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Senate Passes Sweeping Healthcare Reform and Cost Containment Bill

November 15, 2017

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Result of yearlong effort to address rising costs and consumer protections

Last week the Massachusetts Senate passed sweeping healthcare reform legislation S.2022, An Act Furthering Health Empowerment and Affordability by Leveraging Transformative Health Care. The HEALTH act, passed by a vote of 33-6, focuses on both short and long terms goals on how to fix our healthcare system to lower costs, improve outcomes, and maintain access. The legislation is the result of effort by a group of Senators, The Special Senate Committee on Health Care Cost Containment and Reform, addressing the healthcare system by analyzing the best practices in other states and engaging stakeholders in a series of meetings over the last year.

“Everyone deserves access to high quality health care at a fair price,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Massachusetts has always been a leader when it comes to healthcare, and this legislation is the next step in our efforts to protect and empower consumers, encourage innovative healthcare and ensure access and affordability. Our goal is long-term cost savings for the state, without sacrificing our unwavering commitment to high quality coverage for all.”

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Senate Passes Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Bill

October 27, 2017

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Legislation repeals archaic mandatory minimums, repeals punitive fees, updates sentencing guidelines

Last night, the Massachusetts Senate passed by a vote of 27-10 a comprehensive criminal justice reform package that updates decades old criminal sentencing laws to improve outcomes of our criminal justice system.  Among the provisions included in the bill are repealing ineffective mandatory minimum sentences for low level drug offenders, reducing and eliminating over burdensome fees and fines, reforming the bail system, allowing for compassionate release for infirmed inmates, and reforms to the juvenile justice system.

“These long overdue reforms reflect best practices in criminal justice to divert people from the system, encourage rehabilitation and reduce crime,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “In particular, the juvenile justice reforms, like raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction and creating a process for expungement of misdemeanor records, ensure young people are treated fairly and appropriately. All young people deserve a second chance.  This bill provides them with access to the resources they need to get back on track and live successful, productive lives.”

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Senate Restores Funding for Education, Public Health, Other Statewide Services

September 28, 2017

The Senate today restored $24.9M to the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, overriding 26 of Governor Baker’s line item vetoes, which totaled $320.6M. These veto overrides bolster valuable programs for children, families and vulnerable residents across the Commonwealth.

“These programs and services provide critical resources for people across the state – from housing support for young people and families, to mental health services for children to basic education and skills training for low income adults,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Senate has carefully reviewed vetoes in the context of our difficult fiscal situation and ongoing efforts on health care cost containment. I am confident that the budget remains in balance and cautiously optimistic about revenue collections and potential savings moving forward.”

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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Signed Into Law

July 28, 2017

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Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; Governor Signs Bill Into Law

Establishes essential protections and prohibits discrimination against pregnant individuals

The Massachusetts Legislature last week passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. The legislation makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against, refuse to employ, or terminate an individual due to pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, including lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.

“Everyone deserves a safe, healthy work environment, and that includes pregnant and nursing workers,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These are common-sense, reasonable protections to ensure that pregnant workers can continue to work, without jeopardizing their health or the health of their pregnancies.”

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Senate Ways and Means Releases FY2018 Budget Recommendations

May 16, 2017

The cover images were created by Massachusetts artists working with ArtLifting, a local organization that empowers artists across the country impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork.

Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.

The budget recommends targeted investments in a variety of areas to sustain and advance our shared prosperity and future growth, directing resources to programs and services essential for children, families and communities.

“This budget focuses on the fundamentals: education, health and human services, and housing,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Committee is clear-eyed about the fiscal environment in which we release our recommendations, but we stand firm in our belief that money invested in securing hope and opportunity for our people is money well spent. As we face unsteady times, we must be prepared to act responsibly. But we must never lose sight of the fact that our fortunes rise and fall together, and that taking care of each other is a core Massachusetts value.”

Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations until Thursday at 5 p.m. The full Senate will then debate the Fiscal Year 2018 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 23rd. Click here to read a Message from the Chair, the Executive Summary and the full budget recommendations.