Boston, MA – Monday July, 30th and Tuesday July, 31st saw a flurry of legislative action as the 2011-2012 legislative session drew to a close. Below are some of the highlights of the last 48 hours on bills covering health care cost containment, energy, economic development, and transportation. Additionally, Senator Wolf collaborated with his house colleagues to move a number of local bills and make sure the Cape and Islands interests were well represented in a number of other bills.
“We have accomplished a tremendous amount in the last week,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich).” Each of these bills will help us address environmental and societal issues which will help our Commonwealth grow and progress in the years to come. I feel blessed to have served an extraordinary district with extraordinary colleagues this session.”
Health Care Cost Containment legislation–
The legislature approved its third iteration of health care reform by tackling quality and cost in legislation passed Tuesday. This most recent step establishes guidelines for moving away from a “fee-for-service” model and replaces it with a new system based on quality of care and not quantity. This will be accomplished through the establishment of accountable care organization or “ACOs”. Senator Wolf was the lead sponsor of an amendment that creates a Health Care Workforce Transformation Trust Fund to invest in the training, education, and skill development programs necessary to help workers succeed in the health care system of the future. This Fund also received $20 million in the fiscal 2013 budget which was also championed by Senator Wolf. S2400 also creates many consumer-minded approaches in informing the public of their options to make better health decisions, including consumer-friendly websites, improved communications and methods for members to change their health plans and a creation of quality measures for health plans. To reduce costs, the legislation sets a standard for statewide health care cost growth goal, reforms medical malpractice statutes and promotes administrative simplification.
All of these reforms are expected to save the Commonwealth up to $200 billionover the next 15 years, while providing better quality care to patients.
Economic Development Bill – Included in this bill area host of grant programs and tax credits aimed at increasing the business-friendly environment in the Commonwealth and incentivizing entrepreneurs to site and grow their businesses in Massachusetts. One of Senator Wolf’s key priorities as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development has been the investment by the commonwealth in effective job training, and this bill includes a direct $5 million appropriation into the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to help retrain and train workers in high tech and middle skill careers.
Energy – This bill seeks to stem the rising cost of energy while encouraging further renewable energy development. The bill doubles the net metering cap, allowing more solar, wind and now anaerobic digestion systems to take advantage of the program; allowing more residences, businesses and municipalities to offset their electricity bills by generating energy. S.2395 also creates a new requirement for long term renewable energy contracts which will be jointly procured by the Commonwealth’s four utilities and must be competitively bid. Through joint procurement and competitive bidding, the bill seeks to reduce the ratepayer impact in the short-term while providing diversified, clean energy with long term rate stability in an uncertain electricity market.
Temporary Workers Right to Know Bill – As Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, Senator Wolf made providing temporary workers with the right to know about the jobs they were being sent to – including wages, location, conditions and important information about the company they would be working for – a major cornerstone for his term. After hours of testimony, Senator Wolf released this bill from his committee and has served as a champion of the bill, making sure an appropriate balance was struck so that temporary agencies who abide by the laws were not penalized, agencies operating outside the law could be captured, and workers rights were not only upheld and enforced, but strengthened.
Transportation Bond Bill – The bond bill passed by the Legislature, House bill 4371 will fund existing transportation improvement projects through Fiscal Year 2013, including funding for the Oyster Harbor bridge, route 28 safety improvements and for overpass restoration and improvements on route 149 where it crosses over route 6.
The bills now go to the Governor to be signed into law.