Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently
testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of his bill,
S.265, An Act ensuring high-quality pre-kindergarten education. This
legislation would expand preschool, using grants from the state, beginning with
high-needs communities that are ready with a state-approved expansion plan.
people are ready for more preschool,” said DiDomenico in his testimony before
the Committee. “I have heard from countless parents who want this learning
opportunity for their children, but often can’t afford it or are on waiting
lists. Local communities, led by community-based programs, school districts,
and mayors, have solid plans for preschool expansion and are waiting for new
public dollars to begin implementation. That is why I filed this legislation,
and I am confident this bill is an important next step towards improving and
expanding high quality early education for our kids”
education has been proven to have significant short- and long-term impacts on
children’s educational, social, and health outcomes. However, about 40 percent
of 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts do not attend preschool. For those
children who are enrolled in pre-K, many attend schools with high
student-to-teacher ratios, low family engagement, and inadequate teacher
qualifications. These children enter kindergarten at a disadvantage as compared
to their peers who receive high-quality pre-kindergarten education. These
initial setbacks in intellectual, social, and emotional development affect
children throughout their lives, as they regularly underperform in school and
This legislation filed by Sen.
DiDomenico would target underperforming school districts, providing 3- and
4-year-olds in those neighborhoods with pre-K education administered by
qualified teachers in programs following federal Preschool Expansion Grant
quality standards. Since his election to the Massachusetts Senate in 2010,
fighting to provide kids in the Commonwealth with access to high quality early
education has been one of Sen. DiDomenico’s highest legislative priorities.
This bill has remained a key component of the Senator’s legislative agenda and
is one of his top early education policy items this legislative session.
Legislature passed a bill authorizing $200 million for Chapter 90 funding to
help municipalities complete road, bridge and infrastructure improvement
projects. The bill also facilitates the financing of $1.5 billion for highway
projects and $200 million for rail projects at the Massachusetts Department of
“Not only will these
funds provide critical resources to cities and towns across the Commonwealth
and fortify larger regional transportation projects, they will create jobs and
spur economic growth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “These
investments support our vibrant economy by improving our transportation
“Each year, the Legislature invests in
Chapter 90 funding to help cities and towns across the Commonwealth with
critical improvements to roads, and I am once again proud to support this
legislation which will help cities like Revere,” said Rep. RoseLee Vincent
(D-Revere). “I thank Speaker DeLeo, Chairman Strauss, Boncore and the
entire Transportation Committee for their work in crafting this bill that
provides needed dollars to help municipalities with roadway infrastructure.”
“The Commonwealth’s roads, bridges and
arteries are our economy’s life blood,’ said Transportation Committee Chair
Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop). These appropriations approved today will
go a long way toward providing our municipalities with the financial resources
they need to ensure our infrastructure is building toward state of good
This week, Rachael Rollins received the endorsement of four Chelsea City Councillors, including Councilor Leo Robinson (At-Large), Councilor Roy Avellaneda (At-Large), Councilor Joe Perlatonda (District 3), Councilor Giovanni A. Recupero (District 6) and the Ward 4 – Chelsea Democratic Committee in her candidacy for District Attorney of Suffolk County.
This endorsement adds to a large list of civic leaders who have endorsed Rollins including, Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell, Boston City Councilor Kim Janey, State Senator William Brownsberger, among others.
Councilor Robinson said: “In order to make change, you have to be at the table. Rachael is the one we want at the table for us. She’s a fighter and is the voice that Chelsea needs in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Join me in voting for Rachael Rollins on September 4.”
Councilor Avellaneda said: “As someone who has dedicated my adult life to civic engagement, I know we have a partner in Rachael Rollins. Having previously worked together with Rachael at MassDOT, I have witnessed firsthand her ability to administer a public agency. Her proposals for a common-sense, progressive policy to address issues of public safety and the opioid epidemic in Suffolk County is what we need. She is absolutely the right choice for Suffolk County DA.”
Councilor Perlatonda said: “I’m proud to join my colleagues on the Council and the over 60 individuals and organizations that have endorsed Rachael Rollins. There isn’t a more experienced leader in this important race.”
Councilor Recupero said: “All of our communities are safer when we have trust in our District Attorney. Rachael Rollins is someone you can trust. In order to understand the people, you need to be with the people and Rachael is with the people. I’m proud to endorse her and will be casting my vote for her on September 4 in the Primary Election for Suffolk County District Attorney.”
Rollins stated: “I am so proud to have the support of each councilor. Chelsea is lucky to have these wonderful public servants. I know the hard-working and dedicated people of Chelsea want a fighter and someone who will advocate to keep their community safe. If elected, I will hold true to this promise and will fight every day for the people of Chelsea and Suffolk County. Thank you again to the councilors as well as the Ward 4 Democratic Committee. I am grateful and inspired by your support.”
Election Day is Tuesday, September 4. To learn more about Rollins or to get involved, please visit: www.rollins4da.com.
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.
Flanked by the state’s leading doctors, psychiatrists and pediatricians U.S. Senator Edward Markey delivered an emotional speech discussing the health impacts on children and families caused by separating children from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico.
The press conference last Friday outside the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in Maverick Square followed an hour long roundtable discussion between Markey and leading healthcare professionals and EBNHC staff and administrators.
Following the discussion Markey emerged with some harsh words for the Trump Administration and U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy.
“Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the Trump administration’s new, so-called “Zero Tolerance” immigration policy,” said Markey. “This policy refers all adults who improperly cross the southwest border for federal prosecution — regardless of whether they came to this land fleeing violence, poverty, or persecution.”
Markey called the Zero Tolerance policy an anti-immigrant dragnet that is literally ‘ripping children from their parents’ arms’ and separating them as their mothers and fathers are taken into custody.
Over the past five weeks, due to the Administration’s new policy, over 2,300 children have been separated from their mothers and fathers.
Markey said that the as separations continue the magnitude of trauma to children and families is soft-peddled by the President and Sessions.
“Many of these immigrant families are trying to escape violence, trauma, and adversity in search of a healthier, more secure life,” said Markey. “It is unconscionable that the Trump administration’s policies are not only compounding the anxiety and hardship these children have already experienced, but are potentially setting them up for a lifetime of adverse health outcomes.”
Markey said research indicates that repeated and compounding traumatic experiences – much like what these children have already likely experienced in their young lives – can negatively impact the overall health and wellness of these children as they age, including a higher risk of premature death.
Citing medical research, Markey said toxic stress – which occurs when a child’s stress response system is consistently stimulated in the absence of supportive, reliable relationships, especially during the most critical years of child development – can increase the risk of mental illness, substance use disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
“What could we otherwise think when a breastfeeding newborn is ripped away from its mother? Or when a toddler is taken from a father as it learns to walk?,” asked Markey. “We’ve all heard the audio recordings of children crying, and wailing, and pleading in detention centers for their parents. Their cries went unanswered. Their pain went untouched.”
Events that are unfolding on the U.S. border, Markey said, is why numerous physician organizations like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Physicians have opposed Trump’s family separation policy, citing the irreparable emotional and physiological damage traumatic experiences and toxic stress can have on these children.
“The American people recognized the heinous suffering this administration was inflicting on vulnerable immigrants and are speaking out to say ‘this will not stand’,” said Markey. “People from across the Commonwealth and country marched, and protested, and shouted, and resisted — until finally, even President Trump could not ignore it. On Wednesday, he signed an executive order he says addresses the problem he created. It does no such thing. The executive order does not rescind the zero tolerance policy. It reaffirms it. If the President has doubled down on prosecuting all parents as criminals, it is unclear whether these barbaric family separations will in fact stop. And if, as the President claims this executive order requires, families be kept together, then children — some as young as newborns — would end up incarcerated with their parents in criminal custody.”
Markey said President Trump has simply traded the cage he is putting children into and families and children don’t belong in jail for seeking refuge.
“That is an abomination,” said Markey. “Long ago, this country decided that the indefinite detention of children would not stand. The Flores Agreement — a landmark settlement from 1997 —established basic protections for how immigrant children must be treated in our care. Now, President Trump has created a crisis that threatens the Flores Agreement and would undermine the humanitarian protections it provided. Worse still, President Trump is asking the Pentagon to carry out his cold-blooded order of indefinite detention. He has instructed the Secretary of Defense to provide existing military brigs or to construct new military facilities to lock up these families. This disgraceful directive harkens back to the internment camps of World War II — one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history. Let’s be clear, President Trump first manufactured this crisis at the border, and his new executive order makes it worse. The cruelty is not over — it is just better disguised.”
Markey pointed out that it has long been the stance of the U.S. that we do not keep children in jails or military prisons and we do not criminalize asylum seekers.
“We welcome immigrants for their contributions. We seek immigrants for their talents,” said Markey. “We proudly remember our families came here across a border—whether land or water—knowing this country meant a new start. We are better than this. We must be better than this.”
Following his remarks, one reporter asked Dr. Lisa Fortuna, a leading child and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center whether or not separating children from their parents amounts to child abuse.
“I have been asked this question several times and I would say if I encountered this type of treatment of children in any other setting I feel that I would have to call Child Protective Services and report the treatment,” said Dr. Fortuna.
Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate recently passed a $41.49 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019, including targeted investments to create opportunities and ensure access to the tools that individuals, children and families need to succeed in the economy and in their communities. This budget invests in key areas related to education, local aid, health and human services, housing, and tools for low income families.
“After careful deliberation, the Senate has passed a thoughtful budget that both reflects the shared priorities of our chamber and addresses the pressing needs of our communities,” said Sen. DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “This budget includes key investments in many of my top priority items that will have a positive and direct impact on Chelsea, and I am happy to report that all of my amendments providing additional resources for our community were adopted to the final Senate budget. I would like to thank Senate Ways & Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka and Senate President Harriette Chandler for all of their great work to craft a budget that will undoubtedly help to move our entire Commonwealth forward.”
The budget invests significantly in education for people of all ages and backgrounds and focuses particularly on elementary and secondary education, including $4.91B for the Chapter 70 education formula, its highest level ever. This funding allows for a minimum aid increase of $30 per pupil for every school district across the state and 100% effort reduction to bring all school districts to their target local contribution. Under the Senate budget, Chelsea would receive $77.4M in Chapter 70 funds- $4.3M more than they received in state funding last fiscal year.
Additionally, this budget takes much needed steps to offset the cost to some school districts-like Chelsea and Everett- of educating economically disadvantaged students and allows these districts to more accurately count their students. In recent years, many Gateway City school districts have faced dire budget gaps due to a 2015 change in the way the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) calculates low-income or “economically disadvantaged” students. This count plays a key role in the Chapter 70 formula that determines the amount of funding school districts receive from the state.
As a result of this change, only students who are registered for social welfare programs like SNAP and Medicaid are categorized as economically disadvantaged, missing thousands of additional low-income students who are not accessing social services. However, under the Senate budget, communities will be allowed to choose their preferred method of counting economically disadvantaged students, thereby ensuring that Chelsea is able to count all of their students.
“I am thrilled that this change has been included in the FY19 Senate budget,” said DiDomenico. “This is a solution that I have long been advocating for, and I am confident this will have a major impact on the amount of Chapter 70 funding schools in my district will receive and will go a long way towards remedying the fiscal challenges that our local schools have been facing.”
As Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate, Sen. DiDomenico was able to secure a number of amendments providing additional funding for his local communities. In total, the Senator secured an additional $100K for the Chelsea community:
$25,000 CONNECT, a financial opportunity center in the city of Chelsea
$75,000 for a youth social worker in the Chelsea Public Schools
This budget also invests in programs and advances policies to encourage self-sufficiency and economic mobility for low income families, providing them with the tools to secure their essential needs and develop skills to join the workforce. Policy changes include:
Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to eliminate the family cap- a failed and outdated policy that denies Department of Transitional Assistance benefits to children conceived while the family was receiving assistance.
An increase in the child clothing allowance to $350 per child- a $50 perchild increase over FY18- to help families secure their basic needs
An increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) state match to 30% of the federal credit
Other top priority items for Sen. DiDomenico that were included in the Fiscal Year 2019 Senate Budget and will benefit Chelsea residents are:
$3.8 million for the state’s pediatric palliative care network to ensure there is no wait list for these critical services so children and their families have the extra care and support that they need;
$319.3 million to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker;
$100 million to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools;
$8.7 million for Childcare Resource and Referral Centers to boost salaries and decrease caseloads for caseworkers helping parents, childcare providers, employers and community groups navigate the state’s early education landscape;
$4 million for Youth-At-Risk Matching grants, including support for YWCAs, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs;
$33.4 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills and tools necessary to join the workforce;
$10.3 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth;
$16 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives;
$16.2 million for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state;
$142.9 million for a range of substance abuse treatment, intervention and recovery support services, including funding to open five new recovery centers; and
$18.5 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $3 million to expand eligibility to include persons with disabilities, seniors, unaccompanied youth and individuals.
A Conference Committee will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2019 begins on July 1.
If the world of education funding has been a massive break over the past three years, then Sen. Sal DiDomenico is the technician who showed up just in time this year with the parts to fix it.
DiDomenico reported this week that the Senate Budget proposal – which has now moved to the House and needs agreement there – contains a once-and-for-all fix to the education funding formula that has wreaked havoc on communities like Chelsea for the past three years.
“This is a big deal,” he said on Tuesday. “This is the fix that is going to solve all our problems that we’ve been dealing with over the last several years with school funding…This was the simple fix we’ve been hoping to get for a long time and there was hesitation to do it. I want to thank Senator Karen Spilka for doing this change. It’s a big deal for Everett and Chelsea and 14 other communities in the state. It’s a major policy shift and a major win for our communities.”
The fix in the budget is quite simple in that it restores the method of counting low-income – now known as economically disadvantaged – students through the use of free and reduced lunch applications. Three years ago, the federal government and the state government adopted a new way of counting such students using federal benefits as an indicator. However, many low-income and immigrant families do not qualify for federal benefits, and thus are not counted despite being impoverished.
That leaves the local communities on the hook, and it has been daunting. All the while, the state has been hesitant to restore the old counting method using free and reduced lunch forms. The first step to change that has now passed the Senate and could become law if the House and Gov. Charlie Baker also adopt it.
The matter is an outside section that passed in the Senate Budget last week.
DiDomenico said he has begun reaching out to allies in the house, including State Reps. Joe McGonagle (D-Everett), Dan Ryan (who represents Chelsea) and State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (who represents Revere and Chelsea) – as well as Speaker Bob DeLeo.
DiDomenico said he believes that the governor will be open to looking at the change if it makes it past the House and to his desk.
“I believe at the end of the day he’ll be receptive to it,” he said.
If approved, the change would begin in Fiscal Year 2020 – which would mean funding would roll in locally in September 2019. School Districts would begin counting in the new fashion, however, this fall – with a deadline of Oct. 1, 2018. That would secure the new funding allocation – which is the old funding method – by the 2019-2020 school term.
“We wouldn’t have to worry about how our students are being counted ever again,” he said. “I can’t underestimate how important this is. This is everything for the School Department right now…I want to thank all of the administrators and teachers for the hard work they’ve been doing while they’ve gotten less than their fair share of funding.”
DiDomenico said it is a major priority for the Senate, and he believed that would help get it into the final budget later this spring.
MORE GOOD NEWS IN EDUCATION FINANCE
Last week, Senator Sal DiDomenico and his Senate colleagues unanimously voted to pass a monumental education reform bill to update the state’s 25-year-old funding formula.
The bill was highly-touted by superintendents such as Chelsea’s Mary Bourque, and was sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, with DiDomenico as a co-sponsor.
Established by the 1993 Education Reform Act, the Foundation Budget formula was designed to ensure every Massachusetts student was provided a quality education. However, in the 25 years since, little has been done to update the formula, hampering districts’ efforts to provide every student with the quality education they deserve.
“Today, too many of our students are receiving their education in schools that face crushing fiscal challenges,” said DiDomenico. “Our teachers and administrators do everything they can to provide their students with the best possible education, to lift them up, and put them on a path to success. Yet that job has become increasingly difficult, as year after year, schools have been forced to make difficult cuts as a result of state funding that fails to keep up with their needs. I am very proud to support this bill that will help to ensure that all of our students, regardless of their zip code, have access to the high quality education that they deserve.”
In 2015, a bipartisan commission was convened with the purpose of reviewing the Foundation Budget and making recommendation for potential changes to the formula. Consequently, the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) found that health care and special education costs have far surpassed assumptions built into the original education formula. It also found that the original formula drastically understated the resources necessary to close achievement gaps for low-income and English Language Learner students.
“While Senate Bill 2506 represents a seven-year fix to the Foundation Budget for school districts across our State it also represents far more,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Senate Bill 2506 more importantly represents who we are as a Commonwealth and what we stand for and what we value. The passage of this bill says that children and their education, children and the opportunities we can provide, children and their future are important to us; we prioritize our children and their education. Senate Bill 2506 is about defining and supporting the future of our Commonwealth; but most of all, passage of Senate Bill 2506 is simply the right thing to do!”
In all, the bipartisan commission estimated that Massachusetts is currently undervaluing the cost of education by $1-2 billion every year. This has forced deep cuts to classrooms and critical programs, and resulted in one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation. In recent years, schools in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities have been especially hit with crushing budget shortfalls, with two of the Senator’s communities— Everett and Chelsea— being some of the school districts that have been most severely impacted.
The bill would implement the recommendations of the FBRC and begin updating the Chapter 70 education formula to more accurately and equitably distribute state resources to the Commonwealth schools.
The vote follows months of advocacy by education stakeholders across Massachusetts. More than 50 school committees across the state have passed resolutions supporting the reforms, and Brockton Public Schools announced earlier this year that they are preparing to sue the Commonwealth for failing in its constitutional obligation to properly fulfill funding.
Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) recently announced that the landmark criminal justice reform package crafted by the Massachusetts Legislature has been signed into law. The Senator had previously joined his legislative colleagues in overwhelmingly voting to pass this sweeping piece of legislation, and last week the Governor signed the bill into law. An Act relative to criminal justice reform will lead to a more equitable system by supporting our youngest and most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety.
The legislation contains provisions to provide better care for vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system, and implements policies to strengthen protections for public safety and witness protection. The Legislature also passed the accompanying Act implementing the joint recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review (H.4012), which is designed to complement the comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation. The CSG bill allows individuals to earn early release by participating in recidivism-reduction programs.
For the first time in the history of Massachusetts, this legislation establishes a process for expunging criminal records. Courts will now be able to expunge certain juvenile and young adult (18-21) records, and records in cases of fraud or where an offense is no longer a crime.
The Legislature has a longstanding legacy of supporting the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children, particularly those facing trauma and adversity. Accordingly, this bill raises the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to twelve and decriminalizes a first offense misdemeanor if the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for not more than six months. The legislation establishes a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission, which will make the state eligible for additional federal funding, and a Childhood Trauma Task Force to study and recommend gender responsive and trauma-informed approaches to treatment of youths in the juvenile justice system. The bill also extends Good Samaritan protections to alcohol incapacitation for individuals under 21.
This legislation reflects a balanced, modern approach to sentencing. It eliminates mandatory and statutory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent drug offenses. Additionally, it creates the nation’s strongest law for Carfentanil trafficking and strengthens the existing Fentanyl trafficking law, bolstering the Legislature’s multi-tiered approach to the opioid epidemic. The legislation also strengthens penalties for repeat offenders convicted of operating under the influence (OUI).
The new law requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues in order to combat the opioid epidemic and provide healthcare parity. It also expands diversion programs to the Juvenile Court and removes the existing age restriction on diversion in the District Court.
Following reforms in 2010 and 2012, this legislation again updates the Commonwealth’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system to help individuals secure gainful employment and housing, enacting the following policies:
Reduces the wait time to seal a conviction from ten years to seven years for a felony, and from five years to three years for a misdemeanor.
Allows a conviction for resisting arrest to be sealed.
Expands the ability of an applicant with a sealed record to be able to answer “no record” on housing and professional license applications.
Establishes protections for businesses and landlords who shall be presumed to have no notice or ability to know about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.
This legislation updates the Commonwealth’s bail system and enhances judicial discretion by requiring a judge to take a person’s financial resources into account when determining bail. It also raises the threshold for larceny to qualify as a felony from $250 to $1,000. It also creates the crime of solicitation that is tied to the severity of the underlying crime.
Additional policy changes include: reduction of fees imposed on defendants; decriminalization of minor offenses; enhanced limits on solitary confinement; improvement of prison conditions; and release of prisoners who are permanently incapacitated and pose no safety risk.
After a long process, Sen. Sal DiDomenico allegedly fell a few votes short of gaining the Senate Presidency, a process that completed last week when State Sen. Karen Spilka corralled the 21 votes needed to secure the presidency.
It was announced publicly in a press conference on Thursday, March 22.
While no one was keeping score on the outside, and few on the inside were talking, it was believed by those watching closely that DiDomenico had as many as 19 votes just within the last month.
Sen. DiDomenico would not comment on the process within the Senate this week where he had tried to make a run for Senate President.
However, he did say publicly that he will still be the assistant majority leader in the Senate – a post he was recently promoted to and will keep under the new leadership.
He also said there is no bad blood between himself and Sen. President-elect Spilka after the long process.
“Before this process Speaker-elect Karen Spilka and I were close friends as we will continue to be,” he said. “We have worked well for some time as a result of me being the vice chair on her Ways and Means Committee. There is no bad blood or animosity between us. There comes a point in time when you have to bring the body together and move forward. I thought this was the right time to do that.
“Now that this process is over and we have a new senate president elect, I support Karen 100 percent and will do everything I can to support her as senate president,” he continued. “Our relationship is as strong as it always has been.”
Sen. DiDomenico did not want to comment any further on his role in the new leadership team, but affirmed the strong relationship between himself and Sen. Spilka.
“I look forward to serving under Senate President-elect Spilka and being an integral part of her team,” he said.
Observers had been worried that, as typically happens, the senator that comes out on the short end of the bargain gets relegated to the back of the room. Many thought that if Sen. DiDomenico lost, he might also lose all of the power and responsibilities he has worked towards since being elected and coming into leadership roles under former Sen. President Stan Rosenberg.
However, with DiDomenico affirming his positive relationship with Spilka this week, many believe that he will come out unharmed after the process finishes out.
As for the ascension, there is currently no consensus between Sen. President Harriet Chandler and Sen. President-elect Spilka about when she might take office.
Some postulated it could come on July 1 after the end of the current fiscal year.
Others thought it could come at the end of December.
During a press conference last week, Spilka indicated they had not yet ironed that out.
In an Op-Ed that appeared in State News on Monday, Dec. 18, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called House Republicans onto the carpet for halting federal funding to the nation’s Community Health Centers like East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) while working on cutting taxes for the ‘wealthy”.
“I love community health centers,” Warren wrote. “They do wonderful work and enjoy widespread support. But I’m worried because Republican leaders in Congress have held these centers hostage by halting federal funding while they focus on passing tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s past time to step up the fight for community health centers in my state of Massachusetts and across the country.”
Warren argued that community health centers, like EBNHC, are a big part of what’s working well in health care today — more coverage at lower cost.
“They are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic,” she wrote. “They provide preventive services and chronic disease management. They are taking the stigma out of mental health treatment. And they save money by promoting disease prevention, providing care coordination, and reducing the use of hospital emergency rooms.”
On Sept. 30, Warren said Congress blew past a major funding deadline for community health centers — a reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund.
“This program provides more than 70 percent of all federal funding for health centers,” she wrote. “Reauthorizing this program should be a no-brainer, and many of my Republican colleagues agree with that. But Republican leadership has been so focused on stripping health care coverage from many of the people who walk through the doors of community health centers that they ran right past this deadline — and they’ve just kept on running.”
Community health centers across the country are feeling the impact.
“They are holding back on hiring new staff or deferring opportunities to make vital improvements to their programs. If they don’t get this funding soon, they’ll have to make even tougher decisions, like laying off staff members, cutting services, or reducing hours,” she wrote. “In East Boston, which is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, the community health center operates an emergency room that is open around the clock.People who work in community health centers know that health care is a basic human right. The dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals at these sites take incredible care of families from every background. And they’re always looking for ways they can better serve their patients and their community. But community health centers can’t do this much-needed work if the federal government doesn’t keep its promises.”
Warren said tax cuts for billionaires shouldn’t come ahead of making sure that children, pregnant women, people in need of addiction treatment, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to health care.
“I’ll keep fighting for community health centers and for all of these health care programs that have improved the lives of people in my state and every other state,” she wrote. “I believe everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality health care. Community health centers excel at providing that care — and they deserve our support.”
EBNHC recently hosted Sen. Warren were she saw first hand the important work that the Health Center and its staff does on a daily basis.
“We were obviously so pleased to host Senator Warren on her visit tour to the Health Center and we are glad she is fighting hard for Community Health Centers like ours across the country,” said Snyder.