Representative Haggerty, Massachusetts Legislature Legalize Sports Betting

BOSTON – Monday, August 1, 2022 – Earlier this week, State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and the Massachusetts Legislature passed An Act regulating sports wagering, authorizing and regulating sports betting in the Commonwealth. The legislation authorizes the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant in-person licenses at gaming establishments, including casinos, racetracks, and simulcast facilities, as well as mobile licenses through mobile applications or digital platforms. This legislation will generate an estimated $60 million in annual tax revenue for Massachusetts, in addition to collecting up to $70 to $80 million in initial licensing fees, which must be renewed every five years. The revenue collected will be distributed to municipalities, and for economic, workforce, education, and public health priorities.

“I was pleased to support a bill that allows sports betting in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Haggerty. “Our residents have been traveling to bordering states for years to place their sport wagers. This bill offers residents the opportunity to place sporting bets in our state rather than going to one of the other thirty states where it is legal, includes proper safeguards, helps get sports betting out of the shadows, and any revenue collected would benefit Massachusetts residents.”

An Act regulating sports wagering includes a 15 percent tax on in-person wagering and a 20 percent tax on mobile wagering. The legislation creates the Workforce Investment Trust Fund & the Youth Development and Achievement Fund which will receive 17.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of the revenue generated by the taxes and licensing fees. The rest of the funds will go to the existing Gaming Local Aid Fund (27.5 percent), the Public Health Trust Fund (9 percent) and the General Fund (45 percent.)

•The funds in the Workforce Investment Trust Fund will be used to develop and strengthen workforce opportunities for low-income communities and vulnerable youth and young adults, including to promote stable employment and wage growth.

•The funds in the Youth Development and Achievement Fund will provide financial assistance to students enrolled in and pursuing a program of higher education, and for after school and out of school activities.

The legislation will also allow betting on college sports, except for Massachusetts schools, unless they are participating in a tournament. People must be 21 years old or older to bet. As directed through this legislation, the Gaming Commission will be conducting a study into the feasibility of allowing retail locations to operate sports wagering kiosks.

Having been passed by the House and Senate, An Act regulating sports wagering now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.

Representative Haggerty, State House Delegation Secure $100,000 for Reading in FY23 Budget

BOSTONHouse Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn), and State Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester) have secured $100,000 in funding earmarks for the Town of Reading as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) state budget.

The final budget, which was released from conference committee on July 17 and enacted by the House and the Senate the following day, includes $50,000 to assist the Reading Fire Department with the purchase of a new ladder truck and related equipment. It also contains $25,000 to facilitate repairs of the rock walls at Memorial Park, and another $25,000 to support the Robockets, Reading Memorial High School’s Robotics Team.

“The FY23 state budget addresses several of the town’s priorities with respect to public safety and education,” said Representative Jones. “I am pleased that the collective efforts of the Reading legislative delegation were successful in ensuring that this funding was retained in the final budget.”

“The resources included in the House budget to bolster resources for our fire department, our schools, and other local projects is yet another way we can support local initiatives at the state level,” said Representative Haggerty. “I am so pleased to be part of the Reading delegation in advocating for these resources and to be able to drive more dollars back to our community.”

“I’m excited that this budget will help continue the Commonwealth’s recovery from the pandemic, with substantial investments in education, local aid, affordable housing, healthcare, and many other critical areas,” said Senator Lewis. “I’m especially pleased that our state delegation was able to work closely together to also secure funding for a number of important local Reading priorities.”

The FY23 budget now moves to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his review and signature.

Representative Haggerty, Massachusetts House Approve Economic Relief Rebates and Permanent Tax Breaks

BOSTON – Thursday, July 14, 2022 – As part of a recently passed economic development bill, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the most substantial tax relief package in a generation. In an effort to give back to all residents in Massachusetts, the House passed both one-time rebates and significant tax relief beginning in 2023.

“I was so proud to support this tax relief bill for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn). “The taxpayer rebate checks will help residents and families deal with rising inflation and the cost of gasoline. The permanent changes to our tax code will make our tax system fairer for residents and make our state more economically competitive. I am so pleased that this legislation will directly help seniors, families, and renters in my district.”

Taxpayer Energy & Economic Relief Fund

Following $500 million worth of premium pay bonuses for low-income workers that were issued in March and June of 2022 under the Legislature’s Essential Employee Premium Pay Program, the economic development bill passed by the House includes one-time rebates of $250 for a taxpayer who files an individual return, and $500 for married taxpayers who file joint returns that will be issued before September 30, 2022. These rebates are expected to be issued to about two million Massachusetts residents who reported earning between $38,000 and $100,000 for individual filers, and between $38,000 and $150,000 for joint filers in 2021. The one-time rebates will not be subject to state’s personal income tax.

Permanent Tax Changes

The bill passed makes significant changes to the Massachusetts tax code to provide structural relief to millions of residents across all income levels. These include:

•Increasing the Child and Dependent Care Credit from $180 per child to $310 per child, as well as eliminating the current cap of $360 for two or more children. This is expected to impact over 700,000 families.
•Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 percent to 40 percent of the federal credit. This is expected to impact about 396,000 taxpayers with incomes under $57,000.
•Increasing the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit from $750 to $1,755. Currently, the Department of Revenue caps this credit at $1,170 due to cost-of-living adjustments over the $750 set in statute. Increasing it to $1,755 in statute is expected to impact over 100,000 taxpayers who own or rent residential property in Massachusetts as their principal residence.
•Increasing the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000. This is expected to impact about 881,000 taxpayers.
•Increasing the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million and eliminating the “cliff” effect which would tax just the value of the estate that exceeds $2 million, not the entire estate. This is expected to impact about 2,500 taxpayers.

Rep. Haggerty secures 300k for Hurld Park in Economic Development bill

BOSTON – Thursday, July 14, 2022 – The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed an economic development bill, which utilizes the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) surplus funds, and bonds to make significant investments across several vital sectors of the economy. Funded at $4.2 billion, the legislation addresses disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic through one-time investments in health and human services, the environment and climate mitigation, economic development, housing, and food insecurity.

Targeted investments for the City of Woburn include:

•$300,000 expended for the redevelopment, design, and construction of The Hurld Elementary School Park Project

“This Bill ensures our Commonwealth remains focused on job creation, economic growth, and opportunity for its residents”, said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn). “I was also pleased to direct resources towards the Hurld Park Project, which will offer beautiful open spaces for our residents and help address the flooding challenges in the area.”

Online Lottery
In an effort to raise revenue for early education and care, Representatives adopted an amendment that would allow the Massachusetts Lottery to sell some of its products online. The new revenue collected from online sales will go to prizes for winners, for the administration and operations of the lottery, and to fund an Early Education and Care Fund. Revenue for the new Early Education and Care Fund would be used to provide long-term stability and develop a sustainable system for high-quality and affordable care for families. This will include significant funding for subsidy reimbursement rates, workforce compensation rate increases, and support for state-wide early education and care initiatives, among others. The amendment requires the Massachusetts Lottery to use age verification measures to ensure that any users are over the age of 18.

One-Time Targeted Investments
Highlights include:
Health and Human Services
•$350 million for financially strained hospitals
•$165 million for nursing facilities workforce needs
•$100 million for supplemental rates for human services providers
•$80 million for community health centers
•$30 million to support Rest Homes across the Commonwealth
•$25 million to address food insecurity across the Commonwealth
•$15 million for grants to reproductive rights providers for security, workforce, and educational needs
•$15 million for grants to non-profits and community-based organizations to address gun violence and gun violence trauma
•$175 million for state parks and recreational facilities upgrades, with $25 million for communities of color
•$125 million for environmental justice communities
•$100 million for marine port development
•$100 million for the Clean Water Trust Fund
Economic Development
•$300 million for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund
•$125 million for small businesses, with $75 million for minority-owned businesses
•$50 million for broadband investments in underserved communities
•$75 million in grants to hotels across the Commonwealth who saw financial loses during the pandemic
•$100 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
•$75 million for minority-owned housing development

The House bill also includes $1.26 billion in bond allocations to greater support the economic growth and stability of the Commonwealth. Highlights include:
•$400 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Competitive grant program to support municipalities and other public entities support and accelerate housing production
•$200 million for the Technology Matching Grants program that supports various organizations to help compete for federal innovation grants
•$95 million for ADA compliance projects
•$73 million for the Housing Stabilization and Investment fund

The bill passed the House of Representatives 154-0 and now goes to the Senate for their consideration.

Representative Haggerty, Massachusetts House Pass Major Clean Energy Legislation

BOSTON – 7/21/2022 – Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a sweeping clean energy bill, An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind. The legislation bolsters green transportation, green buildings, and clean power production, including offshore wind, solar, storage and networked geothermal, while creating thousands of new jobs and economic benefits in the process. This bill builds upon the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which was passed earlier this legislative session and overhauled the state’s climate laws by putting Massachusetts on a path to reach net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“This legislation makes clear the Commonwealth’s commitment to a clean energy future as well as our commitment to building a clean energy economy with high paying jobs,” said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn). “This is yet another example where our public policy creates a path towards real energy independence, bolsters green job creation, supports moving our transportation sector away from fossil fuels, encourages clean wind energy, updates our electrical grid, and incentivizes all of us to move towards greener, cheaper energy policy.”

“At the beginning of this legislative session, we codified into law the goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions in Massachusetts by 2050. Today, and as the end of the session nears, the Legislature has again passed historic climate legislation that brings the Commonwealth closer to achieving that ever-important goal,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “This legislation will make Massachusetts a national leader in energy generated from offshore wind, while creating thousands of new jobs in the process. I want to thank Chairman Jeff Roy and each member of the conference committee, my colleagues in the House, as well as Senate President Karen Spilka and our partners in the Senate for prioritizing the well-being of our climate, and for working diligently to get this done.”

Offshore Wind
To incentivize the development of the offshore wind industry in Massachusetts, this legislation establishes a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program, administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), consisting of annual tax incentives, grants, loans, and other investments through the fund, and assistance from MassCEC in accessing other state or federal economic investment programs. It also creates the Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, which can be used to promote the manufacture, fabrication, and assembly of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry; stimulate increased financing for permanent manufacturing facilities; advance clean energy research, technology, and innovation, and; prepare individuals for offshore wind careers by supporting workforce training at a range of educational institutions and through regional employment boards. With the goal of making the Massachusetts offshore wind bidding process more competitive, the legislation modifies the price cap to set clear criteria to allow for offshore wind project proposals that are cost-effective and promote economic development in the Commonwealth. Under this legislation, the price cap will be removed if three or more offshore wind developers submit bids, and if less than three companies bid a modified price cap would remain in place. Preference will be given to bids that invest in local manufacturing, provide employment opportunities for underrepresented populations, and mitigate environmental impacts. Ultimately, a contract would only be approved if deemed cost-effective and beneficial to ratepayers. The legislation also establishes a commercial fisheries commission to provide input on best practices for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to wildlife related to offshore energy generation and transmission.

Solar Energy
To support the advancement of solar power, the bill permits agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels as long as they do not impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural use, eliminates the so-called ‘donut hole’ for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar, and loosens the so-called single parcel rule to help expand solar on sites where it already exists. In addition to wind and solar power, the bill addresses other innovative sources of clean energy such as fusion energy and geothermal power. Acknowledging the harmful health and environmental impacts of utility-scale biomass power plant facilities, this legislation removes biomass from the list of energy-generating sources that are allowed to receive certain state incentives for generating clean electricity. To ensure that the Commonwealth has adequate storage systems to accommodate increasing amounts of clean energy that Massachusetts will be adding to its energy portfolio, this bill directs a study of how to optimize the deployment of long-term energy storage systems.

Grid Readiness
The legislation also modernizes Massachusetts’ electrical grid and energy storage infrastructure. It requires utility companies to proactively upgrade the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience and accommodate the anticipated significant shift to renewable forms of energy.

Green Transportation
As the transportation sector is the largest source of fuel emissions in Massachusetts, the bill takes steps to encourage the use of electric vehicles, including expanding and codifying the state’s MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program into statute, which provides rebates to individuals who purchase electric vehicles. Under the bill, the rebate amount will increase by $1,000, to $3,500 for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Moreover, electric vehicle purchasers who trade in their emission-producing vehicles will be eligible for an additional incentive of $1,000. The program may include a point-of-sale rebate model for individual purchases that offers consumers savings at the point of purchase or lease. The bill also makes used vehicles eligible for rebates. Further, the bill directs the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to conduct an outreach campaign to promote awareness about the MOR-EV program among consumers and businesses in underserved and low-income communities, as well as in communities with high proportions of high-emission vehicles. To expand access to electric vehicle charging stations, this bill convenes an interagency coordinating council to develop and implement a charging infrastructure deployment plan in an equitable and comprehensive manner. The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) would be required to set vehicle electrification and greenhouse gas emission requirements for electric vehicles for transportation network companies. In addition, to ensure that zero-emission vehicle charging remains affordable for consumers, the bill requires all electricity companies to submit proposals to DPU for how they will offer reduced electricity rates for consumers who charge their zero-emission vehicles at off-peak times. Finally, the bill takes historic steps to address emissions that come from MBTA bus fleets. Starting in 2030, this bill requires every passenger bus that is purchased or leased by the MBTA to be a zero-emission vehicle. By the end of 2040, the MBTA will be required to operate exclusively zero-emission vehicles. Underserved and low-income communities would be prioritized for the equitable deployment of these zero-emission buses.

Building Decarbonization
To tackle the difficult issue of emissions from the building sector, the bill creates a 10-municipality demonstration project allowing all-electric building construction by local option. Participating municipalities must receive local approval before applying into the demonstration project. The measure has two important provisos: first, each community must first meet certain affordable housing or multifamily development thresholds; and second, each must exempt life sciences labs and health care facilities from the all-electric requirement. The bill makes targeted enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements. Under the bill, priority for Mass Save projects will be given to those that maximize net climate, environmental, and equity impacts. Beginning in 2025, Mass Save funds will also be limited in most instances from going to any fossil fuel equipment. This bill requires DPU to conduct an adjudicatory proceeding prior to approving any company-specific plan under the DPU’s future of heat proceedings. In addition, the bill requires DPU to convene a stakeholder working group to develop regulatory and legislative recommendations for how Massachusetts can best align the Commonwealth’s gas system enhancement program with the state’s 2050 net-zero goal. The working group must submit its final recommendations to the Legislature by July 31, 2023.

Having been passed by the House and Senate, An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.

Massachusetts House Passes Bill Supporting Veteran’s Services, Military Families

BOSTON – July 7, 2022 – The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed today comprehensive legislation addressing the Commonwealth’s most immediate needs in the veteran community and making necessary updates to service member quality-of-life issues and acknowledgements of our military branches and individual service, including supporting military families who relocate to the Commonwealth with expedited licensure and school enrollment, creating education awareness programs and establishing the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity.

“This bill will allow those who have served our nation to access educational opportunities more easily in the Commonwealth, will educate our service members on the dangers posed by open burned pits, and will further our efforts to properly recognize the sacrifices of these individuals,” said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn). “This legislation builds on the Commonwealth’s proud history of supporting our military men and women – and will help make sure these heroes receive the support they deserve.”

Highlights of the legislation include:

Military spouse licensure portability: requires the Division of Occupational Licensure, the Department of Public Health, and Massachusetts Boards of Registration to accept a military spouse’s application for licensure or notify them of what criteria they were not able to meet within 30 days of the application.
Expedited military spouse teacher licenses: establishes a military spouse certificate to be issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner to military spouse teachers that meet certain requirements.
School enrollment for military children: allows military families to register and enroll in a school district when a service member first receives their relocation order, waiving the proof of residency requirement at the time of registration. This provision also allows military children who are transferring mid-semester to enroll in and attend one of the Commonwealth’s virtual schools.
Purple Star campus designation: establishes the Purple Star Campus Program, to be administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to designate schools that demonstrate a commitment to students and families of service members.
In-state tuition continuity for military-connected college students: ensures that a member of the military stationed in the Commonwealth, their spouse, or their children are deemed an in-state resident after their acceptance at one of the state’s higher education institutions.
Civilian licensure and certification information: directs the Commissioner of Veterans’ Services to make information on civilian licensure and certification opportunities available to service members and veterans, and provide information on military education and skills to relevant agencies.

Open Burn Pit Registry:
• Directs the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health (DPH), in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services and the Adjutant General of the National Guard, to develop educational materials and an informational pamphlet on the health impacts of open burn pits during overseas deployment and information on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to be distributed to health care providers, veterans’ service offices and organizations, and service members and veterans.
• Directs the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services, in consultation with the Commissioner of DPH and the Adjutant General, to contact all members of the Armed Forces, National Guard and veterans to register for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
• Requires the Adjutant General to request that the periodic health assessment for National Guard members determine whether the member is eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry and if eligible, the member register for the Registry.

Massachusetts National Guard family education program: establishes a Massachusetts National Guard Family Education Program to allow National Guard members to transfer their unused education benefits under the National Guard Education Assistance Program to their dependents.

Slot machines at veterans’ organizations: allows the Gaming Commission to issue limited slot machine licenses to veterans’ organizations.

Founding anniversaries of U.S. Armed Forces: requires the Governor to set aside the founding date anniversaries of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Massachusetts National Guard.

Medal of Fidelity: establishes the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity to be presented to the next of kin of a service member or veteran who died as a result of service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder, a service-connected condition resulting from a traumatic brain injury, or a service-connected disease, condition or injury related to exposure to harmful toxin, herbicides, agents or materials.

Deborah Sampson Memorial Commission: establishes a commission to determine a location and create a memorial for Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts resident who disguised herself as a man in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Funeral and burial benefits: requires funeral directors and their staffs to provide information on burial and funeral benefits for veterans.

“An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education and enrollment of dependents” (H.4978) passed the House of Representatives 154-0 after a similar version of this legislation passed in the Massachusetts State Senate. The legislation moves back to the Senate for further consideration.

Earlier this year, the House passed legislation establishing additional protections for veterans and mandating increased accountability for management of veterans’ homes. “An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth veterans’ homes” is currently in conference committee negotiations. In May 2021, the House approved a $600 million bond authorization — with $400 million for the construction of an updated Holyoke Veterans’ Home facility and $200 million to increase geographic equity and accessibility for veterans not primarily served by the veterans’ Homes in Chelsea or Holyoke.

Massachusetts House Passes Legislation to Reform Step Therapy Protocols

BOSTON – Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation limiting the use of step therapy protocols, in which insurance companies refuse to pay for the prescription drugs prescribed by a patient’s health care provider until the patient first tries cheaper, and oftentimes ineffective, alternatives. The legislation establishes exceptions a patient can use to avoid their insurer’s step therapy protocol and requires both MassHealth and commercial insurers to provide a clear and transparent process for patients and their care team to request an exception.

“This is a healthcare bill designed to allow patients to get the life-changing care they need without needlessly going through all kinds of hoops before getting it,” said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn). “This legislation will allow patients to utilize exceptions within an insurance carrier’s step therapy protocols and get the treatment or medication they need sooner.”

The legislation outlines four different circumstances that trigger the patient exception process, including:

1. The required treatment will harm the patient,
2. The required treatment is expected to be ineffective,
3. The patient previously tried the required treatment, or similar treatment, and it was ineffective
or harmed the patient,
4. The patient is stable on a current treatment and switching treatments will harm the patient.

Additional highlights of the legislation include:

• A requirement that MassHealth and commercial insurers adopt a “continuity of coverage” policy to
ensure patients do not experience any delay in accessing a treatment when requesting a step
therapy exemption.
• A requirement that MassHealth and commercial insurers approve or deny a step therapy exemption
request within three business days, or within one business day if a delay would cause harm to the patient.
• A requirement that commercial carriers annually report data related to step therapy exemption requests
and related coverage determinations to the Division of Insurance.
• The creation of a commission on step therapy protocols tasked with studying, assessing, and bi-annually
reporting on the implementation of step therapy process reforms made in this legislation.

“An Act Relative to Step Therapy and Patient Safety” (H.4929) passed the House of Representatives 153-0.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for their consideration.

Massachusetts House Passes Comprehensive Behavioral Health Legislation

BOSTON – The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed on Thursday, June 16, 2022, comprehensive legislation addressing longstanding issues with our behavioral health care delivery system. The bill focuses on acute psychiatric care and crisis response, youth behavioral health initiatives, community-based behavioral health services, investments in the workforce, and enforcement of existing behavioral health parity laws.

“This bill represents yet another step towards meeting the mental health needs of residents, and particularly children, in the Commonwealth. In part due to the challenges of the last few years, we all recognize the increasing demand for these services,” said State Representative Richard M. Haggerty Haggerty (D-Woburn). “We must continue to advance measures that require us to deal with crisis response in the mental health sector and that includes helping to address the labor shortage, valuing behavioral health as we do physical health, and better support for young people living with behavioral health challenges.”

Highlights of the bill include:

Initiatives to address emergency department boarding:
• Creating online portals that provide access to real-time data on youth and adults seeking mental health and substance use services, including a function that allows health care providers to easily search and find open beds
• Requiring the Health Policy Commission (HPC) to prepare and publish a report every three years on the status of pediatric behavioral health
• Codifying an expedited psychiatric inpatient admissions (EPIA) advisory council to reduce hospital emergency department boarding, including a protocol to expedite placement into appropriate care settings for patients under the age of 18
988 implementation and 911 expansion:
This legislation seeks to increase behavioral health care access across the Commonwealth through the implementation of the nationwide 988 hotline to access 24/7 suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis services. This legislation also expands 911 to bridge the gap until 988 is implemented by increasing training, funding, and capacity for regional emergency responses to behavioral health crises.
Red flag laws and Extreme Risk Protection Order:
This bill initiates a public awareness campaign on the Commonwealth’s red flag laws and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), passed by the Legislature in 2018, that limit access to guns for people at risk of hurting themselves or others.
Full-system accountability for parity:
This bill tackles disparities in mental health and other forms of health care by giving the state additional tools to enforce existing parity laws, such as:
• Requiring licensed mental health professionals to be available during all operating hours of an emergency department (including via telehealth)
• Codifying hospital clinical competencies and operational standards and directing the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to establish a complaint process for alleged violations
• Directing DMH to create a comprehensive plan to address access to continuing care beds, intensive residential treatment programs, and community-based programs for patients awaiting discharge from acute psychiatric hospital units
• Implementing mental health watch reforms in correctional settings, including changes to the referral to mental health process for those who are incarcerated or detained, and establishing a process for a person on mental health watch for longer than 72 hours to petition to be transferred
School-based behavioral health services and programming:
• Limiting the use of suspension and expulsion in all licensed early education and care programs
• Requiring school districts to adopt a behavioral health crisis response plan which may be based on a cost-neutral model plan to be developed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
• Creating a statewide program to help schools implement school-based behavioral health services
Access points for youth for effective behavioral health treatment:
• Creating a complex care resolution panel to ensure children with complex behavioral health needs are assisted quickly and with cross-agency support and coordination
• Requiring behavioral health assessments and referrals for children entering the foster care system
• Empowering the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to receive complaints from children and families and to assist them in resolving issues with access to behavioral health services
Expanded insurance coverage:
This legislation requires insurance coverage of critical behavioral health services, including:
• Emergency service programs
• Services provided under psychiatric collaborative care models
• Mental health acute treatment, community-based acute treatment, and intensive community-based acute treatment without prior authorization
• Annual mental health wellness exams
Workforce investments:
This proposal builds upon the Behavioral Health Trust Fund by carving out specific grant programs for health care providers, which would finance: 
• Workforce Pipeline Investments: a scholarship program to support a culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse behavioral health workforce, with a focus on clinicians who commit to serving high-need populations.
• Integrated Care: a grant program to expand integrated care models that enable providers to expand their practices to provide behavioral health care in primary care settings
• Support for Providers: a grant program to promote the mental health and wellbeing of providers
Behavioral health parity implementation and enforcement:
This legislation tackles the disparity by health plans to reimburse mental health services at lower rates than other forms of health care by providing the Commonwealth additional tools to enforce existing parity laws and promote compliance.
This legislation enhances oversight of parity compliance by:
• Requiring carriers to comply with annual reporting requirements
• Directing the Division of Insurance (DOI) to review and ensure insurer compliance with parity laws
• Authorizing the Office of Patient Protection (OPP) to identify and refer potential parity violations that arise during OPP grievance reviews to the DOI and the AG’s office

“An Act addressing barriers to care for mental health” (H.4879) passed the House of Representatives 155-0 after a similar version of this legislation passed in the Massachusetts State Senate. The legislation moves back to the Senate for further consideration.

Reading’s Erin Gaffen Named Commonwealth Heroine of Class 2022

BOSTON – Reading’s Erin Gaffen was honored this week, at an in-person ceremony, as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) 2022 Class of Commonwealth Heroines. State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) is proud to have nominated Erin for her continued contributions and dedication to the Reading community.

“I was so pleased to nominate Erin for this honor and for being able to recognize her efforts to keep Reading moving forward,” said Representative Haggerty, “Her commitment to her community, the School Committee as an institution, and her family make her worthy of this award. I offer her my sincerest congratulations.”

In 2018, Erin co-chaired the Yes For Reading campaign in town, which successfully advocated for additional financial resources for town services. The vote marked the first time since 2003 that Reading voters supported override funding. The added funds helped the town retain elementary, middle, and high school teachers; support athletic programs; add police officers and firefighters; increase library funding; and provide more support for elder services and the Department of Public Works. Then, in 2020, Erin jumped into the public’s eye again by running for School Committee. In her successful run for this position, she had strong support from across the political spectrum and would enter her new role just as COVID-19 began to wreak havoc on everyone’s lives – especially on students and teachers. As a member of the school committee the past two years, Erin has successfully navigated some of the most difficult decisions facing any local elected official in modern times. She has served her community with honor and distinction.

“Erin’s work on the Yes For Reading campaign helped to deliver critical financial resources to the town to preserve many essential municipal services, and she has continued to give back to the community as an elected member of the Reading School Committee,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “Erin’s volunteer and civic work is the epitome of what the Commonwealth Heroines Award is all about, and I join with my colleagues in the Reading legislative delegation in congratulating her on receiving this well-deserved honor.”

“I so admire Erin’s passion for lifting up our youth, whether it is through her work, her advocacy, or her engagement with our community,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “She is more than deserving of recognition as a Commonwealth Heroine, and I look forward to seeing what she does next for Reading students and families.”

The Commonwealth Heroines are women who do not make the new 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. 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.

Representative Haggerty Announces June 2022 Virtual Office Hours

BOSTON – State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) has announced upcoming virtual office hours to be held this Friday.

The forum will be held via the Zoom video conference app, with the abilities to dial-in via the app and through phone. The virtual format of the community office hours will allow members of the community to speak with the Representative directly, where they can voice any questions or concerns they may have.

The upcoming Office Hours will be held this Friday, June 24, 2022 from 11AM – 12PM via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, call-in details will be provided by reaching out to Legislative Aide, Nicole Redigan, directly at or by calling (617) 722-2460.