(BOSTON– 5/9/23) The Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday released a $55.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24). As the Commonwealth emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee’s budget continues to uphold fiscal responsibility and support the long-term economic health of the state, providing historic levels of investment in education, housing, regional transportation, health care, workforce development, climate, and much more, while centering equity and opportunity as part of a broader, more comprehensive strategy to make Massachusetts more affordable, accessible, competitive, and inclusive. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) applauded the release of the budget, specifically the positive impact it will have on the health care system in Massachusetts.
“I am proud of the Senate’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024, which builds off prior fiscal year investments to deliver a comprehensive, impactful set of services and programs for the residents of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I am particularly proud of the provisions that safeguard preventive health care services like cancer screenings and access to medications for chronic conditions, in the wake of a partisan federal court ruling that threatens access to these important, life-saving health care services. In Massachusetts, we will continue to protect access to commonsense health care for all our residents.”
The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $55.8 billion in spending, a $3.4 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $40.41 billion for FY24, representing 1.6 per cent growth, as agreed upon during the Consensus Revenue process in January, plus $1 billion from the new Fair Share surtax.… Read more.
Dedicated Secretariat designed to assist the administration in prioritizing housing for all residents
(BOSTON – 04/13/2023) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed a reorganization plan to create a state Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities, a cabinet-level position which will assist the Commonwealth with meeting its long-term goals in addressing the housing crisis and expanding safe, accessible, and affordable housing for residents. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted favorably in support of the legislation.
In Massachusetts, housing-related issues are currently addressed by the administration through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The reorganization plan passed in the Senate today would elevate housing issues to a separate executive agency tasked with supporting housing availability and assessing the Commonwealth’s progress in this area.
“In recent years, especially during the pandemic, we witnessed just how important stable and safe housing is and the many challenges that our most vulnerable residents must overcome to access such housing,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “We must address our growing housing crisis, particularly in my district and in the Greater Boston region and creating a dedicated Secretariat to focus on housing and livable communities is an excellent way to tackle these issues head-on, enabling us to create more sustainable housing policies for the future.”
In response to ongoing concerns over housing availability, last session, the Massachusetts Legislature allocated over $1 billion in direct appropriations to support affordable housing in Massachusetts. This followed a session that saw the long-awaited ‘housing choice’ legislation become law with important housing production incentives, including requiring multi-family zoning near transit.… Read more.
(BOSTON – 03/30/2023) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed a bill that includes $350 million in bond authorizations for transportation needs across the state, including $200 million for the state’s Chapter 90 program, which provides municipalities with a reliable funding source for transportation-related improvements, including road and bridge repairs. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the measure.
“This legislation continues our state’s commitment to investing in a functional, sustainable network of transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “It allows for transportation improvements statewide, including grant money for electric vehicles to municipalities and funds to enhance access to mass transit and commuter rail stations, strengthening our larger public transportation system, which is in need of support in the Greater Boston area.”
This legislation also authorizes $150 million in programs that will assist municipalities with various transportation-related projects. This includes $25 million for each of the following:
- the municipal small bridge program;
- the complete streets program;
- a bus transit infrastructure program;
- grants to increase access to mass transit and commuter rail stations;
- grants for municipalities and regional transit authorities to purchase electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to support them;
- and new funding dedicated to additional transportation support based on road milage, which is particularly helpful for rural communities.
A different version having previously been passed in the House of Representatives, the two chambers will now reconcile differences before sending the bill to the Governor’s desk.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.