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House backs Rogers' bill supporting pregnant workers

Dave Rogers

The state House of Representatives has unanimously passed H3659, seeking fairness for Massachusetts pregnant workers, filed by Rep. Dave Rogers of the 24th Middlesex District. The experiences of pregnant workers around the Commonwealth reveal the need for legislation to ensure their rights.

This act, adopted May 10, adds pregnancy and its related conditions to existing employment nondiscrimination laws. The bill also makes it unlawful for an employer to deny a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy or pregnancy related condition.

"While I have passed other legislation," Rogers said in an email, "this is the most significant piece of legislation that I introduced that has passed the House, and all indications are that it will pass the Senate and be signed by the governor. In fact, the governor was quoted as saying that he will sign it."

Under the law, accommodations may include more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, light duty, assistance with manual labor, temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous positions, a modified work schedule and private nonbathroom space for expressing breast milk.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also would protect pregnant workers seeking accommodation from retaliation from their employer, prevent denial of opportunities based on the need for accommodation, and protect women from being required to take leave from their jobs if a reasonable accommodation can be made.

In a news release, Rogers said, "Today, once again, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has acted boldly to advance the cause of civil rights, women’s rights, and equal opportunity. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill I introduced, makes clear that women seeking a reasonable accommodation from their employers for certain conditions or needs related to their pregnancy must be treated fairly.  

"I thank Speaker DeLeo for his strong leadership, the 99 of my House colleagues who cosponsored this legislation and the many courageous women who stepped forward to tell their stories while the bill was under consideration as -- together -- we send a powerful message in support of equal opportunity in our Commonwealth.  It is particularly heartening that Massachusetts is taking this action at a time when many in our national government seem determined to go in the wrong direction on women’s rights."

The act heads to the Senate for consideration.

Rogers has served in the states House of Representative since 2013 and represents the residents of the 24th Middlesex District which includes Belmont and parts of Arlington and Cambridge.


This news announcement was published Friday, May 12, 2017.

House OKs Rogers' bill stiffening penalty for solicitation of felonies

Dave RogersRogers

Legislation filed by state Rep. Dave Rogers aimed at properly punishing soliciting felony crimes unanimously passed the House on Wednesday, June 22.

H4005, adopted on a bipartisan basis, was an almost identical redraft of H1557, a bill by the same name filed at the beginning of the 2015/2016 legislative session by Rogers, a Democrat representing part of Arlington.

Currently in the Commonwealth, the crime of solicitation -- encouraging someone else to commit a crime -- is a misdemeanor, even when the crime being solicited is a serious felony. Solicitation to commit murder can be prosecuted only under the common-law misdemeanor crime of "solicitation of a felony," which provides for a maximum penalty of no more than 2½ years in the House of Correction.

An Act to Properly Punish the Solicitation of Felony Crimes tracks the conspiracy statute to provide appropriate penalties for solicitation based on the crime which is being solicited, a news release says.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court touched on this issue in Commonwealth v. Barsell, 424 Mass. 737 (1997), vacating the state prison sentence for conviction for solicitation to commit murder, on the grounds that solicitation is an offense at common law and thus a misdemeanor.

"The task of revising the schedule of punishments, long overdue though it may be, must be undertaken by the Legislature," the court wrote.

Action on the issue follows the recent and highly publicized case of Andrew Gordon, a North Chelmsford man arrested while trying to hire a hitman to kill both his wife and a police officer

One of the hitmen solicited proved to be an undercover police officer and Gordon was arrested shortly thereafter. Despite his actions, which many have noted are tantamount to two instances of attempted murder, his sentence was only three to five years.

In the release, Rogers said, "Although the largest share of the bills I filed this session reduce penalties and seek to lighten the footprint of a criminal justice system rife with overly burdensome mandatory minimum sentences, when a situation arises where a domestic violence abuser seeks to have his wife killed, I think we can all agree that 2.5 years in a House of Correction simply does not cut it."

The bill heads to the Senate for consideration.


This report based on a news release was published Thursday, June 23, 2016.

Hearing on political-spending amendment held

Ken Donnelly, in 2007

Senate Bill No. S_53, filed by Senator Ken Donnelly, right, Democrat of Arlington, is scheduled to come before the Joint Committee on Election Laws at a public hearing in the State House Tuesday April 28

The bill is based on language crafted by a grassroots citizen group, Pass Mass Amendment, which has been petitioning statewide for an amendment through the ballot initiative process. The amendment declares that "Corporations and not People and may be regulated. Money is not speech and may be regulated."

Donnelly’s Bill S_53 is a companion to the House Bill No. H_933 filed by Rep. Dave Rogers, Democrat of Cambridge, and Paul Mark, Democrat of Peru, Both the citizens’ petition and the State House bills aim to clarify the state Constitution and jump-start the process of amending the U.S. Constitution.

They aim to ensure that citizens’ have equal access to speech, no matter their wealth; and that the individual rights of human inhabitants, protected under the Constitution, are not to be extended to corporations or other associations of individuals created under our laws.

The public is encouraged to attend the hearing for S_53, set for 2 p.m. April 28 in room A-1 at the State House, Boston.

A second hearing was held Wednesday, April 29.


This announcement was published Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Disabilities group names Garballey Legislator of Year

Sean GarballeyThe Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC) honored Rep. Sean Garballey, at left, Democrat of Arlington and West Medford, and state Sen. John Keenan, Democrat of Quincy, with Legislator of the Year awards during its 37th annual legislative reception. House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Democrat of Winthrop, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Democrat of Amherst, presented the awards.

A state representative since 2008, Garballey has led the effort in advocating for increased funding for Department of Developmental Services' (DDS) family support and respite services and DDS Day and employment services. He has also been the legislative sponsor in increasing budgetary support for Turning 22 and was successful in making sure that the program Best Buddies Massachusetts received state budget support.

Last legislative session, he also championed the Real Lives Bill, alongside Rep. Tom Sannicandro, Democrat of Ashland. Garballey serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

"I am both honored and humbled to be recognized as the Legislator of the Year," Garballey said in a news release. "I hope that this event will highlight not only the needs of an underserved population within our Commonwealth, but also the hard work of their family members, and the herculean efforts undertaken by those who work in this field."

Daniel Shannon, executive director of the MDDC, said in the release: "We look forward to this event every year because it provides people with developmental disabilities, their families, advocates, and legislators the opportunity to come together to discuss the issues and legislation that matters most to them. This year, we are especially thrilled to honor Rep. Sean Garballey with our Legislator of the Year award for his continued support of legislation aimed at improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities."

MDDC hosted the legislative reception in conjunction with The Arc of Massachusetts. During the reception, The Arc recognized Keenan. Leo Sarkissian, executive director of The Arc said Keenan "has shown his commitment to persons with disabilities by fighting for access to services and sponsoring amendments to advance policy."

The MDDC is an independent agency, funded by the federal government, dedicated to empowering people with developmental disabilities and their families to enjoy full and productive lives by promoting self-sufficiency, community inclusion and opportunity.

For more information about the council, please visit www.mass.gov/mddc or find us on Facebook. The Arc is a statewide advocacy organization representing 185,000 individuals with 17 chapters in the state. It works to enhance the lives of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.


This announcement was published Monday, March 23, 2015.

Social workers' slaying led to safety bill Garballey helped sponsor

Rep. Garballey at bill signing.Rep. Sean Garballey, left, at bill signing.

A bill filed after social worker Diruhi Mattian, 53, a former Arlington resident, was slain by her patient during a home visit has been signed into law.

Governor Patrick has signed legislation that aims to improve safety in the workplace. Filed by Representative Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, and state Senator Sal DiDomenico, Democrat of Everett, this legislation was in response to recommendations of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Safety Task Force, which convened after the 2008 death of a social worker.

In September 2011, Thomas Belanger, 22, of North Andover, man pleaded guilty in Salem Superior Court to stabbing Mattian to death in February 2008. Belanger had a history of psychiatric issues.

In a news release, Rebekah Gewirtz, director of government relations and political action at the NASW, Mass. chapter, said:

"This law requires all programs providing direct services to clients who are operated by, licensed, certified, or funded by a department or division of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services have a workplace violence prevention and crisis response plan, which is key to keeping social workers and other workers safe in direct care settings."

Plans must be updated at least annually for social workers, human services workers, volunteers and all other employees. In addition, programs that do not have safety training in place shall require their employees to enroll in safety training to be developed and offered by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

DiDomenico said in the release: "Many industries invest tremendous resources into workplace and worker safety. This legislation offers safety protections to employees who are on the front lines of public health, caring for and working with individuals and families who are struggling through troubling and often precarious circumstances. Social workers, human service workers and others who are dedicated to helping those in need should be afforded the same expectations of a safe and secure work environment."

Garballey said: "I am proud to have been able to partner with the National Association of Social Workers on passing legislation that aims to protect our social workers so that they can continue to provide essential services to so many throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz added, "Social worker safety has been a priority for Massachusetts and this law will further enhance our efforts to protect those who are caring for our most vulnerable populations. I thank the legislators and advocates who advanced this legislation to ensure that providers contracting with state agencies have strong workplace safety plans in place."

Stakeholders in the task force included NASW MA, schools of social work, employers across the Commonwealth, union representatives and state departments.  Over the course of two years the group met and ultimately determined it was necessary to file this legislation. These groups said:

    • More than one-half of social workers in Massachusetts have been physically assaulted in a work related incident (assaults range from pushing, hitting, and choking to life-threatening attacks) [1]

    • Eighty-five percent of social workers nationwide report that they have been subject to psychological aggression at some point in their careers [2]

    • Thirty percent have experienced physical assault perpetrated by clients at some point in their careers [3]

The National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the Commonwealth with over 8,300 members.  The mission of the Massachusetts chapter is to advance professional social work practice and the profession and to promote human rights, social and economic justice, and unimpeded access to services to all.

________________________________

[1] Based upon a survey of 1,000 Massachusetts NASW members and review of literature.

[2] Ringstad, R. (2005) Conflict in the Workplace: Social workers as victims and perpetrators. Social Work, 50, 305-313

[3] Ringstad, R. (2005) Conflict in the Workplace: Social workers as victims and perpetrators. Social Work, 50, 305-313


This story was published Monday, March 11, 2013.

 

Donnelly again named chairman of regulatory oversight

Ken Donnelly, in 2007

Senator Kenneth Donnelly, Democrat of Arlington, representing the Fourth Middlesex, was again named chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. He was also appointed vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

The regulatory-oversight panel considers bills that cover a wide range of subject areas, including state regulations, state agencies, ethics, public construction, competitive bidding on public contracts and lobbyists' reporting laws.

According to a news release from his office, major accomplishments by the committee last session include legislation aimed to reorganize the Executive Office of Labor and Workplace Development which created more efficiency and coordination of state services. Legislation that drastically overhauled and modernized state financing laws was worked on by the Committee and became law last year. Nearly half of the bills reported by the Committee were enacted or were included in other enacted legislation.

"I am proud of the work of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight achieved last session and I am honored to be renamed Chairman," Donnelly said in the release. "I look forward to what we can do to make our government more transparent, efficient and accessible for the citizens of Massachusetts."

The Joint Committee on Elder Affairs considers matters regarding the elderly, handicapped elders, nursing facilities, prescription drugs and other issues. "Elderly citizens of the Commonwealth deserve a strong voice in our legislature and I’m happy to help protect their interests," he said.

Senator Donnelly was also appointed to the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, the Joint Committee on Election Laws, and the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Garballey-backed hearing aid benefit for children becomes law

Patrick signs hearing-aid bill into law Sept. 27, as Rep. Garballey beams.Patrick signs hearing-aid bill into law Sept. 27, as Rep. Garballey beams. Governor Patrick has signed into law a bill requiring health insurance providers to offer coverage for hearing aids for those 21 years old and younger. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, led efforts to successfully secure this benefit for children with hearing loss.
Happy that his bill became law, Garballey said in a news release that the measure "will lift a large financial weight off of hundreds of families and make an everlasting difference for children with hearing loss throughout the Commonwealth."
The legislation will help families afford hearing aids, which cost $2,500 each on average and must be replaced every three to five years. Under the new law, health insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for hearing aids up to $2,000 per aid, every 36 months.

200 children in every 80,000 births affected

This law will help to significantly lessen the financial burden for the families of about 200 children out of 80,000 live births annually in the Commonwealth who are born with some degree of hearing loss and require hearing aids.
Massachusetts becomes the 20th state to pass similar legislation.
House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said, "I commend the Patrick administration for signing this important piece of legislation. Requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids for children and teens will ease the financial burden on families while improving the quality of life for hard-of-hearing people across the Commonwealth."

1998 screening law

In effect, the law is a companion to the hearing screening law for newborns that was passed in 1998. It requires hearing screening for all newborns in the state before leaving a hospital or birth center.
This new law will assist families seeking to purchase hearing aids for their children upon receiving a diagnosis of hearing loss without delay due to the cost of the devices.
Families pay out-of-pocket for hearing aids, sometimes delaying the time a child goes unaided to beyond the recommended 6 months of age for those children diagnosed with hearing loss at birth. If families have multiple children who require hearing aids, purchasing hearing aids every three to five years often represents a significant economic hardship.
In the past, delays in access through hearing aids led to significant educational challenges for children with hearing loss. This made it difficult for local school districts to fully service the academic, communicative and social needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
With early access to hearing devices, children who at one time may have attended a deaf school are now being mainstreamed as early as preschool and kindergarten.

Common defect

Hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects in the United State, occurring in about three out of every 1,000 births. Research has shown that early identification of hearing loss and amplification with hearing aids in children younger than 6 months yields significantly better receptive and expressive language and vocabulary, personal-social skills and speech production. Children who do not receive early intervention cost schools an additional $420,000 and face overall lifetime costs of $1 million in special education, lost wages and health complications.
The Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition (MassHAFCC) was founded in 2009. As the core group of moms grew to seven, so did its core focus: to help pass this legislation into law.
"We are thrilled that state government has taken this important step to providing access to hearing aids for children identified with hearing loss in the Commonwealth," a coalition representative said after Sept. 27 signing. "This bill reaches beyond a simple insurance mandate into the realms of education, medical services associated with untreated hearing loss and the social and emotional well-being of a child with hearing loss. Passage of this bill confirms what our belief has been all along: Early Diagnosis + Early Access = A Child’s Future!"
Following cost analysis by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, the midrange fiscal impact for coverage of pediatric hearing aids is $0.04 per member per month; this translates to about the cost of a postage stamp per year. Impact to annual premiums is about 0.008%.
Before this legislation, hearing aids were covered only by the Group Insurance Commission and MassHealth.
The bill received immediate bipartisan support upon filing, as 71 legislators signed on as cosponsors and many more pledged their support throughout the legislative session.


 

This story was published Tuesday Oct. 2, 2012.

 

Garballey gets library's legislator award

Sean Garballey

Representative Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, was honored by the Massachusetts School Library Association with the Joan C. Gallagher Legislator Award.

Garballey received this award in recognition of his support for school library programs in the Commonwealth during the joint Massachusetts Library Association/Massachusetts School Library Association Legislation Day, on April 11.

A member of the Legislative Library Caucus, he recently filed legislation to create a special commission to evaluate the state of school libraries in Massachusetts' public schools. This commission would assess school library staffing, collections, and technology. Recommendations from this commission would help address current inequities in Massachusetts students' access to school library programs.

The Massachusetts School Library Association advocates for school library programs that have a significant and measurable impact on student achievement. It supports licensed, highly qualified library teachers at all levels and endorses school library programs that have strong leadership, resources, and instructional components. MSLA provides its members with growth opportunities, research, publications, and public relations activities.

The MSLA has established the Joan C. Gallagher Award in remembrance of their friend and colleague, a champion for legislation to ensure that all students have equitable access to school library programs, professional staff and up-to-date resources. According to their website, “the legislator recipient of this award demonstrates a commitment to advancing the role of the school library program and its staff in the educational process,” and also works to fund legislation that provides equity and up-to-date resources to students across the Commonwealth.

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