Bills on Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Substance Abuse, Environmental and Economic Development Bond Bills and Public Housing, sent to Governor’s desk
BOSTON—Representative Jeffrey Sánchez worked hard with his colleagues in the House of Representatives in a push to pass comprehensive legislation before the 2013-2014 legislative session ended at midnight on July 31, 2014. “We were successful in passing ground breaking legislation related to domestic violence, gun violence and substance abuse, the environment and economic development. I am proud of our work in creating laws which protect rights, improves conditions and creates opportunities for so many people in our Commonwealth.”
The House passed domestic violence legislation which creates new crimes for domestic assault and strangulation, gives victims 15 days of leave from work to receive counseling or medical attention and creates a six-hour “cooling off” period during which anyone arrested for domestic violence would be held in custody. This legislation establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge. Current law includes penalties for subsequent offenses but fails to include a first offense, making the statute unenforceable. This legislation also delays bail for offenders to provide the victim with time for safety planning and authorizes the revocation of bail in certain cases.
Gun Violence Prevention
“I have understood for years and confirmed at our Gun violence hearing that Rep. Liz Malia and myself held in Bromley Heath in October of 2013 that the “iron pipeline of guns” flowing into our communities is a major problem” that is why we worked to pass comprehensive gun violence legislation which for the first time provides local authorities, in conjunction with the court system, an avenue to deny a firearm identification (FID) card, authorizes licensed gun dealers to access criminal offender record information (CORI) and establishes a groundwork for improving school safety. As illegal gun trafficking continues to plague many communities throughout Boston, this bill aims to enhance record-keeping efforts and takes decisive steps to curtail gun trafficking. To address any loopholes created by secondary sales, the legislation requires the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) to create an online portal for private sales. This will ensure that secondary sales are subject to proper monitoring and information sharing.
In addition, this legislation includes provisions that will improve school safety and assist schools with identifying best practices that will provide safe and supportive school environments. It directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop a safe and supportive schools framework that districts may individualize and implement. This legislation also requires schools to develop plans to address the general mental health needs of students and staff, and requires at least 2 hours of suicide awareness and prevention training every 3 years for all licensed school personnel.
Substance Abuse and Recovery
After a compromise was reached between the House and Senate on July 31, 2014, the House passed legislation that aims to increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery in the Commonwealth by supporting a continuum of care and removing barriers that stand in the way of effective treatment. “Substance abuse is a very personal yet public health crisis and we need to be there for people when they need us,” said Representative Sánchez, “This legislation will increase access and coverage to care for those who are affected by the scourge of addiction.”
This bill both increases access to care and improves the standard of care by removing prior authorization for substance abuse treatment if the provider is certified or licensed by the Department of Public Health. Additionally, it directs the Center for Health Information and Analysis to review the accessibility of substance abuse treatment and adequacy of insurance coverage and tasks the Health Policy Commission with recommending policies to ensure access and coverage for substance abuse treatment throughout the Commonwealth, as well as review denial rates for substance abuse treatment coverage by commercial insurers.
After months of discussion, Sanchez worked to pass an economic development bill that included $10 million for the Brownfield's Redevelopment Fund to encourage the development of vacant, blighted or abandoned parcels of land by providing loans and grants for environmental site assessment and cleanup. “These funds have and continue to be instrumental in various development projects throughout the district to in include Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain and Parcel 25 in Mission Hill. I am happy that the resources will be there when Jackson Commons and Parcel 25 move forward.” The allocations made within the FY15 budget and this economic development package will allow more projects to move forward in the coming fiscal year.
Legislation intended to create jobs and spur economic development in so-called gateway cities also wound its way to the governor’s desk. The bill sets a sales tax holiday for the weekend of Aug. 16-17 and funds a number of valuable job training and small business start-up programs.
A $2.2 billion, four-year environmental borrowing bill for energy, parks and conservation projects cleared the branches.
State Public Housing
Housing authority reform legislation aimed at making sure the local agencies and those in charge of public housing are properly trained and audited. “As a product of Public Housing, I am acutely aware of the challenges public housing management and infrastructure face. This bill will address governance issues while at the same time seeks opportunities for communities to revitalize their state owned public housing developments.”