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2011 Legislative Accomplishments

November 19, 2011

My colleagues and I have accomplished a great deal during the first year of this two-year legislative session, including:

Fiscally Responsible Budgeting

  • Disciplined budgeting, improved tax collections, and statutory changes – all actions of the Legislature – allowed us to increase the Stabilization Fund to approximately $1.45 billion as of the end of October. These fiscally responsible actions will spur recovery and economic growth.
  • Produced on-time budgets with local aid and Chapter 70 resolutions to be sure our communities can plan for their own budgets.
  • Increased Chapter 90 Funding for Road and Bridge Repairs $200 million for cities and towns across the Commonwealth for Fiscal Year 2012. This is a 29% increase from 2011 – an additional $45 million.

Reorganization of Labor and Workforce Development

  • Reorganizes the Labor and Workforce Development Secretariat through consolidation or elimination of duplicative departments and centralizes all leadership under the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development.  This consolidated agency more efficiently delivers workforce development resources and is more cost effective.

Unemployment Benefits Extension

  • Conforms our laws with actions Congress took to extend federal unemployment benefits in 2010.  These state law changes ensure that out-of-work Massachusetts residents do not lose their federal benefits and make certain they can avail themselves of all available resources during these tough economic times.

Municipal Health Insurance Reform

  • Provides a new option for cities and towns to make health plan changes. The legislation presents a compromise that serves both municipalities and their employees by preventing costs from crippling local budgets while simultaneously protecting the collective bargaining rights of workers and ensuring that savings be shared among the parties.

2011 Sales Tax Holiday

  • Established a Sales Tax Holiday in the Commonwealth on August 13-14, 2011 – the 6th year the state provided a two day sales tax exemption.

Court Reform

  • Establishes a civilian court administrator to run the general administration of the Trial Court and increases transparency in hiring and promotion practices at the Department of Probation.  This legislation significantly increases efficiency, transparency and oversight of the Court system.

Alimony Reform

  • Reforms the state’s alimony law, clarifying and updating current definitions and requirements so that all parties are treated fairly. These changes are based on recommendations from a special alimony task force appointed in 2009 to review pending alimony reform bills.

Pension Reform

  • Modernizes the pension system to reduce the unfunded liabilities of pension and retiree healthcare benefits for both municipalities and the Commonwealth. . These changes would take effect for new employees beginning April 2, 2012 and are projected to save the Commonwealth more than $5 billion over 30 years. These pension system changes follow the legislature’s action last session that closed pension loopholes to deter fraud and manipulation of the system.

Anti-Human Trafficking Law

  • Strengthens the criminal laws to prevent forced labor or sexual servitude. The legislation establishes tough criminal penalties for those convicted of trafficking crimes and creates programs and services to protect and help victims of sexual exploitation or forced labor.

Alcoholic Beverages Licenses

  • Permits retailers and supermarkets to acquire additional alcoholic beverage licenses over a period of nine years. This legislation lifts the per-corporation license cap from three to five in 2012, seven in 2016 and nine in 2020.

State Finance Reform (passed by the Senate)

  • Updates the Commonwealth’s finance laws and implements performance measurement requirements for government agencies and programs. These performance measurement provisions require a continuous evaluation of the productivity, successes and failures of agencies and programs.  This ensures that agencies and programs must continue to justify the funding they receive.  The legislation significantly improves efficiency, transparency, and accountability of state government.

CHINS Reform (passed by the Senate)

  • Transforms the 38-year-old Children in Need of Services (CHINS) program that critics say unnecessarily puts troubled children in front of a judge before seeking services to help the children and their families. This legislation eliminates the inconsistent juvenile court-based system and replaces it with a statewide community-based intervention network that would integrate and promote school and community services for children and families.

Dam Safety (passed by the Senate)

  • Expands the authority of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Office of Dam Safety to address both public safety and environmental concerns related to damns throughout Massachusetts.

DNA Testing (passed by the Senate)

  • Allows a convicted defendant to obtain and test DNA evidence when seeking a new trial. The bill, which was developed with the input of current and former prosecutors, police officials, defense attorneys and judges, would help exonerate wrongfully-convicted people.

Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (passed by the Senate)

  • Brings the state’s existing organ and tissue donation statute up-to-date with the majority of states throughout the country and clarifies the process by which individuals become donors.
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