December E-Newsletter 2016
As we approach the New Year, I wanted to update you on what we accomplished this year, set forth my goals for next session, and address constituent concerns that have been brought to my attention.
Many of you have contacted my office expressing concerns about the implementation of the new recreational marijuana law and your disapproval of the Electoral College system. I understand and sympathize with your frustrations and encourage you to keep reading below for a detailed explanation of my thoughts on these issues.
Also detailed below is some information regarding Student Government Day and MassTax Connect, which may be of interest to you.
I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and look forward to returning to the State House in January to serve as your State Senator.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me via the contact form on my website, by telephone at (617)722-1432, by email at Kenneth.Donnelly@masenate.gov, or by mail at Senator Ken Donnelly, State House, Room 413-D, Boston, MA 02133. Additionally, be sure to stay up to date on the issues by following my twitter account and liking my Facebook page.
Accomplishments in the Legislature
Some of the highlights of this year’s accomplishments are detailed below. For a full synopsis of what the Senate accomplished this year, please refer to Senate President Rosenberg’s comprehensive summary.
A Victory for Civil Rights
Last session, my colleagues and I fought for a bill that would guarantee equal access to public accommodations for transgender individuals. This July, Governor Baker signed the Transgender Equal Rights bill into law, which officially became effective this fall. Now, transgender individuals are treated equally under state law and have the right to use public restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. I am incredibly proud of the work we have done to take this historic step forward to ensure full and equal rights for the transgender community across Massachusetts. Visit my website for more information on this topic.
Better Access to Public Records
In May, the House and Senate passed a public records bill that would set new limits on the time public entities would have to comply with records requests. Under this bill, state agencies and municipalities must respond to public records requests within 10 business days. Additionally, it allows courts to award legal costs to plaintiffs who obtain public records through lawsuits and requires records access officers to send a written response providing specific reasons for denial. This bill enhances transparency and increases the ability of citizens to obtain records in a timely manner.
Improving Public Safety
This October, the House and Senate enacted H.4455, an act creating a special commission to study cutting, welding and hot work processes regulated by the State Fire Code. Representative Nick Collins and I filed this legislation in response to the tragic accident that resulted in the loss of two Boston firefighters, which raised a number of questions on the oversight of welding and hot works. The commission will investigate the current requirements for licenses and permits relative to hot work processes to determine if the current state fire code provides sufficient regulations to protect the public. I am proud to have fought for this bill which will allow legislators to determine whether the regulations should be strengthened or improved so that we may prevent future tragedies relative to cutting, welding and hot works.
Legislator of the Year
This October, I was honored to receive the Legislator of the Year Award from Workforce Solutions Group and was recognized as a leader in workforce development at the 7th Annual Massachusetts Jobs and Workforce Summit. Since I began my work at the State House, I have fought to advance workforce training that will lead to good jobs as well as strengthen our economy. I am humbled to be acknowledged for the work I care so passionately about and will continue to fight to advance workforce development in the Commonwealth.
This session, I am focused on filing bills relative to mental health treatment, bail reform, labor and workforce development, education and pension forfeiture. Among the many bills I plan to file this upcoming session, I have highlighted a few of the major ones below.
· Center of Excellence - Would establish a Center of Excellence in Community Policing and Behavioral Health to serve as a clearinghouse for best practices in police response to people with mental illness and substance use disorders
· Critical Community Health Services - Would allow providers to petition the district court for mandated outpatient treatment for any mentally ill patient who is not competent enough to make informed decisions about their care and is likely to get better with services and, at the same time, require the state to provide those services.
· Bail Reform - Would create a uniform process for bail decision making involving a validated risk assessment tool and release recommendations proposed by a Pretrial Services Division of the Office of Probation. Pretrial Services would be responsible for compiling risk assessment information and for creating an informed pretrial release recommendation.
· Restoration Center – Would fund a four year planning and implementation grant for a restoration center in Massachusetts that would serve as a resource and service center for police officers and individuals with severe mental illness who become involved with the criminal justice system. The proposed center would be similar to that of the highly successful Bexar County restoration center in San Antonio, Texas. To learn more, please refer to the recent Boston Globe Spotlight article on mental health criminal justice diversion.
· Workforce Development – Workforce development has always been a major focus of mine. During the upcoming session, I plan to file a variety of bills that ensure that all of our residents have access to training and educational opportunities that lead to good jobs with competitive wages. Crafting diverse and robust employment pipelines is crucial to the state’s future economic vitality.
Following the bill filing deadline on January 20th, you can expect to see my bills featured more in-depth on my website and on my various social media accounts. If you have any questions about the legislative process or the bills I plan to file, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
I encourage you to read the story below and to begin following the Spotlight series on mental health to learn more about the challenges one of our most vulnerable and underserved population face here in Massachusetts.
I have heard from many of you about your concerns with the outcome of this year’s presidential election and your disapproval of the Electoral College system. As you may be aware, my colleagues and I enacted a National Popular Vote Interstate Compact bill on July 27, 2010 (H.4156), and former Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law on August 4, 2010 (Chapter 229 of the Acts of 2010). Under the bill, the winner of the presidential election would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In practice, this would mean that when the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states. This bill would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the Electoral College votes (i.e., 270 of 538, or enough to elect a president). To date, 11 jurisdictions representing 165 electoral votes have passed similar measures.
I know that some of you have expressed concerns regarding future efforts to repeal H.4156. Let me reassure you that I will continue to defend H.4156’s enactment, as the bill guarantees that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.
Ballot Question 4
Over the past month, many of you have reached out to me with your thoughts on the new marijuana law that was enacted on December 15th, 2016, which permits the recreational use and possession of marijuana in Massachusetts. I have heard from many who believe we should delay the effective date of the law and from some who believe we should not delay the effective date of the law as it pertains to the sale of marijuana, a measure that would not become effective until 2018.
I understand your concerns and wanted to let you know that at this point, I am willing to let the process advance according to the current schedule. However, should the state fail to develop a set of clear and comprehensive rules with regards to the sale of recreational marijuana or not build in enough opportunities for ample public input, I will advocate for a re-evaluation of the date in which the sales component of the statute would go into effect.
While I believe there are instances in which the legislature should intervene when a ballot question passes, it should be done carefully and only when there is a compelling reason related to the public interest to do so. In this case, we need to allow the executive branch to do its job to develop regulations and then re-evaluate these regulations once the process is complete or significant issues become apparent.
· Governor Baker announced his 9C Budget Cuts on December 6th. While I am disappointed with the Governor's decision to cut funding for many services vital to the state, such as substance abuse services, I was pleased to hear that many of the priorities I previously secured were unaffected, including:
· $250,000 funding for the Assisted Outpatient Treatment pilot program at Eliot Community Human Services, Inc. to treat residents who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness and experience repeated interaction with law enforcement.
· $200,000 funding for On-Site Academy to provide training and treatment programs for correction officers for critical incident stress management.
· $150,000 funding for the Arlington Youth Counseling Center, a licensed mental health counseling facility that supports Arlington youth and families.
· $50,000 funding for direct payroll costs of a MassHealth liaison to the trial court.
· $25,000 funding for design and construction at the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School.
To learn more about the Governor’s 9C Cuts, please visit Mass Budget’s website.
Student Government Day
The 70th Annual Student Government Day is scheduled for Friday, April 7th, 2017. Student Government Day is a great opportunity for students from public and private high schools across Massachusetts to learn about the structure of state government and to develop an understanding of how our democracy works.
The deadline for high schools in the Fourth Middlesex district to register is Friday, January 20th, 2017.
For more information, please visit the Student Government Day webpage.
Mass Tax Connect
MassTaxConnect is the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) new electronic system for filing and paying taxes in the Commonwealth. The new integrated tax system replaced WebFile for Business in 2015, and WebFile for Income in 2016.
To learn more about how to file or pay your taxes online, please visit DOR’s MassTaxConnect webpage.
If you have any additional questions regarding MassTaxConnect, please contact our office via phone or email.
Citizens’ Legislative Seminar
Senate President Stan Rosenberg will sponsor the 78th Citizens’ Legislative Seminar on Tuesday, March 21st and Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017. The seminar is a great opportunity for sponsored citizens of the Commonwealth to learn about the legislative process.
Learn more here
Regular office hours will resume in January of the New Year. Please refer to the schedule below.
January 3rd - Burlington Council on Aging 10:00AM-11:00AM
January 3rd - Billerica Council on Aging 11:30AM-12:30PM
January 10th - Arlington 9:30AM-10:30AM
January 17th - Woburn Council on Aging 9:00AM-10:00AM
January 17th - Lexington Council on Aging 10:30AM-11:30AM
*Note: Arlington office hours will now be held at the Kickstand Café at 594 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476