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.

Legislature Passes Fiscal Year 2024 Budget

$56.2B budget agreement provides for historic levels of investment in education, housing, regional transportation, and health care

(BOSTON–7/31/2023) Today, July 31, the Legislature enacted a $56.2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), reconciling differences between the versions of the budget passed by the House of Representatives and Senate earlier this year. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the FY24 budget, which provides for historic levels of investment in education, housing, regional transportation, health care, workforce development, and more, as part of a broad strategy to grow our state’s economy and make Massachusetts more affordable, inclusive, and competitive.

“I am extremely proud of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which meets our current fiscal needs while also supporting our vision of sustainable, long-term economic health,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “From investing in much needed staff recruitment and retention in the behavioral health field through various loan repayment, tuition assistance and scholarship programs, to enshrining eviction protections and ensuring everyone has a safe place to live, to guaranteeing our students have access to healthy meals — all of these investments and policy adoptions promote the health and well-being of our residents. We can also give our residents peace of mind that we will continue to protect access to commonsense health care for all our residents by safeguarding coverage of preventive health care services like cancer screenings and access to medications for chronic conditions. I want to also point out the local projects that are receiving a significant amount of funding from this budget as we once again pass a budget that helps our state as a whole, in addition to the people and organizations doing great work in our communities.”… Read more.

Senate Passes $513 Million Supplemental Budget

Bill provides relief to fiscally stressed hospitals, reduces pension liability, assists special education obligations, and dedicates funding for farms and rural communities affected by natural disasters

(BOSTON – 07/26/2023) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday to pass a $513 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). The legislation funds relief for hospitals, pension liabilities, special education costs, and flexible assistance for farms throughout the Commonwealth impacted by recent severe weather events. The bill also extends simulcast and harness horse racing, and extends reporting dates for several governmental agencies. In addition, the legislation ratifies several outstanding collective bargaining agreements.

“This supplemental budget addresses some of the key pain points that we are seeing throughout the Commonwealth, specifically hospital fiscal solvency and the extraordinary special education costs our local districts are being faced with,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “We also invest in important needs that have arisen in recent months as we work to close out the Fiscal Year 2023 funds. Our Commonwealth’s use of supplemental budgets allows us to modify spending to meet the needs of the moment, and this FY23 supplemental budget is extremely targeted to provide relief quickly.”

Appropriates $513M of fiscal year 2023 direct appropriations, including:

  • $180M for relief to fiscally strained hospitals
  • $100M for a supplemental transfer to the Pension Liability Fund
  • $75M to support school districts with extraordinary special education costs
  • $60.3M for staffing needs at the Department of Transitional Assistance
  • $40M for a reserve to support costs related to Tatum vs.
Read more.

Legislature Passes Bill Authorizing Chapter 90 Funding  

Legislation makes investments in roads, bridges, public transportation, and regional transit authorities 

(BOSTON – 7/27/2023) The Massachusetts Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that includes $375 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. 

“This bill continues the state’s commitment to investing in a functional and sustainable network of transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “It authorizes bonding for transportation improvements statewide, including grants to municipalities for electric vehicle infrastructure and funds to enhance access to mass transit and commuter rail stations, strengthening our public transportation system, which is in particular need of support in the Greater Boston area.”  

This legislation also authorizes $175 million in programs that will support 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; 
  • funding for pavement and surface improvements on state and municipal roadways; and 
  • new funding dedicated to additional transportation support based on road mileage, which is particularly helpful for rural communities. 

The bill having passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it will now be sent to the Governor for her consideration. … Read more.

Friedman, Senate Pass Bill Allowing Nonbinary Gender Option on Birth Certificates, Drivers’ Licenses

“Gender X” legislation also eliminates unnecessary roadblocks to changing gender identification on state documents

(BOSTON—7/27/23) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted alongside her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday to unanimously pass An Act relative to gender identity on Massachusetts identification.,  The bill would allow, for the first time in Massachusetts history, an individual to be identified with a non-binary “X” sex designation on their birth certificate, and enshrine into law the current practice of allowing an individual to select a non-binary “X” gender designation on their driver’s license. This is the fourth consecutive session during which the Senate has adopted similar legislation.

“In Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on inclusivity and ensuring basic human rights,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Should this legislation become law, we will remove facets of our state government that prevent our residents from living with their true gender identity . In the face of nationwide attacks on our LGBTQIA+ friends, we continue to be a beacon of progress and ensure that Massachusetts is a place that is safe, welcoming, and open to all.”

Under current law, it is impossible to have a sex designation of “X” listed on a birth certificate in Massachusetts, and in order to change one’s sex designation, an applicant must provide a notarized statement from a physician stating that the individual has completed medical intervention.

The legislation passed today would allow an individual to be identified with an “X” sex designation on their birth certificate.… Read more.

Friedman Supports Senate Legislation to Provide Free ID Cards to People Experiencing Homelessness

Bill to enable access to basic services by removing financial and documentation barriers

(BOSTON—7/27/23) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate on Thursday as the chamber unanimously passed An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness. The legislation would establish a process to allow an adult or youth experiencing homelessness to apply for a free Massachusetts identification card. Identification cards enable access to basic services in the Commonwealth that are often unreachable for those without identification.  

“As an elected member of the Massachusetts senate, I strongly believe that we have a duty to ease the burdens on our most vulnerable populations in accessing basic services,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Providing an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness to retain a sense of normalcy and humanity during a challenging time should always be a priority, and providing free identification cards can lessen the barriers these individuals face daily. Identification cards are a tool that can be used to gain employment, housing, healthcare, and more, and I am glad to see the Senate lead on this legislation once again to address this important issue.”

People experiencing homelessness currently face prohibitive fees and documentation requirements that can be barriers to acquiring identification. This legislation removes those barriers by eliminating fees and only requiring that applicants present documentation showing that they are currently receiving services provided by the Commonwealth, a homeless service provider, or another service provider.… Read more.