"Grand Bargain" marks significant legislative accomplishment for economic justice

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives this session to pass An Act relative to minimum wage, paid family medical leave and the sales tax holiday.  The new law raises the minimum wage, creates a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers, and establishes a permanent sales tax holiday.  Referred to as the “Grand Bargain”, the new law reflects significant collaboration and compromise by the key economic stakeholders to achieve the shared goal of economic prosperity and to support our local economic centers.

“Raising the minimum wage and establish paid family medical leave are two key decisions that will lift up our hardworking local families and help us retain good workers for our local businesses,” said Representative Meschino.  “At the same time, the legislation balances the concerns of employers, particularly the small businesses that are the core of our local town economies.”

Effective January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will increase to $12/hour, and will then continue to increase in $0.75 increments each year until it reaches $15/hour in 2023. The minimum wage for tipped employees will also increase, rising $0.60 each year until it reaches $6.75 in 2023. Per the legislation, tipped workers will also have their wages brought up to the general minimum wage after each shift, rather than at the end of each pay period, to ensure that they make at least minimum wage during every shift.

Per the law, people will be able to take paid, job-protected leave to:

  • Receive treatment for a serious medical condition
  • Bond with a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Care for a family member with a serious medical condition
  • Care for a family member injured while serving in the armed forces
  • Handle matters arising from a family member’s active duty service in the armed forces or call for deployment

Family, medical, and both aggregate and military family leave will extend to 12, 20, and 26 weeks, respectively.  Individuals on leave will receive 80% of their wage up to 50% of the state average weekly wage, then 50% of their wages past the state average weekly wage, up to the weekly benefit cap of $850. Family, medical, and military family leave will all take effect January 1, 2021.

Legislature authorizes spending on economic development in Massachusetts

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives this session to pass an economic development “bond bill.” The legislation, An Act relative to economic development in the commonwealth, authorizes more than $1 billion in spending to spur economic growth and expand economic opportunity in the Commonwealth.

“Ensuring access to economic success for all is critical to the sustainability of the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “This legislation makes important investments in infrastructure, industry, and coastal communities, and aims to make the economy work better for everyone.”

The legislation seeks to spur economic development through a wide array of programs including public infrastructure projects like street and sewer improvements, multi-family housing and mixed-use development, and transportation. In addition, the legislation invests in manufacturing innovation, technology development, and career technical training programs.  The legislation also establishes and apprenticeship tax credit for employers, and limits enforcement and sets standards for non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. The legislation funds initiatives that help small businesses grow, and establishes tax credits for businesses that occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas. 

For coastal communities, the legislation includes investments in the maritime economy and dredging projects. The legislation includes $50 million for a grant program to fund community planning and investment activities that stimulate economic development and create jobs in the maritime economy sector. Also authorized is $2 million annually to support Fishing Partnership Health Plan Corporation, which assists fishermen and fishing families in obtaining health insurance coverage. Finally, it authorizes $50 million for grants to coastal communities to assist with saltwater dredging projects.

Coastal Resilience Grants Awarded in Hull

HULLRepresentative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) welcomed Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton to the Hull Lifesaving Museum on August 1, 2018 for his announcement of the Office of Coastal Zone Management’s Coastal Resilience Grants. Across the state, the grants will provide $3.2 million in funding to support local efforts to proactively plan for and adapt to coastal storm and climate change impacts, including storm surge, flooding, erosion and sea level rise.

CZM’s Coastal Resilience Grant Program provides financial and technical support for innovative local efforts to increase awareness and understanding of climate impacts, plan for changing conditions, redesign vulnerable community facilities and infrastructure and implement non-structural measures to increase natural storm damage protection, flood and erosion control and community resilience. Grants can be used for planning, public outreach and feasibility assessment and analysis of shoreline vulnerability, as well as for design, permitting, construction and monitoring of projects that enhance or create natural resources to provide increased shoreline stabilization and flood control.

The following projects were funded in the Third Plymouth District in this grant round:

Nature-Based Solutions for Community Resilience on North Nantasket Beach, $142,011

The Town of Hull will develop conceptual designs to enhance the resiliency and protective value of the coastal beach and dune system on North Nantasket Beach, including both near-term dune rehabilitation strategies and long-term, large-scale beach and dune nourishment.

Hull Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) Electrical Service Relocation, $148,350

The Town of Hull will replace the WPCF’s incoming underground electrical service and transformer with a new overhead service and elevated transformer to account for increased flooding and future sea level rise impacts.

 

“I am grateful to the Baker-Polito administration and the Office of Coastal Zone Management for considering the needs of the 3rd Plymouth District in this process,” said State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “As residents of a coastal community, we have experienced firsthand the need for investment in coastal resilience and in further climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives.”

CARE Act Signed Into Law

(BOSTON)- On August 9, 2018, An Act for prevention and access to appropriate care and treatment of addiction, was signed into law. The CARE Act includes initiatives to promote behavioral health and prevent substance use disorders, strengthen the behavioral health system, and enhance options for substance use treatment and recovery across the Commonwealth.

The CARE Act promotes substance misuse prevention through the creation of a Community-Based Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund to support evidence-based and evidence-informed programs for children and young adults. The CARE Act expands access to non-opioid treatment options for pain management, and looks to strengthen consumer protection laws. The CARE Act will bolster the behavioral health system by expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, and updating licensing authority for substance use treatment facilities, ensuring that patients are getting quality care. The CARE Act establishes a state-wide standing order for Naloxone, also known as Narcan, allowing anyone to purchase it without a prescription.

The Massachusetts fiscal year 2019 budget also included measures to fight the opioid epidemic, notably the following line items:

  • $142 million for the Bureau of Substance Addition Services to create five recovery centers in Massachusetts.
  • $5 million to support community-based treatment program.
  • $4.9 million for step-down recovery services.
  • $1 million to provide increased access to Narcan to first responders.

“Crafting thoughtful solutions to the opioid epidemic is imperative to addressing this ongoing public health crisis,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “The Massachusetts Legislature took the next necessary steps by supporting community-based prevention and treatment.”

The opioid epidemic has deeply affected Massachusetts. In 2016, there were 1,821 opioid-related overdose deaths in the state. By way of comparison, the rate of opioid-related deaths in our state was 29.7 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is more than twice the rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 persons nationwide. The CARE Act is an important piece of the Massachusetts Legislature’s greater commitment to combatting this epidemic through comprehensive prevention strategies and increased quality of and access to treatment.

Age to Purchase Tobacco to be Increased to 21 Across Massachusetts

(BOSTON)Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in voting to enact An Act protecting youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction. The new law raises the legal age to purchase tobacco statewide from 18 to 21 years of age, and further regulates vaping and the use of e-cigarettes.

“This legislation has the potential to promote public health across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “In our communities as well as statewide, we have seen increased rates of tobacco use among our youth and young adults due to the growing popularity of vaping devices. This new law takes steps necessary to help keep children healthy.”

In addition to raising the age to purchase tobacco, the new law updates the Massachusetts’ Smoke-Free Workplace Law to include e-cigarettes and vapes, thereby ensuring that the use of all tobacco and vapor products is prohibited in establishments where the use of traditional tobacco is currently prohibited. The new law also prohibits the use of these products on school grounds, and prohibits their sale by healthcare institutions. The new law requires child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine containers.

Tobacco use and nicotine use remain a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in the Commonwealth, with more than $4 billion spent annually in Massachusetts on smoking-related healthcare costs. In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that 90 percent of smokers try smoking before age 18, and 75 percent of teen smokers continue to smoke into adulthood. Studies show the most effective way to lower smoking rates is to prevent teenagers from trying tobacco in the first place; the Institute of Medicine released a 2015 study that found that increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products to 21 years old will prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults.

This legislation will take effect December 31, 2018. Individuals who turn 18 before this date will be exempt from the Act’s minimum sales age requirement.

Automatic Voter Registration Bill Signed into Law

(BOSTON) – On Thursday, August 9th, a bill establishing an automatic voter registration process for the State of Massachusetts was signed into law. With the implementation of automatic voter registration, the legislature seeks to facilitate civic engagement for the 700,000 residents of Massachusetts who are eligible to vote but are unregistered.

“The democratic process requires broad civic engagement that reaches across all demographics to ensure that all are represented and heard.” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull).  “Automatic voter registration is a convenient process that will promote participation among all eligible citizens.”

The bill, H.4384, An Act relative to automatic voter registration, contains provisions that would link voter registration to initial applications and information updates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and MassHealth. Rather than requiring eligible voters to opt-in to register, this provision would instead create an opt-out process for eligible residents who may not wish to register to vote. This measure will take effect on January 1, 2020.

Legislature Passes Civics Education Curriculum

(BOSTON) - Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, July 25th to enact S.2631, An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement. This legislation is the result of years of advocacy and collaboration between a bipartisan collective of legislators in the House and Senate, and would implement a civics education curriculum in all Massachusetts public schools.

The legislation promotes a hands-on and experiential approach to fostering civic engagement. It incorporates project-based learning components, encourages the instruction of civic competencies – including news and media literacy – and provides extracurricular civic-participation opportunities.

“Students will learn the ways to become engaged in their communities, and hopefully their experience will inspire them to step forward as our future leaders,” said Representative Meschino. “Teaching the value of civic engagement is a critical part of maintaining a healthy democracy.”

The Governor has returned the bill with an amendment, which is currently being considered by the House and Senate.

Beach Goers Create Interactive Art on the Shore with Andres Amador on Nantasket Beach

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(HULL)- On Saturday, July 21st, intertidal sand artist Andres Amador made extraordinary art in the sand at Nantasket Beach in Hull as part of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)’s Better Beaches program. This program has brought the California-based artist to Boston for several years to create interactive art on the region's public beaches.

This year in Hull, Amador led a sand-raking workshop in the morning. Participants included Bart Blumberg of the Hull Artists Association and Chris Maher of the Hull Cultural Council. In the afternoon, community members had a chance to participate in a collaborative community mural on the sand. The theme for the day was "sea life" and beach goers created fish, sea horses, sharks, jelly fish, and more across several hundred feet of Nantasket Beach.

“It was great fun for beachgoers, young and old, to share in the joy of creating art in the sand,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “I applaud Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and the Better Beaches program for finding creative and new ways to engage beachgoers with the natural environment and with each other through artistic expression.”

Legislature Passes Balanced Budget; Targets Local Aid, Education and Opioid Epidemic

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Legislature on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, to enact a $41.88 billion Massachusetts state budget for FY19.

The budget features no new taxes or fees and directs a $367 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund to ensure the Commonwealth’s fiscal health and to protect Massachusetts’ future. The budget also prioritizes our cities and towns, education and those most in need of help.

In recognition of the state’s strong support for education, the Legislature approved an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, which represents an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous fiscal year and increases funding for teacher health care costs by $39 million. Education funding also features $319.4 million to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, $90 million for Charter School Reimbursement, $68.9 million for Regional School Transportation and $5 million to fund the Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The budget reflects the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families by lifting the cap on benefits for children of low income families. This change takes effect in January 2019. The budget also provides $2.5 million for continued support for early childhood mental health consultation services and $20 million to support high-quality Early Education and Care (EEC) programs. The budget also provides $10 million to create an EEC workforce development initiative to tie professional development and higher education opportunities more closely to our community colleges.

As part of an ongoing effort to ensure access to safe and affordable housing for the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents, the budget provides $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $32 million for the HomeBASE program, $20 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program and establishes a $5 million rapid homeless rehousing program.

To address the ongoing opioid epidemic, the budget includes $142 million for the Bureau of Substance Addition Services to create five recovery centers in Massachusetts. The budget features $5 million to support community-based treatment program, $4.9 million for step-down recovery services and $1 million to provide increased access to Narcan to first responders.

In an effort to preserve outdoor spaces and protect our natural environment, the budget includes $900,000 for the maintenance, operational and infrastructure needs of the metropolitan beaches, including Nantasket Beach Reservation in Hull.

“The budget we enacted supports our local municipalities, and invests in people and services,” said Representative Meschino. “I am proud to see the Legislature put together a budget that prioritizes our constituents, and is fiscally sound.”

In addition the budget includes the following provisions highlighted below.

  • With the goal of creating an accessible economy to all workers, the creation of a pilot program to promote employment in state contracts with persons with disabilities.
  • Requiring the Administration to acknowledge and sometimes waive the unique tax burden on small businesses with high-turnover workforces that are the hardest hit by the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) Supplement assessment.
  • Creates an Office of Health Equity to address social determinants of health and environmental justice to improve health outcomes among people of color.
  • Expands access to non-profits working with the state to discounted Naloxone, helping to make it more available at a lower cost.
  • Establishes of a permanent Tax Expenditure Unit in Department of Revenue that would examine the usefulness of every tax credit on an ongoing basis – to ensure our tax payers are receiving worthwhile returns on their investments.

For the 3rd Plymouth District, the budget provides funding for:

  • An Aquatic Weed Harvester for Cohasset
  • Animal Control in Cohasset and Hull
  • Structural repairs of the Whitney Wharf in Hingham
  • A behavior health program through Manet Community Health Center in Hull
  • Main street economic development and storefront improvements in Hull
  • Scituate Community Christmas, Inc.
  • A mobile de-watering pump for Scituate Fire Department

The budget also provides increased Chapter 70 funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid for Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and Scituate. In addition, it provides increased state aid for public libraries, and increased funding for Mass Cultural Council.

This iteration of the budget is now with the Governor for his consideration.                                                                                       

House Passes Automatic Voter Registration Bill

(BOSTON) - Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of
Representatives on Wednesday, June 27th to pass legislation establishing an automatic voter
registration process for the state of Massachusetts. With the implementation of automatic voter
registration, the legislature sought to facilitate civic engagement for the 700,000 residents of
Massachusetts who are eligible to vote but are unregistered.
“The democratic process requires broad civic engagement that reaches across all demographics
to ensure that all are represented and heard.” said Representative Meschino. “Automatic voter
registration is a simple and convenient registration process that will promote participation among
all eligible citizens.”
The bill, H.4320, An Act relative to automatic voter registration, contains provisions that would
link voter registration to initial applications and information updates to the Registry of Motor
Vehicles and MassHealth. Rather than requiring eligible voters to opt-in to register, this
provision would instead create an opt-out process for eligible residents who may not wish to
register to vote. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the measure would take effect
January 1, 2020.