FBRC recommendations implementation

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has been very active in trying to address issues raised by the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) about education spending. In fact, on July 10, the House voted 143-0 to approve a bill addressing the FBRC recommendations.

The House bill provides roughly $500 million to school districts over five years to help cover a greater share of the costs associated with special education and the health benefits for employees and retirees (both big issues in Franklin and Medway).

On the issue of adding more money to help low-income students in districts that have a high concentration of poverty and English-language learners (or ELLs), the House bill directs the state education commissioner to develop a plan for implementing the recommendations and helping those students. The plan would be due by the December 2018 for consideration in the fiscal 2020 budget. The House wants that report (due in 6 months) before committing to a timeline for implementing those particular recommendations.

Some have suggested that we should just fund all four buckets immediately. In fact, one proposal had the state just writing checks to districts. That proposal lacks the language found in the House proposal that would direct the state’s education commissioner to identify and recommend interventions for ELL and low-income students that work and, if s/he chose, to tie incentives for reform to the new funding.

Boston officials raised concerns during negotiations that the proposed changes could have cost the city millions of dollars. Also, it was clear that some of the estimated costs of the various proposals being negotiated were off by hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, if the state increased the foundation budget levels on which the formula is based, the per-student tuition amounts to charter schools would have gone up as well.

Given these factors, it is necessary and reasonable to do the proposed 6-month study, with a report due in December 2018. Then the actual costs could be determined and a plan for implementation could be developed in time for the FY20 budget which gets prepared in January 2019.

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Mass Houses passes health reform



Rep. Roy’s floor remarks on the health care bill can be viewed at https://youtu.be/zoG09f_V9Tk

It was a great honor to work on and be a part of the team in presenting the 160 page reform bill that addresses some of the most pressing concerns in our healthcare system today – price variation, unnecessary cost growth, consumer engagement, and greater transparency. The bill also harnesses technology and innovation to improve the delivery of care. The reforms were engrossed by the House in a 117-32 vote. 

The reforms in this bill will help us deliver more sustainable methods of improving health care in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts approach to health reform is not about squeezing out efficiencies and cutting cost, rather it is transforming how we seek to pay for care to promote cost-effective, value driven services in a way that makes the healthcare system more accessible and effective for all of us.

We continue to be a leader in health care and public health areas and this bill will indeed move us further along towards increased accessibility, higher quality, and more affordable health care for all.

The bill includes policies that will help stabilize the finances of community hospitals and health centers to help these critical providers of care to transition to the new models of integrated, value-based care. It contains new requirements for consumer engagement and greater transparency on health care costs and insurance plans designs. It will assist patients and employers in navigating their coverage options and shopping for care based on both quality and cost.

Under the legislation, consumers will also be protected from surprise bills, and notice provisions for out of network billing and facility fees will be strengthened. The transparency provisions also extend to the pharmaceutical industry, MassHealth, and pharmacy benefit managers.

The Act also advances innovation and harnesses technology by embracing telemedicine, reinforcing mobile integrated health, and expanding the mission of the Massachusetts e-Health Institute to accelerate the adoption of digital health.

We recapitalize the Prevention & Wellness Trust Fund and expand its reach by dedicating a percentage of the grants to support regional projects in communities that were not able to access funds under the first program. It includes a number of provisions to expand access to healthcare providers and insures equitable access to healthcare resources.

And finally, the Act establishes some commissions and a task force to look at the financial stability of nursing homes, examine administrative costs in the healthcare system, and to look at existing special healthcare funds to evaluate them for effectiveness and efficiency.

You can read about the floor debate by clicking here. The text of my floor remarks are here and you can watch the video by clicking here.

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The truth behind the recent dark money mailing

The recent mailings you may have received concerning pay raises for legislators are riddled with blatant lies and fabrications. Contrary to the assertions:

  • I did not vote to hike my pay by 40%, 35%, or $25,267 (the three different figures used in three different flyers).
  • I did not receive an expense account boost to $20,000.
  • The expense accounts do not count towards any pension benefits. And beside that fact, I am not even eligible for a pension at this time.

To help you sort through the disinformation campaign, and set the record straight, here is the truth about the mailings and the facts underlying legislative compensation.

The source

The Mass Fiscal Alliance, who sent this dishonest mailer, is a mysterious right wing political group that consistently targets Democrats in a clear attempt to influence elections, without revealing the source of their dark money contributions. State law permits political groups to communicate with voters, but they are required to disclose their donors. In fact, I disclose every single donor to my campaign, and I hope you expect the same of other political organizations.

Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code sets forth two tests for that exemption – the organization must be “nonprofit” and it must be “non-partisan.” While Mass Fiscal may meet the “nonprofit” test, as there is no indication that its members personally profit, it hardly meets the “non-partisan” test. The organization only attacks Democratic incumbents, and primarily in or near election years. The vast majority, if not all, of its officers and directors are active or formerly active Republican politicos. The alliance director Phil Craney himself lists his Republican credentials in his LinkedIn profile. And the organization uses its 501(c)(4) status to shield the identities of its contributors, thus nicely exempting itself from the transparency that it demands of others.

A formal complaint against this secretive political group has been filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), seeking an investigation into violations of state election law by the Mass Fiscal Alliance. The complaint notes that the Mass Fiscal Alliance is actually a Political Committee “which raises money and expends those funds for the purpose of influencing Massachusetts elections,” and thus is required by state election law to disclose its donors. It goes on to state that the Mass Fiscal Alliance targets only Democratic legislators and “is clearly engaged in a persistent prolonged targeted effort to defeat Democratic House and Senate members.”

On August 3, 2018, a federal judge in Washington, DC issued a 113 page ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to these so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Now, these dark money groups that spend at least $250 in independent expenditures—a key type of political ad—must report every contributor who gave at least $200 in the past year as well as those who give to finance independent expenditures generally, throwing out an illegal three decades old regulation that was used to avoid disclosure and changing the legal landscape for political spending. You can learn more about the lawsuit and decision by clicking here and here.

The Boston Globe did an earlier story on how the group is being investigated on the question of whether the group improperly crosses the line into partisan campaigning. You can view that story by clicking here.

Mass Fiscal Alliance has consistently prioritized the concealment of its donors above all. The group’s leader was recently quoted as saying: “We cannot guarantee the sun will rise tomorrow, but we can guarantee our donors will never be disclosed.” While the group claims that it is an advocate for transparency, as you can see, it is simply engaged in a persistent course of hypocrisy and should not be a trusted source. The suggestion that this organization is non-partisan defies credulity.

In 2016, conservative political donors funneled millions of dollars through several other non-profit groups to fund the charter school ballot question. OCPF has already found two groups guilty of failing to disclose their political donations in connection with that election (see http://files.ocpf.us/pdf/releases/fesaprfinal.pdf) and they are being asked again investigate Mass Fiscal Alliance and hold them to the same standard.

For a good history of dark money and its effect on American elections, I suggest you obtain and read the book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right  by Jane Mayer. It’s a compelling piece of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group of millionaires. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.

You can also view the documentary Dark Money which will help you sort through the disinformation campaign, and set the record straight. A preview of the movie is included below.

You can also find more information at the Mass Fiscal Exposed website by clicking here or on Facebook by clicking here.

The truth about the information in the mailing

The legislation dealing with pay increases was House 58 which was the subject of a January 25, 2017 vote. You can see the history of that legislation online at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H58. I was in support of the legislation and voted accordingly.

First, I carefully reviewed and considered the Special Advisory Commission report on Compensation of MA Public Officials issued in 2014 which you can find at https://www.umb.edu/academics/mgs/special_projects/masspubliccomp. The legislature created this commission several years ago to review the compensation of the legislature and state constitutional officers. The commissioners included two in senior positions at the University of Massachusetts, one from the Governor’s budget agency, two from good government groups (the League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation), two more from the private sector (one from the Business Roundtable, one a former Federal Reserve executive).

The Commission report and resulting legislation established a compensation system that enables the state to attract and retain diverse, highly qualified professionals to public service regardless of their means or proximity to Boston. In a nutshell, the commission recommended substantial pay raises for the state’s senior elected leaders. The commission pointed to the need to attract skilled leaders, the desirability of keeping those leaders away from financial pressures that would create temptations, and the importance of attracting those who are not independently wealthy to serve.

Here is a table that outlines the compensation covered under the legislation:

Comparison of Legislative Proposals and Historical Compensation Levels

Position Current Salary* Last Changed Legal basis Commission Recommendations Legislative Proposal Inflation at same rate as Consumer Prices
Governor 151,800* 1/1/2017 G.L. c. 6, s.1 250,000 including housing allowance 250,000 including housing allowance N/A
Attorney General 130,582* 1/1/2017 G.L. c. 12, s.1 175,000 175,000 N/A
Treasurer 127,917* 1/1/2017 G.L., c.10, s.1 175,000 175,000 N/A
Lieutenant Governor 127,327* 1/1/2017 G.L. c. 6, s.2 165,000 165,000 N/A
Secretary of State 130,262* 1/1/2017 G.L. c. 9, s.1 165,000 165,000 N/A
Auditor 134,952* 1/1/2017 G.L. s. 11, s.1 165,000 165,000 N/A
Legislator Base 62,547 1/1/2017 Constitution, Article CXVIII No change No change N/A
Legislator Per Diem 10 – 100 / travel day 2000 G.L. c. 3, s. 9B Abolish Abolish 14 – 140 / travel day
Legislator Expense Allowance 7,200 2000 G.L. c. 3, s. 9B 10,000 — 15,000 if over 50 miles from Boston 15,000 — 20,000 if over 50 miles from Boston 10,035
Committee Vice Chairs 0 or 7,500 depending on committee 1982 Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982. Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged 5,200 or 15,000 depending on committee 0 or 18,653 depending on committee
Committee Chairs 7,500 or 15,000 depending on committee 1982 Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982. Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged 15,000 or 30,000 depending on committee 18,653 or 37,307 depending on committee
Ways and Means Chair Stipend 25,000 1982 Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982. Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged 65,000 62,177
Speaker/Senate President Stipend 35,000 1982 Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982. 102,453 (recommendation is for total of $175,000 with all components) 80,000 87,049

As you can see, the recommendations of the commission and legislation resulted in minimal changes for the majority of legislators like me. In fact, the base compensation of legislators is governed by a constitutional amendment (Article CXVIII) which causes it to rise and fall with the median household income of the state. It was $61,132.99 when I was elected in 2012, but dropped to 60,032.91 on the day I was sworn in. It was increased by the Governor in 2017 to $62,547 in accordance with the Constitution. Contrary to the assertions in the mailing, that pay was not altered by the January 25, 2017 legislation.

The legislation did, however, alter the legislator expense reimbursements, increasing them from $7,200 to $15,000 for legislators in my area of the state. But we also abolished per diem payments (average $3,000/year) which resulted in a net gain of $4,800 for legislators like me. Contrary to the assertions in the mailing, none of this compensation is added to the pension. In fact, as ruled by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Parente v. State Board of Retirement, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 747 (2011), an annual allowance for expenses paid to a member of the General Court, is not “regular compensation” as that term is defined by G. L. c. 32, § 1, for purposes of calculating retirement benefits.

To put the legislative pay in context, anyone can view the entire state payroll atmass.gov/opencheckbook. If you download the data and sort through it you will see that among state employees in 2016, there were:

  • 172 earning more than $250,000 (the originally proposed level for the Governor)
  • 1,173 earning more than $175,000 (the originally proposed level for the Speaker and Senate President)
  • 12,476 earning more than $102,279 (the current level of the Speaker and Senate President)
  • 45,201 earning more than $ 67,234.55 (the current level of a typical Representative like me)

The legislation also addressed leadership stipends. These leadership positions are charged with overseeing an over $40 billion annual budget addressing health care, public education, housing and transportation, among many other important public priorities. For legislators who hold some type of leadership post — a committee chairmanship or a role in floor operations (majority leader, whip, etc.) — the commission recommended adjustments. The last time that leadership stipends were changed was 1982. Fair minded people will consider the fact that stipends for presiding officers have not changed for 33 years. Who works for the same amount 33 years later? The Boston Globe cost 25 cents a day 33 years ago. It’s now $2 a day. Obviously costs go up and they ought to be reflected in people’s salaries as well. And these important positions should be attractive enough that there is vibrant competition to fill them.

The commission recognized that “reasonable adjustments in the stipends provided to other House and Senate leadership positions are justified.” Most of the increases in leadership stipends are below the rate of inflation since 1982 when they were last changed. The proposal also prohibits the Speaker, Senate President, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Auditor from earning outside income while in office, except for money derived from assets. The stipends we put in place are outlined in the table above.

Serving as your State Representative is a job that I enjoy and I am honored to serve. I am humbled that the citizens have sent me here to make difficult decisions and take tough votes. Voting for any compensation legislation is both difficult and tough, but in my judgment, the January 25, 2017 vote was needed and appropriate.

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Two locals recognized for manufacturing

IMG_5458Two area manufacturers, Dell Technologies and E.Parrella Company, Inc. (EPCO), each received a Manufacturer of the Year award at a State House ceremony on Tuesday. The companies were nominated by State Representative Jeffrey N. Roy and State Senator Karen E. Spilka.

The Massachusetts Legislative Manufacturing Caucus hosted its Second annual Manufacturing award ceremony to recognize 53 manufacturers that are truly making it in Massachusetts. The ceremony honored the manufacturers and showcased their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products. The event included companies who make electronic storage systems, spheres, badges, network devices, bicycles, textiles, and even beer.



(L to R) State Rep. Jeffrey Roy, Pat Kent, and Paige Fetzer of Dell Technologies

Dell Technologies serves a key role in providing the essential infrastructure for organizations to build their digital future, transform IT and protect their most important asset, information. Dell employs over 1,200 employees in Franklin and close to 9,000 statewide. The company has added $2.2 billion GDP and has paid close to $1 billion to Massachusetts suppliers. In addition, its Massachusetts employees have donated $7.3 billion and volunteered 26,000 hours.




(L to R) Rep. Roy with Reva Parrella and Richard Parrella from EPCO.

E. Parrella Company, Inc. continues its heritage of manufacturing at its facilities in Medway, MA. Founded in 1952 by Emilio Parrella, EPCO has become a leader in the manufacture of Bowling Balls, Industrial Balls, etc. over these many years. Upon seeing the need for a better product and after several years of research and development the Paramount Brand Bowling Ball was introduced by EPCO in 1960. “Paramount” was the first to introduce real color and style to small ball bowling


Lieutenant Governor Karyn E. Polito, Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Jay Ash, Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo offered remarks at the ceremony.

Formed in August 2014, the Manufacturing Caucus includes more than 60 legislators from around the Commonwealth. Lawmakers focus on training for manufacturing employees; encouraging innovation by helping start-ups access resources; and expanding apprenticeship opportunities in key manufacturing sectors.

“The manufacturing sector in Massachusetts has gone through significant changes throughout our history but has always been able to adapt to the changing nature of our economy. The Senate has always shown our support through workforce development, investments in innovation, and job creation. The fifty-three award winners today are true leaders in our economy,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).

“The House is proud to support workforce development programs, initiatives that weave together innovation industries with the manufacturing sector like the UMass Innovation Voucher program, and MassMEP,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “The manufacturers recognized today represent the lifeblood of Massachusetts’ economy. They’ve demonstrated that it’s possible to be an enduring force in their local communities while also working to ensure that manufacturing is a responsive, inclusive and dynamic sector. I thank them for their leadership and look forward to continued collaboration.”

“Manufacturers in Massachusetts create high-quality, high-value goods, and are at the forefront of adopting new technology and innovative production techniques,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. “Our administration is eager to continue working with employers, educational institutions and workforce development organizations to create a highly-skilled workforce, and partner with our colleagues in the legislature to support this critical industry.”

“We recognized 53 manufacturers who have had an impact on our economy, created jobs, and are contributing to the renaissance of manufacturing in our state by truly making it in Massachusetts,” said Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D – Franklin), House Chair of the Legislature’s Manufacturing Caucus.

“Massachusetts is positioned to be number one in manufacturing in the United States, and these companies are all a large part of our success story. And I am delighted that we had the opportunity to honor them and showcase their innovative and revolutionary manufacturing capabilities and products.”

“Dell EMC and EPCO are shining examples of manufacturing innovation in our community, successfully creating exciting products and boosting our local economy,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Encouraging workforce development, job creation and innovation are important priorities for me as a legislator, and I thank these two companies for their leadership and partnership in these areas.”

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Massachusetts Students Score among World Leaders on PISA Reading, Science and Math Tests

Massachusetts students’ reading and science scores place the state in a league with the top-scoring nations in the world. These results are evidence of what many of us already know: Massachusetts schools offer a world-class education.

If Massachusetts were a nation, it would share the top spot in reading with eight other nations worldwide. In science, the state’s students came in second, trailing only students from Singapore. In math, 11 other nations were ahead of the Commonwealth.

The results come from the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15-year-old students can apply their knowledge and skills.

Last year, over 500,000 students participated in PISA, including more than 5,700 students from the United States. Massachusetts was one of two U.S. states that participated in order to receive state-level results that can be compared to the results of other participating systems. A random, representative sample of approximately 1,600 students from 49 Massachusetts public schools took a two-hour, computer-based PISA test between September and November 2015.

Students from Massachusetts outscored students from the other participating state, North Carolina, as well the nation as a whole.

The Program for International Student Assessment, first conducted in 2000, is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. In this country, PISA is conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Results are reported both in terms of average scaled scores and the percent of students reaching selected proficiency levels. Average scores are reported on a scale of 0 to 1,000. There are six proficiency levels in mathematics and science and seven levels in reading. In all three subjects, students reaching level 5 or above demonstrate higher-level skills and are considered “top performers” in the subject. Students scoring below level 2, which the OECD considers baseline proficiency, are referred to as “lower performers.”

For additional information about PISA, visit the National Center for Education Statistics’ website by clicking here.

In addition to PISA, OECD also offers the OECD Test for Schools, an international benchmarking assessment for individual schools. The voluntary, computer-based test takes three hours and 15 minute of testing time for 50 to 85 15-year-old students at a single school and assesses a school’s performance and students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills.

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New law requires posting of legal notices online

mapublicnotivesIn July, Governor Charles Baker signed into law H1566, An Act relative to electronic publication of certain legal notices. The bill was filed by Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin) in January 2015 and was enacted by the House and Senate last week.

The new law requires that all legal notices must now appear, not only in a newspaper’s print publication, but also on the newspaper’s website and on a statewide website that may be maintained as a repository for such notices

“As you know, print media subscriptions are at an all-time low, but readership of newspapers is at all-time high because of the availability online,” noted Roy. “This new law will capitalize on online readership and increase access to information, including public records, documents and hearing notices. It encourages civic engagement and it will revolutionize access to public notices, long left to the back pages of newsprint in small fonts and unattractive layouts.”

“Publishing legal notices online is a common sense move in our modern digital age. This new law will enhance transparency and make sure public information is accessible to residents across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

This increased access will be accomplished at no additional cost to any government entity. The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA), on behalf of the state’s newspapers, will bear the cost of launching, operating and maintaining this statewide website. In fact, the MNPA just recently launched the new Public Notice Massachusetts website, which can be found at masspublicnotices.org, and a number of newspapers have already started uploading notices to the site.

The new MNPA site is based on a legal-notices platform developed in Illinois and in use in a number of states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It will give users access to all public notices from all newspapers in the state. In addition, it features a smart search capability that will allow users to receive daily updates relative to legal notices that respond to user delineated search terms.

“The Illinois site has been a great success and the new MNPA site will be a welcome addition to the Massachusetts landscape,” added Roy. “Indeed, public notices inform citizens of the everyday activities of government. From government spending to developing new policies, it is important for people to be informed of actions taken by public officials that affect citizens’ everyday lives. Without public notices, citizens cannot properly and adequately make informed decisions.”

“Legal notices are an essential means by which citizens are kept informed about the actions of their state and local governments and courts,” said Robert J. Ambrogi, MNPA executive director. “The newspapers of Massachusetts are committed to ensuring the broadest-possible access to these notices, both in print and online. We appreciate the efforts of Rep. Roy to make this possible.”

The new law will take effect in 180 days.

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House passes act relative to transgender discrimination

On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, the Massachusetts’s House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass H4343, An Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination. With this vote, the House solidified its role as a civil rights leader and passed legislation that provides equal access to public places for every resident of the Commonwealth, regardless of gender identity. Public accommodations include, but are not limited to, restaurants, nursing homes, coffee shops, grocery stores and sports arenas. At its core, this legislation simply prevents discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations by adding the phrase “gender identity” to pre-existing law.

I supported H4343 because it was the right thing to do. I am committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are. The decision to support the bill was made after lengthy research, participation in robust hearings, discussions and deliberations, and careful and due consideration of each communication received on the topic.

The decision also rested on the personal and often heart-wrenching testimony of individuals who shared stories of anxiety, depression, and despair. The reality is that transgender people are too often the victims of harassment and violent crime. According to a 2014 Fenway Health survey, 65 percent of transgender Massachusetts residents reported experiencing discrimination in public spaces including restaurants, retail establishments, and health service centers. This bill will enhance public safety and hopefully bring an end to fears and apprehension that have arisen from these unfortunate acts.

H4343 builds on the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, passed in 2011, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, education, employment and credit. It completes a near decade of advocacy around full inclusion of transgender residents in communities across the Commonwealth and it closes the loophole and protects transgender persons in public areas. Massachusetts adds itself to a rapidly expanding list of towns, states, and companies that have addressed the need to protect the transgender community.

It has received exceptional support from businesses, sports teams, faith leaders, labor unions and law enforcement across the state. Over the course of the past year, more than 200 Massachusetts businesses and members of all five major New England sports teams came out in support of this bill as central to promoting equal access rights for everyone in Massachusetts.

Many places of public accommodation in Massachusetts already have policies that do not allow discrimination based on gender identity. In 2002, only three percent of Fortune 500 companies had protections in place for transgender employees’ today, more than 75 percent do. The sampling of those businesses contacted report no problems and have indicated that this is a good business policy. These places include restaurants like Olive Garden, Capital Grille, and corporate-owned McDonald’s; retailers like Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and the Gap; healthcare providers like Tufts Medical Center and Harvard Pilgrim; banks like Eastern Bank and State Street; and fitness centers like Planet Fitness and the YWCA.

The experience of these places of public accommodation doing business in Massachusetts is born out in other states with public accommodations protections of been in place for years, and sometimes decades. Minnesota, where this discrimination has been prohibited since 1993, reports no incidents of an individual asserting gender identity protection as a defense to improper or illegal conduct. None of the other 17 states and the District of Columbia which provide similar transgender protections have reported such an incident.

On May 12, 2016 the Massachusetts’s Senate passed its own version of the legislation. The two bills will be sent to a conference committee for reconciliation. The most significant difference between the House and Senate versions pertains to a topic that was raised consistently by opponents to the bill. Under the House version, which has the support of Governor Baker, the Attorney General must issue guidelines regarding assertion of gender identity for an improper purpose to law enforcement should that situation arise.

I thank everyone who called, wrote, or otherwise weighed in on this topic. With your help Massachusetts continues its legacy as an active opponent of discrimination and a pioneer in equality.

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Detox unit at Essex jail provides hope

IMG_7888Rep. Roy joined several SAFE Coalition members for a tour of the Essex County Correctional Facility with prison officials, Wrentham District Court probation officials, and officials from Norfolk County Sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Frank Cousins began the tour with a presentation on his 42 bed detox facility which opened on December 7, 2015. We saw firsthand the innovative approach the sheriff is using to combat substance abuse disorder with pretrial detainees. The unit provides a positive environment for detoxification and long-term planning and provides a 28-day comprehensive treatment program to pretrial detainees to effectively address their addiction.

Detainees wear a blue uniform, not the prisoner’s typical orange jumpsuit. The correction officers are dressed in khakis and polo shirts instead of the standard prison guard uniforms. And those residing in the unit attend five counseling sessions per day, as well as one-on-one meetings with a counselor.

Sheriff Cousins calls the unit a “ground-breaking” approach to treating non-violent prisoners with addiction. Rather than sending them to jail and leaving them to fend for themselves when they are released, the detox unit is designed to treat the addiction and arrange a long-term care plan while avoiding incarceration. Upon completion of the 28 days, individuals may be able to dispose of their cases and utilize court mandated tools as an alternative to further incarceration.

Typically, these pretrial individuals go through a 1-3 day “spin-dry” detox process in jail while awaiting further notice from the courts, and as a result their addiction is never adequately addressed. With this new process, individuals are remanded to the Essex County Sheriff’s Department’s Detox Unit by the presiding judge.

The sheriff’s department created the detox unit in a separate space within the jail compound. The walls were freshly painted, and a steel gate was replaced with a door in an attempt to create a space that feels more like a hospital than a jail.

The inmates sleep, eat, exercise and attend counseling sessions all within the confines of the unit.

“What we’re really trying to do is change the culture,” said Sean Lebroda, director of the detox unit. “We’re trying to work with them so they’re not left to their own devices. It’s a culture shift.”

Section 20B of Chapter 127 of the Massachusetts General Laws provides the Sheriff with the power and discretion to assign certain detainees to a pre-trial diversion program. Upon completion of the 28-day treatment program individuals may be able to dispose of their cases and utilize non-custodial tools as opposed to traditional incarceration. Individuals who successfully complete the program may be recommended to continue with services such as probation, day reporting at an Office of Community Corrections, drug testing, electronic monitoring, and in some instances sober houses.

The cost of running the detox unit, which includes paying a medical provider and addiction-treatment professionals, is about $1.7 million per year. Cousins said the unit should be able to treat 500 people per year, which comes to about $3,400 per person.

Sheriff Cousins provided us with many good ideas that we can hopefully implement in our area.

For the Boston Globe report on the unit, click here.  To view the Channel 7 News report on the unit, click here.

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MGH’s Dr. John Kelly talks opiates at S.A.F.E. coalition meeting

Dr. John Kelly, Harvard professor and Massachusetts General Hospital addiction expert, spoke at our second S.A.F.E. coalition meeting about the mechanisms of, and strategies for, combating and de-stigmatizing substance abuse disorders. You can view the video of his presentation by clicking on the image below.

We had a great turnout for the talk about addiction which Dr. Kelly noted is caused by several factors, including genetic predisposition and exposure to the drug itself. Drugs, Kelly said, can short-circuit the reward pathways of the brain and cause the release of dopamine, a chemical that causes pleasure. “(The pathways) developed to make sure we feed ourselves, stay alive, reproduce, engage with other people,” he said. “People tend to like the effect (of drugs), and people find it very hard to cope with the abnormal release (of dopamine).” The brain adapts to the high levels of dopamine by becoming less sensitive to it.

“When a person is addicted, they can’t sense the normal levels or reward,” he said. “This dysphoria means people find it extra hard to stop using the only thing they remember will help them.”

Dr. Kelly’s talk was followed by a panel discussion and audience engagement. The panel included:

  • Jonathan Cabezas, the Director of Services at Number 16 in Wakefield, MA;
  • Brooke, a 39 year old recovering addict whose opiate addiction started in 2003;
  • Jennifer Rowe, a Norfolk County ADA, who has spoken frequently about scope of the drug issues in Norfolk County, particularly concerning opioid abuse;
  • Amy Leone, a LMHC with clinical practices in Milford and Upton, who works with those struggling with addiction, in the path of recovery, or those effected by others substance addictions; and
  • Dan Lynch, President of Lynch Wellness and Recovery Foundation, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field of addiction.

It was a remarkable educational experience and helped increase awareness about addiction, and help put us on a pathway to finding a cure for this disease.

For the Milford Daily News report on the meeting, see http://bit.ly/1DMBsC3. For the Franklin Matters report which includes the PowerPoint slides, see http://bit.ly/1TvgK0i.

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Cooking with the Franklin legislative delegation

There is an old saying attributed to Otto von Bismarck that “to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.” When we make sausages or laws, we generally like the outcome, but we don’t want to see how they’re made. Recently the Franklin legislative delegation was in town, not to make laws or sausage, but to cook some things that were actually fun to watch.

Rep. Roy joined his colleagues Senator Karen Spilka and Senator Richard J. Ross at a taping for some cooking shows to benefit the Franklin Food Pantry. They worked with Trisha Perez Kennealy from Artistry Kitchen in Franklin to prepare healthy meals from food available at the food pantry. The meals included several variations of chicken, a kale soup, and a sausage stir fry. Each were prepared in under 30 minutes. The segment below features the sausage stir fry recipe.

The Franklin Food Pantry serves nearly 600 families annually, including 1600 individuals. More than a third are children. About 75 clients “shop” at the Pantry weekly, and 270 visit monthly.

Typical clients include working families trying to make ends meet, people experiencing a temporary job loss, individuals whose SNAP (food stamps) benefits are reduced, and seniors. A growing number of seniors are seeking help from the Pantry since most are on a fixed income and are impacted by such things as medication costs and higher fuel expenses.

The legislators took the opportunity to highlight the work of the pantry and at the same time show some of the healthy options that are available when preparing food from the pantry. During the show, they talked more about the work done at the pantry and how residents can help in this effort to provide food security in our community.

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