” said Senator Lewis. “Members of the community have always generously supported the Food Pantry, but I am confident that this state funding will make a meaningful impact in the efforts to combat hunger in Reading.”

Located at the Old South United Methodist Church and sponsored by the Reading Clergy Association, the Reading Food Pantry has been servicing the local community at its present location since the 1980s. Food donations can be left in specially-designated bins available at Stop and Shop and Market Basket.
Monetary donations can be mailed to the Old South Methodist Church, 6 Salem Street, Reading, MA 01867, with checks made payable to the Reading Food Pantry.
For more information, call (781) 944-8486 or visit the Reading Food Pantry’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ReadingFoodPantry/.

Reps. Jones and Haggerty support bill expanding DCF’s reporting requirements and establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights

BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) are supporting legislation to expand the reporting requirements for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and to require the implementation of a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights.

House Bill 4841, An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families, was engrossed by the House of Representatives on a vote of 158-0 on July 9. In addition to requiring DCF to develop and update specific case management policies to improve its operations and to ensure the safety of the children under its care, the bill also calls for more details on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children served by DCF.

Since Governor Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency on March 10, reports of child abuse and neglect have dropped by 51%, raising concerns that many cases may be going unreported. To address this problem, House Bill 4841 requires DCF to implement a public awareness campaign and to provide monthly updates to the Legislature regarding any changes in child abuse and neglect cases.

During floor debate, the House adopted an amendment to address a 2016 law that has had the unintended consequence of preventing law enforcement officials from reporting information pertaining to suspected child abuse and neglect in domestic violence situations to DCF. The amendment directs a special commission currently reviewing the state’s mandated reporter laws to consider allowing these incidents to be reported to DCF.

“The state has an obligation to ensure that every child in its care or custody is placed in a safe and nurturing environment, and to do everything it can to keep them from harm,” said Representative Jones. “This bill will help to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable residents and will hopefully encourage more people to open their hearts and their homes to children in need by becoming foster parents.”

“Making sure our kids under the care of DCF are safe is the Commonwealth’s absolute responsibility,” said Representative Haggerty. “Recruiting new foster families, holding DCF accountable, and understanding the impacts COVID-19 has had on the education of children served by DCF are just some of the important components to this legislation.”
Jones and Haggerty said the bill’s inclusion of a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights is designed to recruit and retain foster parents by giving them a better understanding of their rights and DCF’s responsibilities. Some of the requirements of the proposed bill of rights is that DCF will give foster parents:

• standardized pre-service training;
• more information about the foster child prior to their placement;
• an opportunity to review DCF’s action plan regarding the child placed in their home and to discuss the plan with their social worker;
• information about financial supports and services available to them; and
• a staffed 24-hour emergency hotline that can be accessed when DCF offices are closed.

Among the reporting provisions included in House Bill 4841 is a requirement that DCF file an annual report detailing the outcomes of children and young adults leaving or aging out of DCF care, and whether they have secured housing, employment, and post-secondary education. The bill also requires DCF to report annually on its fair hearing process and cases, and directs the department’s Ombudsman to annually disclose any questions or concerns received during the previous fiscal year.

House Bill 4841 also expands the role of the Child Advocate by transferring oversight of the state’s child fatality review team from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office to the Child Advocate, who will also serve as its co-chair. The Child Advocate will be responsible for presenting the findings of all investigations into critical incidents involving the death of a child who is under state care or receiving state services when there is a reasonable belief that a state agency failed in its duty to protect the child.

House Bill 4841 now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Bill to Safeguard Fall 2020 Elections

BOSTON (7/7/2020) – Last week, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Representative Rich Haggerty (D-Woburn), and Representative Michelle Ciccolo (D-Lexington) joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts General Court to pass a bill that expands voter access and ensures safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1st state primary and the November 3rd general election. The legislation, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, was signed into law by the Governor on July 6th.

The bill establishes a vote-by-mail option and early voting period for the upcoming fall elections for the first time in state history. It also addresses polling place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person.

“As we continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely cast their ballots in our upcoming elections without risking exposure to the virus,” said Senator Friedman. “This historic bill expands voting options to do just that, strengthening our democracy and promoting voter participation this fall. I’d like to thank my colleagues in the Senate and House for their hard work on this important bill.”

“Voting is the most basic responsibility and right we have in our representative democracy,” said Representative Ciccolo. “No one should have to choose between protecting their health and casting their ballot, and this legislation ensures that Massachusetts residents will not have to make that choice this fall.”

“This legislation expands options for voting in the primary and general election and will provide a safe atmosphere for the day of voting,” said Representative Haggerty. “Making sure our elections are secure, accessible, and our residents remain healthy continues to be a top priority.”

To protect the vote in fall 2020 elections, the bill:

Implements a system for voting early by mail. An application to receive an early voting ballot for the primary will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15th. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election by September 14th. Both applications and ballots will have postage costs already paid.

Ballots postmarked on or before November 3rd will be counted as long as they are received by Friday November 6th at 5:00PM. Completed applications for early voting and absentee voting must be received four business days before the election (i.e. Wednesday August 26th for the primary election and Wednesday October 28th for the general election).

Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods. For the first time in Massachusetts history, early voting will be available for the state primary. It will take place from Saturday, August 22nd through Friday, August 28th. Early voting for the general election is scheduled from Tuesday, October 17th to Friday, October 30th.

Makes in-person voting safer and more efficient. The bill allows municipalities, with proper notice, to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.

Provides tools to assist clerks. Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.

Tasks the Secretary of the Commonwealth with creating an online portal and promoting voting options. To make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting, the bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal not later than October 1st. Electronic applications for early voting will be available for the general election, and if feasible, for the primary election as well.

The bill also requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to conduct a public awareness campaign to inform and notify voters of the many options available to them for casting a vote in the upcoming 2020 elections.

Jones, Haggerty support designating Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday

BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) are supporting a proposal to designate Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday in Massachusetts.

The proposal, which was co-sponsored by both legislators, was adopted unanimously as an amendment to a $1.1 billion supplemental budget approved by the House of Representatives on June 24, passing on a vote of 158-0.

Juneteenth Independence Day traces its origins to June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the Civil War was over and the state’s slaves were now free, following President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

Juneteenth Independence Day has been officially observed in Massachusetts since 2007, but not as a legal holiday. Under current state law, the governor is required to annually “issue a proclamation setting apart the nineteenth of June as Juneteenth Independence Day, to be observed on the Sunday that is closest to June 19th of each year.” The state observance recognizes “the significant contributions individuals of African descent have made to the Commonwealth and to the United States.”

“Juneteenth Independence Day commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, but it also serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go to address slavery’s enduring legacy of racism and discrimination,” said Representative Jones. “Making it a full legal holiday is a way to further acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

“It is simply not enough for us to stand by and hope for a better America – we must take action and further recognize the terrible scourge of slavery on our country,” said Representative Haggerty. “That is why it is so important to formally recognize Juneteenth Independence Day and acknowledge this as a teachable moment. This day will help to remind all of us of the work we have left to do and to raise awareness of the corrosive effect of racism and inequality.”

In addition to designating Juneteenth Independence Day as an official state holiday, the House amendment provides for the holiday to be observed on June 19, regardless of the day of the week it falls on.

The amended supplemental budget, with the Juneteenth Independence Day language, now moves to the Senate for further action.