Local Power to Lower speed Limits!

Frustration with the state's 30 mph default speed limit (which applies "unless otherwise posted") predates my public service. For many years, municipal pleas to allow local decisions to lower speed limits on local roads fell on deaf ears. When I was elected to the legislature in 2006, I vowed to end this gridlock.


More than ten years, three Highway Administrators, and the creation of the consolidated transportation agency MassDOT later - victory! I filed the latest iteration of a local-control speed limits bill as an amendment to our Municipal Modernization bill. It was filed in the Senate side, kept by the conference committee and received a final favorable vote on July 31, 2016.


What went on in the intervening ten years? I filed a variety of bills, based on meetings with state highway officials and municipal stakeholders, some of which made legislative headway, only to meet practical or political impediments. I learned a tremendous amount, not just about the interplay of federal and state speed limit law, but about how various urban, suburban, and rural communities in Massachusetts view their roads, and their road users.


What, specifically, will the new law allow? It will allow municipalities to reduce the default speed limit on local roads to 25 mph, in "any thickly settled of business district," (Section 193,...) also, municipalities may designate "safety zones," on local roads, with speed limits of 20 mph (Section 194,...). So, prepare to organize locally, to lower the speed limit in a suitable location near you.

August 08, 2016

Criminalization of Dealing in Fentanyl

On Oct. 7, 2015, the House engrossed a bill providing stiff penalties for dealing in fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid painkiller, which has increasingly been added to heroin and other street drugs. It's strong enough that it sometimes causes death in unsuspecting users. While our state had criminal penalties for possession of fentanyl, our laws did not address the offense of dealing in fentanyl.


Attorney General Maura Healey filed this bill, along with the House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, John Fernandes; I was a co-sponsor. The bill subsequently passed the Senate, and was signed by Gov. Baker. While this bill is not a solution to the problem of opioid abuse, or to the dangers of fentanyl as an additive to street drugs, it will probably prove helpful that we have attached criminal penalties to the dealing of fentanyl.


An aspect of this legislation that was important to me is that it does NOT contain mandatory minimum sentences for violators. This feature is the result of a strong push in the House for smarter sentencing practices. I'm part of the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, working for less punitive, more evidence-oriented corrections policy in our legislature.


A comprehensive bill to prevent and better treat opioid addiction was engrossed in the House on January 13, 2016, but final legislation has just been agreed to in conference committee. I'll save details of that bill for the next newsletter. 

January 26, 2016

Victory: Making Breast Cancer Screening Work for all Women

I'm proud to announce that both the House and Senate have enacted my bill to require changes to the information reported to women about their mammogram results. Several other states have similar laws, and they've been shown to prompt additional testing for women whose breast cancer would not otherwise have been discovered at an early stage. Here's the sad backstory of the bill I filed:


In the summer of 2012, a constituent called me to say that she'd been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer just 7 months after a mammogram that showed no abnormalities. The missed diagnosis was attributed to her having dense breast tissue; a not uncommon condition, but one known to mask the presence of tumors on x-rays. She hadn't known those facts, and her doctors hadn't told her - what, she asked me, was I going to do to prevent other women from finding themselves in the same situation?


I filed a breast density notification bill in January 2013, which bill requires radiologists to notify patients about the degree of breast tissue density shown on a mammogram, and what it could mean - dense breast tissue is associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, as well as sometimes obscuring tumors on mammograms. This bill  will require Informing patients if they have dense breast tissue, and requires consideration of whether further screening is appropriate. This will be a lifesaving bill, and I am asking Governor Patrick to sign it soon.

June 21, 2014

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