Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Senate Supplements Priorities in Funding Bill

Tomorrow, the Senate will take up a bill, Senate 2025, which will fund significant state government programs and advance a number of public policy priorities.  The $341 million proposal reflects a series of items first initiated by Governor Baker in order to fulfill functions outlined in the state budget such as training at the Department of Children and Families, final payments for contractors who cleared last winter’s snow and ice, and initiatives for public health and public safety.

MassHealth will receive $203 million to address shortfalls and to expand substance abuse coverage.

Other substance abuse related programs funded by the bill:
  • $300,000 for the Trial Court to hire a project coordinator to oversee coordination, administration and financial oversight of the sequential intercept model project,
  • $15.2 million to fund substance abuse and residential beds and school-based substance use screenings,
  • $1.2 million for verbal substance use screening,
  • $5.8  million for a substance use treatment program to provide detoxification and clinical services for civilly committed women with substance use disorders at Taunton State Hospital,
  • $3.8 million to fund substance abuse counselors in schools.
In addition, other major areas of funding include:
  • $31.5 million for snow and ice removal costs for Mass Department of Transportation,
  • $21.7 million to close deficiencies in ten Sheriff Departments,
  • $3 million to fund Department of Children and Families training services for foster families and adoptive families and congregate care and adoption support services,
  • $5 million to support homelessness diversion, prevention and housing stabilization programs,
  • $9.5 million for National Guard student tuition and fees reimbursements,
The bill makes a $120,000,000 deposit into the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund and revives a special commission charged with examining housing and shelter options for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus and I have offered several amendments to the bill to provide assistance to municipalities, low-income families, and health patients, these include:
  • Providing cities and town with $20 million in additional Local Aid payments for essential services,
  • Creating a two year pilot program to examine ways to qualify patients needing extended hospital stays to be covered under Federal Medicare,
  • Requiring the Department of Public Health to seek approval from the federal government to allow those who receive WIC benefits to use them on diapers for children. Currently, families receiving WIC cannot use the benefits to purchase diapers,
  • Protecting businesses against patent infringement threats, known as patent trolling,
  • Providing low-income households with $10 million in heating assistance, 
  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct a feasibility study before adopting the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness (PARCC) standardized test, in place of the MCAS including procedures required to repeal the 2010 decision of the board to adopt the PARCC standards.  
  • Promoting compliance with the health care cost transparency law which requires health insurers to provide patients with accurate pricing information.

The text of the bill can be read by clicking this link: