By: :Linda Dean Campbell – Jan. 2018
My very best wishes to all of you in 2018.
Looking back to Legislative action in 2017, one of the most notable accomplishments was Criminal Justice Reform.
The House of Representatives passed comprehensive and responsible reforms to the criminal justice law in Massachusetts which addresses a number of important issues such as sentencing and juvenile justice, diversion to substance addiction treatment for certain offenders, and increased penalties (in fact the strictest in the nation) for the trafficking of Carfentanil and Fentanyl and for OUIs.
I am thankful for the support of my colleagues for an important amendment I filed which limits the amount of time an inmate with a serious mental illness can stay in solitary confinement, reducing it from 30 days down to 15 days while they wait for a bed in a secure treatment unit. It also creates a reporting system where correctional institutions report to state the status of placement, an anticipated move date, as well as any changes to the inmate’s mental health.
The Bond Bill
With the support of my colleagues, I was able to secure funding for both the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the House Bond bill. Methuen received $3 million in order to build a new parking garage for downtown, which is important as we plan for the revitalization of our downtown.
Also secured was $263,000 in bond funding for upgrading electric structures for the new art space and cultural center at the Cogswell School in Haverhill. This funding is vital to the basic operation and opening of the building for many public and private events.
Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies Statewide Conference
The Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies invited me to speak at their Statewide Conference about legislation I filed to re-establish and energize civic education in our public schools across the Commonwealth. Senator Harriette Chandler and I are continuing to meet with educators and advocates to gain understanding of their perspectives as our bill continues to move forward.
The House passed three pieces of legislation that help our Veterans. There are still other bills under consideration in relation to Veterans that the legislature is looking to addressing at the beginning of the New Year.
The first piece of legislation allows municipalities to designate reserved parking for our Veterans who may be visiting and utilizing city and town halls during business hours.
The second piece of legislation allows municipalities to designate a “check off” for taxpayers to voluntarily donate money to a fund named the “Veterans Memorial and Patriotic Celebration Fund.” This fund will be dedicated to events as well as the creation and restoration of monuments honoring Veterans in our communities.
The third piece of legislation dedicates a portion of a $244 million bond bill to design and construct a new 154-bed Soldier’s Home in Chelsea, replacing the Lawrence F. Quigley Memorial Hospital.
Bump Stocks Legislation
I joined my colleagues in the House to pass an update to the Commonwealth’s firearms protection laws. This legislation prohibits the possession and use of devices known as bump stocks which are devices used to modify a rifle, shotgun, or firearm in order to increase the rate of fire with the intent of having it act similarly to a fully automatic weapon.
Twelve of the rifles used in the shooting in Los Vegas were modified with a bump stock.
The Access Law
Recently, Governor Baker signed into law the ACCESS bill. This bill was passed by the Legislature as a response to federal healthcare changes in relation to birth control coverage and health care access for women. This legislation protects coverage for no-copay birth control. The law requires insurers to cover at least one version of every type of FDA-approved birth control and allows women to receive a12-month supply of prescription birth control pills after a three-month trial period.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
This legislation passed by the legislature reflects a compromise between advocates for pregnant workers and our business community. It takes a number of basic steps to protect pregnant women in the workplace including prohibitions on employers from choosing not to hire or fire a worker based on their pregnancy or requiring an employee to take leave because of a pregnancy. This legislation allows Massachusetts to join the 18 other states that have passed similar legislation and is particularly important as more and more women are the primary breadwinners for their household.
In the year ahead the legislature must reconcile many differing pieces of legislation passed by the House and the Senate.
While Massachusetts has been a leader in medical innovation and health care coverage, the legislature is in the process of working on legislation to reign in high health care costs. Similarly, while we have made some progress in addressing the opioid crisis, the Governor and our state legislature are committed to doing more to reduce the intolerably high number of our citizens suffering from substance addiction.
I am also committed to moving forward legislation I filed in many areas, to name a few: civic education; protections for the disabled; police training; improved reporting of overdoses; school bus safety; and more.