SENATE PASSES THREE KEY BILLS ON THE LAST DAY OF SESSION

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 2, 2018

SENATE PASSES THREE KEY BILLS ON THE LAST DAY OF SESSION

BOSTON – On the last day of formal session, the Legislature passed a trio of major bills to increase economic development, combat the opioid epidemic, and promote clean energy.

“I am pleased that House and Senate negotiators struck deals so that the Legislature could pass bills that will improve the lives of Massachusetts residents” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These critical pieces of legislation will support our workers, provide treatment for those in need, and ensure that Massachusetts continues to lead the way in supporting clean energy.”

Economic Development

The House and Senate passed a sweeping $1.15 billion Economic Development bill that will make targeted investments in workforce training programs and job creation through ambitious public infrastructure projects.

The bill authorizes millions of dollars in grants to workforce training programs and public infrastructure projects across Massachusetts, including:

  • $75 million in competitive grants for technical education and workforce training programs.
  • $250 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which will support thousands of jobs for construction workers rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring historic ports, and completing community revitalization projects.
  • $500 million in local economic development aid.

The bill also establishes a two-day sales tax holiday this year, which will take place on August 11 and 12.

“The Economic Development bill makes targeted investments in our workers and our communities,” said Senator Lovely. “I am gratified that the final bill includes more than $11.9 million in local projects in my district to help support the communities of the 2nd Essex.”

The final bill includes eleven local projects that Senator Lovely championed:

  • $500,000 to fund construction of pedestrian, bicycle and traffic improvements in downtown Topsfield to be ADA compliant
  • $75,000 to increase capacity at the North Shore InnoVentures biotech incubator at the Life Sciences Consortium of the North Shore
  • $250,000 for wayfinding and signage for Centennial Business Park in Peabody
  • $200,000 for Danvers to design and build streetscape and civic space improvements to enhance its downtown
  • $200,000 to fund design work to create an east-west rail trail linking downtown Danvers to Middleton Center
  • $1.2 million to fund the renovation of St. Paul’s Church in Peabody to serve as a Children’s Museum
  • $350,000 for the redesign of roadways in the Pulaski Mills in Peabody to accommodate increased traffic
  • $150,000 for welcome signs in Peabody
  • $5 million to allow Salem to expand its cruise terminal and to upgrade its passenger disembarkation system
  • $1.5 million to restore the barracks building and hangar on Winter Island in Salem
  • $2.5 million to fund the revitalization of Cabot Street in downtown Beverly

“Too many families are struggling to make ends meet and too many workers are looking for work. This bill is designed to rebalance the scales so that our economy works for everyone and fosters growth in every corner of our Commonwealth. It will put people back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and revitalizing our downtowns. And it will prepare the next generation with the skills needed to succeed in a changing economy,” said Sen. Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Legislators also made two major reforms to practices that have disadvantaged smaller entrepreneurs and employees. First, the bill reforms the state’s non-compete laws, establishing conditions on the enforcement of noncompetition agreements to improve worker mobility and free employees to advance their careers.  Second, the bill includes new protections for entrepreneurs by enforcing a ban on making bad faith assertions of patent infringement, a practice known as “patent trolling.” Such claims entangle new small businesses in costly lawsuits that can hamper productivity and sap capital reserves.

The Economic Development Bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Clean Energy

A Senate-House conference committee reached agreement on a bill that will boost electricity from solar and wind, get a better handle on natural gas leaks, and create “clean peak” incentives for driving down energy use at the busiest times, which use the costliest and dirtiest electric power. “An Act to Advance Clean Energy” received unanimous support from the Senate and every vote but one in the House of Representatives.

State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) said, “This is a good bill.  It’s solid.  We can take satisfaction in it.  But, so long as we face the calamitous effects of climate change, energy policy will continue to involve the highest of stakes.  What this legislation does not do is to shift the state’s thinking beyond a current focus on clean electric power and towards other, and even more serious, sources of climate change.  It does not give us clean energy in transportation.  It does not give us clean energy in our businesses and our homes.  This year’s bill is necessary but not sufficient.  It’s the most we could get this year, but the Senate will be back next session pushing for more.”

The legislation reforms the Monthly Minimum Reliability Contribution (MMRC).  Two years ago, the Legislature allowed utilities to charge a monthly fee to solar customers as a contribution to basic system upkeep.  The MMRC proposed by Eversource and approved by the DPU has received wide criticism from legislators, environmental groups, and constituents.  The Clean Energy bill nullifies the Eversource model, and sends the utility and the agency back to the drawing board.

To make more headway on addressing leaky underground gas pipes, the bill requires utilities to report all sources of lost and unaccounted-for gas so that authorities can track unburned methane, which damages the environment.  The bill also allows, in limited cases, waivers of regulatory requirements for projects that reduce such leaks.

The bill increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2% annually starting in 2020.  The RPS requires utilities and other suppliers to source a certain percentage of electricity from renewable resources.  Currently, the RPS stands at 13%.  With the 2% per year increase, 36% of the Commonwealth’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2030.

The bill has been sent to the Governor for his approval.

Addiction Treatment

A new bill will provide additional means of addressing the opioid crisis and establishing the Commonwealth as a national leader in the fight against this epidemic. The bill increases access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), expands prevention efforts, and addresses the high rates of co-occurring conditions of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illness.

The bill, An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, resulted from extensive work researching evidence-based best practices and collaborating with healthcare researchers and clinicians, hospitals, behavioral health providers, law enforcement officials, patient advocates, and individuals who have dealt with the disease.

“Each and every day, families across the Commonwealth lose loved ones to opioids,” said Senator Lovely. “This bill takes important steps to expand access to treatment and ensure those with substance use disorder can get meaningful access to more efficient and sustained care.”

“Despite efforts to suppress the opioid crisis, families across the Commonwealth continue to lose their loved ones to substance use disorder,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery. “This legislation builds upon the work the state has done around opioid misuse and prevention and provides another set of tools to reduce harm, save lives, and increase access to evidence-based treatment. We have a major epidemic on our hands and we have to use everything at our disposal to cure this disease.”

Under this bill, someone who receives treatment in an emergency department (ED) for an opioid overdose can now begin treatment for SUD before leaving the ED. The bill requires that all EDs and all satellite emergency facilities have the capacity to initiate voluntary SUD treatment, including opioid agonist treatment, after treatment for overdose.

The bill also brings Massachusetts in line with other states by providing liability protections, including protection from criminal or civil liability, for practitioners who prescribe and pharmacists who dispense naloxone in good faith.

The bill also includes several provisions to address dual diagnosis and the high rates of co-occurring SUD and mental illness in the Commonwealth. According to the National Association on Mental Illness-Massachusetts, more than 50% of individuals seeking treatment for SUD also suffer from a mental health condition. To ensure that the right kind of treatment facilities will serve every patient who needs treatment, the bill enhances the oversight authority of the Department of Mental Health and the DPH’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, the two agencies that license facilities that provide treatment for mental illness and addiction.

Under the bill, a center for police training in crisis intervention is established to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in police response to people with mental illness and SUDs. The center would also implement crisis intervention training for all municipal police officers and provide technical assistance to cities and towns to form collaborative partnerships between law enforcement and human service providers to maximize referrals to treatment services.

To ensure that those experiencing chronic pain have access to the treatments they need, the bill establishes a program to provide remote consultations to primary care practices, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers who care for chronic pain patients.  The bill also establishes a similar program to provide remote consultations for clinicians caring for those with SUD.

The bill now moves to the Governor for his consideration.

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