Friedman Helps Pass American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), FY21 Surplus Spending Bill

(BOSTON) On December 3, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to advance a $4 billion bill to the governor’s desk that directs federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) surplus funding to assist the Commonwealth’s ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. With a focus on making equitable investments and prioritizing communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the legislation delivers targeted supports to workers and businesses, and the critical sectors of housing, health care, mental and behavioral health, climate preparedness, education, and workforce development.

“This bill will bring much needed economic relief to residents and communities across Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The $4 billion in investments made at the state and local levels for initiatives like housing and food security, health care services, and aid for businesses and workers, will have an enormously beneficial impact on the many, many people that the pandemic has affected. I am especially proud of the $400 million in funding for our behavioral health system and the $2.7 million in direct aid to the communities in our 4th Middlesex district – both of which I fought hard to secure.”

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Friedman and Ciccolo Testify on Legislation to Designate July 8th as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day

BOSTON (11/29/2021) – On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Michelle Ciccolo (D-Lexington) testified before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of legislation they filed that would designate July 8th as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day.

The bills, S.2059 and H.3117An Act designating July 8 as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day, would direct the Governor to issue a proclamation commemorating the day each year.

It is little known that on July 8, 1783, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Constitution of the Commonwealth’s Declaration of Rights rendered slavery unconstitutional. Quock Walker, born to enslaved Black parents in Massachusetts, was the driving force behind this ruling. At 28 years old, after being promised his freedom on multiple occasions, Walker self-emancipated. Shortly after, Walker was found working nearby, was beaten and locked in a barn by his former enslaver.  Walker sued his former enslaver for assault and battery and was found to be a free man by a jury of the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas.  This ruling was appealed and the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court again found that Walker was a free man and this critical decision served as the precedent that ended slavery in the Commonwealth on constitutional grounds and led to Massachusetts becoming the first state in the nation to abolish slavery.

“Bringing awareness to Quock Walker and his story is so incredibly important” said Senator Friedman, Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Passing this bill is one step we can take to acknowledge the injustices in our history as well as celebrate Massachusetts’ part in setting a nationwide precedent for human rights. I am hopeful that it will soon become law.”

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Friedman Joins Legislature in Passing Genocide Education Bill

BOSTON – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature in passing An Act concerning genocide education to provide education to middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

“As a member of the Jewish community, it is incredibly important to me that our children learn about the atrocities committed across the globe throughout our history,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Using our educational system to teach the next generation of leaders about genocides like the Holocaust is crucially important and will help to prevent such tragedies from occurring again.”

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Friedman Joins Senate in Passing Mental Health ABC Act 2.0

(BOSTON – 11/17/2021) Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC), comprehensive legislation to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it. This legislation comes at a time when the Massachusetts State Senate is making landmark investments in mental and behavioral health, including $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to transform the behavioral health sector, with $122 million dedicated to recruiting and retaining nearly 2,000 behavioral professionals.

The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The bill proposes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce. Senator Friedman worked alongside Senator Julian Cyr, Senate President Karen Spilka, and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues to construct the bill.

“Massachusetts’ health care system should deliver affordable, high quality, and accessible care to all of our residents—including mental health care,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill recognizes that mental health care is just as important, valuable, and worthy of treatment as physical health care, and begins to tackle our most pressing issues, such as expanding services to all corners of the Commonwealth, enforcing existing parity laws, and addressing the boarding crisis in our Emergency Departments that is impacting too many of our children and families. I sincerely thank Senate President Spilka for her continued commitment to bold action on mental health care with the passage of this bill. I also thank Senator Cyr, Senator Rodrigues, and all of the advocates involved in crafting this bill for their thoughtful collaboration and shared commitment to reforming our mental health care system so that it works for everyone.”

Read the full press release and learn more about the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0

Senate Passes American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Spending Bill

Investments focus on those hardest hit by COVID-19 and supporting the ongoing economic recovery

BOSTON (11/11/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday to unanimously pass a $3.82 billion spending bill that directs federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to assist in the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts. The bill was passed with a particular focus on making equitable investments and ensuring that communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic are prioritized. Using this framework, the bill delivers targeted, transformational supports to critical sectors such as health care, mental and behavioral health, housing security, the environment, and workforce development.

“This historic spending bill will have a profound impact on our communities, especially those most impacted by the pandemic,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “I thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and my Senate colleagues for using this bill to take meaningful action to address persistent issues plaguing our health care system and expand access to housing, food, and economic development opportunities. I am especially pleased to see many of my priorities included: a state-wide campaign to ensure everyone has health coverage and access to the COVID-19 vaccine, a pilot restoration center to divert people with mental illness and substance use disorder from our criminal justice system, and various municipal projects that will keep our communities safe and help them thrive.”

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Friedman Helps Senate Unveil Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care

BOSTON (11/09/2021) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) helped the Massachusetts Senate unveil the Mental Health ABC Act 2.0: Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) (S2572), comprehensive legislation to continue the process of reforming the way mental health care is delivered in Massachusetts, with the goal of ensuring that people get the mental health care they need when they need it. This legislation comes at a time when the Massachusetts State Senate is making landmark investments in mental and behavioral health, including $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to transform the behavioral health sector, with $122 million dedicated to recruiting and retaining nearly 2,000 behavioral professionals.

The Mental Health ABC Act 2.0 is driven by the recognition that mental health is as important as physical health for every resident of the Commonwealth and should be treated as such. The bill proposes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce.

“For far too long, mental health has been a forgotten component of our healthcare system, and we must address the persisting inequities—made painfully clear in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—in our delivery of mental health care,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill builds on the work the Senate has done over the last several years to improve our mental health system and takes a comprehensive approach to tackle our most pressing issues, such as expanding services to all corners of the Commonwealth, enforcing existing parity laws, and addressing the boarding crisis in our Emergency Departments that is impacting too many of our children and families. I want to sincerely thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Cyr for their thoughtful collaboration on this legislation and for continuing to prioritize reforming our mental health care system this session so it is accessible, affordable, and equitable for all.”

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Senate Ways and Means Releases American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Spending Bill

BOSTON (11/03/2021) – Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a $3.66 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending bill to address COVID-19 recovery needs and build an equitable future for the Commonwealth. The Senate Ways and Means ARPA bill reflects the shared priorities of the Senate and recommends several thoughtfully targeted investments in health care, housing, environment, economic recovery, and workforce development, while addressing economic and racial inequality and helping the communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate ARPA spending plan recommends a total of $3.66 billion in spending, utilizing up to $2.5 billion in available American Rescue Plan Act funds and up to $1.45 billion in available Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 state surplus resources. Informed by the testimony heard extensively throughout the public hearing process, which included over 25 hours of public hearings and more than 450 letters of public testimony, the Committee’s bill supports an equitable recovery for communities hardest hit by the pandemic, while maintaining the flexibility necessary to take advantage of future federal funding opportunities.

“I applaud Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership and for using this spending plan to take meaningful action to address persistent issues plaguing our health care system and expand access to housing, food, and economic development opportunities, especially in communities most impacted by the pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means

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Friedman Joins Senate in Passing Redistricting Legislation

BOSTON (10/27/2021) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass S.2560, An Act establishing senatorial districts. This bill, and the redistricting map it describes, redraws the Commonwealth’s 40 senatorial districts based on statewide population shifts and data from the 2020 census. The new map doubles the number of majority-minority Senate districts, from three to six, and will be in effect until the next redistricting cycle following the decennial census in 2030.

Under S.2560, the 4th Middlesex district, represented by Senator Friedman since July of 2017, remains composed of the same city and towns: Woburn, Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, and precincts 1, 2, and 4-7 in Lexington. However, Lexington constituents living in the 4th Middlesex district may change slightly due to shifts in precincts determined at the municipal level.

“I am proud of the Senate’s redistricting plan – it does an excellent job of promoting more civic engagement through equitable representation,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am equally proud that our 4th Middlesex district will remain largely unchanged. It has been an honor to serve and work with the residents of the district since 2017, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to represent these great communities and their residents in the Senate.”

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Senate Advances Genocide Education Bill

BOSTON (10/21/2021) – On Thursday October 21, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate in passing An Act concerning genocide education to require every middle school and high school in the Commonwealth to include instruction on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues. Similar legislation was advanced by the Senate in prior sessions, but this most recent iteration comes as incidences of hate and anti-Semitism are on the rise across the country, with several incidents reported in Massachusetts over the past year.

“The limited knowledge and understanding that many young people have of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide is alarming,” said Senator Friedman, Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Education and learning about the history of genocide – and the painful consequences of ignorance, bigotry and intolerance – is a critical tool in dismantling hate in our Commonwealth. I thank Senator President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Senator Lewis, and my Senate colleagues for taking this important step toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge and the resources they need to recognize and dispel hate and ignorance in our communities.”

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Senate Passes Landmark Voting Reform Legislation

BOSTON (10/06/21) – On October 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass S.2545, An Act fostering voter opportunities, trust, equity and security (the VOTES Act). This comprehensive voting reform bill permanently codifies the popular mail-in and early voting options used in Massachusetts in 2020. The bill would also enact same-day voter registration, increase ballot access for service members serving overseas, and make a series of other improvements to the Commonwealth’s election administration process.

“At a time when voting rights are under unprecedented attack across the country, I’m proud to live in a state that continually searches for opportunities to promote and expand voter participation,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. “This historic bill strengthens our democracy and continues to ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely and easily exercise their fundamental right to vote. I applaud Senator President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and Senator Creem and Finegold for their leadership and commitment to this issue.”

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