For Immediate Release: 1/11/22
Contact: Peter Jasinski | firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON – Sen. John F. Keenan will continue to focus on local needs, public health, transportation, and housing as the Massachusetts State Senate enters the new year.
“Following the work of my office and the Legislature in 2021, I look forward to continuing our work on behalf of the people of Abington, Braintree, Holbrook, Quincy, and Rockland in 2022,” said Senator Keenan. “Over the last twelve months, we turned the challenges and obstacles of the pandemic into opportunities to support all the residents of the Commonwealth, particularly the most vulnerable and to make important investments in our future.”
The Legislature passed a $48.1 billion budget for fiscal 2022, as well as a $4 billion plan to allocate and invest the federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and state surpluses this past year. As a member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Senator Keenan advocated for local priorities, infrastructure, behavioral health, and housing matters as the bills were being considered in 2021, while also advancing his own legislative priorities. This session, Senator Keenan sponsored more than 60 bills and cosponsored roughly 140 more.
“I am proud of the work I did in conjunction with my Senate and House colleagues and look forward to all the progress we will make in the new year,” said Senator Keenan. “I will continue to work every day on behalf of residents of the Norfolk and Plymouth District, as well as the rest of Massachusetts.”
Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
Because projected state revenues ended up exceeding preliminary estimates, the $48.1 billion FY22 budget allocated additional funding for priorities like the $350 million trust fund for the Student Opportunity Act passed in 2019. An additional $250 million helped reduce the Commonwealth’s pension liability by $690 million over the next 15 years. The budget also committed substantial funds to the Commonwealth’s stabilization (rainy day) account, with an expectation that by the end of the fiscal year the account could reach nearly $5.7 billion, ranking Massachusetts as having the third highest such fund in the nation.
The Legislature undertook these initiatives, as well as increasing funding for workforce development and public education, without increasing taxes. Locally, the budget includes more than $120 million for communities in the Norfolk and Plymouth Senate District to support vital local priorities like schools, police, fire, public works, libraries, veterans, and seniors.
The Commonwealth used funds received from the federal government as well as state-generated surplus revenues to cover expenses incurred by the pandemic and programs already in need of support prior to COVID-19.
Roughly $500 million allocated in the ARPA spending bill replenished the Commonwealth’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Other major investments tied to COVID-19 include $260 million to relieve financial strains facing community hospitals hardest hit by the pandemic, $200 million for local and regional public health systems, and $400 million to broaden mental and behavioral health resources throughout the Commonwealth.
A total of $115 million will produce below-market value housing to expand the Commonwealth’s residential supply. Another $115 million will fund new and improve existing rental housing; $150 million will backstop permanent supportive housing; and $150 million will address longstanding infrastructure problems in public housing throughout the Norfolk and Plymouth district and across the Commonwealth.
Economic development investments include $100 million for enhancing workforce training opportunities and $75 million in grants to small businesses.
Sen. Keenan filed and cosponsored bills in 2021 spanning a broad variety of issues.
“Most of the bills I filed have had a public hearing,” noted Keenan, “and now we will focus on moving them to the next stage of the legislative process.”
His legislative priorities include:
S782 – More Affordable Care “MAC” Act
Drafted in response to rising co-pays, deductibles, and insurance premiums, Sen. Keenan collaborated with Health Care For All to file this bill that would greatly alleviate expenses for all patients by eliminating cost-sharing for treatments for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, opioid use disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. This bill would especially help patients of color and members of low-income communities who are disproportionally affected by high co-pays and deductibles. This important bill will also help local small businesses by creating a reinsurance program to lessen expenses for business owners and expand coverage options for their employees.
S686 – Multiple Sclerosis Bill
For years, Sen. Keenan has advocated on behalf of Massachusetts residents living with multiple sclerosis (MS) who experience setbacks in their treatment and care when their insurance changes.
Nerve damage experienced through MS is permanent, leading to side effects that patients can struggle with for the rest of their lives. Access to medication can help, but changes in insurance formularies and plans can often take a patient off a working medication in favor of a new one. Once passed, this bill would ensure MS patients could remain on helpful treatments regardless of changes in their insurance.
S1294 – Drug Stewardship Program
Frighteningly often, opioid addiction begins at the medicine cabinet. Through the successful drug stewardship program, the Commonwealth has a mechanism in place to collect and properly dispose of unused medication, thus preventing them from falling into the wrong hands. A recent collection by the Quincy Police Department resulted in the eradication of more than 300 pounds of prescriptions.
Funding by drug manufacturers for this highly beneficial program would have ceased at the end of 2021, so Sen. Keenan worked with his legislative colleagues to extend their funding responsibility for another five years. He will continue to advocate to make this program—and drug manufacturers’ responsibility—permanent.
S.1289 – Meth and Stimulant Use Commission
As part of the continued fight against substance use disorder, Sen. Keenan advocated for the creation of a Commission on Methamphetamine Use to scrutinize how this substance impacts residents and treatment resources.
“Public health and medical workers, treatment providers, and first responders across the Commonwealth have seen an uptick in the use of methamphetamine and other illicit stimulants,” said Keenan. “We have to better understand recent trends and respond with best practices for prevention, harm reduction, and treatment.”
Getting this legislation approved marked a bittersweet occasion. On the one hand, the Commission will highlight many harsh new realities of addiction, but on the other the compilation of valuable addiction data will help us develop strategies for how best to tackle the rise in use.
The Commission began meeting in 2021 and should file its final report, which could shape future legislative efforts, in 2022.
S.1452 – Recovery Coaches
While the road to recovery challenges those dealing with substance use disorder, the right people and programs can help make this undertaking easier. Numerous advocates have identified recovery coaches – healthcare professionals personally assigned to aid people in the recovery process – as measurably reducing relapses. Unfortunately, a lack of professional certification and insurance coverage for the services they deliver means that the wages paid to these essential providers are not adequate, resulting in too few people entering the field.
Legislation Sen. Keenan filed will allow for certification of these coaches, which, in time, will increase wages and expand the number of recovery coaches available.
As Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, and a member of six other Senate committees, Sen. Keenan reviewed, researched, and voted on hundreds of pieces of legislation in 2021.
In addition to its work in allocating ARPA funding, the Housing Committee focused on rental assistance and the Commonwealth’s approach to evictions. The Committee devoted its entire August hearing to a pandemic-focused agenda including the COVID Housing Equity Bill, which Sen. Keenan co-sponsored.
Following the resignation of Senate Transportation Chair Joseph Boncore, Sen. Keenan, as Vice Chair, worked closely with House Transportation Chair William Straus to set agendas and run committee hearings. In 2021, the committee reviewed more than 350 bills over nine hearings.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, Sen. Keenan played a crucial role in determining how the Commonwealth should best spend the public funds at its disposal.
Sen. Keenan’s office welcomed three new staff members and celebrated the promotion of an existing staff member in 2021. After working six months as communications director, Morgan Simko transitioned into her current role as Legislative Director, which has her working closely with new Chief of Staff Mark Sternman. This summer also saw the hiring of Legislative Aide Doug Newton and Communications Director Peter Jasinski. Doreen Bargoot continues to serve as Sen. Keenan’s Constituent Services Director.
“The second half of this legislative session promises to be quite busy,” said Keenan, “and I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the Governor to keep the Commonwealth moving forward during these unprecedented times.”