Friedman, Senate Pass $368.7 Million Supplemental Budget

Bill funds essential services relied on by vulnerable populations, extends COVID-era measures, authorizes public works bonding to support cities and towns

(BOSTON – 03/09/2023) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday to pass a $368.7 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). The legislation funds vital services that support vulnerable populations and address food insecurity, housing instability, the state’s long-term COVID-19 response, economic development, essential support services for incoming immigrants and refugees, and more. Notably, the bill extends initiatives first implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as outdoor dining, remote public meeting access, and support for assisted living residences. The bill further authorizes $814.3 in bonding to bolster the Commonwealth’s clean water and other public works projects for cities and towns, as well as to support the Commonwealth’s ability to compete for competitive federal grant funds. 

“This supplemental budget will get funding out the door quickly to address some of our Commonwealth’s pressing needs,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “With this funding we are increasing food security for our vulnerable families and students, reducing the economic burden of early education and child care, and continuing our commitment to protect reproductive freedom through awareness campaigns and a resource hotline.”

The bill invests $368.7 million to address several time sensitive needs for an array of programs relied on by some of the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, including $130 million for SNAP food assistance benefits to provide a glide path for families who were receiving enhanced SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, $68 million for the Early Education C3 stabilization grant program, $65 million for the continuation of free school meals, $45 million for emergency shelter assistance, and over $40 million to support affordable housing for immigrants and refugees.… Read more.

Friedman Applauds Bill Passed by Legislature to Prevent Professional License Revocation due to Student Loan Defaults

Bill will prevent individuals with outstanding student loan debt from having their professional licenses revoked

BOSTON — On Monday, November 21, 2022, the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation to prevent individuals who default on their student loans from having their license or professional certification revoked as a result. As of Fall 2022, approximately one million Massachusetts residents hold a combined total of nearly $31 billion dollars in federal student loan debt, with an average debt of $34,146 per borrower. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported the legislation and applauded its passage by the Legislature.

“Across our state, we are seeing a significant shortage of workers, especially in the healthcare sector, leading to significant barriers to tackling some of our biggest needs,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Taking away an individual’s ability to work due to financial hardship makes little sense, and beyond that, stripping the workforce of talented, qualified professionals is equally as senseless. This legislation will support our workforce and allow Massachusetts residents to continue to work to correct defaults on student loan debt, rather than inflict further financial challenges.”

Under current Massachusetts law, residents can have their licenses or professional certification revoked, denied, or refused for renewal as a result of defaulting on their student loan debt. Massachusetts is one of only 14 states with such a law. The bill does away with the law and blocks any state agency or board of registration from denying or revoking any license or professional or occupational certificate or registration based on an individual’s default on an educational loan.… Read more.

Friedman, Colleagues in Legislature Pass Bill to Protect Open Spaces

Bill codifies ‘no net loss’ policy into law for conservation areas in Massachusetts

BOSTON – On Thursday, November 10, 2022, the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation that protects open and public spaces throughout the Commonwealth and ensures their conservation for future generations. This legislation, known as the Public Land Preservation Act, permanently preserves and protects the amount of land designated as open spaces and prevents it from being used for other purposes. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), supported the legislation in the Massachusetts Senate.

“It is vital that we preserve public and conservation lands and ensure safe and accessible spaces for Massachusetts families, nature, and wildlife,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Passing this legislation is an important step in maintaining open spaces for the enjoyment of all for generations to come.”

Since its passage as a ballot initiative in 1972, Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution has recognized the importance of public lands. Lands acquired for conservation purposes under Article 97 have protected status, and such lands’ sale or conversion to other use must be approved by a two-thirds vote of each branch of the Legislature. Recognizing the importance of maintaining public lands, the Legislature, working with the Administration, has for many years ensured ‘no net loss’ of open spaces by requiring equivalent replacement land into open space when disposing of Article 97 land.

The conference report passed by the Legislature today codifies a ‘no net loss’ policy into law, making it legally binding.… Read more.

Legislature Enacts Sweeping Economic Development Bill

Investments support long-term economic health and prepares Massachusetts for new economic challenges

(BOSTON–11/10/2022) The Massachusetts Legislature on Thursday, November 3, 2022, passed a wide-ranging $3.76 billion relief package to provide targeted energy assistance, support ongoing transportation needs, and invest in the state’s small businesses, caregivers, health care system, affordable housing, and efforts to fight climate change. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Legislature to support the legislation.

“I am pleased with the important investments in both our community and across the Commonwealth that this sweeping legislation makes,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Providing funding for food security efforts, affordable housing initiatives, and the strengthening of hospitals and behavioral health services is a critical step in ensuring our residents continue to have the resources they need as we face rising prices and financial hardships. I was proud to vote to send this legislation to the Governor’s desk and thank my colleagues for their work to get this over the finish line.”

In addition to $3.76 billion in direct investments, this legislation ensures that the Commonwealth responsibly pays for the historic $3 billion one-time tax relief that will be returned to an estimated three million taxpayers over the coming weeks. Combined, this $6.76 billion in tax relief and direct investments will provide much-needed breathing room for families, small businesses, and individuals feeling the pinch of inflation. Notably, the bill closes the books on Fiscal Year 2022 and dedicates $500 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, leaving a balance of $1.74 billion in federal resources for future use.… Read more.

Friedman and Ciccolo Celebrate Law Designating July 8th as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day

BOSTON (11/04/2022) – On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law H.3117, An Act designating July 8 as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day. The law directs the Governor to issue a proclamation commemorating the day each year. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Michelle Ciccolo (D-Lexington) sponsored the legislation in the Massachusetts Senate and the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

In 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. This critical decision served as the precedent that ended slavery in the Commonwealth on constitutional grounds and led to Massachusetts becoming one of the first states in the nation to abolish slavery.

“Today, we took an important step to acknowledge the injustices in our state’s history, as well as celebrate the Commonwealth’s part in setting a nationwide precedent for human rights,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.… Read more.

Friedman Joins Senate in Passing Legislation to Help People with Disabilities Live Independently

Senate bills support wheelchair users, recognize supported decision-making agreements

(BOSTON – 11/03/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed two bills to help people with disabilities live independently in Massachusetts. First, An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities takes steps to ensure that wheelchair users are not stranded for long time periods in the event of the breakdown of an in-warranty wheelchair. Second, An Act relative to supported decision-making for agreements for certain adults with disabilities recognizes supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship, allowing certain people with disabilities to retain greater decision-making power over their lives.

“I am proud of the Senate for passing these two very important initiatives today,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Ensuring that wheelchairs, an essential medical device, have strong warranty protections and allowing our residents to have greater decision-making power is necessary in our work to guarantee that people with disabilities are able to live their life with as much freedom as possible here in the Commonwealth. I hope that these two bills are taken up in the House soon so they can be signed into law.”

Expanding Wheelchair Warranties

Wheelchair repair poses substantial problems for people with a mobility or physical disability in Massachusetts. In the event of a wheelchair breaking or otherwise failing to function, it is not uncommon for wheelchair users to wait weeks for repairs, including for wheelchairs under warranty. This leaves these individuals stranded at home and unable to go to work, school, medical appointments, grocery shopping, or elsewhere.… Read more.

Friedman Lauds New Law Limiting Step Therapy Practices

(BOSTON – 11/02/2022) Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation to limit the use of step therapy, or ‘fail first’ protocols that too often direct patients to cheaper medications rather than those more suitable to treat their condition. The bill, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, gives health care providers more leverage in determining the most effective treatment options for patients, saving patients expensive and painful regimens on medications they know to be ineffective or harmful. This law builds on similar legislation passed by the Senate in 2020, which was introduced by Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington).

“This lawis a major step forward in ensuring patients and doctors have access to the right medication at the right time,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “We are finally joining over half the states in the nation in reforming step therapy practices, putting the focus back on health care providers working with patients to offer the best treatment possible.”

Step therapy serves as a cost-saving mechanism that can limit a patient’s ability to access the medication that is most suitable for treating their condition. Insurers that utilize step therapy protocols require medical providers to prescribe lower-cost medications to patients first, and only grant approval for alternative medications when the cheaper options have failed to improve a patient’s condition. In practice, this results in insurers effectively choosing medications for the patient, even in cases where their providers have recommended an alternative. When patients change insurers, they are often forced to start at the beginning of the step therapy protocol again, which results in wasteful health care expenditures, lost time for patients, and potentially devastating health care impacts on the patient.… Read more.

Governor Baker Signs Legislature’s Expansive Mental Health Bill

Law will further equitable access to mental health care for residents

(BOSTON – 08/16/2022) Today, legislative leaders and advocates joined Governor Baker for the ceremonial bill signing of the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care, 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.  The Governor officially signed this legislation into law on August 10, 2022.

The Mental Health ABC Act 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 legislation includes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental health care and remove barriers to care by supporting the behavioral health workforce.  

“The health care system in Massachusetts is only as strong as its weakest link, and for far too long, mental health care has been overlooked and underfunded,” stated Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This law confronts this reality with the most comprehensive mental health care action the Commonwealth has seen in recent years, and it builds off of the historic investments we made in this care system over this past two-year legislative session. Of particular importance to me, this bill will finally provide the state the tools it needs to enforce existing mental health parity laws and it will address the emergency department boarding crisis that is impacting too many of our children and their families.… Read more.

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Comprehensive Legislation Protecting Access To Reproductive And Gender-Affirming Care

(BOSTON–07/26/2022) Today, the Massachusetts Legislature passed comprehensive legislation designed to further protect and expand reproductive health care and gender-affirming services in the Commonwealth. Although abortion remains legal in Massachusetts due to the Legislature’s efforts to codify and expand access to reproductive rights in 2020, the Legislature today took additional action to further protect these rights and establish additional safeguards following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legislation, An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, provides legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients, and insurers; expands access to contraceptives; and helps ensure that women who face grave circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts to access reproductive health care services.

“In the face of an increasing amount of anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care laws enacted across the country, Massachusetts continues to serve as a national leader in protecting these essential rights with the passage of this legislation,” 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 we can to protect the rights of our providers, patients, and visitors to the Commonwealth. This bill takes important steps to ensure that pregnant people who face dire circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts in order to access reproductive health care services, and places the decision-making power to end a late term pregnancy in the hands of the patient and their treating physician, not a hospital’s independent review panel.… Read more.

Friedman Amendments Included in Senate Legislation to Promote Economic Growth and Give Residents Relief

$4.57 billion spending package includes tax relief, funding for health care, housing,
technology, tourism and other sectors strained by the COVID-19 pandemic

(BOSTON – 07/21/2022) On Thursday, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate passed a $4.57 billion spending package to promote economic development in the Commonwealth and give relief to residents facing the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic turbulence. The bill includes a broad-based tax relief package that will result in permanently lower taxes for many households and hundreds of thousands of residents receiving rebates from the state. Seven local amendments introduced by Senator Friedman were adopted, amounting to $5 million in local funding.The bill targets investment to sectors such as health care, housing, early education, agriculture, and tourism, which have been impacted by economic uncertainty. The bill also pursues economic growth by investing in climate resiliency, public lands, and clean energy.

“True economic development only occurs when we are meeting and exceeding the basic necessities of all of our residents – and that’s what we’re trying to focus on in this bill,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation invests several billion dollars in working families supports and programs across the Commonwealth. I’m glad to see my local amendments were adopted, which focus on increasing local funding for clean drinking water initiatives, food insecurity programs, and infrastructure investments.”

4th Middlesex Funding Highlights

  • $4 million for Burlington’s Mill Pond Treatment Plant PFAS Filter
  • $300,000 for Burlington’s Northeastern Innovation Campus
  • $275,000 for Lexington Transportation Improvements
  • $200,000 to Food Link for Combatting Food Insecurity
  • $200,000 for Billerica’s Buck Auditorium Renovations
  • $125,000 for the Arlington Youth Counseling Center
  • $100,000 for Social Capital Inc.
Read more.