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.

Bill Allowing Construction of New Woburn Fire Headquarters Signed into Law

Allows the swapping of land parcels to allow construction at Forest Park

BOSTON – Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn), Representative Michelle L. Ciccolo (D-Lexington), and Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) are pleased to announce the passage of legislation allowing for the swapping of land parcels in Woburn to allow the City to begin construction of its new Fire Department Headquarters at Forest Park.

The bill’s passage was an integral part of the City’s ambitious fire department modernization plan. Mayor Scott Galvin and the Woburn City Council plan to construct the fire department headquarters on Main Street across from Middlesex Canal Park Drive, the entrance road leading to Showcase Cinema. The land-swap bill ensures a no-net-loss of land protected for Article 97 purposes, with the protected land being transferred to a plot adjacent to the Hurld-Wyman Elementary School encompassing the former Spence Farm and current farm stand. The Woburn Recreational Department will oversee this land parcel, ensuring its protection and use for park or recreational purposes including the farm stand.

“This legislation will allow our community to move forward with building a 21st century fire station and headquarters that will serve both our city and our first responders well,” said Representative Haggerty.” As the grandson of a firefighter it’s great to see our city’s commitment to our fire department’s mission and it’s also terrific to see us investing in public safety. I am also thrilled 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.”
“Fire safety is one of the most basic functions of local government,” said Representative Ciccolo. “I am pleased that with the passages of this legislation, the city of Woburn can now proceed with the necessary construction of its new fire station.”

House Bill 4636 began as a Home Rule Petition passed by the Woburn City Council and signed by Mayor Scott Galvin. The bill was then filed on Beacon Hill by the Woburn House Delegation and supported by Senator Cindy Friedman and signed into law on June 19th as Chapter 95 of the Acts of 2020.

“This bill was the first step to ensure Woburn has access to the land it needs to build a new fire station,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m excited that the Woburn Fire Department can now move forward with this project, which will benefit our firefighters, our residents, and the larger Woburn community. I’m glad to have worked with my colleagues in the House to get this done.”

The bill’s passage will allow the City of Woburn to break ground at Forest Park on the new fire station, with the tentative construction beginning this summer and the planned opening of the facility slated for the fall of 2021.

James L. McKeown Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Julie Gage Selected as 2020 Unsung Heroine

Nominated by Rep. Haggerty for commitment and dedication to the
Boys and Girls Club and Woburn community

Julie Gage will be honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s (MCSW) 2020 class of Commonwealth Heroines. Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) recommended Miss Gage for this recognition continued contributions and dedication to the James L. McKeown Boys and Girls Club and Woburn community. She will be honored with the other Commonwealth Heroines for her outstanding contributions, with the MCSW virtually celebrating the seventeenth-annual Commonwealth Heroines Class of 2020. The Commission will be sharing a slideshow provided through a shared link on the original date of the event of June 24, 2020 on our social media platforms.

Julie has been with the Club since 2004 and has served as both the Arts & Education Director and the Director of Program Development prior to becoming the Executive Director. Notably she helped lead the club during its 9.5-million-dollar renovation and expansion project. Julie is a graduate of Bates College and in 2014 she completed the Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership program at Boston University, with her Club programs having been honored for excellence nationally.

The Commonwealth Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. Thousands of women in every community of the state perform unheralded acts on a daily basis that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live. Commonwealth Heroines use their time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others in their community. They are mentors, volunteers, and innovators who strive to protect and represent the interests of seniors, victims of violence, children, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations. They are the glue that keeps a community together.

“I am pleased to recognize Julie Gage, the current Executive Director of the James L. McKeown Boys & Girls Club of Woburn, as a Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women Unsung Heroine,” said Representative Haggerty. “Julie truly lives the mission of the Club each day by inspiring youth to find their greatness. Her commitment to the Woburn community at-large and her devotion to providing a safe place for kids is worthy of this special honor.”

This event is made possible with the support of Eastern Bank, Eversource and Flour Bakery. A complete list of this year’s honorees is available by contacting the Commission at mcsw@state.ma.us.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.

Woburn Alcoholic Beverage Licenses Bill Signed into Law

Allows businesses located in the future ‘Woburn Village’ to serve alcohol

BOSTON – Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and Representative Michelle L. Ciccolo (D-Lexington) are pleased to announce the passage of legislation allowing for the granting of additional liquor licenses in the City of Woburn.

The licenses are an integral part of the ongoing Woburn Village redevelopment project at the former Woburn Mall site, granting restaurants and other businesses located there the ability to apply for alcohol beverage licenses to serve their customers.

“Providing economic opportunity in our city is an important component to moving our city into this next decade, said Representative Haggerty. “These liquor licenses are a key part of the redevelopment of the Woburn Mall site and the continued improvement to our downtown area. I thank Mayor Galvin, members of the City Council and License Commission for their commitment to expanding business opportunity in our community.”

“As we take steps to safely and cautiously reopen the Massachusetts economy following the COVID-19 pandemic, these licenses will be critical to the success of the Woburn Village project,” said Representative Ciccolo. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for their support of this effort, and I look forward to seeing the project come together.”

House Bill 4338 began as a Home Rule Petition passed the Woburn City Council and signed by Mayor Scott Galvin. The bill was filed on Beacon Hill by the Woburn House Delegation and Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), being signed into law on May 21st as Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2020. With its passing, the City of Woburn License Commission may now grant up to 7 additional licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages and up to 4 additional licenses for the sale of wines and malt beverages to be drunk on the premises.

“The adoption of this Home Rule Petition exemplifies a working partnership between municipal and state government and further insures the redevelopment and future success of the Woburn Mall site,” said City Council President Michael Anderson. “I am truly impressed and gratified to see that the same type of teamwork that the City Council, Planning Director, City Solicitor, Building Commissioner and Mayor Galvin exhibited in creating the district exhibited itself in the legislative process in the state house. In short, this law help ensure that the bold move to adopt a smart growth overlay district, with a blend of restaurants, retail, and residential uses with access to public transportation, at the Woburn Mall site, will succeed. We are very fortunate to have two state representatives, Representatives Haggerty and Ciccolo, who have been personally engaged in the redevelopment of the Woburn Mall site from the very beginning and we thank them both for sponsoring the Home Rule Petition as well as their colleagues and Governor Baker for their support.”

The Woburn Mall redevelopment, now named Woburn Village, will include several new dining and lunch experiences, a new 10 screen movie cinema, updated facades, 350 housing units and other amenities.

Additionally, the bill allows the City to support the growth of 428 Main Street and Fortunato’s Restaurant as well as their planned redevelopment by granting the business an additional license for all alcoholic beverages.

Representative Haggerty’s Statement on the Death of George Floyd

Today and every day I join my voice with you who are both incensed and saddened by the murder of George Floyd and countless others who have lost their lives to racial injustice.

The death of George Floyd has reopened a deep wound that has never been close to healed in America – and despite the progress we have made, his murder at the hands of a police officer calls attention to the difficult work we have left to do.

It is simply not enough for us to stand by and hope for a better America – we must take action and we must take action now. First, we must acknowledge that racial injustice exists – from our homes to our places of worship, schools, healthcare, law enforcement and more. Second, we must educate ourselves, our children and those around us – and finally we have to mobilize together to raise awareness and support those in leadership positions who understand the corrosive effect racism and inequality have on our society and who will not tolerate hate.

Peaceful protests as designed and protected by the 1st Amendment in our Constitution, were designed to do all of those things I mentioned above – they help us to mobilize, to educate ourselves and to stand together in solidarity. While peaceful protesting in the streets is only a first step along the road of ending bigotry and racial inequality – the next steps will be the hard conversations among one another to change the hearts and minds of those who fail to recognize that racial injustice still exists.

Many law enforcement officials both here at home and across the nation have stepped up and called the death of George Floyd for what it was – murder. I am grateful for their honesty, their leadership, and their service at this difficult moment. Violent protests, putting others’ lives at risk and destruction of any kind go directly against what peaceful protests are designed to do.

Please know that I am here to listen, to learn, to stand with you and to have the hard conversations we all need to have. It starts with you, it starts with me, it starts with a conversation, it starts with education, it starts now.

Our country’s heart is broken. We are facing some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and we must find our way– a new way with our GPS focused on equality, kindness, integrity, and compassion.

My office is open and ready to get to work. Please stay safe and take care of one another.

Governor signs Reading senior property tax exemption bill

Governor Charlie Baker has signed legislation to extend the town of Reading’s senior property tax exemption program for another three years.

Filed on behalf of the town by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), House Bill 4243 was signed into law on March 25 as Chapter 50 of the Acts of 2020.

“Reading’s program has been highly effective in providing real tax relief to hundreds of local homeowners, so this is tremendous news” said Representative Jones. “Governor Baker understands how important it is to keep housing affordable for seniors, and I appreciate him taking quick action to ensure that Reading can continue to offer this important program.”

“I am happy to join my colleagues Senator Lewis and Minority Leader Jones to announce some good news with the signing of the Reading Senior Property Tax Exemption today,” said Representative Haggerty. “These are difficult times, especially for our increasingly vulnerable senior population who require critical assistance. The reauthorization of this bipartisan measure plays a large part in that support by protecting our seniors and keeping them in their homes.”

“Especially in times of economic uncertainty, it’s so important for our communities to help individuals on a fixed income make ends meet and stay in their homes,” said Senator Lewis. “I’m proud to join with Leader Jones and Representative Haggerty to reauthorize this important local policy and help Reading seniors.”

Reading launched its senior property tax exemption program in July of 2017, with a three-year sunset provision. Since the program started, a total of 540 applications have been approved, with an average of 180 applicants receiving a total tax break of $4,900, or just over $1,600 annually.

Under the program, qualifying Reading homeowners who are 65 and older can receive a tax exemption equal to 150% of the state’s Senior Circuit Breaker tax credit. Individuals and couples must apply annually to receive the tax exemption, and all applications are subject to approval by the Reading Board of Assessors.

To qualify for the exemption,

  • The property on which the exemption is claimed must be owned and occupied by a person whose prior year’s income makes them eligible for the Senior Circuit Breaker income tax credit;
  • Applicants must be 65 or older at the close of the previous year, but if filing jointly, at least one applicant must be 65 or older and the other applicant must be at least 60 years old;
  • At least one of the applicants must show they have been domiciled and owned a home in Reading for at least 10 consecutive years; and
  • The maximum assessed value of the property cannot exceed the prior year’s maximum assessed value allowed to qualify for the Senior Circuit Breaker.

Haggerty files bill honoring Medal of Liberty recipients

Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) has filed legislation alongside House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), creating a new distinctive registration plate to honor recipients of the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty.

House Docket 4731 would allow individuals who were awarded the Medal of Liberty to obtain a special registration plate free of charge from the Registry of Motor Vehicles bearing an image of the medal. The bill was filed at the request of Reading resident Arthur Vars, who received the Medal of Liberty on May 22, 2019 on behalf of his uncle, US Army Sgt. Christopher Young Vars, a World War II and Korean War veteran who died while being held as a prisoner of war in Pyoktong, North Korea.

Created in 2009, the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty is awarded in conformance with the standards and protocol of the Purple Heart and is provided to the next of kin of service men and women from the Commonwealth who were killed in action, died in service while in a designated combat area in the line of duty, or died as a result of wounds received in action. Qualifying family members are eligible for one medal, and recipients are selected by a three-member commission comprised of the state’s Adjutant General and two field grade officers.

To date, the Medal of Liberty has been awarded over 500 times. However, it is estimated that at least 8,500 families may be eligible for this military honor.

“We must never forget the sacrifice of those service members who have died for our nation and their families,” said Representative Haggerty. “This Medal of Liberty license plate is a fitting tribute and a constant reminder of the price that has been paid for our many freedoms we have today.”

House Docket 4731 has received bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and currently has a total of 51 legislative co-sponsors. The bill is being referred to the Joint Committee on Transportation, where it will be scheduled for a public hearing.

More information about the Medal of Liberty is available on the Massachusetts National Guard website at https://www.massnationalguard.org/images/Docs/Medal-of-Liberty-2019.pdf.

Reading Native Joe DiBacco “Immensely Enjoyed” Interning for Representative Haggerty’s Office

Representative Richard M. Haggerty is proud to announce Reading native Joe DiBacco as a legislative intern hire for Fall 2019. Joe was responsible for speech editing and managing administrative and legislative related duties at the Representative’s State House Office.

Joe recently graduated from Trinity College in May where he completed his Bachelor of Arts in Economics, being a four-time recipient of Faculty Honors during his time there. Joe developed an interest in politics during his time interning for both Connecticut State Senator Joan Hartley and Minority Leader Bradley Jones, with him most recently canvassing for Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur’s successful mayoral campaign.

“I immensely enjoyed the time I spent working for Rep. Haggerty’s office,’ said Joe DiBacco. “I had the opportunity to work on a handful of speeches with the Representative which I loved, and I enjoyed researching legislation as well. I learned a lot from this experience, and wish I could have stayed longer.”

 “It was great having a Joe apart of our team this fall,” said Rep. Haggerty. “He brought with him strong writing skills, attention to detail, and fresh insight that were immensely helpful during a very active Fall legislative period. His presence will be missed in our office, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Joe recently finished his 6-week Fall Internship with Rep. Haggerty’s office. The Representative’s office will be continuing the internship program through Winter/Spring 2020, and is in the process of considering the application packages of potential interns from the 30th Middlesex District.

For more information on interning with Representative Haggerty’s office, please contact his legislative aide at Anthony.Langone@mahouse.gov or call (617) 722-2090.