Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With the close of the 2009-2010 Formal Legislative Session on July 31st, the House of Representatives tackled some very important issues, many that I have advocated for over the years such as safe driving and school nutrition. We also had numerous events held by my office which included the Soccer Grannies from South Africa who toured the State House and met Lt. Governor Murray and Speaker DeLeo. My own constituent, Jean Kilbourne presented one of her films to the Caucus of Women Legislators related to the affects of advertising on women and their bodies.
There is much to report from the past several months and if you need further information please visit my website at www.kaykhan.org
Film Presentation: Killing Us Softly 4
On Wednesday, June 30th, I was pleased to introduce my constituent Jean Kilbourne's "Killing Us Softly 4", the newest addition to the Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women, film series, to legislators and their staff at the State House. The presentation was sponsored by the Caucus of Women Legislators. Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. In the late 1960s she began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems.
Briefing on Office of Child Advocate
On June 29th, I organized my committee, The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities to hold a briefing on the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), a new position established through legislation which passed in 2008 pertaining to child abuse and neglect. A presentation by Gail Garinger, the Child Advocate and former First Justice, Middlesex County Juvenile Court discussed the goal of the OCA to ensure that every child involved with child welfare or juvenile justice agencies in Massachusetts is protected from harm and receives appropriate and effective services delivered in a timely and respectful manner.
On July 3rd, I was invited to travel to Ethiopia with a delegation, organized by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). CHANGE is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization whose mission is to ensure that U.S. international policies and programs promote sexual and reproductive health within a human rights framework for women and girls worldwide. CHANGE is interested is the work which is being done with the U.S. government support around family planning by encouraging postponement of early marriage, use of contraceptives, safe abortions, fistula repair, better access to maternal and child health; but basics: water, agriculture, nutrition, sanitation, education, transportation are desperately needed. The purpose of the study tour was to gain a first-hand understanding of health and development issues in Ethiopia, and the importance of integrated and comprehensive approaches to maternal health, family planning and HIV and AIDS.
It was a wonderful opportunity. I was joined by Senator Sandra Pappas of Minnesota, and Senator Arthenia Joyner of Florida and together, while visiting various clinics in Addis Ababa and in remote rural villages in the Amhara Province, we observed the Ethiopian Government's new Health Extension Model of Care. We met with U.S. Ambassador Booth, the USAID office, representatives of UNICEF, UNFPA, the Pope of the Christian Orthodox Church and others.
Please join me on September 20th at Newton Democratic City Committee event being held at the the Newton Senior Center on Walnut Street from 7-9PM to hear more about this extraordinary experience.
South African Grannies Soccer Team Visits
On Monday, July 19th, I organized a visit of the "Vakhegula Vakhegula" or the "Grannies Grannies" soccer team from Limpopo, South Africa at the State House, as part of the team's visit to Massachusetts for the 2010 Veterans Cup Tournament. The South African female soccer team ranges in age from 49 to 84 years old and convenes twice a week for soccer practice, known as "football" in South Africa. The team was established five years ago to improve the health and fitness levels of women in Limpopo. The soccer team's hometown of Limpopo is impoverished, and the population faces challenges to properly treat health problems such as high blood pressure or cancer. It was wonderful to have the South African Grannies soccer team visit the State House and see first-hand their inspirational spirit and passion for the sport, as well as for the betterment of their own lives and the people of their homeland. They were welcomed to the State House by Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, Speaker DeLeo and toured the the State House with Rep. Byron Rushing, before their departure back to South Africa.
New START Treaty Presentation
In July, Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock visited the State House and gave a presentation concerning the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Nan Orrock is the President of WiLL, the Women Legislators' Lobby, a national network of women state legislators launched by Women's Action for New Directions, of which I am a State Director. On April 8th, 2010, President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). This New START Treaty between the United States and Russia is the most comprehensive arms control agreement in 20 years. Following its signing, the treaty requires ratification by both the United States and Russia. Respected leaders on both sides of the aisle agree that this treaty is critical to protecting our national security. U.S. ratification requires at least 67 Senators to approve the treaty. Nan Orrock asked state Representatives to sign a letter urging Senators Kerry and Brown to support the U.S. Senate's ratification of the New START Treaty. Subsequent to Nan Orrock's presentation, I arranged for WiLL's Executive Director, Susan Shaer to meet with Senator Richard Ross to help us arrange for further discussion with Senator Scott Brown on the subject in an effort to gain his support.
City of Newton
I am pleased to report that the Waban and West Newton sound barriers are finally coming to fruition! The Waban sound barrier is almost to the point of completion and the barrier along the MassPike is not far behind. I am thrilled that after 15 years of advocating for these projects, the people of Newton will now have some relief from the noise of the MassPike and Rt.128, thanks to Governor Patrick. In the photo above I was joined by Mayor Setti Warren, Aldermen Sangiolo, Gentile, Harney, Senator Creem's office and neighbors to celebrate the barrier along the MassPike
Old Lower Falls Rail Bridge Restoration Update
A contractor has been selected by the State DOT and the reconstruction of the old rail bridge for pedestrian access, crossing the Charles River from Newton to Wellesley should begin in mid September. We are looking forward to having a groundbreaking ceremony within the first few of weeks of September. I hope you will join us in celebrating this project and the Community Center project.
Lower Falls Community Center Rehab Update
With $679,000 ($500,000 from a State Capitol Bond Bill authorized by Governor Patrick and $179,000 from a State Department of Energy DOER grant obtained through a competitive process), work on the Community Center after months of planning by the Newton Building Department and Recreation Department has begun. To date, a much needed new roof for the Community Center has been completed and work is being done to replace the HVAC system. The next phase will be to replace the windows throughout the Community Center. A major accomplishment in the construction process was to create a model "green building" for the City.
1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts
On July 12th, the official list of 1,000 Great Places was announced at the Massachusetts State House. Amongst the 1,000, there are two in Newton which included: Heartbreak Hill and The Jackson Homestead and Museum. The list was created by The 1,000 Great Places Commission which was created by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in 2009. Its mission is to identify and recognize the 1000 most truly special places in the Commonwealth, in order to celebrate pride in our history and culture, increase knowledge of our natural surroundings, and encourage regional and international tourism. The program is administered through a partnership of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and its regional tourism councils; and the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC).
School Nutrition Bill
Earlier this year I voted to ban the sale of unhealthy foods and drinks in Massachusetts public schools, through legislation that improves food choices at Commonwealth schools to help fight childhood obesity. I was pleased that the bill included my legislation which will provide communities with the necessary tools to help our schools partner with parents and health care providers to create a healthier future for our children. This bill was signed into law by Governor Patrick on July 30th.
Safe Driving Legislation Signed Into Law
In July, Governor Patrick signed into law safe driving legislation that prohibits texting while driving, requires vision testing for drivers over the age of seventy-five and bans junior operators from using a cell phone behind the wheel. One of the main features of the bill included my impaired driver legislation, H. 2241, which allows health care providers to report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) a patient of any age who demonstrates a cognitive or functional impairment believed to affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The health care provider will be immune from civil liability that might otherwise result from reporting or failing to report. This language received the support of the Massachusetts Medical Society, AARP, AAA Southern New England, the University of Massachusetts Boston, Gerontology Institute, the Massachusetts Councils on Aging and Middlesex D.A. Gerry Leone. The Newton TAB published an op-ed I wrote on this issue in July and you can read it here
Nurse Anesthetist Bill Signed Into Law
I am pleased to announce that my legislation, An Act Relative to Nurse Anesthetists (H. 2082) was signed into law on July 29th by Governor Patrick. This bill will give nurse anesthetists the authority to order tests and therapeutics, as well as prescribe medications in the "immediate peri-operative period".
There has been much confusion over the ability of nurse anesthetists to write prescriptions and order tests related to pre- and post-anesthesia care. This dilemma has made it more difficult for nurse anesthetists to deliver quality care to patients in pre- and post-operative settings.
With this clearly defined authority, nurse anesthetists will be able to assess and evaluate patients for anesthesia and surgery, as well as order lab testing and medications before and after surgery.
Other Legislative Business
Criminal Offender Record Information and Sentencing Reform Signed into Law
At the end of July, I joined my colleagues in passing legislation reforming the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system and reducing the time period in which records can be accessed to 10 years for felony convictions and five years for misdemeanors. Under this legislation, those convicted of murder would not be eligible to have their records sealed. This bill dictates that sex offenses are never eligible to be sealed. This legislation creates the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to replace the Criminal History Systems Board which currently controls access to CORI. Transferring Control to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services will expand access to CORI for employers while increasing the accuracy of CORI reports. **Add the piece about sentencing reform to this as well.
This bill also overhauls the state's mandatory minimum sentencing laws for certain drug offenses. This will cover only people convicted of lower-level drug offenses and serving 2.5 years or less at a county jail, not anyone in a state prison. Under the change, these offenders will be eligible for parole after they serve one half of their sentence, ensuring that they receive supervision and training when they leave prison. Such convicts currently serve the mandatory sentence and are released with no restrictions or training because they have no parole. Offenders won't be able to obtain parole if they used violence or guns, directed drug activities of others or sold to minors.
Legislation Regulating Use of All-Terrain Vehicles Signed into Law
Legislation prohibiting anyone under 14 years of age from operating an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and imposing strict penalties upon those who ride ATV's recklessly or negligently. This legislation stipulates that those between the ages of 14 and 16 years can only operate an ATV under direct adult supervision. This bill will impose fines for operating an ATV under the influence of an intoxicating substance. It will also instate fines, imprisonment - or both - for anyone operating an ATV recklessly or negligently and causing serious bodily injury to another individual. Protective headgear would also be required for those operating an ATV or riding an ATV.
Economic Development Bill Signed into Law
In July, The Governor signed into law economic development legislation that would streamline economic development agencies in order to make Massachusetts more attractive to businesses. The legislation also repeals the state's medical and pharmaceutical gift ban and establishes a sales tax holiday this summer. This bill consolidates agencies that play a role in attracting business to the Commonwealth into a Massachusetts Marketing Partnership which would act as the central marketing organization of Massachusetts. The partnership would consist of members from the administration, the private sector, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and regional tourism councils. The Health and Educational Facilities Authority would also be absorbed by MassDevelopment in order to consolidate public resources and allow the agency to provide more services to non-profits, small businesses and municipalities. To measure the performance of the state's economic development initiatives, this bill creates an office of performance measurement in the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The director of the office would develop performance measurement metrics for all public and quasi-public entities engaged in economic development and seek out private sector advice and models that can be adapted to the needs of the Commonwealth. Included in the new bill was an amendment that would allow a state sales tax holiday on August 14th and 15th of this year to encourage consumers to shop at local businesses across the state.
Bill to Join National Popular Vote Compact Signed into Law
Recently legislation to join an interstate compact that would ensure that the candidate who wins the national popular vote is elected President of the United States was signed into law. Under this legislation, Massachusetts would appropriate all of its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of which candidate garners the most votes in Massachusetts.
The National Popular Vote compact would only take effect when the combined electoral votes of the participating states reach 270 - the majority of electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
There are currently five states that have joined the National Popular Vote compact by enacting this legislation: Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. These states carry 61 electoral votes. This legislation would add Massachusetts' 12 electoral votes to the total, giving the compact 27% of the electoral votes needed to take effect.
Autism Insurance Bill Signed Into Law
Legislation requiring health insurance companies to cover the diagnosis of and treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders, was signed into law by Governor Patrick on August 3rd at Fenway Park. The legislation provides coverage for habilitative or rehabilitative care, psychiatric, therapeutic, pharmacy and psychological care for all individuals with autism. An independent study done by the Commonwealth's Division of Health Care Finance and Policy found that the anticipated increase for expanding coverage would be $1.84 per member per month. Cost estimates indicate that, over the course of a person's life, care relating to autism will cost approximately $3.2 million. This cumulative cost has been a financial burden not just on families, but also on the Commonwealth through Early Intervention services and other state-funded programs. Autism affects 1 in 110 children or 1.5 million Americans nationwide. In 2011, it is estimated that nearly 700 children in Massachusetts will be diagnosed with this disorder that impacts one's ability to interact socially, communicate effectively, and sometimes can leave an individual physically impaired and completely incapable of speech.
Iran Divestment Bill Signed into Law
This legislation would require the Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund (PRIT) to divest from companies conducting business operations in Iran. The bill secures the Massachusetts pension funds from risky investments in a volatile region while simultaneously indicating disapproval with the Iranian government and the potential expansion of Iranian nuclear activity.
The bill requires the public fund to give all companies conducting business operations in Iran in which the fund has direct or indirect holdings 180 days to cease operations in Iran. If the company continues to conduct business operations in Iran, the public fund is required to sell, redeem, divest or withdraw all publicly traded securities of the company.