GIC reverses health-plan vote The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — After an upsurge of criticism surrounded its decision to cut health-care plans for state employees, the Group Insurance Commission voted 12-2 Thursday to take a new approach.

In response to the original decision, Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, filed legislation Jan. 25 that would require the GIC to wait 90 days after notifying the Legislature to make any agreements or changes in the contract.

In testimony at the hearing, SEIU Local 509 President Peter MacKinnon urged the Senate to support Friedman’s bill because of the positive effect it could have on state employees. Local 509 represents human service workers and educators, 8,300 of whom would be affected by the GIC’s original decision.

“We need to re-look at how we do this, not only for the protection of the members but for the protection of the commonwealth,” Friedman said. “We need to understand that and not be making these decisions in vacuums.”

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GIC chief takes blame for ‘confusion and havoc’ ahead of health care vote Boston Business Journal

After a fierce wave of backlash to its move to eliminate three Massachusetts-based health plan offerings for state employees, the Group Insurance Commission’s executive director told lawmakers Wednesday she accepts accountability.

“Though unintended, I now understand full well the concern, confusion and havoc that have ensued,” GIC executive director Roberta Herman said at a Senate oversight hearing called after the commission voted two weeks ago to consolidate its state employee health plan offerings by dropping three of its six carriers.

Sen. Cindy Friedman told Herman she was “really looking for how we put trust back into the system.” Friedman has filed legislation that would require the GIC to give the Legislature 90 days’ notice before making any major health insurance changes.

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Arlington Police At Forefront Of Finding Solutions To Epidemic Arlington Patch

ARLINGTON, MA — Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan was in the Washington D.C. area helping develop guidance to implement mental health service programs within the criminal justice system this week, highlighting once again that Arlington’s Police Department is at the forefront when it comes to that.

Back in about 2010, Arlington Police noticed they were often arresting and prosecuting people with behavioral health or substance use disorder. So the department started working with then Senator Donnelly’s office and his then Chief of Staff (now Senator Friedman) on grant funding to embed a mental health clinician in the police department using what is known as the co-responder model.

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GIC To Reconsider Health Plan Consolidation WBUR

The Group Insurance Commission, relenting to days of withering criticism over its decision to limit health plan offerings to nearly 450,000 state employees and retirees, plans to reconsider that plan when it meets next week.

The move comes after Attorney General Maura Healey opened an investigation into whether the GIC properly gave notice of last week’s meeting.

The agency now says it will put a motion for reconsideration of the Jan. 18 8-5 vote on its agenda for the Feb. 1 meeting.

National Association of Government Employees President David Holway issued a statement Thursday in response to the announcement thanking the five labor representatives on the GIC and many lawmakers — include House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler, House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, Rep. James O’Day, Sen. Cindy Friedman and Sen. Karen Spilka — for speaking out against the changes.

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9 state senators to review sexual harassment policies MassLive

BOSTON — Nine senators were named Thursday to a committee that will review the state Senate’s sexual harassment policies and procedures, a task they have about four months to complete.

The Senate adopted an order (S.2262) establishing the committee, which is chaired by Salem Democrat Sen. Joan Lovely, and giving it a May 15 deadline to report its findings and recommendations.

The committee’s other members are Democrat Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain, Cindy Friedman of Arlington, Anne Gobi of Spencer, John Keenan of Quincy and Karen Spilka of Ashland, and Republican Sens. Don Humason of Westfield and Richard Ross of Wrentham.

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Baker makes pitch for latest bill targeting opioid addiction The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker, entering the final year of his first term, pitched the Democrat-controlled Legislature Tuesday on the idea of working with him over the coming months to improve the state’s drug addiction treatment and prevention system in what could quickly become one of the biggest debates of 2018.

Some of the many proposals in the CARE Act, which the governor filed in November, appeared to be slam-dunks with lawmakers, including the education component, while others may require more salesmanship.

PAARI founder John Rosenthal and Sen. Cindy Friedman both questioned why the bill didn’t do more to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the role they have played in the addiction crisis and make them a partner in funding treatment and recovery.

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Billerica Shawsheen Tech hosts rededication of technology shop Billerica Minuteman

Superintendent/Director Timothy Broadrick welcomed more than 30 guests into the machine technology shop at Shawsheen Valley Regional Technical High School on Dec. 19 for the rededication of the shop following a capital investment program with funds provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Attendees heard remarks from State Rep. James Miceli, Rep. Kenneth Gordon, Sen. Cindy Friedman, along with Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash. This rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony brought together supporters from the business community as well as academic partners, along with students, faculty, administrators and members of the Shawsheen School Committee.

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Billerica celebrates MLK Jr. Day Billerica Minuteman

As members of the Billerica faith community gathered for a community brunch on Jan. 15, celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, love was the message.

“Love does something, love creates policies that create growth and human flourishing, love is actualized in concrete actions, love engages the facts of another’s existence, love feeds the hungry person, loves clothes the naked person,” said Reverend Julian Cook, senior pastor of Saint Mark Congregational Church in Roxbury. “Dr. King used to say, ‘love seeks to preserve community.’ It is the only cement that can hold the community together.”

State Sen. Cindy Friedman asked Cook what his priorities would be if he was a legislator. Cook said above all, he would look to address poverty.

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No bump yet for Massachusetts minimum wage earners Worcester Telegram

Despite support from a majority of its members, legislation raising the Massachusetts minimum wage from $11 to $15 is ending the same way it began last year – pending before the Democrat-controlled Labor and Workforce Development Committee.

A News Service review determined at least 11 of 17 members of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, which has had custody of the $15 minimum wage bill throughout 2017, are co-sponsors of the bills. They are committee co-chair Sen. Jason Lewis, vice chair Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Sens. Sal DiDomenico, John Keenan and Cindy Friedman, along with Reps. Elizabeth Malia, Christine Barber, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Steve Ultrino, Gerard Cassidy and Juana Matias.

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Sen. Friedman announces 100th day in office Burlington Union

Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, recently celebrated her 100th day in the Massachusetts State Senate and released a comprehensive list of noteworthy moments since she was sworn into office on July 27, 2017. This summer, Friedman ran in a special election to succeed the late Sen. Ken Donnelly, who passed away from brain cancer in April. She had worked as his chief of staff for nearly a decade.

‘Today marks my 100th day in office,’ Friedman said in an email to constituents. ‘During the campaign, I said that I’d be ‘ready on Day 1’ and I meant it.’

Since the official swearing-in ceremony, Friedman has traveled throughout the 4th Middlesex district meeting with constituents, speaking at community events and discussing important issues impacting Massachusetts. She began her legislative duties at the State House by taking part in several key votes in the Senate to reform the criminal justice system, contain health care costs, reduce property tax rates for seniors, military personnel, people with disabilities, and more.”

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