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Senate Passes Legislation on Veterans, Healthy Youth, Physical Education, Social Media Privacy

November 23, 2015

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed a variety of pieces of legislation covering veterans, public education, and social media privacy. The late-night session wrapped up formal legislative sessions for the legislature until January.

“These bills provide meaningful protections and support to our veterans, establish guidelines for fostering healthy and informed children in our schools, promote the implementation and expansion of clean energy, and create important online privacy guards for students and workers,” said Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Perhaps most importantly, we passed stiffer penalties for the trafficking of fentanyl, an extremely harmful additive to heroin that has contributed to the spike in opioid deaths in Massachusetts in the past year.”

The veterans’ legislation covers numerous areas of protecting and providing benefits to our veterans.

H.1641, The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes the practice of falsely representing oneself as military personnel, a veteran or a recipient of specific military honors in order to receive money, property or a tangible benefit. This crime would be punishable by a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of not more than one year.

H.3243, An Act providing free park access to Purple Heart recipients waives entrance or parking fees at state parks, forests, and reservations for recipients of the Purple Heart. Under current law, only disabled veterans or handicapped persons whose vehicles bear distinctive license plates are allowed free access to these public spaces.

Several other bills passed by the Senate impose additional fines and penalties for the destruction of veterans’ gravesites, including for the destruction or removal of gravestones and gravemarkers and the removal or destruction of veteran, police, and firefighter commemorative flag holders and flags.

“One of our most important obligations is to honor and protect those who have fought for our country. The veterans’ legislation we passed today ensures we are doing all we can to make Massachusetts a leader when it comes to supporting our vets,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “The Senate also used the last day of session to bolster our long list of accomplishments from the past year by passing bills tackling fentanyl trafficking, promoting healthy youth, and protecting workers and students privacy when asked for their social media passwords from employers or education institution.”

In addition to the veterans bills, the Senate also passed:

An updated amendment of the solar net metering legislation that would increase the cap on residential and commercial projects. Notably, the amendment seeks to ensure the future growth of community shared solar and virtual metering while grandfathering in existing projects. Promoting continued solar growth is essential to help the Commonwealth reach the goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions established in the Global Warming Solutions Act.

H.3798, An Act Relative to the Trafficking of Fentanyl, which would penalize, with up to 20 years in prison, anyone who traffics in fentanyl, a dangerously strong narcotic often mixed with heroin. In addition, any derivative of fentanyl, and knowingly or intentionally manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, and dispense within the Commonwealth is subject to the same penalties. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

S.2013, An Act Relative to Healthy Youth, which requires each school district, public school and charter school that offers sexual health education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate education. The bill also requires schools that offer sexual health education to adopt a written policy ensuring notification to the parent or legal guardian and the right of the parent or guardian to withdraw a child from the education program.

S.1976, An Act to Promote Quality Physical Education, which updates the current statutory requirement that physical education be taught in all public schools to include charter schools. The bill re-defines physical education to include physical activity, fitness, nutrition and wellness and requires physical education to be age appropriate and evidence-based.

S.2034, An Act Relative to Social Media Privacy Protection, which prohibits any public or private institution providing elementary, secondary or higher education from requiring a student or applicant to disclose a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account or service. In addition, the bill prohibits any employer from requiring an employee or applicant to disclose a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account or service.

The bill also prohibits any employer from requiring an employee or applicant, as a condition of employment or consideration for employment, to include any employer or employer’s agent on a list of contacts associated with a social media account or service.

The Senate will return to formal sessions in January.

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