Senate passes legislation promoting children, families, health care access and investment in the Commonwealth
The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed legislation that reaffirms the Commonwealth's commitment to providing support for women, members of the LGBTQ community and children and families in need. The Senate also gave final approval to a $135.9 million supplemental budget for the Fiscal Year 2019.
"The Senate’s commitment to ending the outdated and ineffective 'Cap on Kids,’ as well as abolishing the abusive practice of conversion therapy, never wavered, and I am proud to see these critical pieces of legislation finally move closer to the finish line," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I am equally proud the Legislature took the proactive step to ensure emergency funding is available for family planning purposes, in light of damaging rules established by the federal government. Together, we send the message that all women across the state will be taken care of.”
“I am proud that the Senate has once again taken action to put an end to our Commonwealth’s ineffective and unjust family cap policy, said Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett). Lifting the ‘Cap on Kids’ is simply the right thing to do to ensure that families are not denied basic benefits simply because of when their children were born. This is a critical policy change that will help thousands of children across the Commonwealth, and I would like to especially thank Senate President Spilka for continuing to make this a Senate priority and repeatedly addressing this issue at the very beginning of our session.”
“We have a responsibility to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all young people. Seeking to force a child to change one’s identity or orientation at such a vulnerable point in their young lives inflicts significant harm and is no less than child abuse,” said Senator Mark Montigny (D- New Bedford), Senate sponsor of the bill.
"I am grateful to the courage and wisdom of President Spilka, Senator Montigny, Speaker DeLeo, and Representative Khan for the overwhelming passage by both the House and the Senate of the bill banning the archaic and pseudo-scientific practice of conversion therapy," said Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). "I appreciated the chance to work on this bill as Chair of the Senate Committee on Rules and look forward to Governor Baker swiftly signing this important measure to protect the Commonwealth’s children."
“The measures passed by the Senate today will protect the most vulnerable among us and ensure that health care remains a human right,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport). “I applaud my colleagues in the legislature for taking immediate action to protect access to critical health care services for over 75,000 Massachusetts residents, eliminate a discriminatory policy that harmed families, provide heating assistance to seniors and veterans, and other vital steps to ensure that all people in the Commonwealth are treated justly.”
Lifting the 'Cap on Kids'
Massachusetts’ ‘Cap on Kids’ policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The legislation passed Thursday repeals this ineffective policy. The new policy would start September 1, 2019, and makes the repeal retroactive to January 1, 2019. Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The fiscal year 2019 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the governor.
Fifteen states currently ban conversion therapy, an intervention practice used to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction and transgender identity using controversial methods. Those methods, have been shown to result in further issues with respect to mental health and wellbeing. The legislation passed by the Senate would prohibit licensed mental health professional from using conversion therapy and would instead promote therapies that encourage self-exploration and social support.
Massachusetts entities which receive Title X federal funding, used for family planning and related preventative health services, are poised to lose up to $8 million dollars over fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The loss of funding would be the consequence of new rules set by the Trump administration. The Legislature’s action would provide $8 million for entities to access, allowing the state to offset possible reductions and help preserve services provided to 80,000 Massachusetts families.
Supplemental FY 2019 Budget
The proposed supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 includes:
$30M for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program
$10M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
$8M to assist municipalities in testing sex assault kits
$1M for SANE and Pedi-SANE Programs
The supplemental budget also addresses a number of time-sensitive spending and policy items.
Legislation concerning the ‘Cap on Kids’ and prohibiting conversion therapy was sent back to the House for approval. Bills concerning Title X funding and the supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 now go to the Governor for consideration.