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Senator Spilka Announces Key Pieces of Legislative Agenda for 2015-2016 Legislative Session

January 16, 2015

Priorities include consumer protection, women’s equality and health, under-served and vulnerable groups

state house

Senator Karen Spilka today announced key pieces of her legislative agenda for the new 2015-2016 legislative session. In addition to her economic development and innovation priorities, Senator Spilka will continue to advocate for consumer protection, women’s equality and health, transportation issues and vulnerable populations in MetroWest and across the Commonwealth.

“These bills address many different issues and challenges that people in our community and state-wide face,” said Senator Spilka. “I look forward to another session of speaking up for those who don’t always have a voice and working to secure a brighter future for under-served and at-risk residents of MetroWest and the Commonwealth.”

Senator Spilka’s consumer protection agenda includes a bill to protect the privacy of personal electronic information and a bill to fight identity theft:

Electronic Privacy

The Electronic Privacy Act, passed by the Senate last session, would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access personal information from telecom customers’ cell phones and personal electronic devices. The Electronic Privacy Act updates search warrant laws to protect the privacy of personal electronic information and match these important protections to the realities of the digital age.

Identity Theft

Identity theft crimes, data breaches and system hacks are a significant and growing problem in Massachusetts and across the country. This bill takes comprehensive steps to protect Massachusetts residents from identity theft by empowering identity theft victims and law enforcement officials. The bill provides additional protection for Social Security numbers and personal information. The bill also addresses specific tactics used by identity thieves, encourages law enforcement agencies to work together and provides for ongoing police training about identity crime.

Senator Spilka also filed bills to advance equality and opportunity for women and protect their right to access high quality health care. Bills related to women’s equality and health include:

Paid Family Leave

This bill provides paid family and medical leave for workers who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new child. Many workers are forced to choose between their families and their jobs when they must take a leave of absence due to pregnancy, their own illness or to care for a seriously ill family member. This bill supports working families and allows caregivers, who are often women, to continue to maintain an income while addressing critical family needs.

Resolution to Encourage Gender Diversity on Boards

This resolution encourages equitable and diverse gender representation on the boards of companies in Massachusetts to enhance the Commonwealth’s competitive position in the global economy. In addition to low levels of gender representation on corporate boards, recent research shows a correlation between greater gender diversity in management and enhanced corporate performance. This resolution calls on companies in Massachusetts to adopt policies to increase gender diversity in their boards of directors and senior management groups and set goals by which to measure their progress.

Protecting Access to Confidential Healthcare

This bill ensures that all individuals in Massachusetts can access health care confidentially by requiring insurance carriers to issue Explanation of Benefits forms directly to the patient, instead of to the primary subscriber. The Explanation of Benefits form, which details the type and cost of medical services, often lists sensitive health information, including services such as treatment for infectious disease, reproductive and sexual health, domestic violence and sexual assault and mental health and substance use disorders.

Issuing this form to the primary subscriber violates the privacy rights of anyone enrolled as a dependent on another person’s health plan, especially impacting spouses covered as dependents on an abusive partner’s plan, young adults insured as dependents on their parents’ health plan and minors. This bill would allow all residents of Massachusetts to access health care services without fear that sensitive information will be shared with a parent or spouse.

Other bills include legislation to protect animals and pet owners, advance at-risk youth in the Commonwealth and improve MetroWest transportation options and fairness:

Protecting Puppies and Kittens

Families who buy puppies and kittens from irresponsible breeders or pet shops currently have little recourse. Under current regulations, they can either return their new puppy or pay for veterinary bills without the opportunity for a refund or reimbursement. This bill protects pets and consumers by giving families who unknowingly buy sick pets better remedy options. The bill also protects animals’ health and well-being by prohibiting the sale of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old. Finally, the bill would require the Department of Agricultural Resources to establish rules and regulations for breeders to ensure a safe and healthy local source of pets for the public.

Protecting At-Risk Youth

Senator Spilka will continue her advocacy on behalf of at-risk children, updating Massachusetts child welfare and juvenile justice laws to ensure that all children have access to the support services, protection and opportunities they need to contribute to and succeed in their communities.

Transportation

Senator Spilka is also filing several bills related to improving transportation options and fair tolling practices for MetroWest residents and commuters.

Senator Spilka is filing over 50 bills for the 2015-2016 legislative session. A full list of Senator Spilka’s bills is available on the Legislation page.

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