Stand Up for Equality: Vote Yes on 3

Stand Up for Equality: Vote Yes on 3

Two years ago, Massachusetts joined 17 states and Washington, D.C., by enacting protections for transgender individuals in public accommodations that serve the general public. As I sat in the House of Representatives gallery on the day the vote was taken, I could not help to be overjoyed by the ongoing effort to make Massachusetts an inclusive and welcoming state.

On the November 6 ballot, Massachusetts’s voters make a simple decision: to uphold commonsense public accommodations protection for these individuals by voting YES or get back equal rights by voting NO.

I urge people to vote YES on question 3. Without those legal protections, transgender people would face a multitude of discriminatory challenge on a daily basis. The sky has not fallen since the 2016 vote and we are better as a society for it.

For the past two years transgender people have enjoyed the same rights and protections as everyone else in the Commonwealth, that was not the case before hand. To lose these rights now would be a terrible reversal in efforts to give all people equal protections under the law.

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Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito today announced $3 million in technology grants to 44 cities and towns across the Commonwealth through the Community Compact Information Technology (IT) Grant Program. This week’s announcement will benefit more than 49 municipal entities and brings the total number of municipal IT grants issued over the past four years to 188, assisting 250 communities with $9 million in grant funding to modernize their technology systems and deliver service to their residents more efficiently.

Chelsea received $50,000 for implementation of a comprehensive communication and project management package that will improve service, documentation and knowledge sharing.

Lt. Governor Polito made the announcement.

“Community Compact IT grants are a valuable way for the Community Compact program to provide access to resources for major technological projects that might otherwise be unaffordable,” said Lt. Governor Polito, Chair of the Community Compact Cabinet. “A great example is Cohasset’s plan to upgrade its Student Information System for greater productivity and the sophisticated tools that a school district requires to help meet its administrative obligations and its students’ educational needs.”

Cities and towns have used the IT grant funding to upgrade their websites, implement new systems that allow residents to apply for permits and licenses online, improve the security and capacity of municipal IT systems, digitize records and develop other solutions to costly technological challenges.

In addition to the IT grants, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $7.3 million in technical assistance grants and $4 million in efficiency and regionalization grants since starting the Community Compact Program in 2015.

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Gov Baker Proposes Reforms to Protect Public from Dangerous Individuals

Gov Baker Proposes Reforms to Protect Public from Dangerous Individuals

Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation that will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional tools to prosecute people who repeatedly break the law. The reforms put forth in today’s legislation include expanding the list of offenses that can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and closing certain loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns.

“Recent tragedies have demonstrated the tremendous damage that can occur when our criminal justice system fails to identify and detain dangerous people charged with serious crimes,” said Governor Baker. “The alarming frequency of these events confirmed for us that we need to fix a broken law, so we worked closely with law enforcement, district attorneys and victims advocacy groups across the Commonwealth and consulted with the courts to develop this proposal to do a better job of protecting Massachusetts communities from dangerous defendants.”

The governor’s legislation strengthens the ability of judges to enforce the conditions of pre-trial release by empowering police to detain people who they observe violating court-ordered release conditions; current law does not allow this, and instead requires a court to first issue a warrant.

“Far too often, there are few consequences for defendants who violate the conditions of a court issued release,” said Lieutenant Governor KarynPolito. “This legislation will empower police officers with the tools they need to protect their communities and hold until trial defendants who pose a continuing danger to our communities.”

This legislation empowers judges to revoke a person’s release when the offender has violated a court-ordered condition, such as an order to stay away from a victim, or from a public playground. Current law requires an additional finding of dangerousness before release may be revoked.

“A person who is so dangerous that his or her release threatens the safety of a specific victim or of the community at large does not become safe to release merely because three or four months have passed since the time of their arrest,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett. “This legislation would ensure that a person who a court determines is a danger or who violates his or her conditions of release is held until the time of trial or other disposition of the case, rather than being released after a defined period.”

“I’m very pleased with the governor’s proposed bail reform legislation,” said Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III. “This will make it more difficult for the court to release dangerous defendants.  Dangerous criminals should be held without bail until their cases are resolved. The public and law enforcement have a right to be protected from dangerous criminals. This legislation goes a long way towards doing that.  I have long advocated for changes to the bail system, and I appreciate the governor’s leadership on this very important issue.”

“It is encouraging to see that the call for action to keep dangerous and repeat criminals off the streets that began as a result of Sgt. Gannon’s murder is being taken seriously,” said Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson. “In July the Governor signed the MPTC Training Bill and now the announcement of this proposal is another significant move that will provide needed protection for our citizens from violent criminals.”

“Regardless of whether their cases can be prosecuted, survivors of sexual violence who are respected and believed throughout the process have better health and wellness outcomes,” said Katia Santiago-Taylor, advocacy and legislative affairs manager at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. “The first and most powerful way to do this is to ensure that survivors are informed about what is happening with their case, including timely notification when an offender is released from custody.”

The legislation expands the list of offenses which can provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing and follows the long-standing federal model in including a defendant’s history of serious criminal convictions as grounds that may warrant a dangerousness hearing. Current law requires courts to focus only on the crime charged and ignore a defendant’s criminal history when determining whether the defendant may be the subject of this sort of hearing.

Additional provisions of this legislation:

  • Improves the system for notifying victims of crimes of abuse and other dangerous crimes when a defendant is going to be released by creating clear lines of responsibility among police, prosecutors and corrections personnel to notify victims about an offender’s imminent release from custody, and create a six-hour window for authorities to inform a victim before an offender is allowed to be released.
  • Creates a new felony offense for cutting off a court-ordered GPS device.
  • Requires that the courts develop a text message service to remind defendants of upcoming court dates, reducing the chance they will forget and have a warrant issued for their arrest.
  • Allows dangerousness hearings at any point during a criminal proceeding, rather than requiring a prosecutor to either seek a hearing immediately or forfeit that ability entirely, even if circumstances later arise indicating that the defendant poses a serious risk to the community.
  • Requires that the probation department, bail commissioners and bail magistrates notify authorities who can take remedial action when a person who is on pre-trial release commits a new offense anywhere in the Commonwealth or elsewhere.
  • Creates a level playing field for appeals of district court release decisions to the superior court by allowing appeals by prosecutors, in addition to defendants, and giving more deference to determinations made in the first instance by our district court judges.
  • Creates a task force to recommend adding information to criminal records so that prosecutors and judges can make more informed recommendations and decisions about conditions of release and possible detention on grounds of dangerousness.

The legislation also closes loopholes at the start and end of the criminal process that currently limit or prevent effective action to address legitimate safety concerns. It extends the requirement that police take the fingerprints of people arrested for felonies to all people arrested, regardless of the charge, to ensure that decisions about release can be made with knowledge of a person’s true identity and full criminal history. It also allows, for the first time, bail commissioners and bail magistrates to consider dangerousness in deciding whether to release an arrestee from a police station when court is out of session.

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BHCC Receives $2.4M in Private Grant Funding

BHCC Receives $2.4M in Private Grant Funding

The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation awarded $2.4 million to Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) to establish the Early College program at BHCC, marking the largest private grant awarded in the College’s history.

The announcement was made in Chelsea Wednesday afternoon at an event celebrating the early college designation to Chelsea High School’s Early College program by the Baker-Polito Administration. Board Members from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation joined Governor Charlie Baker to see firsthand the impact of Early College. At the event, Governor Baker and the legislators in attendance heard from four Chelsea High School students who shared how their experiences in the program influenced their decision to pursue a college-level program.

  • Transformation to a Consolidated Early College Model

The funding from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation allows BHCC to consolidate its Early College efforts into a core model that anticipates growth in scale and performance, as well as distillation and dissemination of its promising practices to the field. The $2.4 million grant covers a three-year project horizon, and will serve more than 500 high school students, coming from a portfolio of partnerships with high school and community-based organizations in Greater Boston.

“We are so thankful to the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation for this extraordinary grant. It allows us to consolidate and scale our early work, to gather data and evidence of success and to make a strong case to the leaders of the Commonwealth that Early College is a viable and scalable solution to talent and economic development,” said BHCC President Pam Eddinger.

An early adopter of Early College, BHCC currently collaborates with seven high schools and community-based organizations, serving nearly 500 early college students in addition to almost 400 participants in dual enrollment. Increasing demand and initial successes with traditionally underserved students and the potential for greater educational equity and student achievement pressed the College to consolidate the Early College efforts into a core model and make it central to the College’s Mission. The grant supports the Early College effort exactly at this important inflection point and gives the College the financial and structural lift to reach the next level of success.

“The Foundation’s Board of Trustees is pleased to be partnering with one of the Commonwealth’s leading community colleges to bring a transformative model proven in other states to Greater Boston. By bridging high school and college experiences, Early College will help many students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and enjoy the benefits of the Commonwealth’s strong economy,” said Lynne Doblin, Executive Director of The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation.

  • Early College: A Cross-Segment Convergence in Education Strategy

This important work signals a convergence of new thinking from education leaders and policymakers around the State.

“An important goal of the Early College program is exposing students to college-level work while they are still in high school so they can envision themselves on a track toward a college degree,” said Governor Baker at Wednesday’s event. “The college-level experience, combined with the credits they earn in the courses, sets many students up for success by the time they arrive on a campus.”

The Secretary of Education, the Board of Higher Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education all support the effort to recognize Early College work by awarding designations to strong partnerships around the Commonwealth, with the promise of sustainable funding in the near future. These designations, of which BHCC is a part, will stimulate experimentation, document effective practice and demonstrate impact.

The standard-setting work of BHCC’s Early College will be a powerful proof point, and the data to be gathered over the next three years will provide strong evidence as to the efficacy of Early College as a way to increase high school graduation and college completion and broaden career exploration.

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Rasi Chau Named CHS New Head Football Coach

Rasi Chau Named CHS New Head Football Coach

Rasi Chau has been a championship coach at various points in his career. He was an assistant coach for the 2005

Rasi Chau.

Super Bowl champion St. Mary’s High School football team, and most recently, for the Women’s Football Alliance national champion Boston Renegades.

Chelsea High School Director of Athletics Amanda Alpert was a player on the Renegades’ professional football team, so she witnessed first hand the highly skilled coaching techniques and winning attitude that Chau brought to the field each day.

Alpert has appointed Chau as the new head football coach at Chelsea High School. He was the defensive coordinator for the Red Devils last year.

Chau succeeds Jack Halas at the helm of the program and joins a group of CHS head coaches that includes such familiar names as Henry McCarthy, Anthony “Chubby” Tiro, Todd Flaherty, Bobby Fee, Anthony Cardarelli, Robert Tiro, Joe Gaff, and many others.

Chau, 37, is a 1999 graduate of Lynn Classical High School where he played football. He went on to play college football at Mount Ida.

He is excited to take over a high school program as its head coach for the first time in his career. He had served one season as a head coach of the Southern New Hampshire Beavers semi-professional team.

“I’m looking forward to the new season,” said Chau, who is also a certified football referee. “I’ve met with the players and they’re doing their summer workouts. We have 32 players in the program right now and hope to have between 35-40 players on the team.”

Chau has selected Joseph Solomon as the team’s offensive coordinator, along with assistant coaches Richard Wilson, David Roque, and Steph Jeffers, who like Alpert, is a women’s professional football player for the Renegades. Mike Lopez has been named as equipment manager.

Chelsea will compete in the Division 8 Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small Division. Non-league opponents are Nashoba Valley, Whittier Tech, Greater Lowell, and Pope John (Thanksgiving game).

“I’m going to try to lead this team to the playoffs, but the first year as a new coach is always challenging because you’re trying to change the culture and make sure the players believe in you,” said Chau. “Right now, I like what I’m seeing with 20-plus kids lifting weights every day and participating in the pre-season conditioning drills.”

With the Chelsea High School football field being rebuilt, the Red Devils will play almost all of their games on the road this season. Chau said he has already introduced himself to the coaches in Chelsea’s two youth football organizations, Chelsea Pop Warner and Chelsea Pride.

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Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Frustrated House Waited for Horse Racing/Simulcast Bill All Night

Live horse racing and simulcasting took a topsy-turvy ride over a period of 48 hours last week, when the Sport of Kings became illegal in the Commonwealth for the first time in generations.

All of it came as a result of the State Legislature’s run up to the end of its two-year Legislative session on Tuesday and into Wednesday (July 31 and Aug. 1) night Ð and it was a frustrating end for Speaker Bob DeLeo, who said they waited all night for the Senate to send back an approved Racing Bill.

It was considered a non-controversial, annual renewal, but it was a wait that proved fruitless and frustrating for the Speaker.

When the bell sounded to end the session, racing hadn’t been done, and that technically made it illegal Ð something with dire consequences for Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Race Course, both of which had major racing events last week.

“We were waiting for it to come back from the Senate so we could vote on it,” DeLeo said this week. “It never made it back to the House for a final vote so that there would be no disruption in racingÉI have to say, it was very frustrating to be waiting all night for the legislation to come back and it never did. I know that things get lost. I appreciate that, but we’re talking about people’s livelihoods and people who rely on that paycheck. I thought it was important that got done and that’s why we moved so quickly to get it straightened out the next day on the governor’s desk to sign by mid-day.”

Indeed, by Thursday afternoon, racing had been restored, and DeLeo said that was because he and his team moved immediately all night long to make sure it passed.

It didn’t stop the talk, however, about why Senate President Karen Spilka hadn’t taken up a matter so important to Speaker DeLeo’s district in a session that ended with a bit of animosity between the two bodies Ð particularly on the failure to pass an education funding and health care bill by the end of session.

Some inside sources have said that it was retribution from Spilka to DeLeo for not passing certain things that were important to her Ð essentially, they said, making racing a pawn in a larger political spat.

DeLeo played that down, however, this week, saying only, “We were just awaiting the documents from the Senate.”

Spilka told the State House News Service last week that racing was simply one of many bills that failed to pass before the session’s end.

“Just like every single year, we don’t always get to everything,” she said to State House News.

Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said he was glad to see that the matter was quickly resolved, which meant that it didn’t disrupt Suffolk’s weekend of live racing Saturday and Sunday.

“We want to thank the House, Senate and Governor for addressing this today and we’re looking forward to two great days of racing this weekend,” he said late on Thursday.

But Suffolk, Plainridge and Raynham didn’t get there without sweating it out for a period of many hours when their product has suddenly become unauthorized.

On Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting on Aug. 2, in Springfield, but as they got to the matter, DeLeo had straightened everything out.

Getting it fixed was the main point of the matter, DeLeo said this week.

“Suffolk did have a very big live racing weekend coming up, but for meÉwe have a number of people who live and work in my district who quite frankly live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford even one day without that paycheck,” he said. “That’s very important and that’s why the very next day we worked to get it passed on signed by the governor.”

The Racing/Simulcast legislation doesn’t sunset again until July 31, 2019.

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And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Live racing and simulcasting have been suspended at Suffolk Downs and all other horse tracks and betting facilities in the state due to the fact that the State Legislature did not act to renew the Simulcast Bill before the end of its formal session at midnight on July 31.

The renewal has been routine for several years.

The news came out of Beacon Hill early Wednesday morning that horseracing and simulcasting had suddenly become illegal in Massachusetts overnight. It seemed like fantasy, but soon the news was solidified.

In order for horse tracks like Suffolk Downs to operate live racing and simulcasting, the annual bill has to be renewed by the House and Senate by July 31. The Legislature did not do that this year.

There were few comments from legislators on the matter, but Suffolk Downs had its placard off Wednesday morning, a placard that usually advertises simulcast betting on Saratoga races for that day.

Later in the morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting today, Aug. 2, in Springfield.

The news complicated things tremendously for Suffolk Downs, which had planned and proceeded with a weekend of live racing for Aug. 4 and 5. That event is now in great doubt as there is no law allowing live racing in the state.

Reportedly, many of the horses and support personnel had already begun the trek up to Massachusetts from other states for the live races.

Many were left to ask why it had happened without warning.

There were no official comments on Wednesday from the Legislature, but numerous sources near the situation indicated it revolved around a growing rift between the leadership of the House and Senate.

It was believed by those sources that when a very important priority item for the Senate leadership didn’t pass the House – the gender equity bill – then the Senate in turn blocked the action on the renewal of the Simulcasting Bill.

One course of action to fix the matter is to address it during an informal session this week. However, during an informal session, rather than with a roll call vote of everyone, only one objection to any matter by any member can kill it under the rules of the body. That makes restoring the bill even more difficult, especially if there is a political rift between the two houses.

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Horse Racing, Simulcasting Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Horse Racing, Simulcasting Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Live racing and simulcasting has been suspended at Suffolk Downs and all other horse tracks and betting facilities in the state due to the fact that the State Legislature did not act to renew the Simulcast Bill before the end of its formal session at midnight on July 31.

The renewal has been routine for several years.

The news came out of Beacon Hill early Wednesday morning that horseracing and simulcasting had suddenly become illegal in Massachusetts overnight. It seemed like fantasy, but soon the news was solidified.

In order for horse tracks like Suffolk Downs to operate live racing and simulcasting, the annual bill has to be renewed by the House and Senate by July 31. The Legislature did not do that this year.

There were few comments from legislators on the matter, but Suffolk Downs had its placard off Wednesday morning, a placard that usually advertises simulcast betting on Saratoga races for that day.

Later in the morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting today, Aug. 2, in Springfield.

The news complicated things tremendously for Suffolk Downs, which had planned and proceeded with a weekend of live racing for Aug. 4 and 5. That event is now in great doubt as there is no law allowing live racing in the state.

Reportedly, many of the horses and support personnel had already begun the trek up to Massachusetts from other states for the live races.

Many were left to ask why it had happened without warning.

There were no official comments on Wednesday from the Legislature, but numerous sources near the situation indicated it revolved around a growing rift between the leadership of the House and Senate.

It was believed by those sources that when a very important priority item for the Senate leadership didn’t pass the House – the gender equity bill – then the Senate in turn blocked the action on the renewal of the Simulcasting Bill.

One course of action to fix the matter is to address it during an informal session this week. However, during an informal session, rather than with a roll call vote of everyone, only one objection to any matter by any member can kill it under the rules of the body. That makes restoring the bill even more difficult, especially if there is a political rift between the two houses.

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MCU Awards Scholarships to Local Students

MCU Awards Scholarships to Local Students

Metro Credit Union recently awarded $16,000 in scholarships to college-bound high school seniors.

Metro’s Scholarship Program encourages high school seniors who are members of Metro Credit Union, or who have a parent or guardian who is a member, to apply for the chance to receive $1,000 towards tuition.

Thirteen scholarships were awarded to graduating high school seniors who have been accepted to an accredited undergraduate program. Scholarship recipients were selected on the basis of academic record, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, statement of goals and aspirations, unique personal or family circumstances, and an outside appraisal.

“We’re proud to help students advance their education and their future prospects with scholarship funding,” said Robert Cashman, president and CEO of Metro Credit Union. “We hope that students who benefit from our scholarships will achieve personal and professional success.”

Students honored with Metro Credit Union Scholarships are: Leslie Rallis of Peabody, Brianna Bardales, Thomas Mirbel, and Lilian Guerrero of Lynn, Marie Jeanty of Burlington, Rhaida Shephard of Lawrence, Danielle More, Cara Madarese, Crystal Atchison, and Vincent Rocchio of Boston, Roberto Martinez of Framingham, and May Lam and Tina Nguyen of Chelsea.

Metro also awarded $3,000 in scholarships to Peabody and Chelsea High School students who participated in the High School Branch Banking program throughout the school year. The Financial Literacy Scholarship was designed to honor students who showed exemplary skills in their Finance and Business coursework during their internships at Metro’s high school branches.

Metro Credit Union is the largest state-chartered credit union in Massachusetts, approaching $1.8 billion in assets. Metro provides a full range of financial products to more than 200,000 members in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol and Worcester counties, as well as to over 1,200 companies throughout the Commonwealth.

Founded in 1926, Metro currently operates 15 branch offices in Boston, Burlington, Chelsea, Framingham, Lawrence, Lynn, Melrose, Newton, Peabody, Salem, and Tewksbury. Learn more at MetroCU.org.

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DiDomenico’s Legislation Included as Key Component of Youth Tobacco Bill

DiDomenico’s Legislation Included as Key Component of Youth Tobacco Bill

Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The bill raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21 and adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law.

Also included in the omnibus bill is language from Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products in pharmacies and other health-care institutions. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy announced that it would stop tobacco based sales in their local pharmacies, and at least 160 Massachusetts communities have also banned tobacco sales in their local pharmacies. This legislation would require all other pharmacies to follow suit.

“It’s no secret that tobacco and nicotine use remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death across our nation, so it only makes sense that our health care institutions and pharmacies end the practice of carrying these harmful products,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I would like to thank Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis for making this a top priority and including this as a key provision of this critical piece of legislation.”

Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.

While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.

“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).  “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”

“Massachusetts has long been a leader in protecting and strengthening public health,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate. “This comprehensive legislation will once again put the Commonwealth at the forefront of preventing youth addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, in order to improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs.”

To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.

Youth use of e-cigarettes has also grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.

Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.

Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.

The bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.

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