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Politics: constituent services

Friedman's work for mentally ill, substance issues honored

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, was recently named Legislator of the Year by the Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA) for her work on behalf of those with mental illness, substance-use disorder and behavioral health issues.

In addition, Friedman received the 2018 Mitch Snyder Award from the First Church Shelter of Cambridge for her efforts on the comprehensive opioid treatment bill that was signed into law this summer.

The MPA’s Legislator of the Year Award is given to a legislator each year in recognition of her outstanding efforts on behalf of psychology, mental health and public welfare. Past recipients include Mass. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, former Senate President Therese Murray, Democrat of Plymouth, and Senator Joan Lovely, Democrat of Salem.

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Civics-education bill becomes law, and Friedman was among supporters

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

A civics-education bill was signed into law by Gov. Baker on Nov. 8, and it aims to promote and enhance civics education in public schools statewide.

The bill, S2631, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, is a result of a conference committee made up of several legislators, including Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington.

“As a member of the civics education conference committee, I’m very pleased that it was signed into law today,” Friedman said in a Nov. 9 new release. “It is vitally important for the future leaders of the world to understand the value of our nation’s history and learn how they can participate in the democratic process to ensure that their voices are heard.”

The new law will make it a requirement for Massachusetts public high schools and school districts serving eighth-grade students to provide at least one student-led, nonpartisan civics project for each student. These projects can be individual, small group, or classwide and they must be designed to promote student abilities related to the analysis of complex issues; consideration of different perspectives; logical reasoning with supportive evidence; engagement in civil discourse, and understanding of the connections between federal, state, and local policies, including those that may impact the student’s school or community.

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Friedman named chair of women legislators

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy F. Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, has been appointed Senate chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators by Senate President Karen Spilka, Democrat of Ashland.

One of Friedman’s first tasks will be to assist in the hiring process of a new executive director, a position previously held by Lauren Scribi.

The caucus was previously chaired by Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, Democrat of Boston, who recently left the Senate to serve as vice president of diversity, inclusion and community relations at Suffolk Construction.

“I’m so grateful that Senate President Spilka has given me the opportunity to serve as chair of this very important caucus,” Friedman said in an Nov. 7 news release. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the Caucus of Women Legislators’ agenda by fighting for initiatives that will ensure equal pay for equal work, stop sexual harassment in the workplace, and ensure equitable access to health care.”

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Friedman continues fight to reduce opioid deaths

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

After playing a major role behind opioid legislation that was signed into law this summer, Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, is working in collaboration with several health-care professionals, law enforcement officers, elected officials and others to explore more ways to decrease opioid-related overdose deaths across Massachusetts.

The opioid legislation (Chapter 208 of the Acts of 2018), signed into law on Aug. 9, established two study commissions: a harm-reduction sites commission to evaluate the feasibility of establishing harm-reduction sites, also known as safe-injection sites, in Massachusetts, and a Section 35 involuntary commitment commission to study the efficacy of involuntary inpatient treatment for non-court involved individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD).

Senator Friedman will be serving on both commissions.

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Senate unanimously backs automatic voter registration

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The state Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday, July 12, that would automatically register thousands of new voters when they get their driver’s licenses or health insurance through the state, moving closer to what advocates say could be one of the farthest-reaching programs of its kind in the country.

Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, joined her colleagues in voting to pass H. 4671

If the bill is signed into law, Massachusetts would join 13 other states and the District of Columbia to pass or implement automatic voter-registration measures, including three that have done so this year.

Under the bill, which has also passed the House, eligible residents who interact with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or the MassHealth program would have to opt out if they don’t want to join the voter rolls, rather than opt in.

The bill would also allow the secretary of state to reach agreements with state agencies to automatically register voters if they meet certain criteria, potentially further expanding the net the state can cast to reach eligible residents. 

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Friedman, Jehlen named to pay-equity commission

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

State Senate President Harriette Chandler has appointed Sens. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, and Pat Jehlen, Democrat of Somerville, to serve on the Pay Equity Special Commission. The board aims to investigate, analyze and study the factors, causes and impact of pay disparity, building on Jehlen’s equal-pay legislation, which became law in 2016.

“There is still so much we need to learn about how the pay gap truly impacts Massachusetts families,” Jehlen said in a June 8 news release. “We need to uncover why it impacts some professions so deeply. We must continue asking why tipped workers, home-care aides, early education and care professionals -- industries with predominantly female work forces -- are paid alarmingly low wages.”

Friedman said: “I’m humbled and honored to be appointed to this commission by Senate President Chandler and am eager to work with the commission to address the wage gap and create equal opportunities for all workers in Massachusetts. While we’ve made strides in our state in recent years to close the wage gap, there is still so much to be done.

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$788,000 for town road projects due from state 'soon'

achapdelaine 72016Chapdelaine

UPDATED, May 4: The Chapter 90 bond bill that the Legislature passed authorizes funding for road and bridge repairs for fiscal 2019, making $788,000 available through MassDOT beginning July 1, and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine expects that the money will be available to the town "very soon."

In response to question from YourArlington, the manager wrote Friday, May 4: "Now that the governor has signed the Chapter 90 bill, I would expect that the funds will be available to the town very soon. Year to year, the timing of the availability of the funds has differed dependent on when the Legislature passes the bill and then when the governor signs it. We always hope that it is passed and available for the start of construction season, but that has not always been the case."

Chapter 90 money, combined with funding from the town's capital budget is programmed to go toward the following projects for 2018:

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Friedman votes for $1.8B housing bond bill

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, joined her Senate colleagues Friday, March 29, in passing legislation aimed at financing the production and preservation of housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

"Housing prices have increased dramatically in recent years, resulting in a housing crisis that has impacted many working families in my district and throughout the Commonwealth," Friedman, a member of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development said in a March 29 news release. "By authorizing $1.8 billion in investments, we will be able to expand housing options for low and moderate-income residents and drive economic development in our communities."  

S.2368, An Act financing the production and preservation of housing for low and moderate income residents, is also referred to as the Housing Bond Bill. The bill is a result of a session-long collaboration between the Senate and House with a focus on preserving and producing the state's affordable-housing stock. 

The Housing Bond bill authorizes $1.8 billion in investments in the preservation and production of affordable housing across the Commonwealth.  

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Friedman among those voting to protect access to confidential health care

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, joined her colleagues in passing legislation to protect patients' access to confidential health care.

In an effort to maintain the confidentiality of patients covered as dependents on another person's insurance policy, the "PATCH Act" requires insurance carriers to issue common summary of payment forms directly to the patient.

"Every Massachusetts resident should have the ability to make confidential health-care decisions of their choice, Friedman said in a Feb. 16 news release. "Too often, patients are reluctant to get certain treatment services for fear that their personal health information may be shared with a parent or spouse. This bill ensures a patient’s right to privacy and increases access to healthcare for those seeking treatment services that they need."

Some health insurers’ current billing and claims communication practices can unintentionally violate the basic right to privacy of a patient covered as a dependent on another person’s policy; for example, a young adult, minor or spouse. Insurers routinely send summary of payment or explanation-of-benefits (EOB) forms, detailing the type and cost of medical services received, to the primary subscriber on an insurance plan. In many situations, young adults, minors or women may choose to forego certain types of treatment because of fears that a parent or spouse will see sensitive health information on an EOB form.

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Garballey advocates for improved bus service

Luis Ramirez, Rep. Sean GarballeyLuis Ramirez, left, with Rep. Garballey.

Rep. Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington and West Medford, joined Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority General Manager and CEO Luis Ramirez to discuss the state of public transportation in Arlington, Medford and greater Boston.

The host for the Feb. 13 event was the MBTA Caucus, which Garballey cochairs. Many state representatives and state senators were present to have a conversation regarding the MBTA and investing in public transportation.

The MBTA Caucus is composed of legislators from around the Commonwealth, whose goal is preserving accessibility and making significant improvements to the state's public transportation  system, key to maintaining the quality of life for many in Massachusetts. The group works directly with representatives from the MBTA and colleagues throughout the Legislature.

Asked to provide specifics, Garballey said in a Feb. 17 news release: "With a relatively new general manager, this provided an opportunity to discuss this issue in general terms. [Ramirez] discussed making bus service more rapid with the use of dedicated bus lanes as a possible solution to improving bus serving across the MBTA service area."

This idea was discussed in connection with Boston in a November Boston Globe report

"... I hear from constituents on a lot of topics related to the MBTA," he said in the release. "One of the themes I gather from constituents is the overall dissatisfaction with bus service. This includes bus schedules as well as other matters. I bring these issues up with the MBTA on a regular basis.

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Friedman votes to support education for students displaced by natural disasters

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Sen. Cindy Friedman joined her colleagues in passing a supplemental budget that includes $15 million for school districts educating students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced by hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Since last September, more than 2,300 students have arrived in Massachusetts from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and enrolled in schools across the state. The formula that calculates state aid to local schools, however, was established prior to the students’ arrival, so school districts have not received extra money to cover the costs of educating these students.

Before unanimously approving the spending bill, senators added an amendment to the bill requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to report how it distributes the money to schools.

Asked how the legislation affects Arlington funding, Kristina Gaffny, representing Friedman, wrote Feb. 6: "The Department of Elementary & Secondary Education is still working to fine-tune the numbers, so we are not aware of how much money each school district will get just yet."

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Proposed health-insurance cuts for public employees reversed

Friedman had filed legislation; Garballey weighed in

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

UPDATED, Feb. 2: The state agency that controls health benefits for public employees and their families, including those in Arlington, on Thursday, Feb. 1, voted to reverse its controversial decision to limit health-plan options.

The Group Insurance Commission (GIC) came under attack soon after its Jan. 18 decision, in an 8-5 vote, to eliminate popular commercial health plans from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan and Fallon Health. Among those objecting were state Sen. Cindy Friedman and state Rep. Sean Garballey.

The change would have forced about 200,000 state and local employees and their families to move to coverage under three lesser-known health insurers. Read the report >> 

In a reversal, the GIC decided Jan. 25, to rethink the matter, the Globe reported. The change of heart came after the Globe reported that Attorney General Healey was investigating the GIC violated the state meeting law

Garballey, Democrat of Arlington and West Medford, said he has also supported those asking that the GIC reverse course. He told YourArlington that he has asked for specific cost-saving numbers and is awaiting a response.

CommonWealth magazine reported the GIC addressed "an ambitious proposal to save an estimated $21 million by paring back the number of health insurance carriers available to its 430,000 state and municipal customers and opted instead for a status quo approach that will save just $1 million." 

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Reps seek state 'sanctuary' protection for marijuana outlets

Garballey cosponsors bill covering medical, recreational

Dave RogersRogers

UPDATED, Jan. 30: Two Cambridge state representatives seek to turn Massachusetts into a sanctuary state for marijuana.

Rep. Dave Rogers, whose district includes Arlington, and Mike Connelly, both Democrats, filed legislation on Friday, Jan. 19, that would prohibit state and local police from participating in federal cases against people or licensed operators who follow state cannabis laws.

Rogers appeared on "Greater Boston" (WGBH-TV, CH2) on Jan. 30 to discuss his bill that would bar state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal officials in cracking down on people engaged in state-sanctioned marijuana business.

Rep. Sean Garballey has signed on as a cosponsor of the bill. The Democrat representing Arlington and West Medford told YourArlington that the legislation gives rise to an important conversation about state's rights as well as sending a message about upholding the will of the voters. Arlington voted in favor of allowing medical and recreational marijuana.

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Friedman named to review sexual-harassment policies, seeks improvements

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

UPDATED, Jan. 27: State Senator Cindy Friedman finds herself in the middle of looking squarely into sexual-harassment issues.

Named to a panel to review sexual-harassment policies, she also serves on the committee investigating complaints about the husband of Stanley C. Rosenberg, who has stepped down as Senate president during the probe.

Further, she noted hearing stories of misconduct during the years she worked as chief of staff to the Senator Ken Donnelly, who died last April, and was a victim of harassment during her 20-year tenure as a manager in high-tech before working on Beacon Hill.

As to the Rosenberg case, the committee investigating it adopted a policy Thursday, Jan. 25, aimed to protect the anonymity of witnesses who say Rosenberg's husband sexually assaulted and harassed them and boasted of his influence over Senate matters. The Boston Globe has reported that only one of the four men who have accused Rosenberg's husband, Bryon Hefner, of misconduct has spoken to investigators hired by the Ethics Committee.

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Friedman cochairs 7-hour hearing on governor's opioid bill

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Senator Cindy Friedman and Representative Denise Garlick of Needham cochaired a seven-hour hearing last week about legislation aiming to stem the state's opioid epidemic, which claims at least five lives daily.

The legislation, called the CARE Act and filed by Governor Baker, would expand treatment for individuals suffering from opioid addiction, reduce the overuse of prescription opioids and improve educational programs to inform students about the dangers of opioids.

During Baker's testimony, Friedman emphasized the need for the CARE Act to more directly address access barriers to mental health treatment, especially given the prevalence of individuals in the state with co-occurring conditions of substance-use disorder and mental illness.

"There needs to be a greater focus on mental illness in this bill," the Arlington Democrat she said in a Jan. 19 news release. "Upwards of 40 to 50 percent of individuals seeking treatment for a substance-use disorder also suffer from a mental health condition. Many of these individuals choose to self-medicate with substances to manage their mental illness and do not have a clear pathway to recovery for either diagnosis."

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