FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
May 25, 2018
House Passes Legislation to Support and Honor Military Veterans
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation to support Massachusetts’ veterans and military families including an important provision to make more veterans eligible for property tax exemptions by relaxing the residency requirements. This bill builds upon the Commonwealth’s legacy as a national leader for the number of programs and services it offers to military personnel, veterans and their families.
“I am immensely proud that Massachusetts ranks first in the nation when it comes to military-benefit programs and services,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “This legislation sends a message to our heroes and their families that we appreciate their bravery, sacrifice and service.”
“I am proud that the House was able to pass legislation that aims to improve the lives of Veterans in Massachusetts before Memorial Day,” said Representative John J. Lawn, Jr., Chair of the House Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “The goal of this legislation was to expand on the Commonwealth’s legacy as a leader of veterans benefits. This long weekend, I hope we all take a moment to appreciate the ultimate sacrifice our servicemen and women have made in exchange for every American’s freedom.”
“Veterans set the the standard for service to our communities, and I am proud to join my colleagues to pass this legislation to add additional supports for them and their families,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins.
The bill provides new financial supports to families including:
· Creates a $1,000 active-duty death benefit, in addition to any annuity the person would have received;
· Increases the amount a deceased veteran’s estate may receive to assist with funeral and burial expenses from $2,000 to $4,000.
Recognizing that many people who serve in the military have specialized medical training, the legislation makes it easier for military personnel to become EMTs once they return home.
Lastly, under this legislation every municipality in the Commonwealth will now designate one parking space at its town or city hall as “veterans-only parking.”
HOUSE PASSES LEGISLATION TO TEMPORARILY SUSPEND A GUN LICENSE FROM THOSE WHO POSE A RISK TO THEMSELVES OR OTHERS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: State Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
May 25, 2018
House Passes Legislation to Temporarily Suspend a Gun License from Those Who Pose a Risk to Themselves or Others
(BOSTON) – State Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the House to establish a process for family, household members or licensing authorities (petitioners) to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for individuals who “pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others” by owning, possessing or having a firearm. An ERPO, if issued by the court, is in effect for up to one year and results in the immediate suspension and surrender of all firearms and ammunition.
Licensing authorities are required to provide the recipient of ERPO with a list of services “relating to crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling.”
“I’m proud of the members of the House for passing this thoughtful legislation that will save lives,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “In Massachusetts, we have the most effective gun laws in the country. Now, we have a new way to keep people safe and prevent senseless tragedies. I thank Chairman Naughton, Representative Decker, my colleagues in the House, and the students who raised their voices for their work on this crucial, life-saving measure.”
“I would like to thank Speaker DeLeo for his incredible leadership on this bill and for his commitment to firearm safety. Thanks to his leadership, as well as a the tireless advocacy from survivors, parents, and students, we have continued to be a leader in the nation in preventing gun violence and enhancing the quality of life in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton), Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security. “This public safety legislation provides a critical tool for families to protect loved ones from harming themselves or others by preventing them from accessing a firearm in a crisis. I am incredibly proud to have been able to play a small part in crafting a policy that I firmly believe will save lives.”
“I sleep well at night knowing this bill continues to ensure that Massachusetts is doing everything it can to lead the nation with common sense gun legislation that we know will save lives,” said Rep.Marjorie C. Decker (D-Cambridge), sponsor of the bill. “I could not be more proud or grateful for Speaker DeLeo’s leadership and courage. We can continue to look our constituents in the eyes and into the faces of parents across Massachusetts who know that their legislature is working to keep them safe.”
“I am proud of how this legislation aims to destigmatize mental illness in our community and offers a temporary solution for families to help loved ones access mental health care during a crisis,” said Rep. Higgins.
While licensing authorities in Massachusetts can currently suspend or revoke a license to carry (LTC) or firearm ID (FID) card on the basis of suitability, the ERPO court process provides petitioners - particularly family and household members who are far more familiar with an at-risk individual’s behavior - an additional tool to keep the licensee and others safe. It also provides an independent avenue for petitioners who are reluctant to go to law enforcement by allowing them to directly approach the court, doing so “under the pains and penalties of perjury”.
The legislation also allows the court to issue an emergency ERPO prior to a hearing in certain situations and provides for a justice of the court to grant an ERPO on nights and weekends if it finds “reasonable cause to conclude that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others”.
The bill includes a range of due process protections for licensees, including a requirement for the court to hold a hearing within ten days of a petition being filed. Respondents will be able to use all existing statutory law remedies to demonstrate that they are not at risk, including legal counsel and the appeal process.
Any person who files for an order falsely is subject to a $5,000 fine or 2 ½ years in a house of correction.
Finally, in the wake of the recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Commonwealth v. Ramirez, the bill repeals the ban on stun guns and puts a licensing procedure in place.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: State Rep. Natalie Higgins, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 13, 2018
House Passes Balanced Budget with Focus on Local Aid, Helping People
Prioritizes initiatives to strengthen the economy, support vulnerable residents
BOSTON – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass its FY19 budget which makes investments in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $41.064 billion, the House budget maintains funding for key programs amidst a fragile revenue picture and uncertainty in Washington. It includes no new broad-based taxes and projects an $88 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund.
“This is a fiscally-sound budget that addresses key House priorities and sets the standard for supporting those facing adversity,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am particularly proud of the work we have done on early education and care, and I believe that our efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless families. I want to offer my sincere thanks to Chairman Sánchez for his hard work and my colleagues who provided invaluable insight.”
“This budget is all about people and meeting them where they’re at in the lives,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Jamaica Plain). “We uphold our commitments to healthcare, housing, and so many crucial programs that will seek to improve the lives of people across Massachusetts. I’m grateful for the leadership of Speaker DeLeo and my colleagues in the House for their hard work on behalf of their communities. Together, we have passed a budget for the Commonwealth that supports the most vulnerable amongst us, and ensures our economy grows for the benefit of all residents.”
“I am proud of the investments in our communities we have made in this budget,” said Representative Higgins. “Through this budget, I was able to secure additional funding for two important programs in Leominster -- the Leominster Substance Abuse Task Force & Outreach Program and the Domestic Violence Liaison in the Leominster Police Department.”
Recognizing the state’s important relationship with municipalities, the budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid and local education funding by $220 million over FY18 and $54 million over the Governor’s budget proposal. It provides an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, including an increase of $39 million from FY18 to address increasing teacher and faculty healthcare costs, as recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Additional education and local aid allocations include:
· $300 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
· $90 million for Charter School Reimbursement;
· $63.5 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.
The House budget continues its commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families by lifting the cap on children receiving benefits for low income families, supporting early childhood metal health and behavioral health efforts, and ensuring children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC). The budget invests in those who work with our children by increasing rates for early education providers. The House budget also includes $8.5 million to establish an EEC workforce development initiative to coordinate professional development and higher education opportunities in conjunction with Massachusetts’ community colleges. Highlights include:
· Lifting the “cap on kids” that currently prevents families from receiving TAFDC benefits for certain children.
· $2.5 million for continued support for early childhood mental health consultation services.
· $20 million to support high-quality EEC programs though provider rate increase.
Access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing provides the foundation from which families and individuals can lead successful lives. To this end, the House has made investments in permanent housing solutions and efforts to eliminate homelessness. Since 2013, shelter caseload has decreased dramatically, and the number of families living in hotels and motels has decreased to nearly zero. This year, the House continues these efforts by:
· Providing $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
· Funding the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program at $17 million;
· Allocating $32 million for the HomeBASE program;
· Creating a new $5 million rapid rehousing program for homeless individuals.
The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to take lives at an alarming rate. Recent data show that previous investments have made an impact: the number of opioid-related deaths decreased in 2017. However, hospitals, police departments, and EMTs report an ever-rising number of overdoses, underscoring the need to invest in treatment and recovery. To help those in need, the House budget includes:
· $139 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts;
· $5 million for diversion programs to direct people into community-based treatment programs;
· $4.9 million for step-down recovery services;
· $1 million for the purchase of Narcan for first responders and an expansion of the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund to allow non-profit organizations that contract with the Department of Public Health to access Narcan at a significant discount.
Recognizing that education and economic development are intrinsically paired, the budget enhances the House’s focus on bolstering opportunities for residents of all skillsets through programs including:
· $12.8 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth;
· $2 million for technical assistance grants for small business;
· $2 million for Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership, a program that continues to show results in closing the skills gap;
· $104 million for the Commonwealth’s higher education scholarship and financial aid line item;
· $4.75 million to support STEM programming in community colleges through the STEM Starter Academy, which has shown incredible early success by connecting students with employment opportunities.
MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents. In addition to MassHealth funding, which provides health insurance for almost 2 million residents, the budget ensures funding for crucial health and human services including:
· Increases funding for the Department of Mental Health by $97 million over FY18;
· $989 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
· Increases the Councils on Aging formula grant from $10 to $12 per individual, per year;
· $100,000 to establish the Office of Health Equity, which will look at factors like housing and culture to coordinate efforts and eliminate health disparities;
· $4.2 million for veterans outreach centers.
The House budget includes funding for public safety and the judiciary, including investments to implement the recently-signed criminal justice reform law:
· $3 million for a new community-based re-entry program;
· $2.5 million to expand the specialty court to increase access to specialized services for defendants with substance use disorder, mental health, and trauma;
· $20.75 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals;
· $7 million for Shannon Grants, a competitive grant program to individual municipalities to address heightened levels of gang violence.
In light of recent news at the Massachusetts State Police, the House budget recommends a three-tiered approach to address the future of the State Police. The proposed updates will monitor the agency, help develop best practices, and prevent issues from occurring in the future.
Lastly, the House budget makes important investments in environmental programs. These funding levels will help ensure that state parks, environmental protections programs, and the state’s Office of Climate Change and Adaptation have the funds necessary to hire inspectors, permit writers, park rangers and scientists.
The budget now goes to the Senate.