Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Senate Set to Debate Prescription Medicine Access And Costs

Tomorrow the Senate will debate a bill, Senate 2397, An Act Relative To Pharmaceutical Access, Costs And Transparency, as well as 44 amendments offered by members of the Senate. I have filed several amendments including for drug discount coupon programming, interstate bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals and a requirement on pharmaceutical makers to disclose payments that they make that are used to influence public policy related to prescription drugs.

Proponents of the bill say a key proposal is to increase access to medicine by placing a cap on expensive prescriptions and by expanding transparency and oversight of costs. The bill establishes an oversight role for the Health Policy Commission to examine more than 400 drugs. These would include any that cost a patient at least $50,000 annually or those that have been deemed as essential medicines.

As an example of a cap under the bill- today was World Diabetes Day at the State House and attendees said that insulin can cost more than $1,000 a year under some insurance plans - the new bill would cap the cost of insulin at $25 a month. 700,000 Massachusetts residents live with diabetes.

While our state is fortunate to have a health care system renowned for high quality we all also recognize that services and prescription meds are often quite costly. The bill has many components and I invite you to read them. You can find it, and the text of the 44 amendments, at this link - https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2397/BillHistory.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

State House Hearing on Gas Pipeline Safety Bills

On September 13, 2018 the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of residents and workers of the Merrimack Valley were disrupted and put into grave risk by explosions, fires and widespread destruction caused by gas leaks.

Today, at a State House hearing of the legislature's Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy I offered testimony in support of legislation aimed at protecting public safety and the loss of property from natural gas. I filed Senate Bill 2013, An Act Ensuring Public Safety At Natural Gas Sites, which directs the Department of Public Utilities to develop regulations to ensure that natural gas pressure is monitored by qualified professionals at each site where gas work is being performed involving the pressurization of transmission lines, to support an urgent recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigated the catastrophe. The NTSB's safety recommendations said "Gas main pressures should be continually monitored during these modifications and assets should be placed at critical locations to immediately shut down the system if abnormal operations are detected." This is exactly in keeping with the bill I filed.

The legislative delegation representing Andover, Lawrence and North Andover stood strong today in support of legislation to protect all of us in the Commonwealth.

The factors that caused the severe and long lasting hardships experienced by residents, local businesses, and the tragic loss of life caused by the gas explosions and fires are now better understood and we have well-reasoned proposals to protect the public ready for advancement.

With: State Senator Barry Finegold, State Senator Diana DiZoglio, Representative Frank Moran, Representative Tram T Nguyen, Representative Marcos Devers, Representative Christina Minicuccii, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, former North Andover Town Manager and state Comptroller Andrew Maylor, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and others.




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Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans Day 2019

Veterans Day is today, November 11th. Please join me in remembering our military veterans. There are events and ceremonies planned in communities throughout the Commonwealth and across the country - your attendance will be most welcomed.

The unyielding and unchanging core principals of our nation; freedom, liberty, and justice expressed in our founding documents would be unrealized without the bravery and sacrifices of our veterans.

We are blessed to have had men and women wear the uniforms of our military organizations to take actions to defend, preserve, and promote those values and principles here and around the world. The family members of our veterans, and of those who wear the uniform today as members, also deserve our deep appreciation.

Patriotism is alive, the vitality of those who served our nation from the War of Independence to this day continues to beat in our hears, and all U.S. veterans, and those who are currently serving, should know that they are appreciated by the citizens of this great nation. Again, I welcome and invite you to attend one of the many ceremonies that will take place today and encourage you to express your gratitude to these great veterans anytime you can.

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Senate Passes Campaign Finance Reform Bill


Senate Passes Campaign Finance Reform Bill

Legislation Bolsters Transparency and Accountability

 

BOSTONThe Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday unanimously passed An Act relative to campaign finance, sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), which increases transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s elections by reforming fiscal reporting requirements.  The bill also establishes a commission to study allowing the use of campaign funds for family-related care.

 

“Running for public office is one of the most exciting and impactful steps you can take as a citizen in a democracy,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).  “It is also a lot of work.  Massachusetts must ensure that our campaign finance laws and reporting requirements are under constant review to make certain that we are being as transparent as possible, while opening up the possibility of running for office to more people.”

 

The depository reporting system, run through the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF)—the independent state agency that administers Massachusetts’ campaign finance law—directs candidates for public office to submit to stringent campaign finance reporting requirements.  Currently, the legislature and some mayoral candidates are exempt from the law that requires statewide, county and many other municipal candidates to use this reporting system. An Act relative to campaign finance seeks to remedy this disparity by requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates in Massachusetts to participate in the depository system.

 

“Nearly all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor's Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, have participated in this depository reporting system—with the exception of some mayoral and all legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This landmark legislation enhances transparency and accountability in our campaign finance law by requiring that bank statements are sent to OCPF and that we disclose our sources of campaign contributions and expenditures much more often for the public to see.”

 

“I’m proud of the Senate for passing this campaign finance reform legislation today,” said State Senator Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover). “The depository system will lead to increased transparency and uniformity, while minimizing the accidental errors in reporting that often plague campaigns. Voters deserve to know how we get our money as candidates and how we spend it, and the move to the depository system will make all of that data more readily available.”

 

“Accurate reporting of campaign donations and expenditures is critical for the integrity of our elections and the public trust our democracy depends on,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester). “This modernization of our reporting system will expand a proven methodology to more candidates, and produce more timely and accurate information about financial activity. “

 

By requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates to participate in the depository reporting system, this bill will increase accountability by requiring monthly reports that disclose all campaign finance activity, in addition to reports filed by their designated financial institution. Currently, filings for those presently exempt from the depository system occur only two or three times a year.  By increasing the filing frequency to 12 times per year, the legislation seeks to increase transparency in statewide campaign finance activity.

 

This revised process will assist OCPF in identifying discrepancies between a candidate’s public disclosure of campaign finance activity and their bank accounting records.  It would also help OCPF promptly address issues associated with data entry errors, missed deposits, balance issues and uncashed checks.  In addition, the change will make it easier to see how much money a candidate is raising and spending during the course of the entire election cycle.

 

During floor debate, an amendment was debated that would establish the creation of a commission to study the use of campaign funds for family-related activities such as child care and caring for relatives with medical needs. The amendment passed unanimously.

 

“Campaigning is so hard and has so many barriers, especially with family to care for,” said State Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). “But, today we are starting the process to remove one more barrier by examining whether candidates should be able to use donated funds to pay for family care services during campaign activities. We must take bold steps to diversify our elected office holders.”

 

The bill now returns to the House for further consideration.

 

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fuller Meadow Elementary School Teaches The Value of Civics

Lisa Scharffenberg, a first grade teacher at the Fuller Meadow Elementary School in Middleton, Massachusetts, invited me to attend her classroom to meet with her students to discuss civics and democracy. Some might think that this is too lofty of a topic for 1st graders, I am happy to report that they were active, engaged and very thoughtful.

Lisa and her colleague Lindsay Foden have put together a social studies program called “Electing a Leader” and the idea is to use project-based learning to help frame an important question - “How can we, as responsible citizens, identify important qualities of candidates in order to make informed voting decisions?”

Superintendent Scott Morrison and Principal Dr. Diane Carreiro have supported the teachers and even suggested that I should be contacted and invited to come in for an ‘in-person” visit with the class- I am glad that I did. As a legislative sponsor of laws that have expanded access to civics education in our state I am delighted to see this approach for students. The experience was wonderful and I am encouraged by their interest.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Purple Heart Trail 10K and Fun Run This Sunday

Help me spread the word about the November 10 Veterans Day weekend Purple Heart Trail 10K and Fun Run. This event is November 10, 2019; the Fun Run at 8:30 and 10K at 9:00.

In honor of all our military past and present, come and run a 10K from the Patton Homestead, circling around to the Sherman Tank in Patton Park, and back to the Homestead. Kids and those wishing to walk or run a shorter distance can participate in the Fun Run, a 1K loop following the wood road along the perimeter of the beautiful Patton Homestead property.

The first 100 registrants race will receive a long sleeve technical t-shirt and all Fun Run participants will receive a ribbon. All proceeded benefit the The Patton Homestead, Inc. to help them further their non-profit mission.

The Patton Homestead Inc. is the lead host along with the American Legion: Post 194 Hamilton, MA.


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DISCUSSION ON AGEISM AND UNEMPLOYMENT

50+ Job Seekers Regional Networking Meeting 

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting at Essex North Shore Agricultural Technical School with a number or Council on Aging Directors, and other people, to discuss the challenges confronting those over 50 years of age seeking employment.

The Massachusetts workforce is aging. In fact, demographically we have an older population than the rest of the nation and this has an impact on workers, our economy, communities and public policy. Recently, the North Andover COA was awarded a grant funded and supported by the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging to help those over 50 who are looking for a new job or new career direction.

People over 65 were 14 percent of the Massachusetts population in 2010. In 2030, they will be 21 percent of the population. Councils on Aging are working together to support efforts to connect people with valuable resources.

All 50+Job Seekers Regional Networking Meeting meetings are open to anyone who resident of the state who is over 49 years old. Participants are given a regularly scheduled, professional forum for networking with peers in a safe and comfortable environment. Each meeting is facilitated by a certified career and includes a presentation-workshop on topics relevant to career transitions and job searches.

Guest Speakers included - Susan Drevitch Kelly, a consultant from the Massachusetts Councils on Aging and leads the 50+ Job Seekers Regional Networking Group Program throughout the state. Sheila Taylor, COA Director of Ipswich, on this program in her community, how the program developed, the grant they applied for, and the success they have had with it. Cahla Ahlstrom, Assistant to Irene O’Brien of North Andover, on developing this program and what they hope to accomplish.

With Mary Ann Nay my Community Outreach Specialist.




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Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) Services & Vehicle Inspections Unavailable Veterans Day Weekend

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced that due to its final upgrade to new technology no customer service transactions can be conducted starting at 6 PM, Friday, November 8 and until 7 AM, Tuesday, November 12.

In addition, inspection station locations will not be able to conduct motor vehicle inspections on November 9, 10, and 11.
Customers may go online prior to Veterans Day, getting vehicles due for November inspections into service stations prior to November 8, and, if in-person transactions are required, visiting Registry and AAA customer service locations as soon as possible or waiting until later in November.
To summarize- from Friday, November 8 at 6 PM until Tuesday, November 12 at 7 AM there will be no:
* RMV services, including registration or licensing services, will be available at the RMV, AAA, auto dealerships, or at insurance companies.
* vehicle safety or emissions inspections.
* RMV available internet transactions or phone service.

For more information, please visit mass.gov/rmv.


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Friday, November 1, 2019

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Update From Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Construction Look-Ahead: November 3, 2019 – November 16, 2019

Traffic Impacts-
• Route 1 Northbound: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the workzone begins in the left lane and continues in the center lane. Drivers can travel on either side of the center lane workzones. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m. – 10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m. – 5 a.m.).

• Route 1 Southbound: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the workzone begins in the left lane before the Carter Street off-ramp and continues in the center lane. Drivers can travel on either side of the center lane workzone at the Carter Street off-ramp using the left or right travel lanes. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m.–5 a.m.).

• Fourth Street Off-ramp: The Fourth Street off-ramp will remain closed for 1-2 months. Northbound traffic headed to Chelsea must be in the right lane when crossing the bridge to access the Beacon Street off-ramp. After Beacon Street, the next opportunity to exit Route 1 Northbound will be at Webster Avenue.

• Carter Street: Travel lanes passing under Route 1 will be diverted to avoid the active workzone on the eastbound side. Traffic will remain two-way and police details will be used to guide travelers.

• Upcoming Temporary Closures: For one or two nights during this construction period, complete closures of all lanes of traffic will be required for brief periods of time during overnight, off-peak hours for repairs at several locations on the Tobin Bridge. Overnight closures are weather-dependent and MassDOT will provide additional information and notice once the dates have been determined.

Work Hours
• Most work will occur in during daytime working hours (6 a.m.–2 p.m.) on weekdays. Some work will take place during afternoon (2 p.m.–7 p.m) and overnight hours (7 p.m.–6 a.m.) and on Saturdays (7 a.m.–7 p.m).
• No work will occur on Monday, November 11 in observance of the Veterans Day holiday.

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Ribbon Cutting at Local Colors Artists’ Cooperative

This morning I was happy to join with members and friends of the Local Colors Artists’ Cooperative in Gloucester to present them with a Senate Citation and help them celebrate 30 years in business. In that time they have had more than 200 members participate all while earning the support of the community. We had refreshments, live music, good stories and a grand time.

With Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, members of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, artists, members and others.






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