Senator Lewis to Host Community Conversation on Reproductive Justice and Freedom

Senator Lewis to Host Community Conversation on Reproductive Justice and Freedom

 

BOSTON, MA – Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce that he will be hosting a Community Conversation on the topic of reproductive justice and freedom. With the Supreme Court having overturned Roe v Wade, more than half of states across the country have already, or are expected to, ban or severely restrict access to abortion care. In Massachusetts, the state legislature has taken decisive action to protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare, but there is still more that needs to be done.

 

Community Conversation: The Fight for Reproductive Justice and Freedom will take place on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 from 6:30-8:00 pm. The event will be live-streamed at Facebook.com/SenJasonLewis and a recording will also be available after the event.

 

Senator Lewis will be joined by a distinguished panel of experts, including Claire Teylouni, Director of Government Affairs at Reproductive Equity Now; Dr. Erin Tracy Bradley, MD, MPH, FACOG, Associate Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School; and Katherine Rushfirth, CNM, FACNM, Policy Director at the Neighborhood Birth Center.

 

Senator Lewis and the panelists will explore issues ranging from access to abortion and other reproductive health services to reducing maternal health disparities in Massachusetts. They will discuss concrete ways that we can tackle these issues and advance greater reproductive justice and equity in our communities and Commonwealth. After opening remarks from each panelist there will be ample time for audience questions and discussion.

 

If you have any questions about this event or need further details, please contact Senator Lewis’ Office at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or (617) 722-1206. You can RSVP at facebook.com/SenJasonLewis. All are welcome to attend

 

Previous Community Conversations hosted by Senator Lewis have addressed a wide range of timely topics, including racial justice; public education; climate change and environmental sustainability; early education and childcare; public transportation; small business and entrepreneurship; challenges facing senior citizens and caregivers; supporting our veterans; mental health and addiction; and affordable housing.

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Two Bills to Support Veterans and Military Families 

The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate recently passed two bills to better support the needs of veterans, active duty service members, and their families in the Commonwealth. An Act relative to the governance, structure, and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes makes key reforms to the governance structure and operations of the state’s two veterans’ homes. An Act relative to military spouse-licensure portability, education, and enrollment of dependents, also known as the SPEED Act, expands support for military families that relocate to Massachusetts. Both bills have been signed into law by Governor Baker.

“Our veterans, active duty service members and their families have made many sacrifices in service to our country,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m very pleased that with the passage of these two bills we will ensure that our veterans’ homes provide the highest quality care to their residents, and that we are providing as much support as possible to our military families, including when they newly relocate to Massachusetts.”

An Act relative to the governance, structure, and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes requires all state-operated veterans’ homes to be licensed as nursing homes by the Department of Public Health (DPH); prescribes certain qualifications and responsibilities for the superintendent and medical director of each home; elevates the Secretary of Veterans Services to report directly to the Governor; and creates a new Office of the Veteran Advocate to ensure that veterans are receiving all services in a humane and dignified manner.

Following the tragedy at the Holyoke veterans’ home in 2020, which resulted in the COVID-19 related deaths of 78 veterans, the state legislature established a Special Joint Oversight Committee to investigate the causes of this tragedy, and their recommendations formed the basis for this legislation.

The SPEED Act, which is the second bill recently passed by the state legislature, expands support for military families who relocate to Massachusetts, including occupational license portability for spouses and support for school enrollment for children. The bill also establishes the Purple Star Campus Program, to designate schools that demonstrate a commitment to students and families of service members, and the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity to be presented to the next of kin of a service member or veteran who died as a result of service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder, or a service-connected condition resulting from a traumatic brain injury or exposure to harmful toxins. 

Senator Jason Lewis Applauds Senate Passage of the SAVE Students Act 

State Senator Jason Lewis recently joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate in passing An Act relative to safety and violence education for students, also known as the SAVE Students Act. This bipartisan legislation expands violence prevention and suicide awareness programming in schools, creates an anonymous reporting system for tips related to student safety concerns, and tasks the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) with developing a model threat assessment policy for responding to dangerous activity.

“We must do everything possible to support our schools in keeping students and staff safe, and ensuring a positive and healthy learning environment,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I was very pleased to work with Senator Finegold and Sandy Hook Promise to help get the SAVE Students Act passed in the Senate.”

Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded to protect children from gun violence in honor of the precious lives that were lost in the school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, helped draft and advocate for this legislation.

“Research proves that the most effective way to prevent school shootings, violence, and suicide is teaching youth and adults the warning signs and how to get help” said Mark Barden, Co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, and father of Daniel who was killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy.

The SAVE Students Act is a response to two concurrent crises: a school shooting crisis and a youth mental health crisis. In the past 25 years, over 310,000 students have been exposed to gun violence during school, and more than 185 students, educators, and other school personnel have been shot and killed. In addition, between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates rose by more than 57 percent for those aged 10 to 24. The SAVE Students Act complements the state legislature’s ongoing efforts on comprehensive gun safety and behavioral health reforms.

Having passed the Senate, the SAVE Students Act now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

 

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Major Transportation and Infrastructure Funding Bill

The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate recently passed a major capital funding bill, which authorizes $11.3 billion for transportation and other infrastructure projects across Massachusetts. The bill was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 10, 2022. In addition to authorizing state funding for critical projects, this legislation also positions the Commonwealth to maximize its share of the funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed by Congress late last year.

“I’m very pleased that both our state and federal governments recognize the critical need to improve our transportation and other infrastructure, including roads, bridges, sidewalks, trails, public transit and more,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “As we have seen with the unprecedented shutdown of the MBTA Orange Line, not adequately maintaining our infrastructure is a major threat to our state’s economy and quality of life, and the challenges are only increasing with the impacts of climate change.”

Some of the key funding provisions in this new law include:

  • $1.4 billion for MBTA safety improvements and modernization efforts
  • $200 million for commuter rail electrification
  • $275 million to advance East-West passenger rail
  • $55 million for Complete Streets and other grants to cities and towns to improve safety for all transportation modes, including cyclists and pedestrians.

To promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), the legislation includes $215 million for the development and implementation of programs to promote, establish or expand public electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the development and implementation of incentive programs promoting e-bikes and public transportation, replacement of high-emissions vehicles, electric vehicles for hire and carsharing, electric school buses, electric short-haul freight and delivery trucks, and for other pilot projects that focus on equity and inclusion while reducing emissions.

The bill also defines and classifies Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes to align Massachusetts with many other states and ensure that most e-bikes are not classified as mopeds.

To address MBTA safety and reliability concerns, this new law mandates the MBTA to establish and maintain a?three-year safety improvement plan with measurable safety objectives for the agency, and it directs the MBTA to contract with an independent third-party auditor to conduct annual safety audits. To ensure more transparency around the MBTA’s safety, the bill directs the agency to submit a monthly, publicly available report containing?all safety incidents affecting any of its modes of transit.?In addition, the MBTA is required?to develop and implement short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for how each line of the commuter rail system can be fully integrated into the Commonwealth’s transportation system and contribute to the productivity, equity, and decarbonization efforts of the MBTA as a whole.

Massachusetts Legislature Enacts Sweeping Legislation to Improve Access to Mental Healthcare

(BOSTON) The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate recently passed an expansive mental healthcare bill, which was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 10, 2022. Known as the Mental Health ABC Act: Addressing Barriers to Care, this comprehensive legislation includes a wide variety of reforms to ensure equitable access to mental healthcare and remove barriers that currently make it difficult for many people to get the care they need.

“Access to quality, affordable healthcare should be a basic human right, and that includes mental healthcare just as much as physical healthcare,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “This sweeping legislation will enable Massachusetts to make major strides in improving access to care by better enforcing mental health parity laws, expanding the mental healthcare workforce, addressing emergency room boarding, and more. This issue has long been a high priority for me and my colleagues in the state legislature and I’m very pleased that this bill has been signed into law.”

“During a national mental health emergency, Massachusetts leaders in the Legislature, Administration, and healthcare community joined to craft, pass, and sign landmark legislation to address equitable access to behavioral healthcare in the Commonwealth,” said Danna Mauch, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH). “MAMH applauds the pacesetting institution of universal payor participation in and coverage for annual mental wellness exams, 24/7 telephonic behavioral health helpline, comprehensive crisis services, behavioral health urgent care, and collaborative care as part of this roadmap for reform.”

Some of the highlights of the Mental Health ABC Act include:

  • Guaranteeing insurance coverage for an annual mental health wellness exam, comparable to an annual physical.
  • Providing stronger tools for enforcing existing mental health parity laws.
  • Addressing the crisis of hospital emergency room boarding by, among other steps, creating online portals that provide access to real-time data on youth and adults seeking mental health and substance use services and enabling healthcare providers to easily search and find open beds.
  • Implementing the new nationwide 988 hotline that will provide 24/7 suicide prevention and behavioral health crisis services.
  • Initiating a public awareness campaign about the state’s red flag laws and extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) that limit access to guns for people at risk of hurting themselves or others.
  • Reimbursing mental health providers equitably, with a rate floor that is consistent with primary care.
  • Eliminating prior authorization for mental health acute treatment and stabilization services for adults and children.
  • Creating a standard release form for exchanging confidential mental health and substance use disorder information to facilitate access to treatment for patients with multiple healthcare providers.
  • Increasing access to Emergency Service Programs (ESPs) by requiring health insurance companies to cover ESPs, community-based and recovery-oriented programs that provide behavioral health crisis assessment, intervention, and stabilization services for people with behavioral health needs.
  • Expanding access to the evidence-based Collaborative Care Model by requiring the state-contracted and commercial health plans to cover mental health and substance use disorder benefits offered through the psychiatric collaborative care model.
  • Establishing an Office of Behavioral Health Promotion within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to coordinate all state initiatives that promote mental, emotional, and behavioral health and wellness for Massachusetts residents.
  • Enhancing school-based behavioral health services and programming by creating a statewide technical assistance program to help schools implement school-based behavioral health services.
  • Expanding insurance coverage for vulnerable populations by enabling individuals over 26 years old who live with disabilities to remain on their parents’ health insurance.
  • Creating a roadmap on access to culturally competent care. Paired with the Legislature’s recent investment of $122 million in the behavioral health workforce through loan repayment assistance programs, this roadmap will make great strides toward building a more robust mental healthcare workforce reflective of communities’ needs.
  • Allowing for an interim licensure for Licensed Mental Health Counselors so that they can be reimbursed by insurance for their services while obtaining supervised practice hours towards full licensure and be eligible for state and federal grant and loan forgiveness programs.

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State Legislature Responds Decisively to SCOTUS Decision Overturning Roe v Wade

Recently, the Massachusetts Legislature passed An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care, which protects and expands access to abortion and other reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare in the Commonwealth. This comprehensive legislation affirms Massachusetts’ leadership when it comes to reproductive rights and freedom in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade.

“In the wake of the shocking Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade, it is imperative for the Commonwealth to ensure that abortion providers are fully protected and patients, whether from Massachusetts or other states, have access to the healthcare services they need,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I was proud to join with my House and Senate colleagues in passing this critical legislation to further protect and expand access to reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare in Massachusetts. I’m especially pleased that the final bill includes an amendment I filed during the Senate debate to expand access to medication abortion services on our public college and university campuses to help students overcome the significant barriers to care that many face today.”

This legislation provides legal protections to out-of-state patients, abortion care providers, pharmacists, mental health professionals, insurers and other people involved with the delivery of reproductive health services. It prohibits law enforcement officials from cooperating with out-of-state or federal law enforcement agencies investigating abortion care that is legal in Massachusetts. Healthcare providers and patients will also have the option to countersue over abusive litigation.

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • A requirement that the Department of Public Health issue a standing order enabling all licensed pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception.
  • A requirement that all insurance providers must cover abortion or abortion-related care without imposing any out-of-pocket costs on patients.
  • A requirement that all public colleges and universities in the Commonwealth must either provide medication abortion access for their students or be able to refer them to another provider.
  • Affirmation of the right to gender-affirming healthcare in the Commonwealth, in case the Supreme Court were to also strip away LGBTQ+ protections in the future.
  • Clarification of the language included in the 2020 ROE Act regarding circumstances when a patient may seek an abortion later in pregnancy.

An Act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care received final passage by the Massachusetts House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Baker on July 29, 2022.

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Major Climate And Clean Energy Bill

(BOSTON) The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate recently passed a sweeping climate and clean energy bill, which was signed into law by Governor Baker on August 11, 2022. Known as An Act driving clean energy and offshore wind, this legislation bolsters green transportation, green buildings, and clean power production, including offshore wind and solar, while creating thousands of new jobs and economic benefits for the Commonwealth. The bill builds upon previous efforts by the state legislature and will help ensure that Massachusetts achieves its goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Massachusetts is a national and global leader in combating climate change and shifting our economy away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy like offshore wind and solar,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “But the scale and urgency of the climate challenges we face demand that we rapidly expand our burgeoning offshore wind energy industry and accelerate efforts to green our transportation sector and buildings. I’m grateful to my legislative colleagues, especially Senator Barrett and Representative Roy, and all the climate activists who worked so hard to ensure passage of this critical legislation.”

Some of the highlights of the many provisions in this comprehensive legislation include:

  • Establishes a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Industry Investment Program and Offshore Wind Industry Investment Trust Fund, designed to support and incentivize investment in offshore wind energy, including the local manufacturing of supply chain components, advanced clean energy research, and workforce development initiatives.
  • Modifies the existing price cap for offshore wind energy development bids to encourage greater competition, with preference given to bids that invest in local manufacturing, provide employment opportunities for underrepresented populations, and mitigate environmental impacts.
  • Establishes a commercial fisheries commission to provide input on best practices for minimizing impacts to wildlife related to offshore wind energy generation and transmission.
  • Supports the expansion of solar power by permitting agricultural and horticultural land to be used to site solar panels as long as they do not impede the continued use of the land for agricultural or horticultural use, eliminating the so-called ‘donut hole’ for on-site solar energy net metering to promote residential solar, and loosening the so-called single parcel rule to help expand solar on sites where it already exists.
  • Requires utility companies to proactively upgrade and modernize the transmission and distribution grid to improve reliability and resilience and accommodate the anticipated significant shift to renewable forms of energy.
  • Increases rebates under the state’s MOR-EV electric vehicle incentive program. The rebate amount will increase to $3,500 for passenger cars and light-duty trucks, and electric vehicle purchasers who trade in their emission-producing vehicles will be eligible for an additional incentive of $1,000. The bill also takes steps to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Requires all electricity companies to submit proposals to DPU for how they will offer reduced electricity rates for consumers who charge their zero-emission vehicles at off-peak times. 
  • Requires every passenger bus that is purchased or leased by the MBTA to be a zero-emission vehicle starting in 2030. By the end of 2040, the MBTA will be required to operate exclusively zero-emission vehicles. Underserved and low-income communities must be prioritized for the equitable deployment of these zero-emission buses.
  • Creates a demonstration project for up to 10 cities or towns, by local option, to require all-electric building construction. In order to participate, a municipality must also meet certain affordable housing or multifamily development thresholds.
  • Makes a number of enhancements to the Mass Save program, which provides rebates and incentives for owners and renters related to efficient appliances and other home energy improvements.

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Senator Lewis Secures $200,000 in State Funding for Triangle, Inc

State Senator Jason Lewis led the effort to secure $200,000 in funding for Triangle’s School to Career Program as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget. This funding will support efforts that connect special education students with disabilities to services designed to enhance their job and career opportunities and enrich their local communities.

Triangle, Inc. is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Malden that empowers people with disabilities and their families to enjoy rich, fulfilling lives. Triangle was established in 1971 by business leaders and families who believe we are all people with ability. In FY21 they provided job training, placement, and support services to more than 300 individuals with intellectual disabilities, and they provided services to 1,022 students with disabilities through partnerships with more than forty school districts.

“Every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and to have the opportunity to live up to their full potential,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m very pleased to have been able to assist Triangle with securing state funding that supports such an important and worthy program.”

“As members and advocates of the disability community, Triangle, Inc is deeply appreciative of Sen. Lewis’ and the Legislature’s efforts to secure this critical funding. We have seen firsthand the impact that the pandemic has had on students with disabilities and the transition from academic environments into the workforce. These funds will help us to support these students as they explore their career goals and obtain dignified and fair employment opportunities,” said Coleman Nee, CEO of Triangle, Inc.

The FY23 state budget was enacted by both branches of the legislature in July and has been signed into law by Governor Baker.

Senator Lewis Applauds Passage of Bills to Advance Animal Welfare

State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass several bills that promote and advance animal welfare in the Commonwealth. Senator Lewis has long been a champion for preventing animal cruelty, including the successful passage of protections for farm animals against cruel confinement systems.

The first bill passed by the Senate is S.2992 An Act protecting research animals, commonly known as the Beagle Bill, which encourages research facilities that use dogs and cats to offer these animals up for adoption after finishing research, rather than automatically euthanizing them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nationally more than 60,000 dogs, almost all beagles, and nearly 20,000 cats are used each year to advance scientific research and to test cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and other household products. Currently, many research labs choose to automatically euthanize these cats and dogs once their experiments are over. This legislation facilitates a relationship between animal research laboratories and registered non-profit animal rescue organizations and requires that when these animals are no longer needed, the research facilities make every effort to place animals up for public adoption.

 The second bill is S.2994 An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns which ensures the safety of puppies and kittens during breeding, sale, and boarding. As separating puppies and kittens from their mother and litter prior to completion of their eight-week developmental socialization stage prevents them from learning important behaviors such as bite inhibition and the development of proper social relations with other members of their species, this bill prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under eight weeks of age. To promote the continued wellbeing of puppies and kittens in group settings, this legislation tasks the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) with creating Massachusetts’ first state-wide oversight regulations and licensure requirements for breeders, doggie daycare, and boarding facilities. The bill also ends the sale of animals on roadsides, parking lots, flea markets, or in other public spaces.  

“As an animal welfare advocate and pet owner, I was very pleased to support the passage in the Senate of these two important bills,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “They will build on progress already made to ensure the humane treatment, health, and safety of animals in Massachusetts.” 

An Act protecting research animals has passed both branches of the legislature and been signed into law by Governor Baker. An Act protecting the health and safety of puppies and kittens in cities and towns is now pending in the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Senator Lewis and Representative Donato Secure $60,000 in State Funding for Sustainable Fells Campaign   

BOSTON— State Senator Jason Lewis, State Representative Paul Donato, and members of the state legislature’s Middlesex Fells Caucus successfully advocated for a $60,000 earmark for the Friends of the Fells as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget. This funding will support increased safety and responsible stewardship of the Middlesex Fells Reservation.

Senator Lewis and Representative Donato serve as the co-chairs of the Middlesex Fells Caucus. The other members of the caucus include: Senators Brendan Crighton and Pat Jehlen, and Representatives Christine Barber, Michael Day, Sean Garballey, Kate Lipper-Garabedian, and Steven Ultrino. The goal of the caucus is to advocate for funding and policies that promote conservation and provide sustainable recreational opportunities for all to enjoy the Middlesex Fells. The caucus works closely with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) which manages the Fells, as well as the Friends of the Fells and other stakeholder groups. 

“The Middlesex Fells is a wonderful resource available to our communities, but it faces a variety of challenges, including balancing recreational opportunities for all with responsible stewardship,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m excited that this state funding will help support the Sustainable Fells campaign being rolled out by the Friends of the Fells.”

“The Fells is an amazing resource for our communities. This funding will ensure that visitors to this state park feel safe while visiting, and also provide resources to ensure that the Fells is protected and healthy for generations to come,” said Representative Paul Donato

“This award will boost our collaboration with DCR, state and municipal police, elected officials, and nonprofit partners to promote a culture in the Middlesex Fells where everyone is welcome, visitors feel safe, and opportunities are provided for park guests to actively participate in preserving the nature and wildlife in the Fells for future generations,” said Friends of the Fells Executive Director Chris Redfern.

The FY23 state budget was enacted by both branches of the legislature in mid-July and signed into law by Governor Baker on July 28th.

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