Dear Friends and Neighbors -
Warm greetings! The House is now back in session for year two of our legislative session. We continue to work on bills from last year, and typically more action occurs as we start to enact bills before the fall elections. This newsletter covers a number of issues, particularly housing and public health.
I'm excited that a number of my legislative priorities are moving forward. First, the House got right to work this year and enacted a bill to address the substance use crisis (see below).
A number of my bills have also recently had hearings, including a bill to address the crisis of available affordable housing, a bill to create a Health Insurance Department to align private health insurance with the other state health programs, and a few home rule petitions specific to Somerville.
Finally, the local delegation has been working hard to keep the Green Line Extension (GLX) on track, so to speak. I'm sure you have seen a number of news stories about the process slowing down as the MBTA resets this project. However, I remain steadfast in my support and confident that the GLX project will continue soon. Stay tuned for future updates.
House passes bill to address substance use disorder
I’m proud to share that the House recently passed H.3944 to address substance abuse treatment, education and prevention. The bill creates a new standard for substance abuse evaluations in emergency rooms. Evaluations, conducted within 24 hours for anyone in the ER due to an apparent overdose, are added to the patient’s medical record and must be covered by insurance.
In addition, H.3944 limits first-time opioid prescriptions to seven days for adults, except for cancer and palliative care. Clinicians are also required to check the prescription monitoring program and update a patient’s medical record each time they prescribe any opiate.
Some other important details:
- parent and student education about the warning signs of substance abuse,
- using Safe and Supportive Youth Initiative grants to target youth substance misuse, and
- the creation of an online 'dashboard' to allow consumers to navigate and search for treatment availability.
The bill is now in negotiations with the Senate, and will then go to the Governor.Our work on this important issue is not done, but this is an important step forward to ensure all individuals in Massachusetts who suffer from addiction have the help and support they need to achieve recovery. I am proud of this progress, and look forward to representing Somerville and Medford in future conversations to address this public health crisis.
As a new member Caucus of Women Legislators' Task Force on Justice-Involved Women, I am co-hosting an upcoming hearing on services available for women in the criminal justice system. Next week, the Department of Correction, Office of Probation, and Massachusetts Sheriffs' Association will testify about programs serving women and help identify ways to strengthen these programs. Stay tuned for more in an upcoming newsletter.
The state has begun work on theFiscal Year 2017 Budget to fund critical programs around the Commonwealth. The House is developing the budget now as we gear up for debate in April. Now is the time to let me know your priorities!
Christine with Rep. Paul Donato at Medford's Andrews Middle School for an unveiling of a beautiful mosaic, Medford’s Flora and Fauna: Mystic to the Fells. Congrats to all of the students, teachers, and volunteers who worked on it!
Get in touch!
Upcoming Office Hours
Friday, February 5th
Weston Manor 10AM-11AM
Clarendon Hill Towers 12PM-1PM
Friday, February 19th
Danish Pastry House
Friday, February 26th
Or contact me any time:
Call the office: 617-722-2430
Reach me at home: 617-410-6025
Or stop by the State House:
Come by Room 236 to meet my aide, Claire, or email her to make an appointment with me.
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. If you have any other ideas for me to provide updates and stay in touch, please let me know!
Christine, testifying in support of a bill to require Institutional Master Plans in Somerville, with Alderman Katjana Ballantyne and Rep. Denise Provost. This bill would require all large nonprofit institutions in Somerville to file long-term plans with the city.
Multi-Family Housing Bill
One of my priorities this session is House Bill 1080, which takes steps to address the crisis in cost and availability of housing in our region. While more people in Massachusetts prefer multi-family housing options within walking or biking distance to transportation and neighborhood amenities, many communities continue to build single-family homes on large lots. Somerville, already the densest city in the Northeast, is working to increase housing options, but we need other communities to do their part as well.
Many cities and towns are zoned only for large-lot single family homes that are out of reach for working-class families, young people, and seniors on fixed incomes. These costs limit the diversity of many towns and make Massachusetts a less affordable place to live.
H.1080 removes barriers that have limited the construction of multi-family housing in Massachusetts.This bill requires that every city and town create zoning districts that permit multi-family housing. These zoning districts would be available to families and seniors, and close to local schools, transportation, and public services.
The benefits are many, including:
- Providing more housing that is affordable for working and middle class families
- Decreased environmental impact compared to large-lot homes, with more land for public spaces.
Community events, meetings, and news:
Somerville is proposing a new zoning ordinance that will affect our neighborhoods, housing and open space. Join an upcoming meeting to learn more and share your thoughts. See schedule.
Medford constituent services:
Mayor Burke's transition team has been working to find out what Medford residents want from city services. Fill out a quick survey to help.
Green Line Extension Working Group
Get an update on the Green Line Extension project on Friday, Feb. 5, 10AM-noon at Center for Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave.
‘Envision Medford’ Mtg on Economic Development
Join Medford Community Coalition for a community conversation about economic development in Medford. Sunday, Feb 28th from 2-4pm at Medford High School. RSVP here.
Join in a conversation between Somerville's immigrant community and the police department to discuss issues and concerns. Tues., Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m, Mystic Activity Center, 530 Mystic Avenue.
In the News:
Legislation aims to address sexual assault on college campuses: "According to Christine Barber, a co-sponsor of H.1041, the bill would complement Title IX, the federal civil rights law which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex in all federally-funded educational programs and activities. State legislation helps provide guidelines for all universities in
Massachusetts to follow." [more]
Medford delegation speaks out on schedule changes to Medford commuter rail "Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Reps. Sean Garballey, Paul Donato and Christine Barber, all members of the Medford legislative delegation, offered the following statement on the MBTA’s announced schedule changes to the Lowell commuter rail line:
It is deeply troubling to us that the Lowell line is seeing such reductions when other lines are seeing trips added to their schedules or no changes at all. Eliminating several trains during morning and afternoon peak hours will have disproportionately negative impacts on commuters in this area." [more]