For Immediate Release
July 5, 2018
Contact: Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
Leominster State Representative Natalie Higgins named a 2018 Emerging Leader
BOSTON -- The State Legislative Leaders Foundation named Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) to its 2018 Emerging Leaders Class. The State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to professional development for our nation’s current and future state legislative leaders.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed specifically for the next generation of leaders in our state legislatures and offers mentoring to first- and second-term legislators who have been identified by their peers as future leaders. The program is held every July on the campus of the University of Virginia, in partnership with the distinguished Darden School of Business.
Next week, 42 of the best and brightest state legislators from across the nation take part in four days of challenging classroom discussions, led by a team of professors at the Darden School. Since 2005, over 600 legislators have benefitted from their experience at this program, and a significant number have continued their careers in public service. Many have achieved positions of leadership in their states.
“I am honored to have been chosen as an Emerging Leader in my first term in office,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins. “It’s been awhile since I’ve had this much homework and I am excited to learn as much as I can in these four days to become a stronger representative of Leominster and a better advocate for our priorities in the Massachusetts State House.”
For Immediate Release
Contact: Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
July 5, 2018
House Passes Legislation to Create Automatic Voter Registration in Massachusetts
Bill seeks to remove barriers to voter registration and increase voter turnout
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation creating an efficient and streamlined automatic voter registration (AVR) system, while also protecting the privacy of individuals.
This legislation directs the Secretary of State to work with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and MassHealth to automatically enroll eligible individuals to the Commonwealth’s voter rolls. The Secretary of State will adopt regulations governing the AVR system, including provisions requiring electronic transmission, data security protocols, and integration with online portals.
“Increasing the number of people who are registered to vote will enhance our democracy and make our government more reflective of the people we represent,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “I thank Chairman Mahoney for his leadership and the advocates who raised their voices.”
“I am proud to see Massachusetts continue to lead the way in voting rights to ensure that everyone who is a resident has the ability to participate in our democracy,” said Representative John J. Mahoney, Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws (D-Worcester). “The House, under Speaker DeLeo’s leadership, has taken decisive action to reform and improve our elections systems, and this legislation demonstrates our commitment to further progress.”
“Automatic Voter Registration is one important step Massachusetts can take to increase voter registrations and participation and I am proud to stand with my colleagues today,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins.
Under this legislation, registration agencies will transmit electronic records of the legal name, age, residence, citizenship information, and electronic signature of each qualified person to the board of registrars of the municipality where the person lives. The board of registrars will then send a notice to the individual informing them that they have been registered to vote and offer the opportunity to choose a party affiliation or decline to be registered. If the individual does not decline within 21 days, their name will automatically be added to the voter lists.
The name and address of program participants will remain confidential and the Secretary of State will establish security measures to protect voter information.
The bill also requires Massachusetts to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit that assists member states with improving voter roll accuracy and increasing access to voter registration.
Under this legislation, automatic voter registration would begin on January 1, 2020.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PROPOSAL ON SALES TAX HOLIDAY, MINIMUM WAGE, AND FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018
Contact: Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
Massachusetts Legislature Announces Comprehensive Proposal on Sales Tax Holiday, Minimum Wage, and Family and Medical Leave
BOSTON - The Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts State Senate announced today a legislative proposal to raise the minimum wage; create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers; phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays; and establish a permanent sales tax holiday.
“Too many working families in Leominster and across the state are struggling to make ends meet,” said Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster). “This legislation is an important first step in making sure our communities thrive, with a $15 minimum wage, paid family medical leave, and preventing the cuts of $1.25B to the state budget.”
The legislation is based on months of negotiations with stakeholders sponsoring proposed ballot questions for the November 2018 election. It is scheduled to come to the House and Senate floors on Wednesday.
“This compromise strikes the right balance of empowering employees, supporting our hardworking residents and ensuring that businesses can continue to provide good, steady jobs,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I sincerely thank the stakeholders who came to the table and the legislators who brokered this compromise.”
Among other initiatives, this legislative proposal does the following:
· Creates a permanent sales tax holiday, beginning in 2019;
· Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 over the next five years;
· Increases the tip wage to $6.75 over the next five years;
· Phases out premium pay on Sundays and holidays over the next five years;
· Establishes a Department of Family and Medical Leave within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development;
· Creates a framework for family leave of 12 weeks; family leave for the care of a service member of 26 weeks; and medical leave for up to 20 weeks; and
· Exempts small businesses from financial contribution to the paid family and medical leave fund.
The proposal leaves the sales tax unchanged, and does not impose a teen sub-minimum wage.
“I am pleased to put forward this bill which empowers workers, recognizes the needs of business owners, and ensures that Massachusetts residents will no longer have to choose between caring for a sick relative or losing their job,” said Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose). “This bill is the result of months of negotiations and demonstrates that regardless of what happens in Washington, here in Massachusetts we focus on cooperation and compromise.”
“This deal represents a series of compromises made in the best interest of the Commonwealth. By reaching a thoughtful balance, this package will protect Massachusetts workers while promoting a competitive environment for our local businesses,” said Representative Joseph F. Wagner (D-Chicopee), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018
Contact: Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
House Passes Landmark Peter V. Kocot Health Care Legislation
Seeks to stabilize the marketplace and increase transparency
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation that seeks to ensure residents across the Commonwealth have access to high-quality health care as the marketplace continues to experience volatility while, at the same time, laying the groundwork for continuous improvement to the Commonwealth’s nationally-leading health care infrastructure.
The Peter V. Kocot Act (PVK Act) builds off the cost containment goals of Chapter 224, Chapter 58, and the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation (PPV Commission) by appropriately recognizing the vital role that community hospitals and community health centers play, both as health care providers and economic drivers. These entities, which traditionally care for underserved populations and those in Gateway Cities and rural areas, will receive both long-term support and a one-time, three-year investment through the Community Hospital Reinvestment Trust Fund (CHRTF). Details of the assessment include:
• $90 million contribution from hospitals which have less than 60 percent Medicaid patients and more than $750 million in net assets.
• Up to $247.5 million from health insurers.
In addition to the assessment, the PVK Act raises professional license fees for various medical providers (these fees have not been raised since 2013) and assesses Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC) and Urgent Care Centers (UCC) for the first time. This ongoing revenue source will continue to fund CHRTF in perpetuity.
“The Peter V. Kocot Act will bolster our community hospitals and community health centers during a unique time of change in the healthcare marketplace while maintaining our world renowned medical facilities,”said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This carefully balanced plan seeks to preserve and enhance our healthcare environment in a way that reflects the work and legacy of its namesake, Chairman Peter V. Kocot. I thank Leader Mariano, Chair Sanchez, Vice Chair Roy for their tireless work on this legislation.”
“This bill is aimed at ensuring stability to low-cost alternatives for high-quality healthcare options, particularly in our Gateway Cities,” said Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “My hope is this legislation will set the foundations of healthcare systems as they face the challenges of converting from fee-for-service care to a global payment system. The three years of this bill will help transition our healthcare system as it continues to develop.”
“This legislation represents a significant amount of work by the members of the House,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Jamaica Plain). “It exemplifies the work of the Speaker’s MCO Working Group in 2015 and the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation in 2017. It’s a thoughtful, responsible approach to helping stabilize community hospitals and community health centers. We focus on improving transparency and care for the benefit of all residents of the Commonwealth, particularly the underserved.”
“Massachusetts continues to lead the way in healthcare and this bill takes significant steps at addressing some of the most pressing concerns in our healthcare system today – price variation, unnecessary cost growth, consumer engagement, and greater transparency," said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), House Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. "It also harnesses technology and innovation to improve the delivery of care and is ultimately shaped around enhancing the experience for patients. At its heart, this bill, in conjunction with our prior legislative efforts, is transforming how we seek to pay for care to promote cost-effective, value driven services in a way that makes the healthcare system more accessible and effective for all of us.”
Over the past decade, Massachusetts has experienced a rapid rise in the number of ASCs and UCCs. To increase oversight and gather additional data on this growing sub-sector, the PVK Act requires licensing through the Department of Public Health (DPH) for both types of entities.
The PVK Act empowers consumers by increasing transparency and patient protections at every stage of the healthcare system. To gain clarity on drug pricing and the role the pharmaceutical industry plays in health care cost-containment, the bill will direct pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to participate in the Health Policy Commission (HPC)'s annual Cost Trends Hearing. It also requires the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) to consider pharmaceutical data as part of its cost analysis. Additionally, this legislation prohibits “gag clauses” which are currently included in contracts between PBMs and pharmacists, and prevent a pharmacist from informing a consumer that they are able to purchase a drug at a lower price out of pocket.
The PVK Act addresses surprise and out-of-network billing by removing the patient from the middle and, instead, requiring insurance carriers and doctors to come to a resolution on the appropriate rate of payment. Under this legislation, the consumer is no longer responsible for any services provided by an out-of-network doctor in an emergency situation or one where they unknowingly receive care from an out-of-network provider. The doctor will be paid the higher of two amounts: 115 percent of the carrier’s average rate for services rendered, or 125 percent of the Medicare rate. Any dispute would go before an independent board created by the Division of Insurance (DOI) for resolution. In a non-emergency situation where a patient chooses to have an out-of-network doctor, the doctor must disclose to the patient estimated costs before performing the services.
This legislation also supports small business by providing more options for low-cost, high value health plans and creating a study to improve the merged market. Small business owners and their employees will now have more choices when selecting health insurance plans and will have more information, presented in a clear and uniform manner, on which providers and services are available to them. The bill also promotes the use of telemedicine, which expands access to care and provides consumers with new choices on how they receive care. A study that will look at the current dynamic of the merged market will yield recommendations to reduce barriers and improve the shopping experience for both small businesses and individuals.
Understanding the complexities of scope of practice proposals, the PVK Act creates an objective, data-driven process to determine when an expansion of scope is advisable. Under this legislation:
• A joint committee of the Legislature will be able to request an objective review of any scope proposal by CHIA.
• CHIA would have 180 days to examine the current scope of a licensed profession and, with input from the Betsy Lehman Center, gather data and analyze information on safety and cost regarding a proposed expansion.
• Once the objective analysis is completed, the report is sent to the HPC for its review. The HPC then makes a recommendation to the Legislature within 90 days.
The PVK Act also reauthorizes the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF), created in Chapter 224, under the HPC with new reporting requirements. Funded through a transfer of funds from CHIA and new recreational marijuana revenue, the PWTF will focus its efforts on increasing access to community-based prevention services, reducing the impact of health condition drivers, and developing a stronger evidence base for effective prevention programming. A portion of the PWTF grants will go to regional grants to ensure that prevention dollars are dispersed throughout the Commonwealth.
Provider directories, which patients use to select providers that accept their health insurance, will now be subject to more rigorous standards to ensure the accuracy of the information and that changes are made in a timely fashion. A new task force will provide recommendations on how to make provider directories more consumer friendly and easily searchable.
Several other new commissions will examine administrative costs in health care, availability and quality of nursing homes, and barriers to foreign medical professionals practicing in Massachusetts
The Peter V. Kocot Act now goes to the Senate for consideration.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2018
Contact: Isabelle Greene, Program Director, Isabelle.firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.626.6522
Francine Meigs of Leominster named as an Unsung Heroine
MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
ANNOUNCED UNSUNG HEROINES OF 2018
Francine Meigs of Leominster was honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2018 class of Unsung Heroines. State Representative Natalie Higginsrecommended Ms. Meigs or this recognition because of her commitment to her students, empowering them to positively impact their community. Ms. Meigs was honored with 130 other Unsung Heroines for her outstanding contributions to her Leominster in a ceremony on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 from 1-4 p.m., in the Great Hall at the State House in Boston.
Francine Meigs is an 8th Grade Special Education teacher at Samoset Middle School in Leominster. Ms. Meigs is an exceptional education and doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. She also supports after school programming with Academic Support and Math Cafe. Ms. Meigs is always looking for opportunities for her students to give back to the community. She has worked with the United Way Youth Venture to support student community service including book drives, support for veterans, and autism awareness.
“Francine believes her middle school students are change-makers and she goes above and beyond to empower her students to build a better community,” said Rep. Higgins.
The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.
The ceremony included a program emceed by MCSW Chair Margot Parrot, acknowledging each of the 2018 Unsung Heroines, along with remarks from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Harriette L. Chandler and Representative Colleen M. Garry, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. The ceremony was followed by a group photograph and a “Just Desserts” reception.
A complete list of this year’s honorees is available by contacting the Commission; to request this list or for additional information please contact the MCSW at 617-626-6520 or email@example.com.
This event was made possible with the generous support of the following sponsors: Baystate Health, Eastern Bank, Girls Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies, Kerry Goodwin Photography, Polar Beverages, and SM Lorusso and Sons, Inc.
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.
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.
For Immediate Release
February 16, 2018
Contact: Natalie Higgins, email@example.com, 978-227-5278
House Passes Legislation to Enhance Consumer Protection Following Data Breaches
Legislation removes fees for security freezes and increases access to credit reports
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation providing added protections and resources for consumers in the event of a data security breach that impacts a credit agency or other business.
Under this legislation, credit freezes, lifts or removals must be provided to consumers without a charge. Credit agencies or businesses must provide one year of free credit monitoring after any breach.
“This legislation includes many powerful consumer protection tools that also modernize the way we do business,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “I thank Chairman Chan for his exhaustive study into this complex problem and Chairwoman Benson for her ongoing commitment.”
“I am proud to see the House of Representatives vote today to protect Massachusetts residents from data breaches and modernize our current laws,” said Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), House Chair of the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “Particularly following numerous high profile breaches over the last year, this legislation is urgently needed to ensure that consumers have more control over their credit protections. This is an issue that impacts every individual, organization and business in the Commonwealth, and I am grateful for the valuable input from so many stakeholders, committee members, and colleagues throughout this process to ensure that we produced the best possible policy for our residents.”
“As an advocate for consumer protection, I filed legislation to make it easier for consumers to freeze their credit reports so that victims of identity theft and fraud could more quickly regain control of their credit,” said Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “In the wake of the Equifax hack last year, I worked with the Attorney General and advocates to strengthen the bill with additional language offering further protections. I’m proud of my colleagues in the House for coming together to pass this important legislation to protect and empower Massachusetts consumers.”
The legislation updates the framework for the implementation of a freeze and related communication including:
For the first time in Massachusetts, this legislation establishes specific guidelines for parents and guardians to freeze accounts of children under the age of 16 and incapacitated individuals.
The legislation also updates notification guidelines for breached entities and third party affiliates.
Additionally, the Attorney General must provide information online to consumers regarding the breach.
This bill also updates current law to require companies and organizations to obtain consent before running a credit report.