Massachusetts Legislature Passes FY23 Budget

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature on Monday unanimously passed a $52.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). This budget upholds fiscal responsibility and makes targeted investments to strengthen the state’s economic foundation, protect the most vulnerable residents and support the everyday needs of communities and families in the Commonwealth.

“The FY23 budget invests significantly in the Commonwealth, funding services and programs that will benefit all residents,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m especially proud of the historic investments we make in early education and care, and the work we’ve done to improve community-based mental health and substance use disorder services in our state. This budget reaffirms our commitment to supporting working families across Massachusetts, and includes funding for education, health care, food insecurity, and programs for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Senate Passes Friedman Legislation Expanding Protections for Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care

(BOSTON – 07/13/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bipartisan bill protecting providers, residents, and visitors to the Commonwealth who engage in legally-protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care. 

An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care includes provisions preventing the Commonwealth’s cooperation with ‘bounty-style’ anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws in other states, mandates health insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care with no cost-sharing, ensures access to emergency contraception, and provides confidentiality to providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care. Senate Bill 2996, filed by Senator Cindy F. Friedman, expands on her amendment to the Senate Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which was filed in response to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson and adopted by the Senate in late May.

“Passing this legislation is a monumental step forward in Massachusetts, as we are seeing increasingly more anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care legislation rise across the country,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the lead sponsor of the bill. “We must do everything to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth. As we further realize the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson in our Commonwealth, we will continue to fight these attacks on reproductive and gender-affirming care with meaningful action.”

“We cannot let other states threaten Massachusetts pregnant and transgender people, or the providers who take care of them,” said Senate President Karen E.Read more.

Friedman Votes to Pass Transformational Bill to Expand Access to High-Quality, Affordable Early Education and Child Care

Senate bill would support children and families, early education providers,
and the early education workforce

(BOSTON–07/07/2022) Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined  the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously pass S.2973 An Act to expand access to high-quality, affordable early education and care. This bipartisan legislation will transform early education and child care in the Commonwealth by making it more accessible and affordable for families, providing high-quality care for young children, strengthening early education providers, improving compensation and professional development for the early education workforce, and addressing the workforce needs of Massachusetts employers. The bill draws from the recommendations made by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which was created by the legislature in 2020 and issued its final report in March 2022.

“This legislation will provide much-needed support to working families and schools and child care centers – the very locations that serve as the foundation of a child’s learning and early development,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Improving our early education and child care systems by making them more accessible and affordable will ensure a brighter future for more Massachusetts children. Passing this bill unanimously highlights the Senate’s dedication to ensuring that families have access to quality, affordable child care and early education.”

High-quality early education helps young children to develop stronger communication, social, and cognitive skills. Investments in early education have been shown to yield considerable long-term benefits, such as higher academic achievement and greater lifetime earnings.… Read more.

Senate Passes Legislation for Children and Families

Bills update safeguards for DCF-involved children and establish bill of rights for foster parents

(BOSTON – 06/30/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation to ensure stability and oversight of care for the more than 3,000 Massachusetts children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), as well as to ensure protection of the rights of foster parents. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the legislation.

Following the revelation that DCF failed to act on leads which might have prevented the abuse and tragic death of 14-year-old David Almond, S.2953 An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families creates additional safeguards and clarifies requirements for DCF-involved children and families. To ensure that foster parents’ rights are respected in all interactions between a family and the Commonwealth, S.2954 An Act establishing a foster parents’ bill of rights seeks to codify the fundamental rights of foster parents.

“We have a duty in the Legislature to ensure that vulnerable children in the care of the Department of Children and Families are protected, and that those responsible for these children are also held accountable and act in the children’s best interests,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Equally important to children and families are the legislative steps we took today to establish positive rights for foster parents that will strengthen our Commonwealth’s foster care program – leading to more safe, supportive foster homes for our most vulnerable children.”

Safeguards for DCF-Involved Youth

S.2953 An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families updates and consolidates the reporting requirements of the Department of Children and Families (DCF).… Read more.

Senate Passes Juvenile Court and Civil Asset Forfeiture Legislation

Senate passes bills related to juvenile diversion, bail practices for juveniles,
 and civil asset forfeiture reform

(BOSTON – 06/30/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate this week passed three bills which reform various aspects of the criminal legal system to create fairer processes and encourage rehabilitation. Two of the bills, S.2942 An Act promoting diversion of juveniles to community supervision and services and S.2943 An Act updating bail procedures for justice involved youth would address how criminal courts divert convicted youth from jail and improve processes which allow certain youth to stay out of jail while their cases are pending. A third bill, S.2944 An Act relative to forfeiture reform, would raise the burden of proof required for civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize items alleged to have been connected to a crime. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported all three bills.

“These bills build off of the important work that the Legislature has done in previous sessions to help reduce the rate of recidivism in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “More youth and young adult criminal justice diversion strategies are critical – we must continue to offer alternative options to juvenile detention. Our criminal justice system needs to focus more on rehabilitation and less on punishment, especially for our low-income youths who are disproportionately hurt by juvenile detention.”

Juvenile Criminal Legal Reform

Massachusetts residents aged 12 to18 who are accused of breaking the law are subject to the decisions of the juvenile criminal legal system.… Read more.

Senate Passes Important Legislation to Increase Access to HIV Prevention Medication

Bill would allow pharmacists to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),
which is highly effective in preventing HIV

(BOSTON – 06/30/2022) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation which would increase access to the life-saving HIV prevention medication pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, by allowing pharmacists to prescribe it to patients on a short-term basis. This important bill, which was passed on the last day of Pride Month, will support the Commonwealth’s efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV, which continues to disproportionately affect members of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and low-income individuals.

“This legislation is such an important step to confronting the HIV epidemic in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “The bill safely expands access to a proven medicine that greatly reduces the risk of HIV transmission and breaks down barriers to access, especially among gay and bisexual men of color. I was proud to support this bill in the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and on the Senate floor.”

According to the CDC, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use by about 99 percent when taken as prescribed and does not have serious side effects. Despite the availability of this highly effective HIV prevention medication, the CDC reports that only around 25 per cent of the individuals who are recommended to take PrEP currently do so.

Currently, Massachusetts residents must receive a doctor’s prescription to obtain PrEP.… Read more.

Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Legislation

VOTES Act makes vote-by-mail permanent, expands early voting options, and implements other important improvements to the Commonwealth’s elections

BOSTON – On June 9, 2022, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass S.2924, An Act fostering voter opportunities, trust, equity and security (the VOTES Act). This landmark legislation permanently codifies the popular mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020, increases ballot access for voters with disabilities and service members overseas, and takes steps to modernize the Commonwealth’s election administration process. At a time when democracy is under attack across the United States and across the globe, the VOTES Act implements vital measures to protect and expand voting rights here in Massachusetts.

“The VOTES Act will continue to increase participation in our democracy through a series of reforms aimed at increasing voting accessibility and voter turnout in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill enshrines mail-in voting, expands early voting, and increases the opportunity to vote for those with disabilities, serving overseas, and eligible incarcerated members of society. I was proud to support this bill and am hopeful that we can continue to work towards same-day voter registration in the future.”

S.2924 reflects agreements reached by the VOTES Act Conference Committee to resolve outstanding differences between House (H.4367) and Senate (S.2554) voting reform bills. S.2924 contains the following key provisions:

Permanent mail-in voting

  • Allows registered voters to vote by mail for any presidential, state or municipal primary or election.
Read more.

Friedman Votes to Pass Senate’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget

Bill makes record investments in early education, mental health, substance use treatment and reproductive health care

(BOSTON – 5/27/2022)  Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday to pass a $49.78 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). Advanced with unanimous support, the budget makes significant, critical and targeted investments in the areas of education, health care, housing and community supports to meet the on-the-ground challenges brought on by the global pandemic and ongoing financial uncertainty.

“The budget that passed the Senate today continues our commitment to funding the urgent needs of our residents, including increased funding for housing, education, child care, and assistance for families,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget addresses the mental health crisis in Massachusetts by creating the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund, which will fund crisis supports and a new behavioral health crisis hotline. And while we know there is more need and more to do, this budget makes significant progress in these areas. I am also incredibly proud that Amendment #388, which I filed, was adopted. This amendment will enhance protections for residents, visitors and providers engaged in lawful reproductive and gender-affirming health care in the Commonwealth.”

The Senate’s FY23 budget includes a total of $49.78 billion in spending with $854.4 million deposited into the state’s rainy-day fund, bringing that account’s total to $6.74 billion. Structured upon a consensus revenue estimate of 2.7 per cent growth, the budget also funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.231 billion.… Read more.

Friedman Amendment Protecting Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care Adopted by the Senate

Amendment includes protections for receiving and providing critical care in the Commonwealth

(BOSTON – 05/25/2022) Today, the Massachusetts State Senate adopted Amendment #388, sponsored by Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), to S.4, the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. The amendment seeks to block other states’ laws from attempting to interfere with legally protected health care activity in Massachusetts, as a growing number of states seek to limit access to reproductive or gender-affirming rights outside of their state’s borders. States like Texas and Oklahoma have already passed so-called “bounty laws” that enable a resident of their state to bring a civil suit against someone in another state who provides, aids, or abets a resident of Texas or Oklahoma in receiving an abortion in another state, even if care in that other state is entirely legal.

“We are now faced with a situation where another state, in state laws enacted by their Legislature, is threatening the rights of law-abiding residents in our commonwealth for engaging in activities legal under our laws enacted by our duly elected Legislature here in Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This is an egregious and direct attack on a state’s ability to make their own laws and protect their own residents.”

Under Friedman’s amendment, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, psychologists and social workers would be insulated from facing any licensing consequences in Massachusetts as a result of providing reproductive or gender-affirming care.

The Governor in many instances would be prevented from extraditing someone to a different state to face charges for an abortion or gender dysphoria treatment or another protected service, and Massachusetts law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from assisting any investigation by federal authorities, another state or private citizens related to legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care provided in the Commonwealth.… Read more.