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Senate passes 'Laura's Law,' aiming to ensure patient access in emergency

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Senate has passed An Act to ensure safe patient access to emergency care, also known as “Laura’s Law,” in memory of Somerville resident Laura Beth Levis, who died in 2016 from an asthma attack just steps from an emergency-room door.

Levis, 34, was a vibrant, Harvard University editor who walked to the emergency room of Cambridge Health Alliance Somerville Hospital before dawn one September morning, but was unable to get inside. Her attack intensified, and she collapsed before help could arrive. Numerous safety failures at the hospital, including inadequate ER signs, lighting and an abandoned hospital security desk, all played a role in her tragic death.

“No one should ever lose their life outside an emergency room due to poor signage and dim lighting,” said Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, in an Oct. 23 news release.

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Rogers-Day counsel bill used in Baker eviction initiative

Dave RogersRogers

State Reps. David M. Rogers (D-Cambridge) and Michael S. Day (D-Stoneham) jointly filed at the beginning of the 191st session, H.1537, an act establishing a right to counsel in certain eviction cases. On Monday, Oct. 12, the Baker administration announced a comprehensive set of resources, the Eviction Diversion Initiative, to support tenants and landlords facing financial challenges caused by the pandemic that includes funding for this priority legislation. 

The goal of the eviction initiative is to keep tenants safely in their homes and to support the ongoing expenses of landlords, as the Commonwealth’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expired Saturday, Oct. 17.

A major prong of the initiative is an investment in increased legal representation and support for income-eligible tenants and property owners navigating ongoing housing issues. The initiative draws directly on the work done this session by Rogers and Day, the Right to Counsel Coalition and the Right to Counsel Advisory Committee, an Oct. 16 news release from Rogers's office says.

"These advocates understand that this issue is not something unique to the pandemic," the release says. "Financially struggling tenants and property owners will continue to face housing issues and they will need legal representation to assist them with navigating the housing courts in the future."

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Friedman invited to join state’s Covid-19 vaccine group

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) has been invited to join the state’s Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, created to advance the Baker administration’s efforts to prepare for the distribution of a safe and effective vaccine once it becomes available.

“I'm honored to have been asked to join the advisory group, and am eager to collaborate with fellow members to support the planning process already underway,” said Friedman, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in an Oct. 9 news release. “As we prepare for the arrival of a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, we must ensure that we can distribute and administer it safely and equitably across the Commonwealth – and I look forward to being part of that conversation.”

 Comprising medical professionals, public-health experts, elected officials, community leaders and infectious-disease specialists, the Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Group will advise the administration – including the state Department of Public Health and the Covid-19 Command Center – on communication, distribution, and equity issues relating to a Covid-19 vaccine.

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$1.8B bond bill aiming to strengthen IT becomes law

Invests in food security, education, body cameras

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Dave RogersRogers

The state Legislature recently passed a bill authorizing as much as $1.8 billion in spending for the improvement of information-technology equipment and other capital projects in Massachusetts. The legislation also authorizes funding for food security, law enforcement body cameras and investments in educational technologies in Massachusetts schools. Gov. Baker has signed the measure into law.

“This IT bond bill will allow us to find new ways to invest in underserved communities across the Commonwealth, especially as we continue to confront the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) said in an Aug. 21 news release.  “I’m particularly thrilled that this law authorizes funds I fought for to automate and expedite the sealing of criminal records, which is just one example of how our system can do a better job to remove the stigma of having a criminal record for individuals who are trying to move forward with their lives. Now more than ever, we should be investing in the things that strengthen our communities, support our most vulnerable residents and help people restart their lives rather than penalize them for life.”

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Maternal-health plans advance in Senate

Aims to study barriers to substance-use treatment, racial inequities; provides licensure for midwives

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Senate unanimously passed three bipartisan bills to increase birth options and safety for all pregnant and perinatal people in Massachusetts. One establishes a commission to study barriers to substance use treatment for women in the perinatal period, another establishes a commission to address racial inequities in maternal health care in Massachusetts and a third increases options for safe, professional birthing care in the commonwealth by licensing midwifery.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted glaring inequities in our health care system, particularly in maternal health,” Sen Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), cochair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said in an Aug. 17 news release.  “This package of bills seeks to address these inequities among vulnerable and marginalized populations to ensure that women have access to the care they need to live healthy lives. This legislation builds on the Senate’s ongoing commitment to breakinng down barriers to care and creating a health care system that works better for everyone.”

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Delegation supports Breakfast After the Bell legislation

The state Legislature recently passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in breakfast programs in schools with high percentages of students from low-income families in the Commonwealth. 

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

Dave RogersRogers

The bill, An Act regarding Breakfast After the Bell, would require all public K 12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. The bill was signed into law shortly after.

“Students cannot focus and excel in the classroom if they are hungry,” said Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), in an Aug. 11 news release. “When children have access to nutritious meals, they are happier, healthier, and perform better at school. This bill continues the fight against food insecurity by ensuring that more students don’t have to struggle with hunger while at school. Thank you to my legislative colleagues for continually putting the health and well-being of our kids above all else.” 

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Rogers, Garballey secure funding in multiple sectors for Arlington

Dave RogersRogers

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

Two state representatives for Arlington have helped secure significant funding for transportation, economic development and a supplemental budget.

David Rogers (D-Cambridge), representing Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge, and Sean Garballey (D- Arlington) cast votes as the Legislature passed bills aiming to benefit their communities.

Under the transportation bond bill), An Act authorizing and accelerating transportation investments, Rogers and Garballey were able to secure: 

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Friedman vote helps pass $2.5M for town transportation  

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) has joined her colleagues in voting on legislation to jump-start investment in transportation infrastructure, aiming to make the Commonwealth’s system more reliable and accessible to residents. The bill includes $2.5 million Friedman fought for to support roadway, bike lane and sidewalk reconstruction and improvements in the Town of Arlington.

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

“This bond bill allows our cities and towns to invest in local transportation projects that will enhance our infrastructure while creating much-needed jobs during this time of financial hardship,” Friedman said in a July 22 news release.

“I’m pleased that I was able to secure vital investments for our community, paving the way for a more modernized transportation infrastructure that works for everyone.” The bill, An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment, authorizes more than $16 billion in bonds for a wide variety of infrastructure projects, including both upkeep and maintenance, as well as modernization.

In addition to addressing such issues as construction, regional initiatives, traffic congestion and transportation network company data sharing, this legislation addresses equity in the transportation system by requiring a low-income fare program, which will provide discounted transit fares to qualifying riders on MBTA transportation and commuter rail, starting on Jan. 1, 2022.

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Delegation backs vote-by-mail for Sept., Nov. elections

State Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) recently joined their legislative colleagues in passing a bill that expands voter access and ensures safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the Sept. 1 state primary and the Nov.3 general election. The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to Covid-19, was signed into law by the governor July 6.

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

Dave RogersRogers

For the first time in state history, the legislation establishes a vote-by-mail option and early voting period for the upcoming fall elections. It also addresses polling-place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person. 

“As we continue to address the Covid-19 pandemic, we must ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely cast their ballot in our upcoming elections without risking exposure to the virus,” Friedman said in a July 8 news release. “This historic bill expands voting options to do just that, strengthening our democracy and promoting voter participation this fall. I’d like to thank my colleagues in the Senate and House for their hard work on this important bill.”

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Rogers officially on ballot for reelection in 24th

Dave RogersRogers

State Rep. Dave Rogers has officially qualified to be on the ballot in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary for the 24th Middlesex State House seat.

“Eight years ago, the people of Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge gave me a tremendous opportunity; and every day since, I have sought to make the most of it," Rogers said in a June 24 news release.

"Working in partnership with so many of you – deeply engaged citizens who care about our communities, the Commonwealth, and the larger world – we have secured one victory after another in the fight for social and economic justice. And so, with humility, deep gratitude, and a belief in a brighter future for our communities despite the many current challenges we face, I enthusiastically announce my candidacy for reelection as your state representative,"  He faces opposition from Jen. Fries.

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Senate OKs election-safety bill, expanding early voting

The state Senate on Tuesday, June 16, unanimously passed legislation to expand voter access and address safety for all remaining 2020 elections, including the Sept. 1 state primary and Nov. 3 general election, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to Covid-19, would – for the first time in state history – give all eligible residents the opportunity to vote early for the state primary and general election, allow residents to vote-by-mail, and expand absentee ballot access. 

“As we continue to confront the Covid-19 pandemic in Massachusetts, we must do everything we can to ensure that our voters can cast their ballot without risking exposure to the virus,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, a member of the Senate Covid-19 Working Group, in a June 20 news release. “The ability to vote is the bedrock of any democracy, and this historic bill ensures that our voters can make their voices heard this fall. No one should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their own health, and this bill allows our voters to do both.”  

The bill does the following:

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Law takes effect to collect vital health data

Addresses disparate impact of the Covid-19 on underserved, underrepresented

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Legislature has passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the Covid-19 pandemic. Gov. Baker  has signed into law the bill, An Act Addressing Covid-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment.

The measure aims to increase the amount of statewide, publicly available data as it relates to the coronavirus. The legislation also establishes a task force to study and make policy recommendations to address health disparities for underserved and underrepresented communities during the pandemic.

“As we continue to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, we must ensure that the public health data we collect will allow us to deliver appropriate care to underserved residents that require attention,” said state Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, a member of the Covid-19 Senate Working Group, in a June 8 news release.

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Garballey, Rogers votes back expanded mail-in, early voting

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

Dave RogersRogers

State Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge) joined their colleagues in the State House in passing legislation expanding options for both mail-in and early voting for the 2020 state primary and general elections.

They also voted to supportnlegislation that provides more tools to the restaurants of Massachusetts in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. More below.

The voting bill seeks to increase voter accessibility as legislatures and voters continue to navigate the pandemic with social distancing as the new normal.

"Expanding early voting options and integrating voting by mail will help increase participation in our elections and vastly improve our democratic process," said Garballey in a June 8 news release. "I was pleased to be able to work with my colleagues on this essential legislation. Making sure that ballots postmarked by Election Day are counted and shortening the voter registration deadline from 20 days currently to 10 days prior to the election are two aspects of the legislation I worked on profoundly improves the legislation."

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Reps' bill aims to protect vulnerable employees during pandemic

State Reps. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) and Jay Livingstone (D-Boston) have filed a bill to protect vulnerable employees during a public-health or -safety emergency in the context of employment.

Dave RogersRogers

The bill, titled "An Act Relative to Protections for Vulnerable Employees During a Public Health or Safety Emergency," would make it unlawful for all employers to take action against any vulnerable employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation, such as more frequent breaks for hand washing, modification of seating to facilitate social distancing in the workplace or work-from-home options.

Under this bill, vulnerable employees would have the ability to request a reasonable accommodation from their employer during a public health or safety emergency and up to six months after the end of the emergency.

This legislation would prohibit all employers from denying an employment opportunity to a vulnerable employee who requests that certain health and safety standards are met to allow them to safely work at their jobs. Employers would also be prohibited from requiring the employee to accept an accommodation that is unreasonable or unnecessary.

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Moratorium on nonessential evictions, foreclosures OK'd

So are legal protections for health-care workers in Covid-19 emergency

The Arlington state legislative delegation has supported bills providing a critical safety net for renters, homeowners and small businesses as well as health-care workers grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus public-health emergency.

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Dave RogersRogers

Sen. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) supported An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency, which prohibits all nonessential evictions and foreclosures and provides mortgage borrowers with forbearance options and protects tenants from late fees as well as other protections. Gov. Baker signed the bill into law April 20.

“During this unprecedented time, it is incredibly important to ensure that our residents are able to remain safely in their homes,” Friedman said in an April 21 news release. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and House for taking this important step to ensure that our renters, homeowners and small businesses receive the critical protections and relief they need during this public health crisis.”

Garballey said: "This is an incredibly important step to ensure everyone is able to stay in their homes and stay safe, especially in a time like this where so many are struggling financially. This moratorium will help those out of work keep a roof over their heads and allow us to continue to flatten the curve. I am happy to have worked with my colleagues to provide such relief."

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