From State House News Service
ON THE AGENDA
- Baker, Mass. out front in opioid addiction fight
- Moore backs advancing digital parking enforcement bill
- McGovern, Dems dig in against GOP nutrition bill
- Coming up: Big meetings for state college employees, rail commuters
TOP OF THE HILL
Baker, Hassan plan national push for Mass. opioid model
Key components of a new Massachusetts opioid law will be part of a “national model” for addiction prevention that Gov. Charlie Baker and his New Hampshire counterpart plan to recommend to governors from across the country, Baker said June 10.
During a New England Council breakfast at the Seaport Hotel, Baker said he and Gov. Maggie Hassan plan to include a limit on new opioid prescriptions in a proposal they will present to the National Governors Association.
Baker, a Republican, and Hassan, a Democrat, are the chair and vice chair of the association’s Health and Human Services Committee.
The law Baker signed in March limited first-time opiate prescriptions and all opiate prescriptions for minors to a seven-day supply.
When he signed the bill, Baker called the legislation “the most comprehensive measure in the country to combat opioid addiction” and said its provisions could serve as a “template” for other states.
Last Tuesday, June 8, Baker and Hassan joined the other four New England governors for a forum on opioids at Harvard Medical School.
“This is something where all the governors are in with both feet,” Baker said Thursday. “Their legislatures for the most part are also in, but it’s going to take a huge lift on the part of everybody else, and especially the medical community, to get to where [we] need to go to deal with this terrible crisis.”
Baker said the other New England governors are “pursuing” their versions of what he described as a “first-in-the-nation-deal here in Massachusetts” — an agreement by administrators at the state’s medical, nursing and dental schools to incorporate courses on opioids and pain management into their core curricula.
The training requirement was incorporated in the recent law, and Baker praised the Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Dental Society and nursing community for their support.
“This will be part of the national model we’ll be presenting to the NGA as well,” Baker said.
“There ought to be an in-service education requirement on a going forward basis for anybody who’s a prescriber, because frankly, when you talk to a lot of the folks on the prescribing end of this, they’ll be the first to admit that they do not feel like they have as much information as they should have about what the best practice and the right balance is.”
— Katie Lannan (SHNS)
IN THE NEWS
Moore backs advancing digital parking enforcement bill
The all-seeing digital eye could replace parking meter readers in municipalities, under legislation given initial approval in the House on Thursday.
The bill (H. 4243), recommended last month by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation, would allow cities and towns to use remote “self-enforcing parking” systems with the approval of the local governing body.
The House advanced it on a voice vote with no debate.
The monitoring systems authorized under the legislation would use cameras and technology to determine whether parking violations occur. Law enforcement officials or their designees would review data from the systems to determine “whether there is sufficient evidence to conclude that a parking violation has occurred,” according to the legislation.
Filed by former Rep. Robert Fennell, who left the House earlier this year to become deputy director of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission, and Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, the bill needs an additional vote of approval in the House in order to reach the Senate.
Replacing the traditional bright orange parking tickets, notices of parking violations — sent through the postal service or internet — would need to go out within five days of the offense, and cities and towns would be allowed to set their own fines and payment methods.
Writing in the trade magazine Parking Today, PayBySky and Skymeter inventor Bern Grush extolled the benefits of staff-free parking enforcement as an alternative to “meter maids.”
“This is tedious and expensive, and carries risks of verbal or physical abuse for the enforcement officers,” Grush wrote, heralding a new era where the “digital credential” replaces flags on parking meters or slips of paper left on cars’ dashboards.
Keeping recordings of the comings and goings of people could raise privacy concerns. The bill requires cities and town to maintain the confidentiality of “all information including, but not limited to, photographs or other recorded images and credit and account data collected through the use of a self-enforcing parking system.” Such information would not be a public record, according to the bill.
The state Department of Transportation has been moving toward digital in other motorist-payment systems, establishing fully automated tolls on the Tobin Bridge and outfitting the Massachusetts Turnpike for all-electronic tolling to go live later this year.
— Andy Metzger (SHNS)
“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why House Republicans are so intent on making child hunger worse. … Taking food away from kids is cruel and it’s a rotten thing to do. … If Speaker Ryan and House Republicans want a fight, they’ve got one.”
— Congressman Jim McGovern
McGovern, House Dems dig in against GOP school nutrition bill
From a June 9 press release from McGovern’s office to State House News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep James P. McGovern, D-2nd, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Hunger Caucus, joined Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and senior House Democrats, advocates, educators, doctors, and parents to call on Congress to reject “the harmful” Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that is being pushed through Congress by House Republicans.
“The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 would shortchange critical nutrition programs like the national school lunch program and the summer meals program, rather than invest in America’s children.”
“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why House Republicans are so intent on making child hunger worse, but that’s exactly what their Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill would do,” said McGovern, ranking member of the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee. “Republicans’ proposal to block grant funding for our child nutrition programs would make it easier for states to divert these essential funds to plug holes in their budgets. The result would be fewer school meals for our most vulnerable students.
“Taking food away from kids is cruel and it’s a rotten thing to do. School meals are not only an important part of our country’s safety net, they are vital for kids to learn in the classroom. I’ve seen too many hungry kids in our country and it breaks my heart.
“To turn our backs on our kids who are 100 percent of this country’s future makes absolutely no sense. House Democrats will not let that happen. If Speaker Ryan and House Republicans want a fight, they’ve got one.”
Last month, more than 100 members of Congress wrote a letter calling on House leaders to strengthen nutrition programs during the reauthorization process in order to further reduce hunger, improve health, and support learning. However, Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans crafted a bill that “significantly decreases” children’s access to school lunch and breakfast in high-poverty schools. “The bill also provides a blueprint to eviscerate the entire school lunch program down the road.”
“Congress has a moral responsibility to ensure that no child goes hungry in America,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “Republicans’ ‘Wrong Way’ agenda would take food from millions of low-income students — and they have no right to nickel and dime hungry children while asking nothing of millionaires and corporations shipping jobs overseas. This is a values debate.”
For more on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill debate, check out this article.
State higher ed board mulls benefit cuts in Worcester meeting
The Board of Higher Education meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 14, at the May Street Auditorium, Worcester State University, 280 May St. The board will vote on changes to sick leave and vacation time policies that apply to approximately 1,650 non-unit professionals at the state’s 15 community colleges and nine state universities.
Department of Higher Education officials say the changes will more closely align the policies with those governing workers in the University of Massachusetts system and other state employees. At a June 7 meeting, the board’s Fiscal Affairs and Administrative Policy Committee voted to eliminate the department’s current policy allowing employees to convert unused vacation days to sick time.
Under the policy recommended by the committee, any vacation days that remain over a 64-day balance would be forfeited by the employee if not used. The 64-day vacation balance would be reduced over the next two and a half years to a maximum of 50 days that can be “carried” by an employee. The committee also voted to cut the maximum number of vacation days allotted to higher education employees from 30 to 25.
Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago said the changes would “allow us to remain competitive with other institutions in our bid to attract top talent, while also making good on our commitment to be effective stewards of state resources.”
More to come this week …
- AG’S ENVIRONMENT LISTENING SESSION (Monday, 6 p.m., 414 Massasoit Road): Attorney General Maura Healey’s office hosts a listening session at Broad Meadow Brook to hear from residents on environmental issues, including drinking water quality, childhood asthma, lead paint, toxic chemicals and energy costs.
- PREVENTION AND WELLNESS FUND HEARING (Tuesday, 10 a.m., Room 222, State House): The Joint Committee on Public Health holds an informational hearing on the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund. The fund supports community-based partnerships with municipalities, healthcare systems, businesses, regional planning organizations, and schools to implement evidence-based, preventative interventions. Testimony is by invitation only. Scheduled speakers include Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, Jim Hunt of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Peter Doliber of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, Stephanie Lemon of UMass Medical School and representatives from the MetroWest Partnership and Quincy/Weymouth Partnership.
- STATE RAIL PLAN HEARING (Tuesday, 4 p.m., Union Station, 2nd floor, 2 Washington St.): The Department of Transportation holds a public hearing on the 2016 State Rail Plan Update, which seeks to document the current state of the rail system in Massachusetts, identify planned improvements and outline the state’s 20-year plan for the statewide rail system, including both passenger and freight rail. According to MassDOT, there are 2.6 million trips per year on Amtrak in Massachusetts, and almost 40 million trips are taken on the MBTA’s commuter rail system each year. Additionally, almost 400,000 carloads of freight weighing 15 million tons were moved by rail in Massachusetts in 2012, MassDOT said.