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State Legislature Extended 2020 Session to Get More Done During Pandemic

By: Linda Dean Campbell

campbellThe State Legislature extended its two-year session past the usual July 31st end date in order to continue legislating during the pandemic. While we have accomplished a great deal, so much remains to be done to continue state funding of critical services related to the pandemic, pass important legislation, support cities and towns, and ensure that our businesses and restaurants stay afloat, as so many are seriously struggling.

The Budget: The Legislature recently passed a state budget and is continuing to vote to override the Governor’s budget vetoes so that we can preserve critical funding – more info on this soon to come. The budget prioritizes help for cities and towns struggling with additional costs associated with the pandemic, prevents some evictions, and provides help for an increasing population suffering from homelessness and food insecurity.

By drawing from federal relief funds and the Commonwealth’s rainy-day fund, we were able to pass a budget in these difficult economic times without raising taxes.

The Roe Amendment: I voted against the Roe Amendment to the budget because it made it possible for sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds to obtain an abortion without notification of a parent or guardian. We already have laws in place for judicial intervention in exceptional circumstances where that might be necessary, for example in cases of abuse.

A parent has legal responsibility for their child until they become eighteen. When a child needs virtually any other type of medical procedure, the parent or guardian is responsible for approving and paying for these medical procedures. The Roe Amendment opens up a whole new set of legal questions in terms of when a child becomes an adult able to legally make medical and other important decisions for themselves without consulting with their legally responsible parent or guardian.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, we owe a parent or guardian “the opportunity” to have a conversation with a child about one of the most important and consequential life-altering events in their life. The judicial override process is provided to handle the exceptions to this norm, so why are we now addressing the few exceptional cases at the expense of families?

Lots of Work Ahead: Many important bills were understandably delayed to make room for legislation pertaining to the pandemic, including an economic development bill; a transportation bond bill; a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) notification bill I filed that is even more important now that COVID-19 is present in our wastewater; and many others. As of this writing, many of these bills are still being debated with the goal of being finalized before the new session.

I am proud that the Massachusetts Legislature was the first in the country to establish the technical capacity to continue its important work remotely – and that critical legislating is full steam ahead.

Resources: Anyone needing assistance is encouraged to call my office at (617) 722-2380 and provide your phone number and email so that we may get back to you. If you need food assistance, the Project Bread Hotline can connect you to local resources: 1-800-645-8333. If you need housing or rent assistance, contact Community Teamwork at (978) 459-0551. If you need fuel assistance, contact Community Teamwork’s Fuel Assistance Program at (978) 459-6161 or the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council at (978) 681-4950. To apply for unemployment assistance, visit www.mass.gov/unemployment.

If you need health insurance, you can review your options through MassHealth and the Health Connector by applying at www.mahealthconnector.org. To find a free COVID-19 testing site, visit www.mass.gov/stopthespread. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text Samaritans at (877) 870-4673. For other questions or resources, call the state’s resource hotline at 2-1-1.

State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.

ValleyPatriot

ValleyPatriot

The Valley Patriot is a free monthly print newspaper serving Northern Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire. The print edition is published by the 10th of each month and is distributed to 51 cities and towns.

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