As we begin a new year and gear up for the release of a new budget for FY2017, I wanted to take this opportunity to keep you updated on what the Legislature is planning to take up in 2016, some of the accomplishments of the past year and other useful information.
My primary responsibility as your State Representative is to make sure your voice is heard on every matter that affects you, your family and our community.
It is sobering to see that, despite the hard work and dedication of so many of our friends and neighbors, the need for housing, mental health, substance abuse services and economic development continues to be overwhelming.
I pride myself on constituent services and will continue to be as accessible to all of the people that I represent. With this in mind, I invite you to visit either my State House or district office where you may discuss any issue of interest or concern, whether it involves a piece of legislation or a problem you may be experiencing with a state agency or within the District.
I may also be reached by calling either the State House at 617-722-2520 or the district office at 781-749-3331. You can schedule an appointment or walk into one of our “office hours”. You may also send me a message via email at Garrett.Bradley@MAHouse.gov or through my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
I am truly honored and humbled to represent you on Beacon Hill and in return I thank you for your trust in me. You have my full commitment that I will continue to work every day to improve your quality of life.
Substance Abuse Treatment Legislation:
The proportions of the deadly opioid epidemic both nationally and in Massachusetts continue to be staggering. It is truly frightening and make no mistake this is an issue that affects people regardless of their race, sex, religion, education or income level. What we can do as a society is try to provide the resources and support to those individuals suffering from addiction and the loved ones trying to help them recover.
This is why the substance abuse legislation the House of Representatives passed on January 19, 2016 is so vital. As part of this legislation, I offered two amendments which were both adopted. The first amendment revises the Section 35 warrant process. Family members and loved ones can use this Court procedure to civilly commit someone who is putting themselves in danger through abuse of alcohol and/or drugs. My amendment will extend the warrant for 5 consecutive days (excluding Saturday, Sunday and legal holidays) which should help ease the burden on family members and loved ones who typically need to go back to Court on a daily-basis for re-issuance of the warrant.
The second amendment I offered provides for creation of a consumer-facing dashboard for the public, which will provide real-time information on treatment bed and services availability across the system. The dashboard would include information describing the Section 35 procedure for petitioning any district or juvenile court for commitment of a person with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder.
The bill creates a new standard to evaluate and treat patients who present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose. This new best practice, which will be covered by insurance, is designed to ensure the proper assessment and discharge of patients who seek voluntary treatment.
First-time opiate prescriptions will be limited to seven days for adults and all opiate prescriptions for minors to seven days, with exceptions for chronic pain management, cancer, and palliative care. Additionally, practitioners must check the prescription monitoring program (PMP) each time they prescribe any opiate and correspondingly note that in the patient’s medical records.
In an effort to build upon current prevention efforts, the legislation updates current law requiring all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse education by requiring schools to report their plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
From its discussions with numerous stakeholders and recovery groups, the House recognized the importance of empowering individuals as they grapple with addiction. As a result, this bill establishes a non-opiate directive form, allowing patients to include a notation in their records that they shall not be offered opiates. It also requires that patients being discharged from substance addiction programs receive information on all FDA-approved medication-assisted therapies.
The bill also:
- Requires that contact information for all insurers be posted on the bed-finder tool website and updates the law to ensure the site is available 24 hours a day;
- Ensures civil-liability protection for individuals who administer Narcan;
- Updates the training guidelines for all practitioners who prescribe controlled substances;
This legislation follows a 65.2% increase in substance addiction funding since FY12 and the landmark substance addiction law passed in 2014 which, for the first time, mandated detox and stabilization coverage. The Legislature had also requested that the Fiscal Year 2015 budget include almost $18 million in new spending to help combat substance addiction. It included $10 million for the Substance Abuse Services Trust Fund to provide substance abuse services to an additional 10,000 individuals in need of treatment.
New law allows women to access services in treatment facilities, rather than prison:
On January 25, with strong support from the House and Senate, Governor Baker signed a new law requiring women who are civilly committed for alcohol or substance use disorders to be referred to treatment programs instead of being placed into the prison system. For far too long, women in crisis were sent to MCI-Framingham, an inappropriate setting for women battling substance addiction but have not committed a criminal offense. To ensure that women needing treatment will be able to access appropriate services, the Commonwealth will open 60 new beds for women at Taunton State Hospital and Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, over the course of 2016.
Gun Control Bill:
All one has to do is turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or check the web to read about the latest deadly shooting in the US. The inability of the Congress to act due to political polarization recently resulted in the President issuing a series of executive orders on firearms regulation. These took the form of proposed funding for mental health and enforcement agents, requiring the licensing of gun dealers and universal background checks. There will be legal challenges in federal court regarding the President’s authority to take executive action on this issue, which leaves the implementation of these orders a gray area.
However, I am pleased to state that during the 2013-2014 session the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor worked collaboratively to put together a firearms bill that took into account the views of all interested stakeholders. I was intimately involved in crafting this bi-partisan, first in the nation gun control bill to create more accountability for all participants in the firearms licensing process. The bill was supported by Stop Handgun Violence and GOAL, the local branch of the NRA. The intent was to improve public safety while preserving the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Some of the provisions include:
- Allowing local licensing authorities to petition the district court to determine whether an applicant is suitable to have a Firearms Identification card (FID).
- Firearms dealers will also be required to conduct Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks on employees.
- Makes Massachusetts compliant with the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so that local officials will know if out of state criminals attempt to purchase guns in Massachusetts.
- Creates new firearms crimes such as assault and battery by discharge of a firearm.
- Requires the state's Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) to create a "real-time web portal" to revamp the private firearms sale process. This should make it easier for applicants to determine the status of their license application.
- Requires the Chief of Police and school Superintendent to assign a school resource officer to each school district; and
- Requires schools to address the mental health needs of students and staff.
Here are a few of the bills I filed for the current legislative session:
Enhanced Disclosure of Campaign Contributors: In 2015, I served on the Campaign Finance Disclosure and Transparency Task Force created by the General Court to review potential changes to campaign donor disclosures. As a result of extensive analysis by task force members, including Pam Wilmot of Common Cause, I filed a number of bills (H. 541, H. 542, H. 543) to create enhanced transparency for campaign donations, limits on contributions for special election candidates, and enhanced disclosure for contributor information. On Nov. 17, 2015 these bills were heard before the Committee on Election Laws and I am working to get them released with a favorable recommendation.
H.1188 – Parole hearing bill: This bill increases from 5 to 10 years the time between parole hearings for individuals who have been convicted of second-degree murder. This will provide relief to victims’ families so that they do not have to relive the nightmare of facing their loved one’s murderer as often, both for emotional and logistical reasons. Second degree murderers can become parole eligible in 15 to 20 years, depending on what the sentencing judge allows. The statute on time between hearings was last changed in 1996, increasing to five years from three years.
H.1826 - An Act relative to protecting puppies and kittens was heard on January 21,2016 before the Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. This bill prohibits the sale of puppies and kittens under 8 weeks old. It also seeks to protect pets and consumers by improving the MA “Puppy Lemon Law” so that those who unknowingly purchase a sick puppy have better remedies.
H.2094 - An Act relative to seat belts on school buses, requires that all school buses manufactured after January, 2016 have passenger seat belts.
H.3808 – An Act designating a certain traffic island in the town of Hingham as the Frank Massa Memorial Island was given a hearing on December 3, 2015 before the Committee on Transportation and is progressing through the legislative process. This bill honors Frank Massa who founded Massa Industries seventy years ago and has been located in Hingham since 1950. He is considered the father of modern sonar transducer development and his work provided for passive sonar equipment used by submarines to detect surface ships.
Tanning Bed Age Limit:
I supported a bill that the House adopted which raises the age of tanning-bed usage by teens. The medical evidence shows that skin cancer and cancer-related disease drastically increases among our youth for those that are regular uses of tanning-beds. As a father of three, I am so troubled by these facts. Thus, I wholeheartedly supported the proposed raising the age limit to 18 years of age. This bill will undoubtedly save lives within our Community and Commonwealth
Fore River Bridge Reconstruction Update:
I know that many of my constituents travel over the Fore River Bridge on a daily basis and are familiar with the ongoing reconstruction of the bridge. Unfortunately, the work is behind schedule (due to fabrication issues of bridge sheaves required to lift the bridge) and is currently slated to be complete in October 2018. However, work is continuing. Approximately 85% of the approach roadway work in both Quincy and Weymouth is complete. Work on the installation of permanent drainage and utilities in the Quincy rotary will take place over the next 4-5 months. Also scheduled to begin shortly is approach span work for both the Weymouth and Quincy side.
On behalf of the South Shore legislative delegation, my office sends out e-mail notifications announcing expected Fore River Bridge openings. Please note, that bridge opening times are subject to change based on weather, tides and sunlight. We work hard to get you the most up to date details, but sometimes unanticipated delays or early arrivals come about. If you would like to be included on this distribution list please e-mail me.
MBTA Proposed Schedule & Fare Public Hearings:
As part of the ongoing process of examining and addressing the fiscal and infrastructure challenges facing the MBTA, the agency will be hosting a number of public hearings throughout the state on the issues of fares and new commuter rail schedules.
The closest public hearing for constituents of Hingham, Hull and Cohasset is the one scheduled for Thursday February 11, 2016 at Weymouth High School’s Auditorium from 6PM to 8PM. A complete list of the upcoming public hearings is available via this link.
Please know that I continue to work in collaboration with State Legislators representing other South Shore communities in order to address the needs of our District, including roadway and transportation matters [including reviewing the MBTA commuter rail weekend scheduling]. In addition, I continue to work on a regular with the local elected officials in Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and North Scituate in order to address issues impacting residents and business owners.
State Representative Garrett Bradley serves the Third Plymouth District, comprising the towns of Cohasset, Hingham, Hull and Precinct 3 Scituate.