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Mass. caucus of female legislators ushers in new session

The 191st legislative session of the Massachusetts General Court is underway on Beacon Hill with a record number of women represented in the first year class. The House of Representatives welcomes 12 women among its 23 new legislators. In the Senate, three of the five newly elected Senators are women, the office of Sen. Cindy Friedman reports.friedman column

 The Senate is led by its third female President, Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), and Representative Patricia A. Haddad (D-Somerset) resumes the role of Speaker Pro-Tempore in the House, a position she has held since 2011. Women legislators now comprise 28.5 percent of the Massachusetts legislature. The previous high point reached last in 2009 (as well as 2003, 2000, and 1999) was 52 women or 26 percent of the legislature.

The Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators, is chaired this session by Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston). The Caucus’ Board of Directors also includes: Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) as vice chairs, Representative Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston) as treasurer, Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Representative Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury), Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), and Representative Carole Fiola (D-Fall River).

“As Senate chair of the caucus, I look forward to working with caucus members to push our agenda forward and elevate important issues that impact the well-being of women across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman. “I am encouraged and hopeful that we can build on the success of last session to accomplish many of our shared goals this session.”

The Caucus has convened four task forces to examine the following issues: sexual assault, led by Representatives Ehrlich and Farley-Bouvier; preterm birth and maternal health, led by Speaker Pro-Tempore Haddad; justice- involved women, led by Representatives Khan and Barber, the latter of whom also spearheads the caucus bylaw review process.

At the start of the New Year, the caucus was pleased to see the passage of a long-time priority, An Act providing for equitable coverage in disability policies, an initiative championed by Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton). This law prohibits gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. Following that strong start, the caucus named seven priorities for the new session. 

The caucus continues to prioritize combating sexual assault on college campuses and express strong support for H.1208/S.736, An Act requiring sexual misconduct climate surveys at institutions of higher education. The Joint Committee on Higher Education will publicly hear the bill on Tuesday, April 9.

Other caucus priorities include: 

    • S.980, An Act amending the statute of limitations regarding criminal prosecutions of the crimes of sexual assault and rape of child;
    • S.24/H.1478, An Act to end child marriage in Massachusetts;
    • H.3332, An Act relative to the penalties for the crime of female genital mutilation;
    • S.408/H.639, An Act supporting parents running for public office;
    • H.1182, An Act relative to Medicaid coverage for doula services; and
    • S.1082/H.1617, An Act requiring one fair wage.   

Senator Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7.

This news release was published Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Friedman calls on MBTA to rescind fare-hike proposal

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently submitted a letter opposing the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board’s recent proposal to institute a 6.3-percent fare hike for T and commuter rail passengers.

“This is unacceptable for the roughly half a million people who need to travel to and from the greater Boston area each day to get to their jobs,” Friedman said in a March 8 news release provided by her office. “We should focus our efforts on fixing the T and commuter rail system so that it is more appealing to riders, rather than implementing unnecessary fare hikes that will discourage ridership further.”

A new study confirmed that Boston experiences the worst traffic in the country. Public transit ridership has decreased in recent years due to unreliable and inaccessible transit service options.

In her letter, Friedman points out that imposing fare hikes will only exacerbate this problem by forcing more people to drive to and from work, further congesting traffic, polluting the air and stressing our roads and bridges.

Instead of asking riders to pay more as a means to generate more MBTA revenue, Friedman’s letter outlines several alternative proposals that would help accumulate revenue to support transit service without negatively impacting riders.

Among those proposed alternatives is Senator Friedman’s recently filed bill, S.1664, the continuation of the tax on transportation network companies.

Friedman also expresses support in her letter for indexing the gas tax to inflation and implementing some type of congestion pricing, which some experts believe is one of the more effective ways to reduce traffic congestion and encourage public transit ridership. In 2017, drivers in greater Boston spent 14 percent of their time in congestion traffic according to a study released last year. The study showed that those drivers lost $2,086 each in combined direct (i.e., wasted fuel and time) and indirect (i.e., reduced business productivity) costs while sitting in traffic.

“With so many alternative proposals out there, imposing fare hikes that place an unnecessary burden on working families who rely solely on the T or commuter rail to get to their jobs is simply not the answer,” Friedman said. “Transportation is a public good and it should not only be available to those who can afford it.”

Friedman serves on the Joint Committee on Transportation, and represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.

This news announcement, which includes Friedman's viewpoint, was published Friday, March 8, 2019.

Friedman named chair of health-care financing, Ways and Means vice chair

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman has been was named Senate cochair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing by Senate President Karen E. Spilka for the 2019-2020 legislative session, which began in January. The committee will consider all matters concerning the direct funding of health-care programs and any other Medicaid or public-health-assistance matters, and fiscal issues relating to health care.

Friedman was also named vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, where she will work closely with recently appointed Senate Ways and Means chair Senator Michael J. Rodrigues and fellow committee members to prepare the state's annual budget and oversee all other legislation related to the spending of state funds.

“I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve on these important committees,” said Friedman in a Feb. 14 news release. “I am incredibly grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka for placing her trust in me with these duties and am excited to get to work. I look forward to a productive, impactful and successful legislative session with my colleagues as we continue to fight for key policy initiatives on behalf of our constituents.”

In addition, she will serve as a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery, the Joint Committee on Transportation, the Senate Committee on Rules, and the Senate Committee on Ethics.

This news announcement was published Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.

Friedman: Senate bills eye financial literacy, pipeline safety, increased benefits

The following was provided by Kristina Gaffny, aide to Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, on Jan. 4, 2019.

On Dec. 31, the Massachusetts State Senate closed out the 2017-2018 legislative session with action on a number of bills, spanning such issues as public safety, education and consumer data protection. The Senate also passed a supplemental budget designed to address time-sensitive funding needs.

“I’m proud of all that we were able to accomplish together in the Senate this session,” Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, said in a Jan. 4 news release. “I want to thank all of my colleagues, especially Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, for working hard until the final minutes of 2018 to enhance public safety, improve education, and protect consumers. I look forward to building on the work we did this session.”

In response to public safety concerns raised by the Merrimack Valley gas fires, the Senate enacted legislation that requires all utilities to engage a professional engineer to review utility work plans. This follows a bill, signed by the Governor yesterday, that extends unemployment insurance benefits for workers locked out by National Grid for 26 weeks, or until the lockout ends, whichever comes first.

Another public safety measure the Senate enacted is a bill that would protect children, families and firefighters from the dangers of toxic chemical flame retardants. The retail sale of many children’s products and household items with treated foam will be restricted after June 1, 2019, under this bill. These chemicals are often unnecessarily added to foam products and accumulate as dust in our homes; when they burn, their toxic fumes are harmful to human health, endangering firefighters and first responders.

The Senate approved final passage of a consumer data protection bill, known as the ‘Equifax’ bill, which helps consumers protect their private information through free security freezes, free credit monitoring when a credit reporting agency is breached, and requires prior consent from an agency to access a consumer’s report, as well an explanation for the disclosure.

To better serve the needs of our students, the Senate passed a bill that allows for the establishment of standards for students in kindergarten through grade 12 on personal financial literacy. The bill also permits educational institutions to incorporate personal financial literacy standards into existing mathematics, social science, technology, business, or other curricula. The Senate also passed an initiative that improves governance and oversight of educational collaboratives and allows them to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities over the age of 22 in certain circumstances.

In addition, the Senate took action to end gender discrimination in disability insurance, bringing it into line with insurance provided by employers and subject to federal nondiscrimination law. It also passed a supplemental budget to provide sufficient funding to cover line of duty benefits for the year.

The end-of-session activity follows the recent passage of a new law designed to regulate and tax short-term rentals, while creating a framework in which this innovative industry segment can grow.

Bills passed by both the House and Senate will be sent to the governor, who has ten days to sign them into law. The 2019-2020 legislative session officially began on Jan. 2, 2018.

This column was republished Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong


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