Friedman Joins Massachusetts Senate in Advancing Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Bond Bill

BOSTON (04/29/2021) – On Thursday, April 29, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass a bill authorizing $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new facility for the soldiers’ home in Holyoke. The bill also authorizes the issuance of $200 million in general obligation bonds to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for Massachusetts veterans across the state, with an emphasis on those areas not primarily served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke.

“This funding will ensure that veterans in the Home, and across the Commonwealth, are provided the best care for their diverse needs,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership and my Senate colleagues for their contributions in making this bill stronger to better serve our veterans for generations to come.”

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Friedman Celebrates Signing of Landmark Climate Legislation into Law

BOSTON (03/26/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature on March 15th to pass nation-leading climate legislation, known as the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which overhauls the state’s climate laws, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, advances the clean energy industry, and prioritizes and protects environmental justice communities.

“I have been incredibly supportive of this legislation each and every time it has come before the Senate,” said Senator Friedman. “We have been patient, but we cannot be patient any longer. Signing this bill into law puts Massachusetts on a path towards a clean, green, and sustainable future for generations to come. I thank Senate President Spilka and Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues for their leadership, and my counterpart from Lexington, Senator Barrett, for the expertise and unrelenting work he put into this legislation.”

The bill returned to the Governor’s desk and was signed into law on March 26, 2021.

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Friedman Celebrates Signing of COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law

BOSTON (03/25/21) – Weeks after Senate and House leadership promised swift action on COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a comprehensive bill that would guarantee five paid days off for every employee in the Commonwealth. The bill also seeks to stabilize the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund, provides substantial tax relief to businesses and workers, and delays the state tax filing deadline.

“We are still battling the pandemic, and I am so thankful for the Senate’s swift action, under the leadership of Senate President Spilka, to provide much-needed relief to our businesses and working families,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. “Not only will this bill strengthen our economy and keep our workforce safe, but it provides long-overdue emergency paid sick leave benefits for all workers.”

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Friedman Joins Colleagues in Extending Vote-By-Mail Through June

BOSTON (03/16/2021) – On Thursday, March 11, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass legislation to extend mail-in voting and early voting options for elections held through the end of June 2021. The vote-by-mail provision was previously set to expire at the end of March 2021.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over; we must continue to ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely cast their ballot in our upcoming elections without risking exposure to the virus,” said Senator Friedman. “Utilizing vote-by-mail until June 2021 will protect the democratic process and promote voter participation—a valuable voting tool that should become permanent in Massachusetts. I applaud my Senate colleagues and our municipal election officials for their leadership and work to safeguard our elections.”

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Senator Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Refiled Landmark Climate Change Bill

BOSTON (01/28/2021) – Today, the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation that overhauls our state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) proudly joined her colleagues in reaffirming the Legislature’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis facing our Commonwealth.

The passage of An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.9), comes after a joint commitment from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano, as well as last session’s House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Thomas Golden, to refile the legislation following a gubernatorial veto last session.

“Exactly two weeks after the Governor vetoed this bill, the Massachusetts Legislature fulfilled its commitment to bringing this back to the floor and protecting our environment for generations to come,” said Senator Friedman. “I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for advancing this legislation and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Senator Friedman Co-Sponsors Emergency Legislation to Create a One-Stop Online Vaccine Appointment Portal and Phone Hotline

BOSTON (1/28/2021) – Late this morning, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) co-sponsored ​An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts (SD.300)​, filed by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). The current vaccination appointment system has created mass confusion and anxiety, as individuals eligible for Phase 2 vaccinations are asked to navigate a complex web of internet links and appointment slots. This new portal will simplify and standardize the process statewide for booking appointments and allow a phone-based system for seniors who lack access or familiarity with technology.

“This bill is in direct response to the concern, anxiety, and upset that we have heard across the Commonwealth,” ​stated Senator Friedman, who served last term as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.​ “We believe that in a time when there is such a limited supply of vaccine that the state does not have control over, it is imperative that communication be clear, easy, and accessible for everyone.”

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Sweeping Economic Development Bill Authorizing $627 Million for COVID-19 Recovery Signed into Law

BOSTON (1/15/2021) – On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill which will provide much-needed support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth ensures the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will provide support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, establishing protections for student loan borrowers, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development in our communities.

“The economic downturn caused by the pandemic is presenting serious challenges for working families and small businesses, exacerbating our housing crisis, and impacting sectors of our economy that our communities depend on,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “This law provides immediate relief to the hardest hit sectors of our economy, putting our Commonwealth on a pathway toward a more equitable and sustainable economic future. I’d like to thank the Senate President as well as Conference Committee members Senators Lesser and Rodrigues for their steadfast leadership in moving this bill through the legislative process with a sense of urgency as our state continues to reopen and recover.”

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Friedman Joins Legislature in Passing Landmark Climate Change Bill

BOSTON (01/04/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

“I am pleased that the Massachusetts Legislature took this major step forward and solidified its commitment to protecting our environment,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I am particularly proud that this legislation includes language I fought for during the Senate amendment process that would achieve emissions reductions equitably and in a manner that protects low- and moderate-income persons and environmental justice populations when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Early vaccination in prisons, a public health priority, proves politically charged

In Massachusetts, the priority given to incarcerated people stems from the broader focus on congregate settings, said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at Mass General Brigham and chairman of the state’s vaccine advisory group.

“Congregate settings are congregate settings, and they are high density and at risk whether they’re long-term nursing facilities or prisons,” said another committee member, Massachusetts state Sen. Cindy Friedman (D). That inmates are in such dire need of inoculation, she said, shows the failures of criminal justice in America, revealing the “extent of the breakdown and the gaps and the poor access to behavioral health care.”

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Telemedicine Here To Stay In Massachusetts, Proponents Say

In a year with few victories to celebrate, advocates for expanded health care in Massachusetts are pointing to at least one win: More access to remote health care, or “telehealth.”

Since early in the pandemic, health insurers have been required to cover telehealth visits as they would in-person care under emergency orders from Gov. Charlie Baker. On Wednesday, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a health care bill that makes that change permanent.

Massachusetts Sen. Cindy Friedman, a sponsor of the new measures, says the natural, if accidental, experiment created by the pandemic has proven the utility of telehealth for certain services, especially behavioral and mental health.

“Behavioral health just alone, no-shows, which used to be over 60%, for a whole host of reasons, all of a sudden that no-show rate (dropped) to something like 5%. Because people all of a sudden had access in a way that they could control,” the Middlesex Democrat said.

Friedman, who was pushing for the changes before the coronavirus pandemic hit, said the need for expanded telehealth is now irrefutable.

“There’s a time and a place,” Friedman said. “You can work on something for a very long time and not get traction, and then there’s an outside force that comes long that really crystalizes the need and the urgency of doing something.”

“We hit this pandemic, and it was clear where we had gaps in our health care system that we needed to address, immediately and for the long term,” she added.

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