Legislation

For a full list of bills I am filing in the current session, please visit my page the Massachusetts Legislature website at https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Profile/PDJ0.

An Act relative to larceny

Massachusetts is a major outlier when looking at the threshold separating a misdemeanor from a felony in many larceny related crimes.  Our threshold is currently $250.  That is the 3rd lowest in the country and has not been updated in 2 decades.  What would be a misdemeanor in all other New England states would be a felony here, with all the collateral consequences that attach to felony convictions.  This bill raises the threshold to $1500.
 

An Act relative to the rights of faculty members at the University of Massachusetts

The Open Meeting Law, in Chapter 75 section 4 of the Massachusetts General Laws, provides for all meetings of a governmental body to be open to the public. In all other public institutions, including community colleges and public schools, faculty have the right to attend any executive session at which they are being discussed, including discussions about tenure.  Unfortunately, the University of Massachusetts Trustees do not believe that the protections of the Open Meeting Law apply to tenure votes and discussions.   This bill would explicitly guarantee that the protections for individuals who are being discussed in executive session would be extended to faculty members being considered for tenure.
 

An Act to restore affordable Health Connector coverage

The ACA requires people to pay higher premiums and cost-sharing for subsidized coverage than the state’s previous Commonwealth Care program. To address this, the state created the ConnectorCare (“state wrap”) program to make coverage as affordable as it was under Commonwealth Care. In a high cost state like Massachusetts, many low and middle income residents are struggling to make ends meet and will not be able to afford the additional health care costs if the ConnectorCare program is not available. ConnectorCare plays an important role in maintaining Massachusetts’ high rate of health insurance coverage. Without the ConnectorCare program, we risk residents dropping coverage, going without necessary care, falling into debt, and unraveling the gains we have made under the Massachusetts health reform law. 
This bill would simply codify current policy and practice and protect consumers from drastic premium and cost-sharing increases.

An Act for greater fairness in insurance policies

This bill would ban the use of discretionary clauses in insured benefit plans.  Discretionary clauses in insurance plans give the administrator, typically an insurer, almost limitless discretion to deny benefit payments. This standard is exceedingly difficult to meet and leads to the claims of many sick and financially vulnerable people being denied because they will be unable to successfully appeal a decision, thus increasing profits for the insurance company. If this bill were to pass, insurance companies would no longer be able to use the extraordinarily broad discretion afforded them under discretionary clauses to unfairly deny meritorious claims.  People who are ill and disabled would be better protected.  They would be able to pursue their claims in court and not need to prove that the insurance company acted “arbitrarily or capriciously.”

 

An Act eliminating archaic language pertaining to individuals with disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

S.594

This bill would substitute the word “disability” for the word “handicap” where it appears throughout the general laws.

Last session this bill passed the Senate, but was held up in the House.

An Act promoting awareness of safe recreation in public waterways

Waste and contaminated water flow directly from our sewer systems into our rivers and streams.  In 2011 alone, the 181 active outfall points in the Commonwealth discharged 2.8 billion gallons of sewage into our public waterways, including the Charles, Connecticut, Merrimac, Mystic, and Taunton Rivers.  There is currently no statewide system of monitoring these Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).  This legislation would institute a statewide notification system requiring the operators of CSO outfalls to monitor discharges or water quality and improving public notification about overflows.
 

An Act supporting working parents who choose to run for public office

Many working parents are discouraged from running for public office because of financial reasons.  This bill would clarify that child care expenses for times while campaigning are not considered personal expenses.
 

An Act relative to small house nursing homes

S. 357

Despite efforts to increase options for people to receive long term care supports in settings other than nursing homes, there will always be some need for 24-hour skilled nursing care that cannot be met in many community-based settings including in individuals’ own homes or assisted living.  There is a growing movement to create small house nursing homes (such as the Green House ™) that create truly residential environments where individuals can receive the skilled care they need. This legislation would establish a task force to identify the barriers to small house development in Massachusetts and propose recommendations to encourage the development of small house nursing homes in Massachusetts.

An Act increasing the personal needs allowance for residents of long term care facilities

The Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) pays for expenses not covered by Medicaid for nursing/rest home residents.  This money helps residents pay for clothing, shoes and other personal needs which help them maintain their dignity and well-being.  Currently, the PNA is subject to reduction in the budget (4000-0600) each year, therefore, putting these residents’ financial security at risk; the legislation would sets a floor for the PNA base at $100/month and include an annual COLA provision.
 

An Act relative to charter schools

The bill establishes that the DESE Board may only approve an application for the establishment, renewal, amendment, or expansion of a commonwealth charter school if the school meets at least one of the following criteria: (1) the school enrolls students using an opt-out admissions lottery process that automatically includes the names of all eligible students, without any required application process for the school; (2) the school enrolls students through participation in the assignment system of the district in which the school is located; or (3) the school's primary purpose is to establish alternative education programs designed to serve at-risk students, students who have dropped out of school, students who are homeless, or students who are pregnant or parenting.