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Senate OKs laws targeting conversion therapy, 'Cap on Kids,' women’s health

Cindy Friedman

The state Senate on March 28 passed legislation that reaffirms the Commonwealth's commitment to providing support for women, members of the LGBTQ community and children and families in need. The Senate also gave final approval to a $135.9 million supplemental budget for fiscal 2019.

“The Senate showed its strong commitment today to our children and families, LGBTQIA+ community, and women by repealing an outdated policy that hurts families, banning an ineffective, inhumane and morally wrong therapy practice, and protecting vital access to family planning and reproductive healthcare services for over 75,000 residents,” said Sen. Cindy Friedman in a March 29 news release. “I’m grateful for Senate President Spilka and my Senate colleagues for keeping these initiatives at the forefront of our legislative agenda this session.”

Lifting 'Cap on Kids'

The Massachusetts “Cap on Kids” policy, established in 1995, was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The legislation passed March 28 repeals this ineffective policy. The new policy would start Sept. 1 and makes the repeal retroactive to last Jan. 1.

On implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The fiscal '19 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the governor.

Conversion therapy

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently ban conversion therapy, an intervention practice used to reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction and transgender identity using controversial methods. Those methods often involve traumatizing practices that can lead to depression, substance use disorder, social withdrawal, and suicide. The legislation passed by the Senate would prohibit licensed mental health professionals from using conversion therapy and would instead promote therapies that encourage self-exploration and social support. 

Title X

Massachusetts entities that receive Title X federal funding, used for reproductive, family-planning and women's health services, are poised to lose up to $8 million over fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The loss of funding would be the consequence of new rules set by the Trump administration. The Legislature’s action would provide $8 million in emergency funding to support these entities, allowing the state to offset possible reductions and help preserve services provided to nearly 80,000 individuals across the Commonwealth.

Supplemental FY '19 budget

The proposed supplemental budget for fiscal '9 includes:

  • $30M for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program;
  • $10M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters;
  • $8M to assist municipalities in testing sexual assault kits; and
  • $1M for SANE and Pedi-SANE Programs.

The supplemental budget also addresses a number of time-sensitive spending and policy items.

Legislation concerning the “Cap on Kids” and prohibiting conversion therapy was sent back to the House for approval. Bills concerning Title X funding and the supplemental budget for fiscal '19 now go to the Governor for consideration. 

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

This news announcement was published Monday, April 1, 2019.

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