Senator Lewis to Host Forum on Teen Dating Violence and Sexual Assault

Continuing his “Community Conversations” discussion series, Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to host an upcoming conversation on education, prevention and survivor support strategies in the challenging areas of teen dating violence and sexual assault. “Community Conversations” are issue discussions delving into a different timely 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: Teen Dating Violence and Sexual Assault — will take place on Wednesday, November 14, at 6:00pm. The event will occur at Memorial Hall, 590 Main St, Melrose, and is free and open to the public. Attendees will hear from Melrose Alliance Against Violence Executive Director Rebecca Mooney, anti-violence advocate Dr. Malcolm Astley, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Education Mark Bergeron-Naper, with introductory remarks from Senator Lewis, State Representative Paul Brodeur, and Melrose Mayor Gail Infurna. Senator Lewis is the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

This forum will offer the chance to hear directly from advocates and experts about the salient and challenging topics of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and sexual violence. Director Mooney will discuss the teen dating violence public awareness initiatives undertaken by the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, and Dr. Astley will share his real-world experience with teen dating violence and the important advocacy efforts he has undertaken to educate youth, especially young men, about consent and violence prevention. Director Bergeron-Naper will give insight into his work coordinating the prevention and education initiatives in the Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Services Division of the Massachusetts DPH Bureau of Community Health & Prevention. There will be ample opportunity for Q&A from attendees.

The forum is co-sponsored by Mayor Gail Infurna, State Representative Paul Brodeur, the Melrose Alliance Against Violence, the Stoneham Alliance Against Violence, the Wakefield Alliance Against Violence, and the Winchester Coalition for a Safer Community.

Previous “Community Conversations” forums have addressed topics including: public education; public transportation; small business and entrepreneurship; challenges facing senior citizens and caregivers; veterans’ issues; mental health; housing; energy policy and environmental priorities; and, efforts to combat substance abuse and opioid addiction in our region.

Senator Lewis Supports Passage of Budget Bill Investing in Local Priorities

BOSTON, MA – The Massachusetts Legislature passed a budget bill which invests in local community priorities, such as school security, road and bridge repairs, and municipal snow and ice removal relief, in addition to responsibly contributing to the state’s “rainy day” stabilization fund and supporting other fiscal and policy priorities. Senator Jason Lewis supported the legislation’s passage.

“The budget bill will support our towns and cities with essential funding for local road repairs and school security, delivering the support that our communities need from the state” said Senator Jason Lewis. “At the same time, the bill invests substantially in our rainy day fund to make sure that our state is prepared to meet any future economic downturn without interruptions to crucial state services and programs.”

The supplemental budget includes $40 million in Chapter 90 funding for roads and bridges, and $32 million for snow and ice removal.

The budget bill directs $7.5 million to the Executive Office of Education to establish an infrastructure grant program to assist public schools in enhancing safety and security measures by upgrading or retrofitting school buildings. The program would pay for, among other things, classroom door locks, security cameras or active shooter detection systems. The grant funding will also assist school districts in contracting with licensed community-based mental and behavioral health service providers for services in public schools.

The supplemental budget also deposits $240 million into the state “rainy day” stabilization fund, pushing that account’s balance past $2 billion and leaving the Commonwealth better prepared for any future economic downturn or major revenue loss.

The supplemental budget bill is on Governor Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

Column: Celebrating the Tri-Community Greenway

You may have noticed a brand new recreational trail coming to life over the past year. The new 6.6 mile Tri-Community Greenway starts at Ginn Field in Winchester and ends at Recreation Park in Stoneham. The paths are paved, the crosswalks are painted, and the markers are set. Just a few more weeks of work remain before the trail is fully complete and officially open!
There were many times in this project’s 30 year history when reaching this milestone seemed nearly impossible. As each obstacle was overcome another one soon presented itself. It is a testament to the dedication, determination, and hard work of the “true believers” through the years that the vision of the Tri-Community Greenway has finally been realized.

I hope that, one day, a book will be written about the history of this project with its many twists and turns. I will only share a brief summary here. When my involvement with the project began in 2008, after I was first elected state representative, the plans for the Tri-Community Greenway had already been underway since the early 1980s. At that time, the Town of Stoneham acquired a long unused section of the former Boston and Maine railroad from the MBTA, with the understanding that this land would be devoted to public recreational use. Soon after, Stoneham resident Cameron Bain began his quest to convert this property into a multi-use recreational path that could be enjoyed by all members of the community. In the mid 1990s, Winchester resident Jill Behrens wrote her graduate thesis on the restoration of a Winchester greenway along the banks of the Aberjona River. In 1999, Winchester, Stoneham, and Woburn came together and signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the design and construction of the aptly named Tri-Community Greenway and Bikeway. The project design took more than a decade as numerous challenges were faced and gradually overcome. Finally, in late 2016 the design was completed and MassDOT put the project out to bid. Construction began in the spring of 2017 and is expected to be finished very soon. The total design and construction costs of more than $6 million were funded by state and federal transportation dollars.

I believe that this investment of time and money will prove to be very worthwhile. The Tri-Community Greenway will offer significant and lasting benefits for the residents of our communities, and will be an invaluable resource for the entire region. Connecting transportation hubs, schools, businesses, municipal buildings, parks, playgrounds, and neighborhoods, this path will offer wonderful new recreational opportunities for families, provide an environmentally friendly means of transportation, create new opportunities for exercise and wellness, and promote local economic development.

The Tri-Community Greenway has always been a collaborative effort, and many people contributed their time and talent along the way. We owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone who made this project possible, particularly Cameron Bain and Winchester Town Engineer Beth Rudolph. Thank you!

I hope to see you out soon walking, jogging, cycling, roller blading, skate boarding, pushing a stroller, or just relaxing on a bench as you enjoy the new Tri-Community Greenway.

State Legislature Invests in Municipal Police Training in Massachusetts

BOSTON – The state legislature passed An Act relative to the municipal police training fund and the bill was recently signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker. This legislation creates a new, dedicated funding stream to ensure that municipal police officers get all the specialized training they need without burdening already stretched local budgets.

The bill received strong bipartisan support from our area delegation, including Senator Jason Lewis and Representatives Paul Brodeur, Mike Day, Paul Donato, Brad Jones, Steve Ultrino, and Donald Wong.

“Our municipal police departments have a very difficult job to do and officers must respond to many challenging situations every day, including individuals who may be in the midst of a mental health or substance use crisis,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Majority Whip. “It is critical that we provide our police officers with the best possible training and this legislation will ensure that the necessary resources are available to do so.”

The new law creates a $2 car rental surcharge that will be deposited in a dedicated Municipal Police Training Fund. The surcharge is expected to generate approximately $8 million annually. Certain car rentals will be exempt from the surcharge, including rentals lasting less than 12 hours and ride-sharing services offered through companies like Uber and Lyft.

This new funding stream will be used to support basic training for new police recruits, as well as mandatory in-service training and other specialized training for police officers across the Commonwealth. It will reduce the fiscal burden that police training currently places on municipalities, and enable the expansion of specialized training for police officers.

“More than ever before, our police officers need specialized training and professional development to make sure that they are ready to meet the challenges of their daily work,” said Wakefield Chief of Police Richard Smith. “It’s great to see the Commonwealth creating a dedicated revenue stream for police training so that our officers can get the training they need, even when local budgets are limited.”

Senator Lewis Applauds Passage of the BRAVE Act, Improving Benefits & Services for Veterans, Active Military Members & Families

BOSTON — Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce the passage of the “BRAVE Act,” a new law that will expand benefits and increase access to a range of services for veterans, active-duty military and their families.

Understanding the sacrifice that military personnel and their families make not only while on active duty, but also after returning home, the Massachusetts Legislature has consistently prioritized passage of legislation that supports our veterans.

“This comprehensive veteran’s legislation will assist veterans and their families with employment protections, housing assistance, burial expenses, court programs, and medical care, while also expanding honors and recognition for veterans and service members,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Majority Whip.  “I’m proud that Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in supporting and caring for our veterans.”

The bill grants paid military leave for those called to duty by the armed forces for up to 40 days for training and operation purposes.

To help ease the costs of housing, the legislation changes the requirement for veterans to receive property tax exemptions from residing in the Commonwealth for five years down to two years.  It also increases the amount a veteran can earn on their property tax exemption for volunteering in their city or town.

The BRAVE Act increases the burial expense paid by the Commonwealth from $2,000 to $4,000 for indigent veterans to receive to adequately provide for a dignified funeral. It also exempts any veterans who receive annuities for service to their country from income calculations when applying for state programs or services.

The bill also:

  • Addresses emergency medical transportation reimbursements;
  • Revises the Veteran Court Diversion program;
  • Updates the veteran bonus program at the State Treasurer’s Office;
  • Designates the 5th day of April as Gold Star Wives Day and the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mothers and Families Day
  • Directs cities and towns to designate veteran specific parking spaces and city and town halls;
  • Provides veterans time off, with or without pay, at the discretion of the employer, for Memorial and Veterans Day so they can take part in ceremonies in their community;
  • Establishes several studies and analysis regarding higher education, incarcerated veterans, creditable service and National Guard recognition.

The BRAVE Act was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on August 9, 2018.

Senator Lewis Seeks Applicants for Citizens’ Legislative Seminar in October

BOSTON — Senator Jason Lewis announced that he is seeking nominees to participate in the 81st Citizens’ Legislative Seminar (CLS) to be held October 23 and October 24 at the State House in Boston.  CLS is a semi-annual educational seminar geared towards adults of all ages interested in learning more about state government and the legislative process.

“Civic engagement and education have never been more important than they are today,” said Senator Jason Lewis, who recently celebrated the passage of a major civics education bill in the State Legislature. “When community members educate themselves about government and get involved, it makes our towns, cities and state better places to live, work, and participate in community life.”

Established in 1976 through a collaborative effort of the Massachusetts Senate and the University of Massachusetts, Boston, the two-day seminar features engaging presentations by Senators and staff on aspects of the day-to-day experience of legislators in the Commonwealth. Topics will include the history and process of the Legislature, the State Budget, the parliamentary role of the Clerk of the Senate and the future of the Legislature. The Seminar will walk participants through the legislative process including how bills are introduced, debated, and passed.

The Citizens’ Legislative Seminar is part of the Massachusetts Senate’s ongoing effort to increase civic engagement and open up the democratic process. It’s the perfect chance to come and gain an insider’s perspective from elected officials and staff on how the legislature works.

The CLS culminates with a simulated legislative hearing and Senate session where participants are invited to use what they have learned and participate as “Senators” in the Senate Chamber in order to have a first-hand experience of the legislative process.

Interested residents of the 5th Middlesex District— Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield and Winchester— are invited to contact Senator Lewis’s office to register their interest, by phone at (617) 722-1206 and by email at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. The deadline to be nominated by Senator Lewis is Wednesday, September 5. Seats are limited and nominations will be taken on a first come, first serve basis.

Economic Development Bill Signed into Law, Including Non-Compete Reforms Championed by Senator Jason Lewis

BOSTON — The state legislature enacted a sweeping economic development bill which was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker earlier this month. The bill includes long-sought reforms championed by Senator Jason Lewis to the enforcement of non-compete agreements in Massachusetts.

Non-compete agreements restrict where somebody can work, for a certain period of time, after leaving their current employer. Many people believe that they are unfair to workers and their families, and that they also hurt our economy by sapping innovation and restricting labor mobility. Originally limited mainly to the high tech industry, their usage in other industries, including the lower-wage service sector, has become more widespread in recent years.

“This economic development legislation will strengthen our economy for all workers, and I’m particularly pleased that it includes significant reforms to non-compete agreements,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “These contracts can prevent workers from earning a living and stifle our innovation economy. I greatly appreciate all the hard work that finally got this very important legislation across the finish line.”

The non-compete reforms include the outright ban on the enforcement of non-compete agreements against low-wage workers and workers who are laid off. In cases where non-competes will still be allowed, they will now be restricted in length and scope. Workers will have to be paid a portion of their previous salary during the period of time they are unable to work in their field, and they will also have other new protections.

In addition to non-compete reforms, the economic development bill authorizes 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 that will support thousands of jobs rebuilding local roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and completing community revitalization projects
  • $500 million in local economic development aid to our cities and towns
  • $2.5 million to support the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund to strengthen capabilities to address cybersecurity threats.

The legislation also established a two-day sales tax holiday weekend, which took place on August 11 and 12 ahead of the back-to-school shopping season.

Governor Baker Signs into Law Comprehensive Bill to Combat Opioid Epidemic, With Support from Senator Jason Lewis

BOSTON –The Massachusetts legislature recently passed An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction and Governor Baker has signed the bill into law. This legislation builds upon earlier efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, and further establishes Massachusetts as a national leader in efforts to strengthen education, prevention, treatment, and addiction recovery.

“The passage of this vital legislation marks another step forward in addressing the devastating opioid epidemic in our communities,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Health. “I’m grateful for the extensive input of patients, medical professionals, law enforcement, public health experts, community members and other stakeholders in the development of this legislation to ensure that it is as comprehensive and effective as possible in strengthening addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health earlier this year estimated there were 1,977 opioid-related overdose deaths in the state last year. This number is down 8 percent from the 2,155 deaths in 2016. To continue to reduce the number of overdose deaths and reduce opioid addiction rates, the legislation 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.

“Our communities are being deeply harmed by the opioid crisis and substance use disorder, and we all know a neighbor, friend or loved one who has been hurt, sometimes irreparably, by addiction,” said Paul Hammersley, City of Malden Addiction Recovery Resource Specialist. “We need to continue to take strong action on all fronts to fight back against this epidemic and equip people in Massachusetts with all available tools to accomplish that goal. I’m glad that the state legislature has taken this important step.”

Under this bill, someone who receives treatment in an emergency room for an opioid overdose will now have the opportunity to begin treatment for their substance use disorder before they leave the care of the emergency department. The bill requires that all emergency facilities have the capacity to initiate voluntary SUD treatment, including opioid agonist treatment, after treatment for overdose.

Opioid agonist treatment commonly includes the use of Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, which is an evidence-based treatment that eases the symptoms of withdrawal and relieves opioid cravings. It can be administered as early as 8 to 24 hours after a patient’s last exposure to an opioid. This timetable allows treatment to begin in the emergency department soon after an overdose, when someone with a SUD may be most willing to consider treatment. They will also receive a direct referral to a provider in the community who can continue their treatment regimen after they return home.

The legislation also directs the Department of Public Health to issue a statewide standing order authorizing every pharmacy in the state to dispense naloxone (narcan), eliminating the current requirement that each pharmacy obtain an individual authorization, and making this life-saving medication even more widely available.

In addition, this legislation recognizes the important role that recovery coaches play in successful long-term addiction and mental illness treatment by creating a commission to recommend standards for establishing a professional credential for recovery coaches as an important step toward formalizing the role that they play in the pathway to treatment and recovery.

The bill also creates a community-based Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund to support and promote positive mental, emotional and behavioral health among children and young adults and to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults.

To reduce fraud and drug diversion, and improve tracking and data collection, the bill requires that by 2020 all prescribers convert to electronic prescriptions for all controlled substance prescriptions.

Senator Lewis Champions Alzheimer’s & Dementia Bill Sent to Governor

BOSTON – The Massachusetts House and Senate Senate took historic steps to address the Alzheimer’s and dementia healthcare crisis in the Commonwealth voting to pass an Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the Commonwealth. The legislation, championed in the Senate by Senator Jason Lewis, marks major progress in supporting individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia, their families, and their caretakers.

“The Massachusetts Alzheimer’s and Dementia Act is critical for the hundreds of thousands of people in our state affected by these diseases,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Committee on Public Health. “We all know a friend, neighbor or loved one who has been touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia, and it is clearer than ever that the growing healthcare crisis requires bold and compassionate response and mitigation.”

More than 130,000 people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease in Massachusetts—those individuals are being cared for by more than 337,000 family and friends. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018 Massachusetts will spend more than $1.6 billion in Medicaid costs caring for people with Alzheimer’s.

In 2017, Senator Lewis convened a special legislative hearing on the Alzheimer’s and dementia healthcare crisis. Advocates from around Massachusetts testified about the real challenges produced by dementia. This hearing was a catalyst for legislative action in the House and the Senate, as elected officials learned more about devastating toll of Alzheimer’s: not just on those with the disease, but also on their families and caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of caregivers rate the emotional stress as high or very high, and about 40 percent suffer from depression.

“Alzheimer’s is the single largest unaddressed public health threat in the 21st century and we remain on the front lines of this crisis every day here in the Commonwealth,” shared Daniel Zotos, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. “This legislation follows in the tradition of Massachusetts being a national leader in health care and we commend the Legislature for ensuring everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s gets the quality care and support they deserve.”

The legislation helps patients and their families receive better, more comprehensive care. Caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s is an energy- and time-intensive endeavor and when medical emergencies occur for unrelated conditions, people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias often fare poorly in the acute care setting. This bill helps ensure that caseworkers, medical providers and hospital administrators and staff better understand Alzheimer’s disease so that they can provide the best treatment possible for patients and clients who are brought to them.

An Act relative to Alzheimer’s and related dementias in the Commonwealth supports individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families by:

  • Tasking the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to develop and assess all state programs that address Alzheimer’s and create recommendations and implementation steps to address issues related to Alzheimer’s
  • Creating an advisory council for Alzheimer’s disease research & treatment
  • Requiring that all protective service caseworkers receive training on recognizing signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s
  • Requiring that all doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses who serve adult populations complete a one-time course of training on diagnosis, treatment and care of people with Alzheimer’s
  • Requiring physicians to report an initial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to a member of a patient’s family (or a personal representative) and provide the family with information about understanding the diagnosis, creating care plans, and accessing medical and non-medical treatment options
  • Requiring hospitals to create and implement an operational plan for the recognition of patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and treatment for those patients.

The bill now sits on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.

Massachusetts Senate Invests in Environmental Protection, with Senator Lewis’s Support

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate passed An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection, and investment in recreational assets and opportunity. The legislation authorizes investment in climate change adaptation programs and improvements to existing climate resilient infrastructure.

Massachusetts has continually demonstrated leadership in the fight against global climate change, and the investments authorized in this legislation ensure that cities and towns across the Commonwealth are protected and that public spaces and infrastructure are improved and maintained for the public good.

“With this important legislation, we further demonstrate our commitment to fighting climate change and preserving and protecting our environment and infrastructure,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Massachusetts continues to lead in environmental stewardship, and the provisions of this bill will ensure that our state remains a desirable, healthy and safe place to work and live.

This bill authorizes the issuance of up to just under $2.2 billion in bonds for projects relating to climate change adaptation and the preservation and improvement of the Commonwealth’s existing environmental and energy assets. These authorizations include funding for projects such as: coastal infrastructure and resiliency improvements; dam and seawall projects; water and air quality protections; hazardous materials cleanup and response; river and wetland restoration programs; agricultural, economic and environmental sustainability and preservation; natural resource protection; improvements to coastal and inland waterways; improvements to roads, trails and bridges, and investment in and acquisition of property for trail purposes; tree planting on publicly-owned land; and protection of Article 97 land.

Senator Lewis successfully sponsored several amendments to secure $6 million in funding for projects in the 5th Middlesex District, including:

  • Lights, markers and other safety measures for the Tri-Community Greenway in Stoneham and Winchester
  • Improvements to Fellsmere Park, a historic park designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, in Malden
  • Upgrades to trails, signage and other improvements in the Middlesex Fells Reservation
  • Improvements to Hunt Park, Memorial Park, Washington Park, Symmonds Way and Sturges Park in Reading
  • Design for the proposed Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail
  • Dredging Winter Pond in Winchester in order to provide safety and environmental improvements
  • Dredging and remediation of First Pond at Mount Hood Golf Course in Melrose

These projects are subject to final approval and release of funds by the Baker administration.

“With every record setting blizzard, every flooded T station, and every endangered species, we experience the effects of climate change in real time,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler. “The legislation that we passed today represents the Massachusetts Senate’s commitment to climate preparedness and the preservation of the Commonwealth’s ecosystems and open spaces.”

Additionally, the bill requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to: (i) coordinate to strengthen resilience and prepare for the impacts of climate change; (ii) publish, every five years, an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan; (iii) establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments that will be incorporated into the state plan; and (iv) implement the state plan and incorporate information learned from implementing the state plan in plan updates.

Photo credit: Melikamp, Middlesex Fells, between South and Middle Reservoirs, 10/25/09