Beacon Hill Roll Call: July 17 to July 21, 2023

  • During the Summer Eats program at Hillside Park in Greenfield earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern speaks to the importance of funding school meals. A bill being considered by the Massachusetts Senate, S 261, would indefinitely provide free breakfast and lunch to every child in a Massachusetts K-12 school. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 7/28/2023 10:17:27 AM

Editor’s note: Votes taken by Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, occurred before her transition to her new role as the state’s first director of rural affairs on June 5.

Beacon Hill Roll Call records local senators’ votes on roll calls from the recent debate on the Senate’s version of a $55.9 billion fiscal year 2024 state budget.

Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, filed and gained approval for several amendments in the Senate budget.

“I secured these amendments to further bolster the demonstrated commitment to our shared values built into the base budget that came to the floor,” Rausch said. “Whether in health care, education or otherwise, my amendments advance justice, fairness and equity.”

Here are three of her amendments:

$300,000 for women’s suffrage celebration (S 3)

The Senate, 39-0, approved $300,000 to fund a women’s suffrage celebration.

Amendment supporters say the celebration will honor the history of women’s activism and contributions to civics and democracy in Massachusetts. They note the funds will help create the Massachusetts Women’s History Center and Massachusetts Women’s Hall of Fame, inspiring generations of women and girls to pursue their passions and paths forward.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

$350,000 for maternal morbidity committee (S 3)

The Senate, 39-0, approved an amendment funding $350,000 for the operation of and hiring of additional personnel for the Massachusetts Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee. The funding will enhance the committee’s ability to comprehensively review deaths and complications that occur during or within one year of pregnancy.

Amendment supporters say that maternal morbidity and mortality remain serious issues in Massachusetts and note that significant inequities in maternal health persist. They argue that one of the best tools to improve maternal health outcomes is to strengthen and empower the committee and make advances in efforts to improve pregnancy care access, quality, outcomes and equity.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

$150,000 to address hygiene insecurity (S 3)

The Senate, 39-0, approved $150,000 to fund Hope and Comfort, the state’s largest organization that addresses hygiene insecurity by providing low-income people with soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other personal hygiene items.

Amendment supporters say that last year, Hope and Comfort provided people with more than 2 million hygiene products. They note that this is still not enough, especially because these basic hygiene items are not covered by government support programs.

A “Yes” vote is for the amendment.

Sen. Joanne Comerford — Yes

Sen. Anne Gobi — Yes

Sen. Paul Mark — Yes

Also up on Beacon Hill

The Education Committee held a hearing on several bills including:

Farm to School Grant Program (S 243/H 558): Would establish a grant program for eligible public schools and licensed child care programs to purchase ingredients grown and produced on Massachusetts farms, prepare scratch-cooked meals and educate students about the food system.

“Offering fresh local-grown food in Massachusetts schools benefits children and their families who learn more about healthy food choices,” wrote co-sponsors Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, D-Lenox, in testimony to the committee. “These programs will encourage increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Particularly for families struggling to afford fresh food, the Farm to School grants can expand the availability of nourishing meals for vulnerable students. The grant program will also yield economic benefits to the agricultural sector, increasing demand for locally produced products and strengthening our farm communities.”

Sunscreen (S 258): Would allow any person, including students, parents and school personnel to possess and use a topical sunscreen product without a physician’s note or prescription while on school property or at a school-related event or activity to avoid overexposure to the sun. The product must be one that is regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.

“Routine application of sunscreen is essential to promoting health and reducing the risk of melanoma, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in children,” said sponsor Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. “I filed [the bill] to ensure students have the ability to use sunscreen during the school day without a physician’s prescription.”

Air temperature in public schools (S 322): Would create a 15-member special commission to study the regulation of minimum and maximum allowable air temperatures in public school classrooms and facilities. The commission would gather any relevant statistics on the number of air-conditioned public schools; the impact of indoor air quality on children, including children with respiratory conditions or special needs; and the state’s funding and bidding processes for installing air conditioning and heating upgrades in public schools.

“This bill was filed after several constituents in the educational field brought this issue to our attention,” said sponsor Sen. Patrick O’Connor, R-Weymouth. “In particular, the very beginning and very end of each school year is frequently accompanied by stifling classrooms, while the winter months can see frigid temperatures. Not only do these extreme temperatures create a distraction for both teachers and students, but this study aims to look at the potential health impacts that could result from failing to address this issue. This study will give the Legislature a complete picture of this topic and allow for more effective future policy.”

Universal school meals (S 261): Would indefinitely provide free breakfast and lunch to every child in a Massachusetts K-12 school.

Supporters noted that schools across the state provided universal school meals during the pandemic because the costs for this program were temporarily funded by the federal government. In 2022, federal support for the program was cut off, but funding was secured in last year’s state budget to continue funding free school meals. The bill would continue the program indefinitely without having to reauthorize it each year.

“We have heard time and again from educators, advocates and parents that kids cannot learn when they are hungry,” said sponsor Sen. Sal DiDomenico, D-Everett. “Providing free breakfast and lunch in schools will empower all our students to study, focus and live up to their full potential. It is past time, in the year 2023, that we finally pass my commonsense bill into law and ensure no child will ever go hungry in a Massachusetts school again.”

Mental health services in schools (H 494): Would require each public school district to appoint one or more full-time school psychologists and one or more full-time school social workers to provide mental health services to all students in grades K-12.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it is clear that our students need greater mental health resources,” said sponsor Rep. Brian Hamilton, D-Methuen. “Ensuring all students, regardless of their ZIP code or background, can access a mental health professional through school is critical to the health and well-being of our youth. ... By prioritizing access to care now, we can help foster positive socioemotional skills and psychological development before students enter the workforce and adulthood.”

Require food allergy plans (S 250): Would require every school district that enrolls a student with a life-threatening food allergy to develop and implement a Food Allergy Management and Prevention Plan. The plan would include food allergy safety and training, including epinephrine administration protocols; identifying students with known food allergies; and developing strategies for reducing exposure to allergens and treating allergic reactions. Current law does not require, but rather recommends, that schools establish these programs.

“With diagnoses on the rise, it is increasingly important to ensure that schools are ready to provide safe learning environments for children with food allergies,” said sponsor Sen. Cindy Creem, D-Newton. “This bill would help ensure that Massachusetts kids are safe from allergens at school, both in the classroom and in the cafeteria.”


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy