I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends, and that your New Year is off to a great start.
As we kick of 2020, I wanted to give you a glimpse into what we accomplished in 2019, and a preview of some of the work we have planned for the New Year. In this newsletter, you will read about legislation we passed in 2019 at the State House, ongoing transit improvements planned for 2020, substance use legislation we plan to address this upcoming session, as well as a few highlights from around the district.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions or would like to talk about local issues that concern you.
Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying engaged.
Landmark Tobacco Control Legislation
An impressive group of students from Holbrook Middle-High School played a major role in passing landmark tobacco control legislation this year. Almost two years ago, a group of students from the Civics Club in Holbrook came to me with concerns over the increasing number of young people using e-cigarettes in their community. They told us that one of the major reasons young people were starting to use these products was the availability of over 8,000 flavors from mint and menthol to cotton candy and fruit medley.
After hearing their concerns and learning about the issue from them, we filed a bill that would ban flavored tobacco in Massachusetts. Throughout the process of writing, generating support for, and passing this bill, the students from Holbrook Middle-High School were leading the charge. On numerous occasions, they were part of student-led rallies, press conferences, and were constantly talking to the press and other elected officials to help pass this legislation.
The bill, An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control , passed with bi-partisan support in both houses of the Massachusetts State Legislature, earned the endorsement of the Boston Globe and Attorney General Maura Healey, and was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in November.
Without the hard work of the Holbrook students, and without the hard work from other young people like the students at the John D. O’Bryant School in Roxbury, we would not have been able to pass this bill. Students from Holbrook joined Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey, Commissioner of Public Health Monica Bharel, and legislative sponsors to sign the bill into law on November 27.
Other states across the country, like New York and California, are now looking to follow our lead.
Thank you Holbrook Middle-High for working to protect future generations from nicotine addiction.You can read more about their efforts to pass this bill in this article in The Guardian.
Student Opportunity Act
The best investment for our future is the education of our children, and that is why this year I was proud to stand with my colleagues to invest an unprecedented $1.5 billion dollars in public education across the Commonwealth. Following years of discussion on how to improve public school funding in Massachusetts, the Student Opportunity Act provides significant support to school districts that serve English learners and high concentrations of low-income students. At the same time, all school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investments in vital education aid programs such as special education transportation, school construction and renovation, and the 21st Century Education Program, which will help fund innovative new programs in our schools.
Red Line Update
As a regular Red Line commuter myself, I know how important public transportation is in our district. Especially in the winter months, it can be frustrating when we are delayed getting to work, school, medical appointments, and more. Throughout the winter season, we will continue to push the MBTA to be transparent with construction plans and to provide commuters with regular updates when they expect service delays.
Regularly, our office sends out Red Line Updates to provide residents of Abington, Braintree, Holbrook, Quincy and Rockland with information we receive from the MBTA.
Sign up to join our mailing list and check out the latest Red Line Update here.
As you may have noticed, the new and improved Wollaston Station is open. It is complete with modern lighting, safety improvements, and was the final Red Line Station to be made ADA accessible.
Most recently, the “Pedal and Park” facility opened, allowing commuters to bike to Wollaston and access the train while safely storing their bikes for the day.
We have received a few calls from constituents in the district regarding slippery conditions inside Wollaston Station when the weather is wet and snowy. This is something I have also noticed on my own commute. We brought these concerns to the MBTA and in an effort to ensure all commuters are safe, MBTA crews have started to regularly put down carpeting at the Station and are exploring options for a more permanent solution.
You can read more about Wollaston Station improvements here .
South Shore Garages – Parking and Renovations
Construction continues on the parking garages at Quincy Adams and Braintree Stations, with both projects expected to be completed in 2021. Each project is being done in phases, and parking will be limited in different sections of each garage at various times. Be on the lookout for signage directing commuters to alternate parking locations and pedestrian routes.
At Braintree Station, the pedestrian bridge is permanently closed. The bridge will be replaced by a new garage lobby featuring elevators and stairwells.
At Quincy Adams Station, MBTA officials are exploring the option of using the Lowe’s parking lot for additional parking while construction continues on the garage. Additionally, the MBTA has expressed interest in building a bus storage and maintenance facility on the Lowe’s site that would service hybrid and electric buses. Councilor Brian Palmucci will host a community meeting on Wednesday, January 29 at 6 pm at the South West Middle School Auditorium to allow for public comment on the proposed project.
Stay up-to-date on both garage projects here.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
Since you first elected me to represent you in the Massachusetts State Senate, I have made fighting the opioid epidemic a top priority. Opioid addiction has affected nearly every family in Massachusetts, and although we have made progress, thousands of people are still dying every year. As we head into 2020, my office will continue to work on legislation to save lives and prevent addiction.
Covering 30 Days of Substance Use Treatment
Currently in Massachusetts, private insurance companies are only required to cover 14 days of treatment for those suffering from addiction. For those who have suffered through an addiction, or have loved ones who have required treatment, you know 14 days is not nearly enough. That is why this session, I have again filed legislation that would require private insurance companies to cover at least 30 days of treatment for those seeking help with an addiction. The bill has passed the Senate before, and the goal now is to get it to the Governor’s desk.
Whether it is for opioid use, alcohol, or any other addictive substance, we must ensure that every person who wishes to find treatment can do so here in Massachusetts, and can do so comfortably and in a timely fashion. In order to fully recover, a patient must make decisions with their physician that allows them to go through detox, stabilization, and recovery without being pushed out of care due to insurance complications.
Read more about this bill and other pieces of legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic here .
Need assistance with housing, having a tax question or issue resolved, navigating a state agency or authority, accessing your benefits, or with another state issue? Please call my State House office at 617-722-1494 and we will be happy to assist you.
If you’re unsure whether we can help, here are some examples of the types of cases we have recently helped resolve:
- Fixing errors or overcoming technical obstacles for constituents applying for state benefits, such as unemployment, or health care coverage
- Securing or ordering reproductions of vital records such as birth or death certificates
- Bringing attention to concerns about the state facilities that serve our communities, such as litter in state parks, or safety concerns along state owned roads
- Navigating health care applications, or securing health coverage in situations where regulations may be unclear
- Helping constituents identify or understand their unemployment assistance benefits, and clearing up errors that may delay an application
- Resolving Registry of Motor Vehicles matters, such as obtaining disabled or other special placards
Around the District
Most importantly, I am here to address your individual issues and concerns, working always to make state government more responsive to those it serves.
Thank you again for staying involved and active. Working together, we will keep Massachusetts moving forward!
Senator John F. Keenan