Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
2020 was a challenging year to say the least, with our communities facing hardships that COVID-19 brought to our economy, families, health care system and many other facets of our lives. At the same time, it was amazing to see the people of the Merrimack Valley come together during an unprecedented time to look out for one another, lend a helping hand and let their friends, family and neighbors know they are not alone.
In the Legislature, we spent much of the session fighting to increase testing, access to personal protective equipment (PPE), medical care and coverage, and resources for our first responders. Simultaneously, we worked to address challenges faced by our hospitals, public safety departments, homeless shelters, schools, daycares and beyond – along with the challenges faced by all people each sector has employed or served.
Including measures around COVID-19, we made progress on a host of issues in this legislative session.
Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Our Government
The Governor signed into law campaign finance reform I sponsored to bolster transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s public elections. Up to this point, the Legislature and some mayoral candidates have been exempt from the law that requires statewide, county and many other municipal candidates use of the depository reporting system. The new law seeks to remedy this disparity by requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates in Massachusetts begin participating in the system.
Supporting Our Small Businesses
Our small business community has this year faced one challenge after another in working to remain afloat during the pandemic.
One of my top priorities early in the emergency was legislation I sponsored to expand takeout and delivery options for restaurants in Massachusetts. Our mom and pop establishments desperately continue to need additional revenue and I am grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for their support and to Governor Baker for ultimately signing it into law.
I am also continuing to push legislation I sponsored, An Act providing COVID-19 emergency financial relief for veterans, to provide one-time emergency grants to Massachusetts veterans suffering financial loss due to COVID-19.
Both the recently passed Fiscal Year 2021 Budget and earlier COVID-19 supplemental budget include key funding designed to help local businesses, including resources toward economic development; matching grants for capital investments by small businesses; the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund; and small business grants dedicated to veteran, minority, and women-owned businesses in underserved areas.
The Senate also this year passed the ENDURE Act, an economic recovery and development bill providing supports to small businesses and investments in infrastructure, including capital spending to spur investments in housing and the local economy and assist our tourism and cultural sectors. The bill additionally bolsters funding to the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s matching grant program.
There remains, however, much work to be done and I am committed to doing all I can to support our local businesses as we approach the next legislative session, including pushing for comprehensive legislation I filed, the MassMakers Act, to strengthen the vitality, prosperity and diversity of our small businesses in Massachusetts.
Protecting Our Environment
Something I have been deeply involved with since the start of this legislative session is getting the Merrimack River District Commission up and running, bringing together stakeholders from all along the Merrimack River — experts, elected officials and environmental groups, among others — to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
While numerous stakeholders have concerns for the river, we have never convened a diverse group of experts from various sectors to work together, agree on the basic facts, and advise the legislature on how to proceed to restore our majestic Merrimack River so that it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy. The commission will advise on next steps, developing a plan to clean and maintain the river moving forward.
Investing in Education
Earlier this session, the Student Opportunity Act was signed into law. This comprehensive bill invests in our K–12 education system, ensuring schools have the resources they need to provide high-quality education to students across Massachusetts, regardless of zip code or income. The legislation marked the first overhaul of the state’s education funding formula in nearly 30 years.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we passed comprehensive inclusive concurrent enrollment legislation that supports public colleges and universities in their efforts provide higher education opportunities for individuals with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. By participating in higher education, these students will be able to gain the skills they need to live, work, and socialize as independently as possible.
Health Care Reform
We passed the Patients First Act, comprehensive health care legislation to increase access to health care, protect patients, and enhance quality care. It removes financial and insurance barriers to telehealth services, requiring insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover such services in any case where the same in-person service would be covered.
Also in the area of health care, we passed step therapy legislation which establishes basic safeguards for patients required to undergo step therapy by allowing patients and providers to have access to a transparent and expedient appeals process which will support patients and their providers in making decisions based on best treatment options and a patient’s medical history and characteristics.
We passed the PACT Act, comprehensive pharmaceutical cost control legislation aimed at addressing the high and rapidly increasing costs of prescription drugs. By connecting the need for greater drug price transparency with policies to improve oversight over the pharmaceutical industry, the legislation will put Massachusetts at the forefront of the state’s efforts to tackle increasing drug costs. It will also reduce drug costs to patients and lower health care costs overall.
Also passed was the Mental Health ABC Act, comprehensive mental health legislation that seeks to increase access by removing barriers to timely quality care, providing the state with more effective tools to enforce existing mental health parity laws, and investing in the mental and behavioral health workforce pipeline. Now more than ever during this emergency, we have realized how vital mental health services are to our communities. That is why I am so pleased we passed this legislation.
Funding for Our Cities and Towns
Last but certainly not least, despite the economic toll the pandemic has taken on our state economy, we committed to no less than level funding for local aid, including Chapter 70 resources to our school districts. This was absolutely crucial for our cities and towns, who have this year faced countless challenges.
It’s been a time of great uncertainty but I have no doubt that we’re going to come out of this stronger than ever. I am so hopeful for the year ahead!
If you have questions about these or any other issues, please contact me and my team anytime via email at email@example.com or phone 978-984-7747.
Yours in service,