My First Weeks as Your State Senator

By: Senator Katie O’Connor Ives (D) Newburyport –  January 2013

Massachusetts State Senator Katie O'Connor I'vesThanks to Tom Duggan for letting me set up shop here at the “Senator’s Corner” so I can update readers on what’s happening on Beacon Hill and my State Senate activities. This is still a working title, and might be different in the next edition. But, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss my first couple of weeks in office and will provide updates on proposed legislation, budget proposals and activities in the district.

We moved into our permanent office last week. You can find us in room 519, on the fifth floor in the State House. No appointment is needed if you want to visit the office but call ahead of time (617-722-1604) if you want to meet so I’m able to make sure I’m in the office.

The filing deadline for new legislation took place on Friday, January 18th. I submitted six pieces of legislation which will automatically be referred to committees for consideration. These bills covered the areas of patients’ rights, consumer protection and welfare reform. February 1st was the deadline to co-sponsor legislation.

I signed-on to pieces of legislation which covered the areas of public safety, health, veterans, water quality, toxin reduction and autism. You can see additional information at:

First Senate Vote in Formal Session:

I’m happy to report that my first vote in formal session was for increased transparency in government proceedings. A motion was adopted to post all Senate roll call votes on the State Senate website within 48 hours. This will be a reliable way for residents to know how senators voted in a timely fashion.

Filed Legislation:

The first bill, SD 1008, is An Act Protecting Consumers from Unsolicited Loans. Residents are commonly subjected to unrequested paper checks sent by credit card companies through the mail that can result in identity theft and the unauthorized use of credit lines. This consumer protection bill prohibits financial institutions and lenders from sending consumers unsolicited loans, including checks, that may be used to unknowingly activate a loan that was not solicited by the consumer.

The second piece of legislation is SD 1016, An Act Relative to Welfare Reform. This bill would require: (a) any electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card issued to an eligible recipient to bear such recipients photograph on the card, (b) require any retailer that accepts electronic benefit transfer cards to post the Department of Transitional Assistance EBT fraud hotline in a visible area, and (c) list on each application and renewal form, those items which are prohibited from purchase with EBT cards.

There has been a recently recognized healthcare problem in Massachusetts where seniors are being prescribed psychotropic drugs in nursing care facilities which are harmful to their long-term health and sometimes resulting in preventable death. SD 1020, An Act Relative to Psychotropic Medications would require nursing homes, rest homes or other long term care facilities to first obtain informed consent from their patients or patients’ health proxy when prescribing psychotropic medications.

SD 1018, An Act Relative to Prescription Drug Voice Synthesizers legislation provides an important option for the vision problems. The legislation would require health insurance policies that provide prescription drug insurance to cover medically prescribed voice-synthesizer, aka “audible medication dispensers” to provide audible information of a prescription medication used.

SD 1011, An Act Relative To Patient Notification would require that any patient admitted for inpatient care at a medical facility and prescribed or administered any medication, be given an information sheet detailing a medication’s prescribed use and potential sides effects. This notification would provide a patient with basic information so they can advocate for their own health and be in stronger positions to make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Tom Duggan is not only the publisher of the Valley Patriot, he is also my constituent. As such, I filed legislation he requested relating to putting more teeth into the Freedom of Information Act. This bill, entitled SD 1036, An Act Relative to Obtaining Information, adds penalties for noncompliance when requests for public information are made by a person and not acted upon by the office charged with responding to the request for information. When a public office has not complied within thirty days of such a request, a fifty dollar penalty will accrue daily until the information requested is provided.

Committee Assignment:

I’m happy to share that I received my Senate Committee assignments. I’ll be serving as the Chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development and the Vice Chair of Community Development and Small Businesses. I will also serving as a rank and file member of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, the Joint Committee on Higher Education and the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. These assignments are all extremely relevant to our district and this work will enable me to have an active role in the legislation that is referred to those committees.

Massachusetts’ tourism economy is key for economic development in our district, as well as state-wide. Travelers spent 16.9 billion dollars in Massachusetts in 2011. Each city and town in the First Essex District has a tourism economy with growth potential. In terms of higher education, students from our district attend all of the colleges in the Massachusetts higher education system, including Northern Essex Community College. There’s plenty of work to do to ensure the cost of college stays affordable while still providing a top-notch education. In this challenging economic climate, small business success is key to job creation and a stable local economy. I’m focused on reducing unnecessary obstacles, fees and bureaucracy small business owners face which stifle their ability to grow and thrive.

Pictures and updates are also available by liking the Senate Office on facebook, search for State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.