News Briefs: House budget victories for 4th Berkshire District, environment; budget boosts funding for programs, services; Senate passes credit protection billMore Info
Pignatelli announces House budget victories for 4th Berkshire District, environment
Boston — Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, D-Lenox, has announced several wins for his 4th Berkshire District as well as environmental and agricultural gains secured through the fiscal year 2019 budget bill passed Thursday night by the House of Representatives.
Pignatelli secured funding and approval of the following projects:
- $200,000 for Railroad Street Youth Project for youth intervention services through the Berkshire Youth Development Project;
- $50,000 for Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington to oversee a feasibility study on the regionalization and shared services of emergency medical response services in the southern Berkshires;
- $50,000 to the Claire Teague Senior Center in Great Barrington;
- $100,000 toward emergency repairs of the Park Street bridge in Lee; and
- The renaming of a section of Route 7 in Sheffield as the “Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman Highway to Freedom,” in honor of Elizabeth ‘Mumbet’ Freeman, the first African-American woman and district native to fight for and earn her freedom through the Massachusetts judicial system in 1781.
Pignatelli is the House chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and worked to increase funding for the state’s environmental and agricultural departments, including:
- $29 million for the Department of Environmental Protection;
- $40 million for the Department of Conservation and Recreation’ state parks;
- $2.2 million for Climate Change Adaptation;
- $300,000 for Buy Local;
- $120,000 for Farm to School;
- $100,000 for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program;
- $90,000 for bee inspections;
- Increasing the annual dairy tax credit cap to $6 million; and
- Increasing the annual conservation land tax credit to $5 million.
Among other priorities that Pignatelli supported and co-sponsored in the final version of the House bill are $1.1 billion in unrestricted local aid, $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 funding for public schools, $82 million for regional transit authorities, $18.1 million for the emergency food assistance program and $14.5 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The Senate is expected to take up its own budget debates in May.
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Senate passes supplemental budget to boost funding for programs, services
Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that the Massachusetts Senate voted 38-0 Thursday to pass S.2481, a $156.4M supplemental budget to cover increased caseloads and time-sensitive deficiencies in fiscal year 2018.
During the debate the Senate adopted a number of amendments co-sponsored by Hinds to provide additional funding to help residents, municipalities and regional school districts in western Massachusetts, including:
- $12.5 million for the special education circuit breaker reimbursement program, increasing reimbursements to school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities;
- $4 million to reimburse municipalities and regional school districts for charter school tuition;
- $4 million for regional transit authorities including the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and the Franklin Regional Transit Authority; and
- $2.2 million for the Healthy Incentives Program to increase access to nutritious food for low-income residents.
The Senate also adopted two amendments co-sponsored by Hinds to provide a clear funding source for the Municipal Police Training Committee, which will support new unconscious bias and mental-health training requirements for local officers outlined in the recently signed criminal justice reform package; and a change in eligibility for small towns applying for MassWorks Infrastructure Program grants. Currently small towns with populations of fewer than 7,000 people are only able to receive funding every three years; the Senate removed this restriction.
Additional investments in S.2481 include:
- $25.6 million for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children grants;
- $21.1 million for the operation of the Commonwealth’s county sheriffs;
- $19.3 million for emergency assistance family shelters;
- $15.5 million for recently ratified collective bargaining agreements (SEIU local 509);
- $5.3 million for veterans’ benefits;
- $4.5 million to support payroll costs at the Department of Correction payroll and $2 million to support payroll costs at the Department of Developmental Services;
- $2.5 million for services for hurricane evacuees residing in Massachusetts;
- $2 million for the Department of Children and Families’ Family Resource Centers to support increased demand for services from hurricane evacuees;
- $1 million to support the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund;
- $468,000 for operations of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office; and
- $150,000 for the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchasing Trust Fund.
A six-member committee of conference will now be appointed to reconcile the differences between the supplemental budget bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
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Senate passes credit protection bill
Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that the Massachusetts Senate voted 38-0 Thursday to pass a bill designed to protect the personal information of consumers in the case of data breaches like the one seen at Equifax, and provide free credit freezes for all consumers.
S.2455, “An Act relative to consumer protection from security breaches,” was sponsored by consumer protection committee chair Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, and crafted in collaboration with House of Representatives bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenberg, Attorney General Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group and AARP Massachusetts.
The bill helps consumers protect their sensitive information before, during, and after a security breach by:
- Providing free credit freezes for all consumers and creating an online portal that allows consumers one place in which to freeze and unfreeze their credit at the three main bureaus;
- Providing 5 years of free credit monitoring for consumers whose information was part of a credit reporting agency data breach; and
- Empowering consumers to know when and why their reports are being pulled by requiring that any company attempting to pull a consumer’s report to first obtain consent.
The legislation authorizes increased oversight from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, which recently filed a lawsuit against Equifax. Further, the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation will create a process requiring companies to certify that they maintain a consumer information security program as required by existing Massachusetts law.
S.2455 will now go to the House for consideration. The House has previously passed similar legislation sponsored by Benson.