Fighting for fairness

Dear friends,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing you for a fourth term in the Massachusetts Senate. We made big strides last session, passing a billion-dollar economic development bill, landmark green energy legislation, and the strongest substance use prevention law in the country. There’s a lot we still have to do, of course.

Over the next two years the legislature will work to reduce student debt, expand access to vocational schools and job training, and reform the criminal justice system. I filed more than 40 bills related to those issues and to many other important topics. You can find summaries of all of them under the “Legislation” tab on my website.

Fairness was a running theme of the bills that I filed, whether they address fair access to jobs, fair treatment of consumers by online retailers, a fair chance at justice for victims of sexual assault, or fair restitution for students who suffer because of the bad practices of for-profit colleges. Please keep reading to learn about five of my priority pieces of legislation for the new session.

As always, I am deeply appreciative of your support and your counsel. If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (617) 722-1630.

Sincerely,

Eileen M. Donoghue
State Senator
First Middesex District

 

AICUM's 2016 Annual Dinner Video Celebrating Creation of a College Savings Tax Deduction

I was humbled to be honored at AICUM’s annual dinner for sponsoring legislation that created a college savings tax incentive. At the event, AICUM played a video explaining how the legislation became law during a year of tight budget constraints. Check out the video to learn more about the tax incentive and how it helps Massachusetts families.


The RECOVER Act

In response to the opioid epidemic, we’ve worked hard over the last two sessions to prevent addiction and expand access to treatment. We’ve paid less attention to what comes after treatment, when patients in recovery set out to build stable, sober lives. Employment is often a significant part of the recovery process, but it can be difficult for former addicts to find job training and other vocational services. Housing can also be hard to come by for those who are starting down the path to sobriety.

This legislation increases access to jobs and housing by creating a grant program to support partnerships between substance use treatment providers and vocational services providers, providing people in recovery who are at risk of homelessness with both housing stabilization and job training services, and ensuring that former addicts are eligible for the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program. By providing these post-treatment support systems, we can help people get their lives back on track.

An Act establishing a student tuition recovery fund

In recent years, dozens of for-profit schools have discontinued their programs in Massachusetts, while others have recruited students through deceptive practices. As a result, thousands of students have been left without a degree and thousands of dollars in debt. This legislation would bring financial relief to students who are victims of unscrupulous schools by creating a student tuition recovery fund.

Administered by the attorney general, the fund would reimburse students for economic losses suffered because of a for-profit school’s discontinuation of one or more of its educational programs, failure to fulfill its contractual obligations, or failure to comply with state or federal law. For-profit schools would support the fund through small annual assessments.

An Act creating transparency in emerging price discrimination technologies

Few people realize that online retailers adjust prices for consumers based on any number of factors ranging from their device type and location to what car they own, how much debt they have, and even what they search for while online. Researchers have confirmed that major e-commerce websites rely on price discrimination, figuring out how much a consumer will pay and charging accordingly.

It’s a practice that creates unequal bargaining power and prevents consumers from knowing when they are receiving a fair price. This bill tries to level the online playing field by requiring online retailers who use big data for price discrimination to disclose both the fact that they’re offering different prices for the same product and the range of prices they’re offering.

An Act encouraging employer student loan repayment

As the student debt crisis continues, young employees are starting to view loan repayment as a valuable workplace benefit. In a recent survey, 76 percent of young workers said that their choice to take a job would be considerably affected by an employer’s willingness to offer it. Despite that high level of interest, only three percent of employers offer loan repayment programs.

This bill incentivizes employers to offer student loan repayment programs by allowing them to take a tax deduction equal to the loan payments they made on behalf of their employees, capped at $2,000 for any individual employee. The bill also excludes up to $2,000 in loan payments made by an employer from an employee’s taxable income, making the benefit more valuable to workers.

An Act criminalizing sexual assault by fraud by a medical professional

In recent years there have been high-profile incidents involving a Massachusetts doctor who fraudulently claimed a medical purpose for engaging in sexual contact with his patients. Much to their frustration, district attorneys have not been able to prosecute these cases. Due to a gap in state law, they lack the legal tools necessary to build a strong case and secure a conviction.

This legislation seeks to close that gap by updating the sexual assault statutes to explicitly criminalize the fraudulent representation of the necessity and propriety of conduct, which otherwise amounts to sexual assault, in the course of treatment or diagnosis. The bill will help ensure that victims have legal recourse when a medical professional takes advantage of their trust.

I currently have the opportunity to chair two special legislative commissions. One is evaluating the daily fantasy sports and online gaming industries, aiming to develop a regulatory framework that not only protects consumers but is also nimble enough to handle rapid changes in technology. The other commission is studying the possibility of New England remaining on Eastern Daylight Time throughout the entire year. We will take a data-driven approach to our study, projecting the potential impacts on health, energy consumption, our education and transportation systems, and the economy.