SENATE WRAPS UP 2017–2018 SESSION Senate passes initiatives to increase financial literacy, shore up pipeline safety, and provide increased funding for line of duty benefits

BOSTON — On December 31, the Massachusetts State Senate closed out the 2017–2018 legislative session with action on a number of bills, spanning issues such as public safety, education, and consumer data protection, among other things. The Senate also passed a supplemental budget designed to address time-sensitive funding needs.

“I’m proud of all that we were able to accomplish together in the Senate this session,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I want to thank all of my colleagues, especially Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, for working hard until the final minutes of 2018 to enhance public safety, improve education, and protect consumers. I look forward to building on the work we did this session.”

In response to public safety concerns raised by the Merrimack Valley gas fires, the Senate enacted legislation that requires all utilities to engage a professional engineer to review utility work plans. This follows a bill, signed by the Governor yesterday, that extends unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for workers locked out by National Grid for 26 weeks, or until the lockout ends, whichever comes first.

Another public safety measure the Senate enacted is a bill that would protect children, families and firefighters from the dangers of toxic chemical flame retardants. The retail sale of many children’s products and household items with treated foam will be restricted after June 1, 2019, under this bill. These chemicals are often unnecessarily added to foam products and accumulate as dust in our homes; when they burn, their toxic fumes are harmful to human health, endangering firefighters and first responders.

The Senate approved final passage of a consumer data protection bill, known as the ‘Equifax’ bill, which helps consumers protect their private information through free security freezes, free credit monitoring when a credit reporting agency is breached, and requires prior consent from an agency to access a consumer’s report, as well an explanation for the disclosure.

To better serve the needs of our students, the Senate passed a bill that allows for the establishment of standards for students in kindergarten through grade 12 on personal financial literacy. The bill also permits educational institutions to incorporate personal financial literacy standards into existing mathematics, social science, technology, business, or other curricula. The Senate also passed an initiative that improves governance and oversight of educational collaboratives and allows them to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities over the age of 22 in certain circumstances.

In addition, the Senate took action to end gender discrimination in disability insurance, bringing it into line with insurance provided by employers and subject to federal nondiscrimination law. It also passed a supplemental budget to provide sufficient funding to cover line of duty benefits for the year.

The end-of-session activity follows the recent passage of a new law designed to regulate and tax short-term rentals, while creating a framework in which this innovative industry segment can grow.

Bills passed by both the House and Senate will be sent to the Governor, who has ten days to sign them into law. The 2019-2020 legislative session officially began on January 2, 2018.