Moore announces major legislative accomplishments
Legislature focuses on job creation, economic development; pass major reforms
August 13, 2012 ... Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, recently joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in outlining recent session accomplishments. As of Tuesday, July 31st, the Senate and House had passed major legislation pertaining to economic development, health care cost containment, transportation infrastructure, criminal justice, and aid for citizens and municipalities across the Commonwealth.
“The past nineteen months have been an incredibly productive period for the benefit of the people we represent as we tackled a host of pressing issues and sought to deliver results that matter for our constituents,” stated Sen. Moore. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished because of the positive effect that our efforts will have on hard-working individuals and families as well as the economic future of our entire state,” he continued.
With an eye to offsetting the pain of the economic downturn, the Legislature closed the session by passing two major pieces of legislation that create jobs and curb health care costs on patients and business, respectively.
The Legislature placed creating and retaining jobs at the center of its agenda. It sent to the Governor a strong piece of legislation that implements strategically-focused economic development policies to make Massachusetts more competitive. The bill achieves that by improving the Commonwealth’s innovation economy, promoting economic prosperity through infrastructure investments and streamlined permitting, facilitating the expansion of new and existing businesses, and training our workforce for the future.
Few issues burden families and businesses as much as the high cost of health care. Accordingly, the Senate, under the leadership of Sen. Moore in his role as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, and House achieved passage of historic health care cost containment legislation that addresses the unsustainable cost of health care while allowing the health care industry to continue to provide world-class quality care. The reform aims at empowering patients and assisting hospitals while streamlining health care in the Commonwealth. Under this law, patients will be provided with more tools to make informed decisions as they pertain to care and cost.
Sen. Moore ultimately took the lead in negotiating the final cost containment bill as Senate Chair of the Health Care Cost Containment Conference Committee.
Aware of the tough economic circumstances in which some individuals and families find themselves, the Legislature took decisive action to protect homeowners who have fallen victim to predatory mortgages and unnecessary foreclosures. Under this legislation, lenders and banks will have to offer loan modifications to borrowers in certain circumstances so that foreclosure can be avoided.
Also at the end of session, the Legislature approved a tough sentencing bill that cracks down on habitual offenders and establishes new requirements to improve the functions of the state parole board. After much deliberation, the Legislature approved a bill that requires the habitual offender tag to be placed on anyone convicted of two crimes from a list of the most serious offenses, including murder, rape and kidnapping. It mandates that any habitual offender found guilty of a third offense from the list of most serious crimes would be ineligible for parole. The balanced bill also reduces mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses.
These major successes have built upon those of 2011 during which the Legislature passed a myriad of legislation including bills pertaining to municipal health care, court reorganization, and expanded gaming.
The municipal health insurance reform law aimed to help communities save on healthcare costs, while also protecting care quality for retirees and municipal employees, municipal workers pay no more in co-payments and deductibles than those paid by subscribers to the largest plan offered by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which provides health insurance to state workers and legislators. To date, over 127 communities in the Commonwealth have combined to save an estimated $175 million in health insurance premiums, nearly double the predicted savings at the time of legislative approval.
The long-awaited expanded gambling bill that was passed by the Legislature and later signed by Governor Patrick will allow for three resort casinos in separate regions of the state and one competitively-bid slot facility. These gambling venues are projected to provide 15,000 jobs in the Commonwealth, fuel our growing economy and generate hundreds-of-millions of dollars a year for the state.
Back in January, the Legislature refocused on cost savings, immediately picking up where it left off after the holidays with passage of unemployment insurance rate freeze legislation that would save the average employer $141 per employee. Efforts such as these ease the burden on small businesses during these tough fiscal times.
After approving legislation that improves the governance, financial accountability, and state and local oversight of regional education collaboratives, the Legislature worked a number of other bills including one that would allow landfills to be used for renewable energy.
During the budget process, the Legislature renewed its commitment to the Commonwealth’s citizens and municipalities by passing a $32.5 billion Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 spending plan that focuses heavily on local aid and job creation. The budget does not contain any new taxes and uses a combination of ongoing revenue initiatives, one-time resources and spending reductions to close a $1.4 billion budget gap, the smallest budget gap the state has had since FY08.
In particular, the budget increases funding for local aid by $288.9 million over FY12 projected spending, including $899 million for unrestricted local aid, increases Chapter 70 funding to $4.17 billion, ensuring that all school districts receive at least an additional $40 per pupil in aid, and increased Regional School Transportation funding to $45.52 million. Additionally, the budget fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker at $242 million for first time since FY08.
Moore lauded the inclusion of key public and community safety initiatives he introduced and championed that substantively change the penalties for unlicensed operation, providing an automobile to an unlicensed driver, falsifying identification cards as well as a provision closing the loop hole that allows unlicensed operators to register cars.
The budget furthermore contains provisions that reform the state’s EBT system in an attempt to weed out any fraudulent use of the state’s public welfare resources.
The Legislature also passed a number of other bills that aimed to improve the quality of life for servicemen and women, those in need of housing, and commuters. With passage of the VALOR Act, the Legislature expanded the services offered through the Massachusetts Military Family Relief Fund, assisted military families in transitioning in and out of Massachusetts, and increased the efficiency of veterans’ service officers in our communities.
The Legislature later worked to add a level of job security for call and volunteer firefighters and created easier access to supportive housing for those who need it most through passage of supportive housing legislation.
Throughout the session, the Legislature has remained committed to improving the state’s transportation system. The Legislature approved funding to improve transportation infrastructure in municipalities across the state through a Chapter 90 allocation.
Other session accomplishments include:
Sen. Moore also anticipates final passage soon of a bill they authored and ushered through the legislative process to reduce phosphorous runoff into the Charles River and other waterways around the state. The legislation has been supported by a diverse group of environmental, municipal and business advocates because of the benefit to the environment and potential to save towns and businesses millions of dollars in storm water runoff expenses.
The Legislature will now meet in informal sessions through the end of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session.