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.

Senate Votes for Historic Expansion of Access to Menstrual Products

Menstrual equity legislation would make products available for free in schools, shelters, and correctional facilities across the state 

(BOSTON–10/26/23) Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation to broadly expand access to menstrual products in a wide range of public facilities across the state.  

The bill — S.2481, An Act to increase access to disposable menstrual products — would require safe and disposable menstrual products to be provided in the Commonwealth’s primary and secondary schools, correctional institutions, shelters, and temporary housing facilities at no cost to recipients. It would also require products to be distributed in a non-stigmatizing and convenient way.  

“The Senate continues to lead on the issue of menstrual equity and expanding access to menstrual products for the over 50 percent of Massachusetts residents that menstruate,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “It is vital that we address the challenges that costs and other barriers present for individuals trying to obtain menstrual products, and this legislation is an impactful step forward in that effort. For the second consecutive session, the Senate has passed this bill and I’m hopeful the House will take swift action this session to put this legislation on the Governor’s desk.” 

Residents who require menstrual products like pads and tampons currently need to buy them, an expense that is particularly burdensome for residents with low incomes or in vulnerable situations. Accessing menstrual products is also difficult for young people and people without access to reliable transportation.  … Read more.

Friedman, Senate Pass Legislation Addressing Massachusetts Pay Inequities

Bill would boost salary transparency, tackle unfair compensation for women and people of color

(BOSTON–10/19/2023) Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to tackle pay inequities in the state, which significantly and disproportionately impact women and people of color across the Commonwealth. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted to advance the bill, which passed with overwhelming support in the chamber. The bill targets these inequities by empowering employees with salary information, including when they are seeking jobs and receiving promotions, and by giving the state new data tools to track employment trends.

The bill, S.2468, also known as the Frances Perkins Workplace Equity Act, empowers job applicants by requiring employers with 25 or more employees to include salary range information in job postings. It also requires employers to provide salary ranges to employees offered a promotion or a transfer, as well as to employees currently working in a position, should they ask.

“This bill takes a tremendous step towards addressing pay inequities in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The statistics speak for themselves: women, especially women of color, face significant disparities in the level of pay they receive for the same work as their white, male counterparts. By bringing the business community to the table, this bill allows us to provide the transparency and protections our workers and job seekers need to live, succeed, and grow in the Commonwealth. I thank Senate President Karen Spilka for seeing this bill across the finish line in the Senate and for being a steadfast champion of pay equity for many years.”… Read more.

Friedman Applauds Legislature’s Passage of Tax Relief Measures

Bill includes $561.3 million in tax relief in Fiscal Year 2024, $1.02 billion in Fiscal Year 2027 and beyond

(BOSTON – 09/28/23) With the goal of providing financial relief to families across the Commonwealth while making Massachusetts more competitive with other states, the Massachusetts Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan tax relief package supporting residents across all income levels on Thursday. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in voting to send this robust legislation to the Governor’s desk.

“The conference committee’s tax relief package passed in the Legislature today is a major victory for the residents of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This legislation provides relief to our working class and lower-income residents by raising the caps on child income tax credits, earned income tax credits, and the senior citizen circuit breaker. We also ensure that the provisions of the Fair Share Law are upheld by all taxpayers, increasing much needed investments in our transportation and public education systems. This package increases our competitiveness and will deliver targeted relief for our residents, and I am very thankful for the work of my colleagues serving on the conference committee for their work to deliver this legislation.”

The compromise bill includes the following tax changes:

Child and Dependent Tax Credit

The bill increases the refundable tax credit for a dependent child, disabled adult, or senior from $180 to $310 per dependent in taxable year 2023, and then to $440 in taxable year 2024 and beyond, while eliminating the child/dependent cap.… Read more.

Legislature Passes $200 Million Supplemental Budget

Bill provides relief to financially strained hospitals, extends simulcasting to 2025, provides aid for farmers impacted by natural disasters

(BOSTON — 8/1/2023) The Massachusetts Legislature yesterday passed a $200 million supplemental budget, which included $180 million in critical relief for financially strained hospitals in the state, an extension of simulcasting and live horse racing until December 15, 2025, and $20 million in funding for farms that have been devastated by natural disasters, including flooding and unseasonal deep freezes.

“Quick action on this supplemental budget means we will deliver much-needed support to our hospitals and farms—two sectors that not only account for a lot of jobs in our Commonwealth, but which supply critical services and goods to our residents to keep our state healthy,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The flexible funding for farm communities will allow our farmers to continue to recover from the lasting effects of severe weather on their crops, land and livelihoods, and patients will continue to receive care at their community hospitals. I am deeply grateful to Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, Vice Chair Cindy Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Jo Comerford, Senate Ways and Means staff, Speaker Mariano, and our colleagues in the House for prioritizing this funding—and to Governor Healey for signing this into law as soon as it crossed her desk.”

“From urgently needed funding for struggling hospitals, to support for Massachusetts farms that have been impacted by natural disasters, to an extension of simulcasting through 2025, this supplemental budget includes a number of critical, timely provisions that support vital industries in order to preserve jobs and strengthen our economy” said House Speaker Ronald J.Read more.