Rep. Hank Naughton Editorial: End of a Session

The Legislative Session officially came to an end for both the House of Representatives and Senate on July 31st. For the rest of the year, House and Senate members continue to meet in informal sessions in order to pass uncontroversial legislation.

As we move on from the 2017-2018 legislative session and begin to prepare for 2019, I’d like to thank and congratulate my colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature for their commitment and hard work over the past year-and-a-half. Before we begin the important work we have ahead, I’d like to look back on what we’ve accomplished over the course of this session. Many of the items included are directly beneficial to the lives of the residents of the 12th Worcester District.

The passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget ensured the implementation of sound state spending while providing extensive funding for important projects and measures throughout the Commonwealth. I’m pleased to announce the following budgetary items in my district:

  • $500,000 in reimbursement for the Water and Sewer Treatment Plant and for land use of the Wachusett Reservoir to the Town of Clinton.
  • $50,000 in reimbursement to the Town of Boylston for hosting the Municipal Police Training Academy.
  • $40,000 to the Town of Lancaster for the construction of the Thayer Memorial Park.
  • $42,500 to the Town of Clinton for the removal of contaminated soils and environmental remediation.
  • $50,000 to the Town of Clinton for the maintenance and improvement of the south branch of the Nashua River to lessen hazard of flood.
  • $25,000 to the Town of Berlin for the installation of an artesian well and submerged water pump for irrigation in the Community Garden.
  • Approximately $200,000 in Prison Mitigation funding to the Town of Lancaster.

In addition to the funding we’ve been able to secure for FY19, I’ve been proud to sponsor and support a range bills from drafting to passage over the course of this past session.

In response to the epidemic that has destroyed countless lives throughout the Commonwealth and in my district, the House took action to address the opioid crisis with sweeping initiatives to promote behavioral health for adults and children and measures to prevent substance use disorders. The legislation takes measures including expanding access to non-opioid treatment options for pain management; establishing grants to benefit substance exposed newborn children and prohibiting discounts and rebates for certain prescription opioids. It also takes steps to improve the quality of patient care at treatment facilities, expands access to Narcan and increases training for law enforcement to respond to behavioral health crisis.

This past spring the House passed the most comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation in a generation to establish a more equitable system by supporting our most vulnerable residents, reducing recidivism, increasing judicial discretion, and enhancing public safety.

The reforms bolster the House’s multi-tiered approach to combatting the opioid epidemic by creating the nation’s strongest law for trafficking Carfentanil and by strengthening the Fentanyl trafficking law. The legislation requires district attorneys to create pre-arraignment diversion programs for military personnel, veterans, and individuals with addiction or mental health issues. It removes the age restriction to participate in a diversion program, as they are currently only available to defendants 22 and under.

Building off its tradition of protecting women’s rights, I was proud to have joined my colleagues in the House in passing landmark legislation to guarantee reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. With an uncertain future for federal action on reproductive rights, the Legislature took decisive action to protect the rights for women across the Commonwealth by passing legislation to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to repeal outdated state laws directed at limiting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health.

Small businesses play an important role in the economic and social life of the 12th Worcester district. I was there for happy to renew the Commonwealth’s dedication to balancing the needs of workers and small businesses, the House passed legislation to raise the minimum wage; create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers; and to establish a permanent sales tax holiday.

Recognizing the critical needs of the Commonwealth’s first responders, the House passed a bundle of bills aimed at supporting enhanced police training, provisions to protect firefighting men and women as they recover from work-related cancer illnesses and providing access to confidential mental health services for those responders recovering from traumatic events.

In further support of the Commonwealth’s first responders I oversaw legislation that reformed rules and guidelines on peer counseling. Under the new law, police and firefighters will be guaranteed confidentiality when seeking out peer counseling. These reforms mitigate the stigma surrounding mental health in the first responder community and will enable those who keep us safe to get the help they need.

The Massachusetts Legislative Session may have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean our work ceases. As fall approaches and new problems and proposals are brought to my attention, I will continue to work on behalf of my constituents. I’m looking forward to finishing what we have yet to accomplish.

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