January – March Legislative Update

I would like to take a few minutes to update you all on the efforts I have made as your State Representative these first few months. It continues to be my honor to serve and I look forward to updating you throughout the year on the efforts I am making on your behalf on Beacon Hill.

After being sworn-in on January 2nd I have focused my energy on constituent services, settling into committee assignments, sponsoring and co-sponsoring legislation, and taking several votes.

Committee Assignments
I was recently assigned to several key committees for the current legislative session including the Joint Standing Committee for Education, Joint Standing Committee for Financial Services, and the Joint Standing Committee for Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture (ENRA), while also being appointed to the House Standing Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. Education will be of particular focus this session as we commit ourselves to overhauling the Commonwealth’s public school funding, critical for the communities of Woburn and Reading.

I strongly support updating our education funding formula in the Commonwealth. Our state’s school funding formula has not been updated since 1993 and it is critical that the state supports our communities with proper funding to help minimum funded communities like Woburn and Reading better deal with rising costs. As a member of the Joint Committee on Education I have cosponsored the two major pieces of legislation the committee will review this session (S.238 The Promise Act and H.576 filed by Representative Paul Tucker). Both of these bills make a real effort to address the four cost areas many school districts struggle with including employee health care costs, special education costs, English language learners’ (ELL) costs and better supporting our low-income population. I am keenly aware that many suburban districts like ours deal with being ‘minimum funded districts’ and I will advocate to make sure we are not left behind during these once in a generation discussions.

Legislation Filed
Soon after settling into my office, I immersed myself in the bill sponsoring/cosponsoring period, where I reviewed and considered thousands of bills from my colleagues while filing several of my own.
One of my bills (H.127) would effectively establish a registry of caretakers found to have substantiated abuse against a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities. With more heartbreaking stories of abuse being heard daily, I found it imperative to act in order to protect those vulnerable members of our community. “An Act relative to election ballots” was a piece of legislation I was proud to file with Woburn City Clerk William Campbell. The intent of this bill is to have one official ballot for all voters in the Commonwealth, which in turn would save millions of unused ballots each general election cycle. The anticipated savings to the Commonwealth would be over $750,000 each state election cycle. “An Act exempting veterans from the standard registration fee for veterans’ license plates” would waive the standard $60 fee for our Commonwealth’s veterans; small thanks for their sacrifice and service to our great nation. With “An Act relative to line-of-duty death and survivor benefits,” this legislation would increase these mentioned benefits from $150,000 to $250,000, ensuring that the Commonwealth is properly taking care of the families impacted by the sacrifice of a loved one made in the line-of-duty.

I was also pleased to co-sponsor H.3486 “An Act relative to the Prescription Monitoring Program.” The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that licensed professionals authorized to prescribe controlled substances receive information, through the Prescription Monitoring Program, about a patient’s participation in opioid maintenance treatment prior to issuing a new prescription for an opioid substance.

All opioid treatment facilities will then present to each individual entering treatment a form that allows the individual to consent to the release of their information through the Prescription Monitoring Program. The information will also be presented to the individual upon their discharge from the facility. I believe this bill will go a long way towards providing doctors and nurses the information they need to make more informed decisions prior to writing an opioid prescription.

Another piece of legislation I co-sponsored is H.3179 “An Act requiring the hands-free use of mobile telephones while driving.” For the safety of our roadways, and most important our families, the time has come to put down our phones while driving. Accident data, to many near misses, blue-tooth technology, and vehicle-integrated phone systems now provide us little excuse to not put down our phones. The bill states that no operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile telephone, or any handheld device capable of accessing the internet, to compose, send or read an electronic message or to access a mobile application while operating a motor vehicle, except to perform a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate hands free navigation – except in case of an emergency.

Votes Taken
In late February, I was proud to vote in favor of a supplemental budget that made key investments in crucial areas:
• $8 million to begin to address the backlog of Sexual Assault Evidence Kits at the State Police Crime Lab.
• $30 million for low-income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to make up for Federal funding shortfalls.
• $10 million to fund emergency assistance for homelessness
• $39 million to fund ratified-collective bargaining agreements at various state agencies.

In March I voted on two pieces of legislation; the bill banning conversion therapy practices by licensed professionals in Massachusetts and a bill related to benefit funding in the Commonwealth. Each of these bills passed the legislature by wide margins, representing a successful bi-partisan approach to governing.

By a vote of 147-8, the House approved legislation (H.140) that prevents state-licensed therapists from attempting to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices have been outlawed in 15 other states have been widely discredited by mental health professionals as being harmful to children, I voted in favor of banning the practice by licensed individuals in Massachusetts.

I was also proud to join my colleagues, by a vote of 155-1, in voting for a bill that would abolish a rule that denies benefits to vulnerable children born into families already receiving public assistance. Providing transitional assistance is an important benefit for an estimated 9,000 low-income children in Massachusetts and I also look forward to supporting further funding for work force training and retraining efforts.
Please feel free to reach out to my office or Legislative Aide via email at Anthony.Langone@mahouse.gov or call the office at (617) 722-2090. To stay up to date on everything I’m doing up at the State House and out in the district follow me on Facebook @Rich.M.Haggerty and on Twitter @richhaggerty.