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Friedman lists Senate successes, hopes

Cindy Friedman

The state Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) has reported in an email to constituents a recap of the legislation addressed during the formal sessions of the 2021-2022 Massachusetts Legislature. 

Formal sessions – where the Senate usually address bigger, more complex issues and take roll-call votes on the most important legislation – wrapped up July 31. Friedman highlights bills she sponsored "or am very passionate about," with a link to a 50-page complete session report from the Massachusetts Senate included below.

Signed into law

This legislation marks the most comprehensive update to our mental health laws in recent years and it will help transform the mental health system in the Commonwealth. Notably, the bill tackles the emergency department boarding crisis, improves the state’s ability to enforce parity between insurance coverage for physical and mental health care, and begins to address the workforce challenges plaguing our behavioral health system.

  • Expanded Protections for Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Care in Massachusetts: This law, stemming from an amendment I filed to the FY23 budget, protects providers, residents, and visitors to our state who engage in legally protected reproductive and gender-affirming health care. It also clarifies provisions of the 2020 “ROE Act” to help ensure that pregnant people who face dire circumstances after 24 weeks of pregnancy are not forced to leave Massachusetts in order to access reproductive health care services and places decision-making power in the hands of the patient and their treating physician, not a hospital’s independent review panel. Additionally, this law mandates insurance coverage for abortion and abortion-related care without copayments, coinsurance or deductibles, expands access to Plan B, and ensures access to medication abortion at public colleges and universities. 

  • The Voter Opportunities, Trust, Equity and Security (VOTES) Act: The VOTES Act is a comprehensive voting reform bill that makes mail-in and early voting permanent in Massachusetts and expands early voting opportunities. While the law does not include the provision for same-day registration that the Senate included in its final bill, it does make several needed reforms to our voting process. I will continue to advocate for same-day voter registration in the new legislative session. 

  • American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding: Drawing from funds appropriated to Massachusetts as part of the federal 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, the Legislature was able to make historic investments in our communities through new and existing state programs and services. Areas of investment included: economic recovery and workforce development; affordable housing and homeownership; mental and behavioral health and public health care; climate preparedness; education; accountability and oversight; and $2.7 million in direct funding for local initiatives in the Fourth Middlesex district. 

  • The Work and Family Mobility Act: The Work and Family Mobility Act allows Massachusetts residents who lack federal immigration status to apply for a standard driver’s license, making our roads safer by increasing the number of vehicles and drivers with appropriate licensure, driver training, and insurance coverage This legislation was endorsed by the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police and it’s an issue that I have been passionate about for a long time. I was thrilled to work with my colleagues to enact it into law over the Governor’s veto. A shameful override petition was recently added to the November 2022 ballot to repeal this law. I ask you to vote YES on Question 4 to keep this important law in place and ensure that Massachusetts continues to be a welcoming place for all working families.
Passed in the Senate, but did not become law 
    • The Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act: For the second legislative session in a row, the Senate passed a comprehensive pharmaceutical access, costs and transparency bill. I sponsored this legislation, which, among other things, would limit out-of-pocket spending on insulin by capping co-pays at $25 for a 30-day supply and create a trust fund to provide financial assistance for prescription drugs to treat certain chronic conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities. The bill would also direct the Health Policy Commission to establish a process for identifying drug price changes that pose a public health threat to our residents and the state and to recommend pricing measures the state could employ to increase patient access to much-needed medications. Unfortunately, the bill was not taken up by the House of Representatives.   
    • Step Therapy Reforms: “Step therapy” is a tactic that insurers use to force patients, including those receiving treatment for cancer or chronic illnesses, to try drugs that come at a lower cost to insurers, even if those same treatments have failed for patients in the past. The Senate and House passed similar bills to curb this practice by insurance companies. Compromise legislation has not been agreed upon. 
    • Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day: Quock Walker was a slave in Massachusetts who sued for and won his freedom in a landmark Supreme Judicial court case that led to the abolishment of slavery in the Commonwealth in 1781. The bill would designate July 8th as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day, and it would allow us to annually celebrate Mr. Walker for his role in helping Massachusetts become one of the first states to outlaw slavery. This bill was passed in the Senate in February, and just yesterday the House of Representatives passed their own version. I look forward to resolving the differences between the two bills quickly and having Quock Walker Day become law this session.

View the complete Senate session report here >>

While lengthy, she encourages the public to read through the report "to see all of the important work that has happened in the Senate over the past two years."

She concluded: "I am proud of the transformative legislation that we were able to pass, the record level of investments that we have made across Massachusetts, and the important protections we have put in place for our residents. We still have plenty of work to do, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the Fourth Middlesex district in the new year.

If you have an idea for potential legislation or need help with a state-level issue you are facing, don’t hesitate to contact the senator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


June 20, 2022: State Senate passes landmark voting legislation supported by Friedman


This news column from a newsletter provided by state Sen. Cindy Friedman was published Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. 

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