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2009-2010 Senate Accomplishments

Senate Accomplishments
The 186th Session of the Senate

January 2009 to July 2010

Animal Control
This legislation updates the Commonwealth’s antiquated animal control laws to improve public health.  The legislation strengthens the Commonwealth’s requirements for official health records applicable to imported animals and improves the adjudication process for the owners of dogs complained of as nuisance dogs or dangerous dogs. (S.2172, passed by the Senate on October 20, 2009)

Article 87
Filed by the Governor on January 28, 2009, the Legislature approved this bill on March 5th to reorganize and reshuffle a handful of state agencies, including the placement of emergency shelter operations under the oversight of housing rather than welfare officials. (Chapter 4 of the Acts of 2009)

Assault on Health Care Workers
This legislation increases the criminal penalties for those who assault a nurse or other health care provider while on the job, by mandating a minimum of 90 days in prison or a fine of no less than $500 for anyone who assaults a health care worker who is either treating or transporting them. Massachusetts law already provides for stricter penalties for assault on emergency medical technicians. This bill extends those protections to registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other health care professionals. (Ch. 151 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on June 24, 2010)

ATV Safety
This law improves safety regulations for operators of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Massachusetts. The legislation requires ATVs, off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles to be registered and all operators to wear helmets. Unless for a sanctioned race supervised by adults over 18, the bill prohibits anyone under 14 from operating an ATV. Additionally, operators of recreation vehicles under the age of 18 must complete a vehicle safety and responsibility course. It also establishes penalties and fines for reckless and negligent use, leaving the scene of an accident, and unauthorized use and false registration.

Furthermore, it requires that crossings are marked and approved as part of an authorized recreation vehicle trail system. (Signed into law on July 31, 2010, passed by the Senate on January 28, 2010)

Auto Insurance Appeals Board
Filed in response to a proposed administrative action by the Division of Insurance, this legislation preserved the independent Board of Appeals, rather than allowing insurance companies to administer appeals of their own surcharge decisions. (Chapter 9 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on April 4, 2009)

Bomb-Making Materials
Closing an existing loophole, this legislation allows state and local law enforcement to prosecute people who are found in possession of bomb-making materials and who intend to construct an explosive device from these component parts. This brings the law of the Commonwealth in line with the federal law, so long as police can prove intent to construct an explosive device from the materials found. In addition criminal penalties are created for: unlawful possession/ use of explosives, unlawful possession/ use of destructive or incendiary devices, and unlawful possession of component materials capable of building a destructive/ incendiary device. (Ch. 160 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on July 8, 2010)

Broadband Bill
This legislation enabled the Commonwealth to file a successful grant application for federal stimulus dollars to deploy a broadband line along the I-91 corridor in Western Massachusetts, helping the Commonwealth to achieve its goal of bringing high-speed Internet access to the entire Commonwealth. (Ch. 33 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on July 14, 2009)

FY11 Budget
The Legislature approved a $27.94 billion Fiscal Year 2011 state budget that spares cities and towns from further cuts and increases transparency of public spending without any increases in taxation. The agreement is designed with contingencies to ensure that regardless of whether Massachusetts receives the federal funds, the state budget will remain balanced.

To aid the budgeting process at the municipal level, the House and Senate agreed earlier in the year to not reduce state support to cities and towns more than 4 percent for fiscal year 2011. Though forced to make supplementary budget reductions in the event the federal reimbursement does not materialize, the budget agreement spares local aid from any additional cuts.

Meanwhile, many other areas of the budget were reduced to account for the possible loss of federal reimbursement. More than 40 percent of budget line items receive cuts totaling $374 million, which comes on top of any reductions that may have already been taken during the budget process.

In addition to cutting state spending, the budget also relies upon a $100 million draw from the state’s rainy day fund and cancels a statutorily required carry-forward, which netted $95 million, to close the gap. If the state does ultimately receive federal reimbursement, these measures will not be triggered.

Along with appropriations, the budget accord also includes measures to increase transparency of state spending. The report requires the creation of a one-stop, comprehensive online database to track all public expenditures. Compiled and monitored by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, the website will allow anyone to access and review all public spending, contracts and procurements.  (Ch. 131 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on June 24, 2010)

FY10 Budget
The Legislature approved a $27.4 billion budget in the face of serious fiscal challenges from the continuing recession, including severe drops in state revenue collections. This budget responsibly balances the urgent need for additional revenues with necessary relief for cities and towns.

A sales tax increase from 5 per cent to 6.25 per cent will generate $759 million in new revenues for fiscal year 2010 and help restore core services and programs for the citizens of the Commonwealth. Sales tax revenues will help restore important services that were previously cut, including $10 million for Prescription Advantage, $6.5 million for youth violence prevention grants and $4 million for universal pre-Kindergarten.

The removal of the alcohol tax exemption will generate approximately $80 million to restore safety-net services, such as substance abuse programs, community health centers, domestic violence prevention, elder care and early intervention programming.

The budget also includes a municipal relief package that will allow cities and towns to raise additional revenue locally in order to maintain essential services provided by schools, police and fire departments. It also includes an incentive to form regionalization agreements among neighboring communities in order to cut costs and share resources, providing relief to cities and towns. (Ch. 27 of the Acts of 2009, enacted by the Senate on June 19, 2009)

Emergency Supplemental Budget
Taking proactive steps in the face of continuing revenue declines, this supplemental budget transferred additional funding from the Stabilization Fund in order to sustain state spending and cash flow needs for local aid payments. The bill also allocated $102 million to cover unbudgeted snow and ice removal costs. This bill was approved by the Governor on March 19, 2009. (Chapter 5 of the Acts of 2009)

FY09 Close-out Supplemental Budget
This legislation enabled the Commonwealth to close its books for fiscal year 2009.  The final budget of the fiscal year included funding for the cost of the special election to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat.  It also included technical and conforming changes to the state’s landmark transportation reform law passed earlier this session. (Ch. 120 of the Acts of 2009, enacted by the Senate on October 20, 2009)

FY10 Supplemental Budget
This legislation contains numerous initiatives to address a potential $600 million revenue shortfall in the fiscal year 2010 budget, due to the continuing economic challenges facing the Commonwealth. It authorizes up to $30 million in funding for the Medical Security Trust Fund, the state’s program of health insurance for unemployed persons. It also starts to address longstanding deficiencies in the Commonwealth’s Economic Development Incentive Program, and cures a technical problem in the taxation of condominium associations. (Enacted by the Senate on November 19, 2009)

Buzzards Bay Oil Spill
This legislation will clarify and further strengthen the 2008 bill passed to protect Buzzards Bay from oil spills by requiring that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection send a state-provided escort tug to every double hull vessel that is entering Buzzards Bay. The bill further specifies that the tug should be no more than one –quarter of a nautical mile from the vessel in the event that the tug should be needed to navigate the vessel out of danger. The cost of the law will be supported by a 5-cent fee for every barrel of oil delivered to the Commonwealth- a fee that was set up by the initial law in 2004. (Ch. 101 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on September 17, 2009)

Correctional Officer Safety
In an effort to further protect correctional facility employees from assault and battery by means of a bodily substance; this legislation requires that any person within a correctional facility who assaults an officer, employee, volunteer or contractor will face up to 10 years in jail.  (Ch. 74 of the Acts of 2010; passed by the Senate on March 25, 2010)

Clean Energy Center
This legislation consolidates many of the functions now performed separately by the taxpayer-funded Massachusetts clean energy center and the ratepayer-funded Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. The legislation contains numerous significant protections to ensure the continued appropriate use of ratepayer funds for the promotion of renewable energy in the electricity sector. (Ch. 158 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on November 16, 2009)

Crime Bill
This legislation will give employers easier access to criminal records and help former offenders who have stayed out of trouble to re-enter the workforce. The Senate-led initiative also cracks down on sex offenses, requiring GPS tracking of homeless sex offenders and reducing the time in which such offenders must verify registration data and appear at local police departments from every 45 days to every 30 days.

The legislation increases access to the criminal offender record information system (CORI), allowing a greater number of individuals, including employers and landlords, to request records. Availability of felony information is reduced from 15 to 10 years after an inmate’s release and 10 to five years for information on misdemeanor convictions.

Information on all convictions for sex offenses, murder and manslaughter remain available for life. Law enforcement also continues to have full access to CORI. Improved accuracy and faster response times are achieved through a new Internet-based system required by the legislation. (Enacted on July 31, 2010, S. 2220, passed by the Senate on November 18, 2009)

Debt Restructuring
In order to provide budget relief for the 2011 fiscal year, the Senate passed legislation which allows for a $300 million debt restructuring plan needed to provide budget relief for the fiscal year 2011 state budget. The restructuring bonds will be repaid in level debt service starting in Fiscal 2014. The final maturity of the bonds is in five years, one year shorter than was authorized in the debt restructuring authorization, which helped to lower the borrowing costs for the restructuring. On a present value basis, the cost of the restructuring is an estimated $1.7 million. (Ch. 150 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on July 1, 2010)

Making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to ban surgery that devocalizes dogs and cats the Senate passed legislation that would impose criminal penalties on violators.  Under this law, any individual who performs, or causes to perform, the surgical devocalization of a dog or cat will be punished by fines or up to five years in prison.

Additionally, commercial establishments, pet shops, firms, corporations or persons cannot sell a dog or cat that has been surgically devocalized. (Ch. 82 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on April 13, 2010)

Domestic Violence Employment Leave
This bill establishes new employment rights for victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault by requiring employers with 50 or more employees to allow up to 15 days of leave, with or without pay, to any employee who is a victim of domestic violence or lives with a family member who is a victim of domestic violence. Employees can use the leave to obtain medical attention, counseling, housing, protection orders and other legal assistance. The bill requires the employer to keep all information about the employee’s leave confidential. (S. 2405, passed by the Senate on May 13, 2010)

Economic Development Reform
This Senate-led reform initiative promotes a business-friendly environment that will help small businesses open, expand and create jobs. The bill overhauls the state’s network of business development agencies, establishing a streamlined, cohesive model with built-in oversight and transparency to reduce redundancy and waste.

The reform package creates a ‘one-stop shop’ for businesses seeking to expand or locate in Massachusetts by requiring the existing Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) to contract with regionally-based economic development organizations.

It also merges organizations tasked with marketing the state nationally and internationally, including the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, into the newly-created Massachusetts Marketing Partnership which will serve as a central marketing organization for the entire state and include The Massachusetts Film Office and the Massachusetts Sports Partnership.

The bill also focuses on small businesses by increasing access to capital and development by extending existing permits for two years. (Enacted on July 31, 2010, S. 2380, passed by the Senate on April 8, 2010)

Education Reform
The legislation establishes a new category of public schools, Innovation Schools, which are district public schools with increased autonomy and flexibility to operate. Any school, in any district, may take advantage of this new model and the funding of these schools is the same as for any other school in the district.

This bill also provides options to improve existing school districts that are underperforming by authorizing the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to intervene and work with school superintendents to develop turnaround plans for those schools.

Finally, by increasing the cap on charter schools in the most underperforming school districts, this bill puts the Commonwealth in a better position to secure federal funds to help all public schools in Massachusetts.  (Ch. 12 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on January 14, 2010)

Higher Education Benefits for Children of Fallen Soldiers
As an amendment to the Senate’s FY 2011 budget, the Senate passed an initiative that expands full cost waivers to state colleges and universities to children of fallen soldiers.

The waiver would be available to a surviving child of a parent who died as a result of injuries sustained during active and full-time military service outside the United States while deployed in support of or in an armed conflict or hostility as a member of the armed forces of the United States or National Guard, occurring after 1989.

If the child meets the admission criteria to the college or university, the amendment provides a full waiver of charges for tuition, fees and room and board. The waiver does not extend to community colleges or if the child already holds a higher education degree.   (Ch. 131 of the Acts of 2010; passed by the Senate on June 24, 2010)

Ethics Reform
In order to strengthen current ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws, the Senate and House passed legislation that will enhance the integrity of the political process and help to restore public trust. This bill bans all gifts to public officials, imposing a hefty civil violation for gifts up to $1,000 and makes it a felony for anything with value greater than $1,000. It also increases the authority of the Ethics Commission to investigate and prosecute alleged ethics violations. A new lobbyist classification redefines and clarifies lobbying activities and captures actions that seek to wrongly influence official government activity.

The campaign finance system was also addressed, and all “special committee” arrangements between a state political party and an elected official were eliminated. (Ch. 28 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate, June 25 on 2009)

Expiring Use Affordable Housing
This bill preserves the state’s estimated 90,000 government-assisted rental housing units across the state and protects the rights of tenants by implementing earlier notification standards for property owners and establishing a non-partisan advisory board representing tenants, property owners, municipalities and preservation experts to work with the state in developing future regulations. The legislation further ensures the protection of tenants by preventing unfair rent increases for three years after the termination of affordability restrictions and forbidding no-fault evictions. (Ch. 159 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on November 18, 2009)

Foreclosure Protection
With home foreclosures continuing to rise in the Commonwealth in spite of the improving economy, the Senate approved consumer protection legislation that protects both homeowners and tenants from mortgage fraud and arbitrary evictions.

The bill requires that tenants in foreclosed buildings can only be evicted for just cause. A lender cannot evict a tenant for failure to pay rent unless a written notice with proper contact information has been posted and delivered

For homeowners, the legislation temporarily extends the 90-day right-to-cure period, enacted by the legislature in 2007, to 150 days. The 2007 law gave homeowners 90 days to come up with past due payments on their mortgage before the lender could require full payment of the unpaid balance. This was intended as a cooling off period for the lender and homeowner to work out a new payment plan to avoid foreclosure.

In addition, the bill would criminalize residential mortgage fraud.  (Enacted July 28, 2010; passed by the Senate on April 29, 2010)

Funeral Processions
This bill mandates that all vehicles in a funeral procession must have their headlights and tail lights on and may not drive over 55 miles per hour on highways or faster than five miles per hour below the speed limit on other roads. The bill also requires pedestrians and operators of non-funeral related vehicles to yield the right-of-way to any vehicle that is part of a funeral procession. (S. 1884, passed by the Senate on July 13, 2010)

Joint Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight
The Senate and House established a special 18-member joint standing committee on federal stimulus oversight.  This committee, chaired by Senator Pacheco, will oversee federal stimulus spending and make any legislative recommendations necessary to maximize federal funding.  (February 11, 2009)

Federal Stimulus
This bill finalizes the economic recovery plan for Massachusetts, ensuring that the Commonwealth will meet the strict requirements and deadlines for using the federal stimulus money provided through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

Under this legislation, Massachusetts is eligible for $108 million in unemployment insurance funds by extending unemployment benefits from 18 to 26 weeks for individuals participating in a training program. It also secures $186 million in clean water and drinking water grants for the Commonwealth, updates state procurement procedures, ensures efficient and transparent accounting and reporting of all project funding, and requires that state positions created by projects funded through the federal act are paid with federal stimulus money only.

Funding is required to be equitably distributed to ensure participation by all businesses, including minority and women-owned businesses and small businesses. (Ch. 30 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on June 30, 2009)

Homestead Law
To better protect homeowners from unsolicited loans, the Senate voted to update the Commonwealth’s homestead law, to protect up to $500,000 of a home’s value. It also includes unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, that were incurred before the homestead was filed. The Senate made other significant reforms to clarify ambiguities and modernize the law which include extending homestead protection to manufactured homes, and multifamily properties of up to 4 units and requiring homeowners with more than one property to file a declaration, signed under the penalty of perjury, of which dwelling is their primary residence and therefore eligible for homestead protection to avoid fraud.  (S. 2406, passed by the Senate on April 29, 2010)

Kayak Safety Bill
This public health and safety legislation establishes a statutory requirement for kayakers to wear a life vest or other personal flotation device.  It would also establish instructional standards for kayak safety courses, including a requirement to teach “wet exit” techniques. (S.974, passed by the Senate on October 15, 2009)

Liquor Liability Insurance
This bill requires all restaurant and bars in Massachusetts to have liquor liability insurance. Furthermore, no license can be issued or renewed until the applicant or licensee provides proof of coverage under a liquor legal liability insurance policy for bodily injury or death for a minimum amount of $250,000. (Ch. 116 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on May 20, 2010)

Metal Theft Bill
With the increase of secondary metal theft, the Senate passed legislation to provide law enforcement with tools to track down offenders.  This legislation calls for police in cities and towns to license secondary metal dealers with an initial registration fee of $250 and a renewal fee of $75 and each license would be good for one year.

The bill also establishes regulations for secondary metal dealers including record retention, verification and prohibits the receipt of receiving certain items and accepting false information. (Enacted July 31, 2010; S.2191, passed by the Senate on November 18, 2009)

Mixed Martial Arts
This legislation established a regulatory regime for the licensing and sanctioning of mixed-martial arts events in the Commonwealth. This growing sport offers the prospect of additional revenue-producing spectator events in the Commonwealth.  The Senate’s legislation allowed cities and towns in the Commonwealth to choose to sanction such events, and established significant public health protections for the combatants in such events.  (Ch. 169 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on November 23, 2009)

Moral Obligation Bond Bill – Community Hospitals
To help keep our small health care facilities in operation, the Senate approved legislation that supports community hospitals and community health centers in the Commonwealth by authorizing the Health and Educational Facilities Authority to establish segregated funds to support borrowing on behalf of those facilities.  This improved access to capital will shore up the challenged finances of these critical health care facilities. (Passed July 31, 2010 as part of the Small Business Health Insurance Relief Bill; S.2208, passed by the Senate on November 17, 2009)

Municipal Relief
This legislation gives cities and towns new tools and local options to plan budgets, pool resources and save money. The bill includes new pension reform provisions that will generate millions of dollars in savings for local and state retirement systems. The key provisions include a cap on pension earnings, restricting them to a percentage of the federal limit and eliminating grossly inflated pension pay-outs and an anti-salary-spiking rule that would limit the allowable annual increase in pensionable earnings to no more than seven percent plus inflation, but would not apply to legitimate and permanent job changes or promotions. In addition to pension reforms, the bill also establishes cost-saving efficiency measures specifically for local governments and gives municipalities the ability to enter into shared-service agreements free from collective bargaining requirements. (Chapter 188 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on May 13, 2010)

National Popular Vote
This legislation moves to automatically send the Commonwealth’s 12 electoral votes to the presidential candidate with the most popular votes nationwide. The bill is part of an interstate compact that would take effect only if enough states join to make the electoral votes of the states in the compact combine for at least 270, which is the number needed to decide who wins the presidential election. With enough states in the compact, the electoral votes from each member state would automatically go to the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide, therefore making that candidate the winner. (Enacted on July 27, 2010, passed by the Senate on July 15, 2010)

Pandemic Flu
Against the backdrop of a growing swine flu pandemic, the Senate passed legislation for the 3rd time in the past three legislative sessions that comprehensively updates our pandemic preparedness laws. This bill allows the state public health commissioner to take the necessary steps to ensure a quick and efficient response to public health emergencies.  It also makes changes to protect health care providers from liability resulting from their actions or inactions when engaged in the performance of their duties rendering emergency care during a public health emergency. (S.2028, passed by the Senate on April 28, 2009)

Parental Leave
This legislation is designed to strengthen families across the Commonwealth by allowing fathers access to state parental leave, and extends equal employer benefits to employees on leave for the birth of a child and to employees on leave for the adoption of a child. The aim of this bill is to provide both men and women the equal opportunity to take the same amount of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, the legislation mandates that parental leave cannot affect the employee’s right to receive vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length of service credit, benefits, plans or programs for which the employee was eligible at the date of leave, and any other advantages or right of employment incident to the employment position. (S. 2381, passed by the Senate on April 15, 2010)

Pension Reform
In a historic and landmark piece of legislation, this Senate-initiated bill addressed the worst offenses in the state pension system. Although the state’s pension system is an important benefit to those who choose to serve the public in generally low-paying careers, individuals were able to exploit loopholes to increase their pension payments at a high cost to the state.

This bill closes those loopholes, establishing common-sense reforms to apply to all current and future employees who retire after July 1, 2009. The “one day, one year” provision was removed, which allowed elected officials to claim an entire year of credible service for working one day in a calendar year. Dual-service pensions were reformed, so that an individual cannot combine the compensation from two positions to artificially increase one’s pension.

This bill also eliminates a loophole that allowed individuals receiving pension benefits to return to work as a consultant and receive a full salary in addition to pension benefits. In addition, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pension Reform is directed to review broader issues within the system and issue comprehensive reform recommendations to the Legislature. (Ch. 21 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on June 11, 2009)

Port Security
This legislation establishes a commission to develop and propose regulations for the licensing of docking pilots, to improve the safety of maritime traffic in the Commonwealth’s ports. (S.2173, passed by the Senate on October 6, 2009)

Protecting Minors from Lewd Messages
With the increase of instant and text messaging, this bill moves to protect minors from obscene and harmful messages by updating the current statute to include any electronic communication including but not limited to electronic mail, instant messages, text messages, and any other communication created by means of use of the Internet or wireless network, whether by computer, telephone, or any other device. The law previous defines harmful messages as any handwritten or printed material, visual representation, live performance or sound recording.
(Ch. 74 of the Acts of 2010; passed by the Senate on March 25, 2010)

U.S. Senate Interim Appointment
This legislation authorized the Governor to fill a vacancy in one of the two United States Senate seats representing Massachusetts by temporarily appointing a person to serve until the seat is filled by a person elected in a special election for that seat. (Ch. 92 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on September 23, 2009)

Right to Repair
This bill requires automakers to make all vehicle repair information available at a fair price. The legislation ensures that manufacturer information, diagnostic codes and scan tools offered to authorized dealerships would also be offered for sale at a non-discriminatory price to independent auto repair shops and vehicle owners. (S. 2517, passed by the Senate on July 6, 2010)

Safe Driving
In an effort to curb dangerous driving, this legislation bans texting while driving, making it a primary offense, and takes additional steps to improve safety for all drivers and public transportation passengers while also cracking down on historically bad motor vehicle operators. It prohibits all drivers from texting while driving and punishes violators with increasing fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and $500 for third and subsequent offenses.

The bill further enhances public safety by prohibiting junior operators – anyone under 18 – from using any cell phone or mobile device for any reason, hand-held or hands-free, while driving.

The bill also ensures the abilities of drivers 75 and older by requiring them to renew their licenses in-person and also complete a vision test every five years.

Finally, the bill targets historically bad drivers by requiring anyone with three surcharged moving violations within two years to take a driver re-training course or have their license suspended indefinitely until completing the course. (Ch. 155 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on March 2, 2010)

School Bullying
Strengthening efforts in schools to keep Massachusetts students safe this law mandates employing new strategies for adults, new supports for students and better communications among state agencies to prevent report and effectively address issues related to bullying. The law increases efforts to educate students about bullying including regulations on student handbooks and classroom instruction and institutes new rules and expectations for reporting incidents of bullying.

It also extends beyond the classroom to include incidents that occur in the community and online bringing a new focus on so-called cyber-bullying and extending rules and penalties to apply to electronic and other communications. Both public and private schools are now required to develop detailed bullying prevention, intervention and notification plans and to publish those plans in student handbooks. (Ch. 92 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on April 29, 2010)

School Nutrition
With childhood obesity rates increasing our children’s risk for chronic diseases, this bill bans the sale of unhealthy foods and drinks in Massachusetts public schools. The legislation institutes nutritional guidelines, to be developed by the Department of Public Health, for foods and beverages sold to students outside of the federal meal program. The legislation establishes standards for products sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria a la carte lines. In addition, the bill requires the annual report that school districts must supply to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to include elements on nutrition and wellness.

Furthermore, the bill dictates that all school districts create school wellness and advisory committees to develop a district-wide wellness policy. The legislation also requires nutrition and exercise as subjects for instruction in schools. This bill updates nutritional standards in schools to promote a healthy and productive learning environment. The legislation establishes new nutritional standards in schools to address the problem of childhood obesity and promotes wholesome food options and locally grown products. (Ch. 197 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on March 11, 2010)

School Sports Concussion
Working to reduce the occurrence of and further protecting student athletes from head injuries, this legislation targets sports concussions in young athletes by creating a head injury safety training program for coaches, parent volunteers and trainers involved in school athletics. Doctors and nurses employed by a school would be trained to spot signs of concussions. The bill requires health officials to keep coaches up-to-date on athletes who have had prior head injuries. This legislation will enable schools to identify students at greater risk for repeated injuries. (S. 2267, passed by the Senate on June 3, 2010)

Sheriffs Bill
This legislation has the potential to save taxpayers up to $8 million a year by transferring the remaining seven county sheriffs’ offices to the state payroll and state health insurance plan. The bill will provide stable and predictable budgeting for the seven transferred sheriffs’ offices, which include Bristol, Norfolk, Suffolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Nantucket and Dukes counties. This bill is designed to promote a more efficient delivery of services between state and county governments. It also removes pay raises for sheriffs that were included in the original proposal and protects member communities from increased pension funding costs as a result of the transfer. (Ch. 61 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on July 29, 2009)

Shock Therapy
The bill creates a unified set of standards for shock therapy treatments – so-called “aversive therapy” and similar techniques – and allows their use only in the most extreme cases.

The legislation creates standards that would apply to all publicly-operated and/or funded agencies and providers who use shock therapy techniques, called “aversive” therapy, to reduce challenging behavior. The standards would be enforced by a statewide peer review committee, which would analyze individual treatment plans and make recommendations to both the Probate and Family Court and the Department of Developmental Services. The bill establishes a new classification to define behavioral treatment interventions as “Level IV” treatments. Level IV aversives would only be used when other less intrusive methods fail and/or when an individual presents a clear risk of harm or injury to themselves or others. (S. 2540, passed by the Senate on July 13, 2010)

Simulcasting Extension (2009)
This legislation preserves hundreds of jobs by authorizing the continuation for seven months of the simulcasting of live racing at existing racing facilities. The bill ensures that tracks that are no longer permitted to sponsor dog racing due to the ballot initiative passed in 2008 will nonetheless be able to continue offering broadcasts of live racing on terms that are fair to all racing facilities. (Passed by the Senate on November 18, 2009)

Simulcasting Extension (2010)
This legislation preserves hundreds of jobs by authorizing the continuation of the simulcasting of live racing at existing racing facilities during the transition to the Commonwealth’s new expanded gaming regime. The bill ensures that tracks that are no longer permitted to sponsor dog racing due to the ballot initiative passed in 2008 will nonetheless be able to continue offering broadcasts of live racing on terms that are fair to all racing facilities. (Passed by the Senate and enacted on July 31, 2010)

Small Business Health Cost Relief
In an effort to keep the doors of the Commonwealth’s small businesses open the legislation will reduce small business health insurance costs and promote job retention and job creation. The Senate-initiated bill reduces premium fluctuations in the market and requires insurers to offer affordable health plans.

The legislation delivers an estimated premium relief of at least 10 percent that small businesses can save and reinvest in their operations and workforce. It also establishes standardized transparency measures for provider pricing and annual public reporting to shine a light on the marketplace and collect important financial information for ongoing policy discussions about long-term system reform. It also establishes a Special Commission on Provider Price Reform.  (Enacted July 31, 2010; S. 2447, passed by the Senate on May 18, 2010)

State Universities
This bill permits nine state colleges in the Commonwealth to be called state universities. According to the State Colleges of Massachusetts, the “university” tag more accurately describes institutional offerings and brings “added prestige,” providing students a “competitive advantage.” Under the legislation, six colleges would adopt the following name changes, becoming: Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University, Salem State University, Westfield State University, and Worcester State University.
Three additional colleges will retain their current names but would be referred to as universities and become part of the Massachusetts state university system: Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  (Signed by the Governor on July 28, 2010, passed by the Senate on July 19, 2010)

State Pilots Rating Board
This legislation proposes a temporary statutory increase in the rates paid to state harbor pilots while a new rating board is established.  The new board would then take over the process of establishing periodic rates for pilots’ services through a public hearing process. This process would enable such rates to remain competitively sensitive. (S.2174, passed by the Senate on October 6, 2009)

Tanning Facilities Protection for Minors
This legislation updates the current law to better protect minors from the dangerous effects of indoor tanning by limiting access for those under 17 years old.  Specifically, the bill prohibits any person under the age of 16 from using a tanning devise. It also stipulates that 16 or 17 year olds can only use a tanning device if there is written consent from the parent or guardian. The facility must provide the parent or guardian with a copy of warnings, and that they must sign a statement in the presence of the operator of the facility acknowledging receipt and understanding of the warnings.  The operator must also sign the form, as a witness to the parent/guardian’s signing. (S. 2339, passed by the Senate on April 29, 2010)

Transportation Reform
The Transportation system was overhauled in a Senate-initiated bill that dissolves the Turnpike Authority and consolidates multiple agencies into a unified and cost-effective system under an independent agency called the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). This agency sheds the many layers of bureaucracy in the current system by consolidating and sharing existing resources and services, potentially saving the Commonwealth up to $6.5 billion during the next 20 years. MBTA employees and retirees under GIC will now be required to contribute the same amount of their health benefits as their state employee counterparts, saving an estimated $35 million a year, or approximately $700 million in 20 years. (Ch. 25 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on June 18, 2009)

Turnpike Guarantee Extension
This bill extended the authorization through the end of the fiscal year for the Commonwealth to guarantee certain debt of the Turnpike, which was first extended by the Legislature in July of 2008. The bill also included language initiated by the Senate to provide increased transparency and accountability of derivative financial transactions, including a review of any proposals to enter into such transactions by the independent Finance Advisory Board. (Chapter 10 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on April 16, 2009)

Unemployment Insurance Rate Freeze
As part of a multi-pronged approach to stimulate the Massachusetts economy, this legislation relieves economic burdens on small businesses and creates new jobs by freezing the unemployment insurance (UI) rate increase schedule for 2010, minimizing cost increases on businesses. This bill is an effort to help small businesses hire new workers and reduce the cost of doing business. Without the freeze, the average employer would see the per-employee payment jump from $584 to $852. In previous recessions the state has frozen the assessment schedule to relieve the burden on small businesses in tough economic times. (Ch. 34 of the Acts of 2010, passed by the Senate on February 16, 2010)

Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds (UPMIFA)
This legislation follows the Senate proposal to allow non-profit organizations, such as private colleges and universities, human service organizations, arts organizations and environmental advocacy groups, greater flexibility in the management and spending of endowment funds for non-profits.  The economic recession has caused many endowments to be frozen under the Commonwealth’s restrictive and antiquated laws governing such organizations.  This change would give the organizations more flexibility in an economic recession, avoiding potentially catastrophic job losses in those sectors. (Ch. 29 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on June 30, 2009)

Unsolicited Loans Protection
This bill protects consumers from unsolicited loans by prohibiting financial institutions and lenders from sending consumers’ unsolicited loans which are a negotiable check, money order, draft or other instrument that may be used to unknowingly activate a loan that was not solicited by the consumer. Consumers will not be held liable for the unauthorized execution of these types of loans and will have a 10 day period to recede from a negotiated unsolicited loan. A penalty of up to $5,000 per violation is established in the legislation for sending unsolicited loans to consumers. Also included are criminal penalties for the fraudulent execution of an unsolicited loan which include imprisonment in the house of corrections for up to 2 ½ years or imprisonment in state prison for up to 5 years or by a fine of up to $25,000 or by both a fine and imprisonment. This legislation creates an exception to these restrictions for financial institutions with existing customer relationships with the consumer. (S. 2393, passed by the Senate on April 29, 2010)

Emergency Responses by Utilities
This bill ensures that utility companies will face stiffer requirements for emergency response plans by giving the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) the authority to investigate and penalize companies for deficiencies in their response plans, as well as to issue its own response orders to utility companies during a state of emergency. The bill’s intent is to require each utility to file emergency response plans for approval by the DPU that outline communication procedures with local officials, account for customers with documented medical needs for electricity, and properly identify mutual aid and assistance agreements. (Ch. 133 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on November 10, 2009)

Veterans Bill
In order to make numerous improvements for veterans, this bill addresses veterans’ voting rights and their access to veterans’ services, employment and benefits. The bill allows Massachusetts residents serving overseas to receive and return absentee ballots via electronic means for federal, state and local preliminary, primary and general elections. It directs the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to study the Commonwealth’s current capacity to provide health care services to veterans, and assess the feasibility of expanding capacity at current soldiers’ homes or establishing additional soldiers’ homes. It amends the current Welcome Home Bill to allow service members who are deployed on multiple tours to apply for up to 50 percent of the bonus upon each subsequent return. This bill further authorizes state licensing boards to draft regulations exempting honorably-discharged veterans from requirements or credits towards licensure based on skills accumulated during their military service. (Ch. 132 of the Acts of 2009, passed by the Senate on November 10, 2009)

Warrantless Arrest
This legislation removes an existing loophole in the law that currently prevents police from arresting reckless drivers at the scene of a deadly crash. The bill would change current law and allow for warrantless arrests in cases where there is probable cause to believe a person has committed motor vehicle homicide or caused serious bodily injury due to the reckless operation of a motor vehicle and has not fled the scene.  (S. 2472, passed by the Senate on July 15, 2010)

Wind Energy Siting
Advancing the policies of the Green Communities Act of 2008, this bill untangles current rules and regulations that make it unnecessarily difficult to site land-based wind energy facilities. Under the 2008 law, a commission was charged with reviewing existing policies for locating renewable energy resources. Acting on the commission’s initial findings, the new bill requires an advisory group to develop clear and predictable siting standards through the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) with input from state departments, regional commissions and environmental groups. The new permitting process eliminates the need for multiple permit applications from separate agencies for a single project, instead creating a one-stop review and permit. Projects under 2 mega-watts would follow existing guidelines and procedures. Municipalities that approve wind projects may also be eligible for certain financial benefits under this legislation. (S. 2260, passed by the Senate on February 4, 2010) 

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