Senator Jason Lewis Appointed to Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr announced the appointments of Senators and retailers to the Senate Task Force on Strengthening Massachusetts Local Retail. Among the appointments to the task force is Senator Jason Lewis, the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The task force was established to work with the Senate to identify ways to help local retailers become more competitive.

The Task Force will address a number of key factors, including: challenges faced by local retailers in competing against online sellers; closures of local retail establishments and the impact that has on local economies and property tax bases; initiatives by local retailers to increase their market share; and, how state and local governments can encourage purchasing from local retailers.

“Our local small businesses and Main Street retailers are vital to local economic development and the well-being of our communities,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Policymakers must work closely with them to help address the challenges they are facing in an ever-changing economy. This task force will provide an important avenue for further collaboration between the private and public sectors. I am eager to hear feedback from retailers in our communities and to work with my colleagues on the task force to achieve solutions that will strengthen prosperity on our Main Streets.”

In addition to Senator Lewis, Senate President Rosenberg appointed Senator Michael Rodrigues, who will serve as Chair, as well as Senators Mike Barrett, Julian Cyr, and Kathleen O’Connor-Ives. Senate Minority Leader Tarr appointed Senators Vinny DeMacedo and Don Humason.

The retailers appointed by Senate President Rosenberg are Judy Herrell, owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton, Peter Kavanaugh of La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Dartmouth, Barry S. Rotman, Board Chair of Rotman’s Furniture in Worcester, and Malcolm Sherman, a retail consultant with expertise in turning around struggling businesses. The retailers appointed by Senate Minority Leader Tarr are Christopher Carlozzi, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, John Cahill of Landry & Arcani Rugs in Salem, and Christopher Connolly, President of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association.

The remaining appointees are Jim Carvalho, Political Director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, Harris Gruman, Executive Director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, and Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. Outside experts with expertise in business and economics may also be consulted to assist the Task Force in facilitating its work.

The Task Force will report back to the Senate President and Senate Minority Leader by June 1, 2018.

Senator Jason Lewis Joins Fair Skies Caucus to Address Airplane Noise and Pollution

Senator Jason Lewis has joined the recently created Fair Skies Caucus of the Massachusetts Legislature. The objective of the Fair Skies Caucus is to bring together Senators and Representatives whose districts are affected by airplane noise and pollution to find meaningful solutions to the problem. The Caucus will collaborate with members of the Massport Community Advisory Committee in order to optimize advocacy for those communities that are impacted by overflights from Logan Airport, Worcester Airport, and Hanscom Field.

The caucus, formed just last month, aims to encourage bipartisan and bicameral collaboration on relevant legislation and budget matters, and will unite the advocacy efforts of its individual members in order to more effectively collaborate with Massport and other agencies.

“Heightened concerns regarding airplane noise and frequency were shared over the summer by constituents as Logan Airport undertook runway repairs that led to alterations in flight paths, which led to increased noise impacting our communities,” noted Senator Jason Lewis. “Unique situations like that, as well as the issue of airplane noise in general, affect people’s quality of life in our region and require greater communication between Massport and the public. I expect that the Fair Skies Caucus will serve as a mechanism to enhance that communication, to strengthen advocacy on behalf of our region’s residents, and to achieve solutions to these concerns.”

In addition to creating a forum for legislators to work jointly on issues pertaining to airplane noise, the caucus will allow for increased collaboration with members of the Massport Community Advisory Committee (Massport CAC). The Massport CAC, comprised of representatives from 35 communities, serves as the voice of communities affected by Massport operations. People can learn more about the operations of the Massport CAC, as well as issues of airplane noise and related topics, at http://MassportCAC.org/.

By optimizing advocacy efforts through the Fair Skies Caucus, legislators will work collaboratively to find meaningful solutions to an issue affecting communities across the Commonwealth.

Senator Jason Lewis to Host Community Conversation in Stoneham on Arts and the Local Economy

Continuing his “Community Conversations” issue discussions, Senator Jason Lewis is excited to announce an upcoming conversation he will hold on the impact of the arts and cultural sector on our local economy. Held in every community of the district, “Community Conversations” are issue discussions delving into a different topic at each forum, with ample opportunity for residents to share feedback and have their questions answered by experts on the given topic.

This upcoming event – Community Conversations: Investing in Arts and Culture to Strengthen Our Local Economies – will take place on Tuesday, September 26, at 6:30pm. The event will occur at the Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, and is free and open to the public. Attendees will hear from: Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council; Christopher Carino, Chairman of the Town of Wakefield’s Albion Cultural Exchange Committee; and, Amanda Chisholm, Chief Economic Development Planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC).

This forum will offer the chance to hear directly from numerous issue experts regarding the benefits to our local economies provided by the arts and cultural sector, and how our communities can best engage the arts and cultural sector as part of strategic economic development. There will be ample opportunity for Q&A from attendees. The forum is co-sponsored by the municipal Cultural Councils of Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and Winchester, as well as State Representative Michael Day and the Stoneham Chamber of Commerce.

“Local arts provide our communities not only with entertainment and education, but also with substantial economic stimulus,” noted Senator Lewis. “I look forward to discussing with this distinguished panel how we can invest in communities that are simultaneously culturally vibrant and economically thriving. I am also eager to hear feedback on this from local residents, as the conversations I have directly with constituents across the district are the best source of information and guidance to help me do my job in the legislature.”

“Community Conversations” forums have been held in all six communities of the 5th Middlesex district on topics including: public education; public transportation; small business and entrepreneurship; challenges facing senior citizens and caregivers; veterans’ issues; housing; energy policy and environmental priorities; and, efforts to combat substance abuse and opioid addiction in our region.

Column: The Benefits and Challenges of Autonomous Vehicles

More than 150 years ago, education reformer Horace Mann recognized that the economic success of Massachusetts depended on human brainpower and innovation. He famously said, “Having no other mines to work, Massachusetts has mined into the human intellect; and, from its limitless resources, she has won more sustaining and enduring prosperity and happiness than if she had been founded on a stratification of silver and gold, reaching deeper down than geology has yet penetrated.”

Today, the Commonwealth continues to be a national and global leader in technology and our economic growth and prosperity depends even more on our creativity and ability to foster innovation.

One exciting area of new technology where I believe Massachusetts should seek to lead the way is autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. An autonomous vehicle (AV) is capable of navigating without human input by sensing its environment and proceeding accordingly. Seemingly the stuff of science fiction not too long ago, AV technology has made such significant advances that experts estimate they could be commercially available within the next five years.

Autonomous vehicles offer the potential for significant benefits to our society and economy. Improved safety and reduced accidents are certainly at the top of the list. AVs hold the promise of greater transportation accessibility and social mobility for elderly, disabled, and low-income people. They could also enable a transformation in urban design, with much more efficient use of roadways and less need for parking spaces.

At the same time, this new technology brings potential risks and challenges that need to be anticipated and proactively addressed. Current public perception is that AVs are less safe than human drivers and, understandably, it will take time before people are willing to trust their lives to self-driving cars. Experts predict that AV technology, if not effectively managed, could actually increase vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 20-40%, increasing congestion on roadways and increasing pollution and carbon emissions. There is also the prospect of “zombie” cars (vehicles with no passengers inside) endlessly circulating to avoid paying for parking or to serve as mobile billboards. Additionally, AVs could impact revenue streams upon which our cities, towns, and state depend, such as parking tickets, speeding tickets, and gas taxes.

I believe Massachusetts is well positioned to help ensure that we realize the benefits of AVs while effectively managing the risks. In doing so, we could become global leaders in this transformational technology. Working together with the Conservation Law Foundation, I’m pleased to have sponsored legislation in the Senate, An Act to Promote the Safe Integration of Autonomous Vehicles into the Transportation System of the Commonwealth. This bill incorporates the best policy ideas and practices from the federal government and other states to encourage a transition to a shared, clean-energy fleet of AVs, resulting in less congestion, cleaner air, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and greater mobility options for all Massachusetts residents.

The legislation creates a flexible regulatory framework to allow and encourage AVs on our roads, without limiting that right only to certain auto manufacturers. Critical safety measures are included, like rigorous testing, regular software updates, and failure alert systems. The bill also seeks to strongly encourage AVs to be zero-emission (electric) vehicles, and to promote shared use. Finally, the bill establishes a road usage charge (VMT) to replace lost gas tax revenue, with a base rate per mile and various discounts for factors such as multiple passengers, off-peak hours, certain geographic areas, lower income riders, lighter vehicles, etc.

As AV technology advances, we must also consider other public policy ramifications, such as lost jobs for taxi/TNC and truck drivers and the impact on urban redesign of our cities and towns. These are big challenges that we must start thinking about and planning for now.

Column: Moving Forward Safely with Marijuana Legalization

Last week Governor Baker signed into law legislation that I believe will make Massachusetts a national model when it comes to safely regulating the legal sale and consumption of marijuana. This legislation fully respects the will and intent of the voters — who voted last November to legalize the recreational use of marijuana — while taking strong steps to ensure that we don’t turn a criminal justice problem into a public health problem.

For me, the signing of this bill was also the culmination of a two and a half year journey into the minutiae of marijuana policy. To be honest, marijuana was not high on my list of priority issues when Senate President Stan Rosenberg appointed me to Chair a Special Senate Committee on Marijuana in early 2015. President Rosenberg had the foresight to anticipate that the question of marijuana legalization might be on the ballot in 2016, and he knew this is a complex issue that would require the Senate to be well prepared.

The Special Committee conducted extensive research, interviewed dozens of marijuana policy experts, and traveled to Colorado to learn from that state’s experience as the first to legalize recreational marijuana. We found that marijuana legalization involves dozens of policy questions, from how to regulate what is likely to be a new billion dollar industry to what kinds of products should be allowed for sale and how they can be marketed to challenges involving conflicting state and federal laws, and much more. We published our findings and recommendations in a detailed report in March 2016.

I concluded that I could support marijuana legalization in Massachusetts, but only if public health and safety were put ahead of industry profits. I made the decision to oppose Question 4 because I believed that the authors of this ballot question (marijuana activists and industry players) did not adequately address public health and safety concerns, particularly what I feared would be industry efforts to target youth as we have seen with the tobacco and alcohol industries.

After the passage of Question 4, the legislature created a new Committee on Marijuana Policy to gather input from all stakeholders and work as quickly as possible to fix the serious flaws in the ballot question. That launched a six month process that entailed numerous public hearings around the state and intensive discussions with all stakeholders — including public health experts, law enforcement, state and municipal officials, businesses, medical marijuana dispensaries, patients, as well as the activists who successfully campaigned for the ballot question — to understand their concerns and how best to address them.

The legislation that resulted from this process is a very strong bill that addressed many of these concerns, including my own. I believe this legislation fully respects the will of the voters; will replace the current black market with a safe, tightly regulated, legal market; ensures very strong public health and safety protections to reduce underage use and excessive consumption; and promotes a responsible industry that is diverse, encourages local players, and helps rather than hurts communities that have historically been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

I believe many of the specific provisions in this legislation will make Massachusetts a national model for how to safely and effectively legalize marijuana. These include: a strong, independent regulatory body that has the necessary expertise and will not be subject to undue industry or political influence; a careful merging of the oversight of medical marijuana with recreational marijuana along with stronger protections for patients; the strongest product, packaging, labeling, and marketing requirements and restrictions in the nation; a comprehensive research and data collection program to guide future public policy; public health and safety campaigns; various social justice provisions to address past inequities and harms of the war on drugs; a special commission on ways to prevent and address drugged driving; strong standards for energy and water usage and other environmental concerns in marijuana cultivation; and a responsible tax rate that appropriately balances the need for revenue to cover regulatory and social costs while driving out the black market.

We are on track to proceed with marijuana legalization, with legal sales expected to begin by the middle of next year. I have no doubt we still have much to learn and there will be bumps along the road, but I’m optimistic that Massachusetts can do this right.

Senate Passes Healthy Youth Act with Senator Jason Lewis’ Support

With the support of Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Health, the Massachusetts Senate passed S. 2113, An Act Relative to Healthy Youth, which will ensure that school districts in the Commonwealth that elect to provide their students with sex education provide age-appropriate and medically accurate information that includes coverage of both abstinence and contraception.

Currently, when Massachusetts public schools provide their students with health education that covers sexual activity, there is no guarantee that the information provided is age-appropriate or medically accurate. This legislation changes this by requiring school districts that choose to offer sexuality education follow certain guidelines to ensure that students are provided with age-appropriate and medically accurate information.

“Providing comprehensive, age-appropriate, and medically accurate information to our youth is the best way to prepare them to make safe and healthy choices,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m pleased that the Senate was able to advance this legislation that will strengthen education and reduce rates of teen pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted infections, while keeping parents informed as to students’ curricula.”

Under the bill, sexual health education must include but not be limited to: the benefits of abstinence, delaying sexual activity, and the importance of effectively using contraceptives; ways to effectively discuss safe sexual activity; relationship and communication skills to form healthy, respectful relationships free of violence, coercion, and intimidation, and to make healthy decisions about relationships and sexuality; physical, social, and emotional changes of human development; human anatomy, reproduction, and sexual development; and, age-appropriate information about gender identity and sexual orientation for all students.

Senator Lewis successfully advocated for the inclusion of an amendment to the bill to require the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to update the comprehensive health curriculum framework, which hasn’t been updated since 1999.

Sex education programs have repeatedly been shown to work best when they emphasize the value of abstinence, while also teaching students about the importance of protecting themselves from unintended consequences. This type of comprehensive curriculum is proven to be more effective at delaying sexual activity among young people, increasing the rate in which young people use contraception, while also lowering rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teen pregnancy.

The bill does not require schools to provide sexuality information. Local school boards and schools still make all decisions about whether to offer sex education. This legislation also maintains existing state law that allows parents to remove their children from sex education programs and gives school districts clearer guidance on how to notify parents about these programs.

School districts that provide a sexuality curriculum must adopt a written policy to give parents and legal guardians notification and inform them of the right to withdraw their child from all or part of the instruction. Notification to parents and guardians must be in English, as well as any other commonly spoken languages by parents. Districts must also have a process for parents to review the program instruction materials prior to the start of the course, if the parents request it.

This bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

Column: Telemedicine Improves Healthcare Access and Reduces Costs

New technology like telemedicine holds great promise for improving access to care for patients, improving health outcomes for the treatment of chronic illnesses, and reducing healthcare costs. We should take steps to enable the expanded use of telemedicine in Massachusetts.

Telemedicine is the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through online communications, including video and specialized technologies. It complements in-person delivery of healthcare services. Telemedicine can improve care by giving all patients, regardless of where they live or mobility limitations, convenient access to all levels of healthcare services, including primary care providers, specialists, and behavioral health clinicians. By making it easier and faster for a patient to be evaluated by a healthcare provider, telemedicine has been shown to improve the health of patients suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Telemedicine has also been shown to help reduce hospital readmissions, decrease lengths of stay, and cut down on emergency room visits.

A 2015 Harvard Medical School study published in the American Journal of Managed Care estimated that a typical in-person visit to a doctor consumes about 2 hours of a patient’s time, with only 20 minutes actually spent face-to-face with the physician. Many people also have a difficult time accessing some healthcare services due to mobility or transportation limitations, long distances necessary to travel to a specialist’s office, time constraints, or challenges scheduling an appointment due to the busy nature of many providers. Expanding access to telemedicine will assist patients in receiving more timely and convenient treatment regardless of economic means, physical ability, transportation options, or geographic location.

By improving access to care and increasing the efficiency of care delivery, telemedicine can help control healthcare costs and make care more affordable for families, seniors, businesses, and our state and local governments.

For example, in 2012, the Mass. General Hospital/Brigham & Women’s Hospital Tele-Stroke network provided 24/7 acute stroke neurology coverage to emergency departments across 11 counties in Massachusetts, providing care to more than 700 patients. This resulted in approximately 400 avoided transfers to academic medical centers, totaling more than $2 million in savings to the Massachusetts healthcare system.

To enable the increased use of telemedicine in Massachusetts, I have filed An Act Advancing and Expanding Access to Telemedicine Services. This legislation will ensure parity in insurance coverage for telemedicine services at equivalent payment rates as in-person treatment; streamline the credentialing process for Massachusetts licensed clinicians using telemedicine services within the state; and ensure a uniform and consistent approach when defining telemedicine services.

Massachusetts is currently one of only two states that do not provide expanded coverage for telemedicine through Medicaid and commercial health insurance plans. For example, MassHealth (the state’s Medicaid program) only provides coverage for remote tele-monitoring for home health services.

This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of healthcare providers, consumer groups, and business organizations, including the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, Atrius Health, AARP Massachusetts, Health Care For All, the American Heart Association/Stroke Association, Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems.

If Massachusetts is to remain a leader in providing high quality healthcare, improving health outcomes, and reining in high healthcare costs, we should embrace the full potential of telemedicine.

Senator Jason Lewis Urges Continued Prohibition on Alcohol Advertising on MBTA

Responding to media reports that senior staff at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) are considering a plan to relax the existing ban on alcohol advertising on the MBTA as a source of revenue, Senator Jason Lewis submitted a letter to the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board strongly urging them to retain the full prohibition on advertising of alcoholic beverages throughout the MBTA system.

In his letter to the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board, Senator Lewis emphasized the public health effects of excessive and irresponsible consumption of alcohol, from the impacts of prenatal alcohol exposure to the variety of liver, pancreatic, and many other diseases.  Further, Senator Lewis highlighted the $5.6 billion in related costs to Massachusetts caused by excessive and irresponsible consumption in 2010 alone.  Senator Lewis also stressed the susceptibility to advertising of young people, noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics made clear that youth in markets with greater alcohol advertising expenditures drank more alcohol.

In the letter, Senator Lewis warned, “Alcohol remains easily accessible and attractive to youth, who are the most susceptible to alcohol use disorder and the long-term consequences of addiction.  It is particularly unfortunate that some participants in the alcohol industry seek profits at the expense of public health by developing and marketing products that are especially appealing to our youth.  The Authority ought not participate with the industry in selling these products if there is any chance youth will view them and be attracted to the products these advertisements sell.”

Senator Lewis is in his third year serving as the Senate Chair of the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health.

The full text of the letter Senator Lewis submitted to the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board is below:

Dear Members of the Board,

I strongly urge the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to retain the prohibition on the advertisement of alcoholic beverages on trains and throughout the MBTA system.

Although most people consume alcohol responsibly, the harmful health, safety, and economic consequences of excessive or irresponsible consumption are numerous, including:
•    More than 1,500 lives lost annually in Massachusetts;
•    Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities;
•    Associated with liver and pancreatic diseases, hypertension, reproductive system disorders, trauma, stroke, fetal alcohol syndrome, and cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, colon, and rectum;
•    Underage alcohol use is a major risk factor for addiction – most abusers of alcohol begin using in adolescence, while the brain is still in development.  (Like other addictive drugs, alcohol use in adolescence stunts the development of the frontal cortex, the brain region that directs “adult” responsibilities like delay of reward, extended reasoning, and impulse control);
•    One third of driving fatalities are linked to drunk driving;
•    Significant risk factor in partner violence; and,
•    Cost Massachusetts more than $5.6 billion in 2010, including costs associated with health care, lost workplace productivity, criminal justice expenses, and motor vehicle crashes.

Moreover, it is clear that youth are particularly susceptible to advertising. The American Academy of Pediatrics has surveyed the academic literature on youth and marketing, and observed that:
•    Young children – younger than 8 years – are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising;
•    Adolescent drinkers are more likely to have been exposed to alcohol advertising;
•    Children begin making decisions about alcohol at an early age…exposure to beer commercials represents a significant risk factor;
•    Minority children may be at particular risk of exposure to alcohol advertisements;
•    Youth in markets with greater alcohol advertising expenditures drank more; and,
•    There is sound commonsense basis for believing that making alcohol use attractive to young people increases the likelihood that they will become alcohol consumers as young people.

Although we may not like to confront this reality, alcohol is an addictive drug capable of causing death, disability, and great suffering. Alcohol remains easily accessible and attractive to youth, who are the most susceptible to alcohol use disorder and the long-term consequences of addiction. It is particularly unfortunate that some participants in the alcohol industry seek profits at the expense of public health by developing and marketing products that are especially appealing to our youth. The Authority ought not participate with the industry in selling these products if there is any chance youth will view them and be attracted to the products these advertisements sell.

I urge the Authority to carefully consider the public health consequences and the messages sent by a public agency when alcoholic beverages are advertised in public places. Further, I encourage the board to consult with public health and substance use disorder experts if there are any questions about the potential impacts alcohol can have on youth, as well as the persuasive power of advertisements on youth.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jason M. Lewis
State Senator
Co-Chair, Joint Committee on Public Health

Senator Jason Lewis Named to Regional Health Policy Committee

Senator Jason Lewis has been recently appointed by the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference (CSG/ERC) to serve as a member of the CSG/ERC Health Committee.  The CSG/ERC’s purpose is to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information among the region’s policy makers, business leaders, and academic community.

As Senate Chair of the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, Senator Lewis will be able to use this new role as a member of the CSG/ERC Health Committee to gain deeper insight into best practices on health policy, as well as share Massachusetts’ policy successes with counterparts in other states.

“This role will provide me with a unique opportunity to further develop and advocate for strategies to strengthen the quality and delivery of healthcare in the Commonwealth as well as to further contain healthcare costs,” said Senator Jason Lewis.  “These are issues that impact families across Massachusetts on a daily basis, and I am excited about this new avenue for exchanging public policy ideas.”

The Eastern Regional Conference includes the eleven northeastern states, from Maine to Maryland, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Canadian Provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  The Council of State Governments was founded in 1933.

Senate Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act with Senator Jason Lewis’ Support

The Senate unanimously voted to pass an Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill, sponsored by Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem) ensures that pregnant workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace. In addition to protecting the health of pregnant employees, the bill also promotes economic security for workers and their families.

“No expecting mother should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “This legislation would ensure that women’s medical needs are addressed without imposing undue burden on employers throughout Massachusetts.”

“A woman who is pregnant is no less equal and no less valued as a member of the workforce,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “The protections included in this legislation are commonsense and simply prevent mistreatment of pregnant employees.  I’m very pleased to see this bill earn support from workers and employers alike.”

“A woman’s healthy pregnancy should not be incompatible with her ability to earn a paycheck, maintain economic security and retain insurance benefits all of which are of vital importance as a family is about to grow,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).  “The bill we adopted today contains reasonable policies to protect pregnant workers without unduly burdening employers and their competitiveness.”

“I believe it is imperative that we provide pregnant workers, 40% of whom are the primary breadwinner of their household, the certainty that they are able to keep their jobs without detriment to the health of their pregnancy,” said Senator Lovely. “This piece of legislation would ensure that employers are fair to pregnant workers so that they may continue to work while pregnant and provide the best life possible for themselves and their families.”

Under this legislation, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee or prospective employee due to pregnancy or a condition related to the pregnancy, such as lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.

Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are pregnant. At the request of a pregnant employee, employers must undergo a good faith and interactive process to determine an effective reasonable accommodation. Provisions include low cost modifications such as providing employees with a stool to sit on, allowing for more frequent bathroom breaks, allowing the worker to carry a bottle of water, or providing a private non-bathroom space for lactation. Employers are not required to provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.

In addition, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire a pregnant job candidate solely because the candidate requires a reasonable accommodation. Employers are not permitted to force pregnant employees to accept an accommodation that they do not want or to take leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided.

The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act makes the Commonwealth a leader in addressing pregnancy discrimination and positions the state at the front of a national movement.

“When we started this journey two years ago, MotherWoman and her allies knew that too many pregnant women were struggling without accommodations commonly given to other workers. Massachusetts legislators, on both sides of the aisle, heard us. So did the business community,” said Linda O’Connell, Executive Director of MotherWoman, an advocate for the bill. “We are proud to live in a state that can solve real problems for real people.”

The bill will now be reconciled with the House version of the bill, which was passed last month, before being sent to the Governor for his signature.