2009-2010 Legislative Update
As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, Representative Forry has worked consistently with her colleagues in the House and Senate to help steer many pieces of important legislation toward passage.
During the last session, Representative Forry was lead sponsor of several bills that have in whole or part been signed into law by Governor Patrick. Now that the formal legislative session has concluded, Representative Forry is pleased to report on those bills and other noteworthy accomplishments of the 186th General Court.
Representative Forry values the diverse opinions and beliefs of all residents of the 12th Suffolk District, and appreciates all input. Please do not hesitate to be in contact with her office to share your views on these bills or any other pieces of legislation you may feel strongly about.
*Denotes that Representative Forry was lead sponsor of this legislation.
|In the 186th session, legislation was passed to improve safety regulations for operators of all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s). New rules will require operators to wear helmets and, in most cases, prohibit those under the age of 14 from operating an ATV. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|Legislation requiring health insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders was signed into law by Governor Patrick. For more details on this law, please click here.|
|Recent legislation relative to criminal records increases access to criminal background checks while ensuring, where appropriate, records are not arbitrarily used to deny employment opportunities. Information on all convictions for sex offenses, murder, and manslaughter remain available for life, and law enforcement will continue to have full access to CORI. Improved accuracy and faster response times will be achieved through a new Internet-based system required by the legislation. A separate bill establishing punishment for the assault and battery of a correctional officer or employee of any jail with bodily fluids was also passed this session. For more details on CORI reform, please click here.|
|To eliminate the achievement gap in schools across the Commonwealth, the education reform bill gives the state stronger authority to intervene in underperforming districts, lifts the cap on charter schools in the lowest performing school districts and helps to facilitate innovation and excellence in schools throughout Massachusetts. The bill positioned school districts across the state to be eligible for federal “Race to the Top” funds, targeted at improving educational outcomes for children. When the highly competitive “Race to the Top” awards were announced recently, Massachusetts was among the 10 states selected. We will receive $250 million in federal funds, $31 million of which have been allocated to the Boston Public Schools. For more detail on education reform, please click here.|
|This legislation established a “Silver Alert” program (modeled after the “Amber Alert” program for missing children) to assist in locating seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia who have gone missing. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|To protect tenants in foreclosed properties and help lenders and homeowners avoid foreclosure. The bill establishes protections for tenants living in properties that have been taken over by a lender after foreclosure while extending the “right-to-cure” period in some circumstances. The “right- to-cure” period allows lenders and homeowners a window to work out a new payment plan to avoid foreclosure. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|This bill reduces small business health insurance costs and promotes job retention and creation. The legislation will deliver an estimated premium relief of at least 10 percent that small businesses can save and reinvest in their operations and workforce. Another bill was passed that would allow consumers to take advantage of prescription drug discounts in an effort to lower out of pocket medical costs. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|A bill was passed to preserve access to housing that people can afford, and protect tenants already living in publicly-assisted housing. The bill allows the state and localities to purchase affordable housing units before they hit the open market and protects tenants of affordable housing units by requiring that they be given 24 months notice of affordability termination. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|Also passed was legislation requiring the Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund (PRIT) to divest from companies conducting business operations in Iran. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|The legislature also passed a bill that recognizes the life expectancy differences between men and women and allows the Savings Bank Life Insurance Company (SBLI) to adjust its premiums accordingly. Conceived in 1907, by then U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies, SBLI was established under the Massachusetts state charter to expand access to low cost, affordable life insurance. Representative Forry sponsored legislation that will allow the company to continue to modernize and compete in a global marketplace while remaining headquartered in Massachusetts and subject to state regulation. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|The legislature voted to join the interstate National Popular Vote compact, which would ensure that the candidate who wins the national popular vote is elected President of the United States. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|Representative Forry introduced the bill which establishes a 15-member statewide Food Policy Council within the Department of Agricultural Resources, for the purpose of increasing the production, sale and consumption of Massachusetts-grown foods. The Food Policy Council will develop and promote programs that bring healthy local foods to Massachusetts residents and increase access to those foods particularly in communities that are disproportionately affected by obesity and chronic diseases. The Food Policy Council will also serve to protect the land and water resources needed for sustained local food production, and work together with the farming community to ensure the continued economic viability of local food production, processing and distribution. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|This legislative package establishes a statewide mutual aid agreement to allow cities and towns to share resources, permits municipalities to extend funding schedules for pension systems and allows for regionalization efforts among municipalities. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|In an effort to ensure that the state’s pension system is well-maintained and accessible to current and future workers, the legislature mandated reforms that are consistent with the principle, “you get out what you put in”. Two bills sponsored by Representative Forry were included in the reform package which corrected a number of inefficiencies and loopholes that had called into question the integrity of the entire system. The reforms have already resulted in significant taxpayer savings and should help restore public trust in state oversight of public pensions. For more detail on pension reform, please click here.|
|Legislation now prohibits bullying and cyber-bullying, directs schools to implement bullying prevention and intervention plans and requires school staff to report incidents of bullying. In addition, schools will be required to include bullying prevention in their curriculum. To stop bullying when it happens, the legislation requires school staff to report incidents of bullying to the principal, who must then investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action. The bill prohibits bullying on school grounds, school busses, at school-sponsored activities and bullying through the use of electronic communications. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|This bill bans texting while driving and prohibits junior operators (18 and under) from using a cell phone or mobile device while driving. The bill also mandates drivers 75 and older renew their licenses in-person and complete a vision test every five years. It further authorizes and indemnifies health care providers and law enforcement to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) of any driver who may not be able to safely operate a vehicle. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|This landmark bill that eliminated the Turnpike Authority, ensures toll equity, abolishes the “23 and out” rule at the MBTA and brought all active and retired MBTA workers under the state’s Group Insurance Commission. The transportation reform bill also brought considerable cost savings to the state and helped alleviate the need for a toll increase or a proposed gas tax increase last summer. For more detail on this law, please click here.|
|Legislation was passed to expand the “Welcome Home Bonus” program which gives Massachusetts veterans expanded access to monetary bonuses upon returning from duty. This bill also establishes the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty to honor fallen service members and offers increased housing opportunities for veterans. For more detail on this law, please click here.|