Senate Acts to Protect Consumers During Real Estate Appraisals

Legislation would establish statewide standards for appraisals, mitigating risk for residents 

(BOSTON–1/18/2024) Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to enhance consumer protections for residents receiving appraisals for their own real estate, or prospective real estate. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues to advance the bill. 

S.2550—An Act providing consumers with equal protection for all real estate appraisals—would require that all real estate appraisals in the state be conducted exclusively by certified or licensed appraisers. If passed into law, the bill would help build consumer trust in the appraisal process by ensuring appraisers are qualified and fall under appropriate regulatory oversight. 

“It is so important that we protect consumers when they purchase real estate, especially given the challenges the shortage of affordable housing puts on those looking to buy a home,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill affords a sense of security to consumers often making the largest purchase in their life, ensuring that real estate appraisals are performed only by certified and qualified appraisers.” 

Under current law, Massachusetts allows any person, without having to meet any standards such as education and experience, to perform valuation services for estate settlements, divorces, business dissolutions or litigation, among other things. This exposes consumers to unreasonable risk, as an individual who is not licensed or certified may prepare unsupportable valuations while operating outside of regulatory oversight and accountability. Unlicensed appraisers also mean that there is no recourse by state’s Division of Occupational Licensure when a consumer is harmed. … Read more.

Senate Acts to Modernize Massachusetts Laws, Repeal Anti-LGBTQIA+ Statutes 

Bill would strike discriminatory laws, establish a permanent commission to recommend outdated legislation for repeal 

(BOSTON–1/18/2024) Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to modernize the Commonwealth’s laws and strike outdated and non-inclusive statutes that are discriminatory against LGBTQ+ individuals in the state. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the measure, which passed unanimously. 

S.2551—An Act relative to archaic lawswould remove archaic laws that intrude on an individual’s privacy regarding sexual activity. The bill would remove existing statutes that criminalize sodomy and so-called ‘unnatural’ acts between consenting adults and make Massachusetts laws more inclusive of individuals who are LGBTQIA+. Terms struck include terminology such as sodomy, “unnatural or lascivious” sex acts, and “common nightwalkers”. In some cases, the language that this bill would strike from the General Laws dates back into the 1800s.  

Additionally, the bill would establish a permanent law revision commission to examine common law, statutes and judicial decisions to identify anachronisms in the law and recommend needed reforms; receive and consider proposed changes; recommend changes in the law to align with modern conditions; and make recommendations to improve the openness and accessibility of state laws. 

“In the Commonwealth, we can pride ourselves on being a welcoming, inclusive state, and we have taken many steps over recent years to further instill those values,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Removing outdated, archaic language that is inconsistent and incompatible with the values of the Commonwealth is a necessary step to further support the LGBTQIA+ community.… Read more.

Friedman Votes For Legislation Prohibiting Cat Declawing in Massachusetts 

Would become third state in the nation to outlaw the inhumane procedure 

(BOSTON–1/18/2024) Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that would prohibit declawing, tendonectomy, and similar procedures from being performed on cats in Massachusetts, except in cases of medical necessity to address a condition that jeopardizes a cat’s health—as determined by a licensed veterinarian.  

Declawing a cat involves amputating the first bone on each toe, and tendonectomies involve cutting a tendon in each toe that controls the extension of claws.  

Cats who have had their claws removed are more likely to experience paw pain, back pain, infection, tissue death, and could be unable to use their legs properly. They are also more likely to incur nerve damage and bone spurs as a result of claw regrowth, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The procedure is commonly performed for human convenience and to prevent damage to furniture, rather than medical necessity. 

“I am very pleased with the Senate’s leadership and unanimous endorsement of this bill,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This is a commonsense proposal that protects our furry friends in the Commonwealth and I hope to see this bill become law this session.” 

S.2552—An Act prohibiting inhumane feline declawing—would only permit licensed veterinarians to declaw a cat if they determine it is medically necessary. Veterinarians who violate the conditions for performing a declawing may be subject to disciplinary action by their licensure board. … Read more.

Friedman, Senate Overwhelmingly Pass Legislation to Increase the Commonwealth’s Competitive Advantage

Legislation leverages Stabilization Fund interest to compete for federal funds for transportation, housing, climate and economic development projects  

BOSTON (01/11/2024) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass S.2548, An Act to provide for competitiveness and infrastructure investment in Massachusetts, an economic development bill that takes advantage of the interest accrued from the Commonwealth’s Stabilization Fund and leverages that interest to ensure the state receives the maximum possible share of federal funds. The Commonwealth’s Stabilization fund currently has a historic balance of $8.2 billion. 

It is estimated Massachusetts currently has the opportunity to receive up to $17.5 billion through historic, once-in-a-generation federal funding opportunities. 

“Our action in the Senate today is both fiscally responsible and prudent as we invest in the future of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “By maintaining a healthy reserve balance in the Commonwealth Stabilization Fund, while also allowing the interest the fund generates to match grants for federal funding opportunities, this legislation opens a key tool for the state to stay competitive and help fund projects that will have a positive impact on residents of Massachusetts for years to come.” 

This smart financial accounting initiative will require the Comptroller to transfer interest from the stabilization fund to the Commonwealth Federal Matching and Debt Reduction Fund on a quarterly basis if the stabilization balance is of a healthy amount. The Secretary of Administration and Finance would then pursue federal funding opportunities available thanks to the historic availability of federal funds for infrastructure, resiliency and economic development projects. … Read more.

Friedman Supports Wheelchair Warranty Reform Passed by Massachusetts Senate

Bill extends wheelchair warranties, requires faster repairs and replacements, bringing Massachusetts in line with neighboring states  

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate voted to strengthen consumer protections for wheelchair users. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues to move the legislation forward with a unanimous vote. 

An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities—S.2541requires all wheelchairs to come with warranties, extends the minimum warranty period to two years, sets standards for wheelchair repairs and replacements, and eliminates the cumbersome prior authorization process for all wheelchair repairs under $1,000.  

“Ensuring that wheelchairs, an essential medical device, have strong warranty protections is so important as we continue to work towards making the Commonwealth a more inclusive place for all our residents” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I am proud that the Senate passed this legislation again this session to improve the accessibility of our state in an equitable fashion, and I hope it will become law this year.”  

The legislation, which has received strong support from disability advocates in Massachusetts, requires all wheelchairs sold or leased in the Commonwealth to come with express warranties—a change from the current law, which only requires customized wheelchairs to come with express warranties. The legislation also extends express warranties for wheelchairs from one year to two years, bringing Massachusetts in line with states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. To alleviate wait times for repairs, the bill mandates that wheelchair service providers diagnose repair issues remotely within three business days following notice from a consumer and provide an in-person assessment no more than four business days after that.   … Read more.

Friedman Votes With Senate Colleagues to Pass Legislation Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips

Commonsense harm reduction strategy proven to encourage safer consumption behavior, save lives 

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate debated and unanimously passed An Act relative to fentanyl test strips—S.2543legislation to help prevent overdoses and save lives by making legal the sale, possession, and distribution of fentanyl test strips, and other testing equipment used to identify fentanyl, in the Commonwealth. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), a long-time advocate of harm reduction policies, voted to pass the measure. 

If passed into law, the bill would add a potent tool to support drug users in knowing whether they are consuming fentanyl. Fentanyl test strips are a proven harm reduction strategy that have been shown to help drug users engage in less risky behavior, including by discarding drugs, reducing doses, using drugs more slowly, using drugs with someone else around, or keeping naloxone nearby.   

“Since taking office in 2017, I’ve been vocal about the need to implement policies that promote harm reduction for vulnerable residents struggling with substance use,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This legislation, like other actions we’ve taken as a state, would reduce harm in a way that is easy to use and is not cost prohibitive. I will continue to support commonsense measures like this that save lives and give those struggling with substance use disorder a better chance at recovery.” 

Fentanyl-related overdoses are far too frequent in Massachusetts. Between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, 2,323 people suffered from overdoses in Massachusetts, and in the first three months of 2023, fentanyl was present in 93% of fatal overdoses.… Read more.

“Blue Envelope” Bill Supporting People With Autism Passes Senate

Legislation would help facilitate better interactions between people with autism and law enforcement officers 

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed An Act facilitating better interactions between police officers and persons with autism spectrum disorder—also known as the “Blue Envelope” bill—to improve communication during traffic stops involving a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

The bill would create a voluntary program that would make available blue envelopes that people with autism could carry with them while driving and hand over to a police officer in the event that they are pulled over. A driver could place their license, registration, and insurance cards inside the envelope, and the outside of the envelope would note that the driver has Autism Spectrum Disorder and provide guidance on best practices on how to interact with the individual.  

The envelope’s guidance—which would be created by a coalition of advocates, Chiefs of Police, and the RMV—would help law enforcement officers to better understand the actions of individuals with autism, who are more likely to have increased sensitivities and communication challenges in stressful situations. 

“The Blue Envelope bill would provide a subtle, yet meaningful mechanism to ensure that drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder can remain comfortable and communicate calmly in situations that have the potential to cause significant stress, such as interactions with members of law enforcement during traffic stops,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This is a simple solution that will have a hugely beneficial impact on neuro-diverse drivers and law enforcement officers across the Commonwealth.” … Read more.

Supplemental Budget to Close Fiscal Year 2023 Passed by Senate, Signed into Law  

Bill passes shortly after being received from House, clears way for funding of emergency shelter aid and worker contracts

BOSTON (12/04/2023) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate took final action on a supplemental budget designed to close out Fiscal Year 2023. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported the supplemental budget, which totals $3.1 billion and contains several provisions to support the ongoing operations of programs and services that benefit the residents of the Commonwealth.  

To address the ongoing humanitarian emergency shelter crisis, the final bill allocates $250 million to be spent to address costs associated with sheltering eligible families, including by making funding available for temporary emergency shelter sites for families on a waitlist for permanent shelter. The final bill also stipulates that a portion of the $250 million be spent on support services and resources so that individuals and families can address the complex issues and challenges they face, as well as reimbursements to school districts for increased enrollment costs associated with an influx of migrant students. 

“With our final action to close the books on Fiscal Year 2023, we directed funds to meaningful needs of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This supplemental budget provides economic relief to the many communities, including municipalities in the Fourth Middlesex district, who are doing a tremendous job handling the expanded emergency shelter system. We also ensure that we meet our contractual obligations with state collective bargaining units and deliver agreed upon raises to the many deserving state employees during this holiday season.” … Read more.

Senate Passes Friedman-Crafted Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act 3.0

Bill continues Senate’s work to lower prescription drug costs, promote transparency, and increase patient access 

BOSTON (11/15/2023) — Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Act Relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Costs, and Transparency, otherwise known as the PACT Act 3.0. The legislation would make urgent and much-needed reforms to the pharmaceutical system in the state by lowering the cost of drugs at the pharmacy counter and improving oversight of the pharmaceutical industry. 

It also takes firm steps to create more equitable access to life-saving medications by providing a free, no-cost sharing option for certain drugs used to treat chronic illnesses that disproportionately affect people of color.

“Relief from prescription drug costs can’t wait when lives are at stake,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I look forward to this bill getting signed into law so that residents and seniors who go to the pharmacy counter will finally pay less for the medications they use to stay alive and maintain their quality of life. This reform is in line with the Senate’s commitment to addressing affordability, equity, and transparency, and maintaining the Commonwealth’s competitiveness as a place to live and work. I am extremely grateful for the diligent and tireless work of Senator Friedman and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership on this bill, and to the rest of my colleagues in the Senate for their strong support.”

“I am pleased the Senate has passed this crucial prescription drug legislation,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.… Read more.

Senate Unveils Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act 3.0

Revamped bill builds on Senate’s work to reduce prescription drug costs, promote transparency, and increase patient access

BOSTON (11/09/2023) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled An Act relative to Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency, otherwise known as the PACT Act 3.0. This comprehensive pharmaceutical cost control legislation is aimed at addressing the rapidly increasing costs of prescription drugs. By connecting the need for greater drug price transparency with policies to improve oversight for the pharmaceutical industry, the PACT Act 3.0 puts the Senate at the forefront of the state’s efforts to tackle rapidly increasing prescription drug costs. It will also reduce drug costs for patients and lower health care costs overall, as well as provide a no-cost sharing option for certain prescription drugs used to treat chronic illnesses that disproportionately affect communities of color and residents with lower income.

“The Senate is deeply committed to continuing its work to advance racial and economic equity, and addressing the burdensome health care costs on communities of color and low-income communities is a key component of this work. That’s why I am so proud that the Senate’s latest version of our prescription drug cost containment legislation directs insurers to offer certain prescription drugs used to treat asthma, heart disease, and diabetes—chronic illnesses that disproportionately affect communities of color and residents with lower income—at a low or no cost to consumers,” state Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Residents can’t wait for prescription drug relief, especially when lives are at stake. This is a bill that will take major steps towards addressing affordability for all our residents, along with increasing access to important life-saving medications.… Read more.