Community Newsletter - Spring 2019
Bill Spotlight | FY20 Budget Update | Legislative Hearings |
Upcoming Office Hours | Intern Update| Community Events | In the News |
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy Spring! There is a lot going on at the State House, and I wanted to let you know some of the big updates.
First, the House just completed our version of the FY20 state budget. The budget is a major part of our work, and sets the stage for education, health care and social service funding for the upcoming year. The budget is a statement of our values, and I am proud that we were able to make important increases in areas such as affordable housing and protections for the environment, and continue to provide health care benefits to the most vulnerable in our state. We have more work to do to increase revenue, in particular to provide needed funding to our education and transportation systems, and I will continue this work over the next few months.
In addition, hearings on legislation have been ramping up, and I have testified in support of a number of issues, including the Fair Share Amendment (millionaires' tax), public education funding, and reducing sexual assault on college campuses. We have also had hearings on some bills that I am the lead sponsor on, including my bill that would hold pharmaceutical companies accountable and make prescription drugs more affordable.
I continue to partner with The Welcome Project on the Work and Family Mobility Act, a bill I filed which would allow people to get drivers' licenses regardless of immigration status. We are working to build as much support as possible for this bill. If you would like to join our work, please fill out this brief survey.
I hope you will read on for more news and update below. And please feel free to reach out to my office with ideas and any questions!
Bill Spotlight: Prescription Drug Affordability & Accountability
I recently testified before the Health Care Financing Committee in support of my bill, H1133, An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability.
This bill, supported by the MA Prescription Drug Affordability Coalition, a growing and diverse coalition of consumer advocates, seniors, children, those with disabilities, providers, unions, faith-based groups, and mental health organizations, aims to make prescription drugs more affordable for consumers by making pharmaceutical costs more transparent, holding pharmaceutical manufacturers accountable, and containing costs for employers, MassHealth, and the health system.
The rising price of prescription drugs places a significant burden on families' budgets and state spending. Actual costs are obscured by a complex and opaque system of pharmacy benefit manager middlemen and a lack of drug company reporting on production, marketing expenses, and profits.
As I said in my testimony, prescription drugs don't work if people can't afford them. Too many people in my district and throughout the state can't afford the high costs of prescription drugs, and are forced to make dangerous choices to pay for food, housing or needed medications.
I look forward to working to move this bill forward this session to ensure that the live-saving and necessary prescriptions are attainable, accessible, and affordable for patients throughout Massachusetts. Please contact my office to get involved with the campaign or share your story about challenges affording prescriptions.
Upcoming Office Hours
Somerville Office Hours
Saturday, June 8, 1:30-3pm
Mystic Activity Center
530 Mystic Ave, Somerville
Medford Office Hours
Friday, June 7, 8-10am
Danish Pastry House,
330 Boston Ave, Medford.
Stay tuned for more office hours and district events this summer.
Or contact the office to set up a time to meet with Christine.
FY20 Budget Update
April in the House was full of activity with the Commonwealth's $40+ billion annual budget. After months of hearings and a week of debate, we passed a budget that funds important investments. It is now on to the Senate, and then to a Conference Committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions. Some highlights:
My local amendments: I secured $100,000 for a transportation study of Route 16 (Alewife Brook and Mystic Valley Parkway) from Cambridge to Medford, to improve safety for all users and $50,000 for Groundwork Somerville's incredible youth programs.
Housing: $10 million increase to MRVP rental subsidies; $6.5 million increase to public housing; $5.2 million increase to homeless shelters; and an increased CPA state matching rate.
Education: Increase of $236.5 million for districts to address rising healthcare spending, special education, ELL and low-income supports. We are taking a deep-dive into updating the Chapter 70 funding formula later this session, but this investment is a start.
Substance Use: $1.9 million for local grants for prevention, intervention, and recovery services; $1 million for naloxone distribution programs.
Energy & Environment: 11% increase for our state parks; $1 million for stormwater management; $1.5 million for watershed management.
Legislative Hearings are in Full Swing!
Now that our legislative session is fully underway, we have been busy meeting as Committees to review the 3,000+ bills that were proposed in January. This term, I am honored to serve on the following committees:
Throughout the budget season, the Ways & Means Committee held hearings across the state to discuss all of our state programs and agencies. Committee hearings are always open to the public, and you are welcome to testify! Hearing dates are posted here--check it out!
Teen Empowerment Peace Conference
Saturday May 11, 5-7:30pm
Teen Empowerment Somerville youth present their original show featuring theater, spoken word, music on mental health, gentrification, relationships, and discrimination.
Medford Slavery Memorial Unveiling
Saturday, June 8 10:30-11:30am
Medford students will unveil their memorial to the over 50 enslaved people buried at the Salem Street Burying Ground
Saturday June 2, 1-4pm
Celebrate Medford's diversity with live music, performances, activities and exhibits for all
With students from 3L Place in the House Chamber at a recent State House visit.
In the News
"State Legislators Push 'Laura's Law,' Removal of Liability Cap for Hospitals": I was interviewed on WGBH's Greater Boston along with Senator Jehlen and Peter DeMarco. We are working together on two bills to ensure patient safety. This work follow's the tragic death of Peter's wife Laura, who died of an asthma attack outside of the Somerville Hospital ED.
"Use VW Settlemenent to Electrify Bus Fleet": I co-authored this op-ed with my colleagues Rep. Hecht, Rep. Robinson and Rep. Rogers, in support of electrifying our bus fleet to curb emissions and make our communities cleaner. I am working with Rep. Hecht on a bill to electrify all large vehicle fleets.
"Rep. Barber Named to Board of MA Caucus of Women Legislators": I am proud to again be on the Board of the Caucus of Women Legislators, and working on a number of issues to support women and girls throughout the Commonwealth.
"Working Together for Change in 2019": An Op-Ed I wrote about the work I have been doing with constituents on issues of immigration, health care, housing and climate change this year.
From the Masters of Public Health student intern in our office, Emily Allen
I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Representative Barber this year though my “Practice and Culminating Experience Course” at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As a pediatrician, I support my patients and their families as they have struggled to access the care they need. I returned to school to learn how policy can promote access to care, reduce health disparities, and promote health justice. Representative Barber, with her expertise in health policy and legislative initiatives to improve prescription drug affordability, health insurance coverage, and provider network transparency, was an ideal mentor for me. Through work primarily related to H1133 An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability, I have learned about the legislative process. I look forward to applying what I learned from my experiences in Representative Barber’s office to my future career as a physician and advocate.