FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2018
Contact: State Representative Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
House Reflects on 190th Session Accomplishments
Focus on Supporting Communities, Fighting the Opioid Epidemic,
Reducing Gun Violence, and Helping Vulnerable Residents
(BOSTON) – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop) joined with State Representative Natalie Higgins (D - Leominster) and her colleagues in the Legislature to mark the end of the legislative session and highlight accomplishments of the productive 2017-2018 session that included the passage of several landmark bills. Over the past two years, the Legislature passed major bills relating to criminal justice, gun safety, those struggling with addiction, women’s rights, economic development, veterans benefits, consumer data protections, and energy and the environment.
“We’ve had a productive and successful session the results of which provide real-world and balanced solutions to save lives, support our communities, empower working families and businesses as well as address the effects of climate change,” said Speaker DeLeo. “I’m pleased that amid a charged national political atmosphere, we were able to agree to a fiscally-responsible budget and a bundle of legislation that serves our vulnerable residents and keeps our cities and towns safe by supporting children, first responders, veterans and small business.”
“I am proud of the work we have done together to lift up the Leominster community, with support to our youngest and most senior members and their families,” said Rep. Natalie Higgins. “
Resting on a longstanding practice of strong fiscal management, the House passed two balanced state budgets – with landmark investments in early education, benefits for low-income families, workforce development, housing as well as programs to prevent and treat opioid addiction. These included no new major taxes. This year the budget surplus increased the state’s Stabilization Fund, which is expected to surpass $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2019.
With the tragic events resulting from mass shootings unfolding across the country, the House took action twice this session to pass Massachusetts’ already nation-leading policies designed to promote gun safety. This session Massachusetts took another leap forward with new laws aimed at preventing those individuals who pose a risk of causing bodily injury to themselves or others from owning or possessing a firearm as well as providing them with crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse and counseling services. In addition the House passed legislation banning the sale, purchase or ownership of a “bump stock” device, which is designed to increase a weapon’s rate of fire and mimic automatic gun fire. These laws build on the House’s landmark 2014 gun legislation, which led to Massachusetts being found one of the safest in the nation.
While focused on protecting our residents from gun violence, the House took action to address the opioid crisis with sweeping initiatives to promote behavioral health for adults and children and measures to prevent substance use disorders. The legislation takes measures including expanding access to non-opioid treatment options for pain management; establishing grants to benefit substance exposed newborn children and prohibiting discounts and rebates for certain prescription opioids. It also took steps to improve the quality of patient care at treatment facilities, expands access to Narcan and increases training for law enforcement to respond to behavioral health crisis.
This past spring the House passed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation in a generation to establish a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety. As part of the reforms, the House also acted on its long-standing legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children by raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility from age seven to age twelve and decriminalizes first offense misdemeanors.
The reforms also bolster the House’s multi-tiered approach to combating the opioid epidemic by creating the nation’s strongest law for trafficking Carfentanil and by strengthening the Fentanyl trafficking law. The legislation requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues. It removes the age restriction to participate in a diversion program, as they are currently only available to defendants 22 and under.
The legislation also includes the following provisions.
Building off its tradition of protecting women’s rights, the House passed landmark legislation to guarantee reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. With an uncertain future for federal action on reproductive rights, the Legislature took decisive action to protect the rights for women across the Commonwealth by passing legislation to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to repeal outdated state laws directed at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health.
Balancing the needs of workers and small businesses, the House passed legislation to raise the minimum wage; create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers; and to establish a permanent sales tax holiday.
Facing an unprecedented number of data breaches across the nation from national credit reporting entities and retailers, the House passed a bill to put into place enhanced protections for consumers against data breaches, making it easier for consumers to monitor their credit and request security freezes on data. The bill requires entities that have been breached to limit fees associated with data breach protections as well as requires transparency from breached companies and their affiliates. In addition, breached entities are required to provide more detailed consumer notifications about data breaches and options to help consumers better protect themselves.
Recognizing the critical needs of the Commonwealth’s first responders, the House passed a bundle of bills aimed at supporting enhanced police training, provisions to protect firefighters as they recover from work-related cancer illnesses, and providing access to confidential mental health services for those responders recovering from traumatic events.
The House also passed legislation to spur economic development across the Commonwealth with investments including public infrastructure projects like street and sewer improvements and for multi-family housing and mixed-use development, and transportations in communities across the Commonwealth. The legislation also includes investments to boost manufacturing innovation; grow jobs in coastal communities; support technology development and innovation; and expand career technical training programs. The legislation also establishes and apprenticeship tax credit for employers and limits the enforcement of and sets standards for non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. The legislation funds initiatives that help small businesses grow and establishes tax credits for businesses that occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas.
This session the House took action to foster an inclusive and just elections process by establishing automatic voter registration.
In response to calls for increased awareness of students of how the U.S. democratic system works at the local, state and federal government levels, the House passed a bill requiring schools to incorporate civics education with a focus on hand-on learning voting activities and media literacy.
As part of an ongoing effort to protect the health of our youth, the Massachusetts Legislature raised the age to purchase tobacco products to 21 or older.
Massachusetts is a known national leader in environmental policy and this year’s environmental bond bill bolsters that position by dedicating $2.4 billion to improving climate change resiliency and adaptation; enhancing environmental and natural resource protection; and investing in parks and recreational assets. The legislation passed ensures that Massachusetts can continue to plan for global warming and a changing climate, including along vulnerable coastlines with $225 million in community investment grants, $100 million for energy and environment coastal infrastructure, and $54 million in rural investments.
Finally, this year the House passed a bill to enhance certain benefits for Massachusetts veterans including increases to assistance with funeral and burial expenses; relating to property taxes, and designating April 5 as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September to Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Highlights
Children and families
State Police Oversight
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: State Rep. Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
Massachusetts Legislature Passes $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill
August 1, 2018 (BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Legislature who voted today to pass a $2.4 Billion Environmental Bond Bill focused on improving climate change resiliency and adaptation; enhancing environmental and natural resource protection; and investing in parks and recreational assets.
The legislation passed today ensures that Massachusetts can continue to plan for global warming and a changing climate, including along our vulnerable coastlines.
“Climate change is a real and present threat to Massachusetts, and we must treat it as a priority,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These investments in our communities, coastlines, and in overall climate resiliency highlight our joint focus with the House on preparing Massachusetts’ infrastructure for the future, and safeguarding our residents from potential environmental disasters. I thank the conferees for their dedication to preparing this vital legislation.”
“These investments protect critical natural resources, preserve our parks and recreational areas and aim to make our Commonwealth is more resilient to the threats of climate change for years to come,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to fund these important initiatives.”
Among other spending, the bill appropriates:
Today’s bill also requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to coordinate and strengthen the Commonwealth’s climate resilience and prepare for climate change impacts; publish an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan every five years; and establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments to be included in the state plan.
Additionally, the legislation creates and funds a Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund to fund the implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, and state and local strategies for climate adaptation.
The Environmental Bond Bill also emphasizes the importance of public and parkland throughout the Commonwealth, appropriating $150,000,000 to tree planting, urban and suburban parks, EEA land acquisition, and trails.
“As Chairman of the Environment Committee, I am proud to say this bill is an amazing example of bipartisan effort and compromise,” said Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), Chair Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “I’m grateful to Speaker DeLeo for including me in this conference process, and to my colleague, Representative Nangle for his leadership and understanding while we championed the issues we believed were most necessary for the environmental benefit of the Commonwealth. I understand neither side got everything it wanted out of the compromise, but I believe we’ve come out with a strong bond bill, funding necessary projects and environmental investments across the state, including an agricultural estate tax credit, integrated state climate adaptation plans, and an investment in preserving our cities and towns. This bond bill aims to preserve our land, restore dams and seawalls, and support various community investment grants which will all have lasting effects on our communities.”
Other highlights of the bill include the creation of the Agricultural Innovation Fund to finance grants for the Commonwealth’s agricultural and cranberry producers; and the Fishing Innovation Fund for the design, construction and modification of commercial fishing vessel; and for research, development, acquisition and deployment of advanced or innovative technologies such as sonar, satellite, radar and radio communications.