"Joint Rule 10 Day"
Rule 10 in the Joint Rules of the Mass. House and Senate sets a deadline for committee reports in the second year of each 2-year session. All committees were required to report on all the bills before them by February 7. A favorable report means the bill moves to the House or Senate for action; a study order is usually a dead end; an extension order means the committee is still working on details.
Here's what happened to my bills and some that many of you have written about. There aren't any pretty graphics this time, but there's a lot of information. Feel free to skim!
Some of my bills got a favorable report or extension
S 50 An Act eliminating archaic language pertaining to individuals with disabilities was reported favorably and is now in the Senate Committee on Rules. We hope to move this bill, which will update outdated language in the General Laws with more appropriate terms, to the Senate floor for a vote soon.
S 386 An Act supporting working parents who choose to run for public office received a favorable report and was sent to the House. This bill would allow parents running for office to use campaign accounts for certain child care expenses while campaigning. We're working with House sponsors and advocates to build support for this bill, and hope it will be brought up for a vote soon.
S 1017 An Act relative to the judicial enforcement of noncompetition agreements was extended until March 7. We are working with the committee to release a bill that will end the job-stifling noncompetition agreements that are attached to so many employment contracts.
S 448 An Act promoting awareness of safe recreation in public waters was extended until March 10. We continue to work with the committee to get a favorable report on this bill that will monitor combined sewer overflows in rivers and create a system of automatic reporting and notification. See more in my recent newsletter.
My Elder Affairs bills also made progress
These bills have been passed by the Senate:
S1543 An act increasing the property tax deferral for seniors
Certain homeowners 65 years of age and older currently have the option to defer paying their property taxes. Under existing law, this is a local option that is capped at the maximum allowance under the senior circuit breaker for a single person who is not head of household ($57,000 for t/y 2016). This bill would instead increase the income cap to $80,000. Given the high cost-of-living in MA, this is low & penalizes house rich & cash poor” seniors living on fixed incomes which exceed the threshold. It passed as part of comprehensive bill S2124, An Act relative to senior citizen property tax.
S344 An act directing the administration to amend the frail elder home and community-based waiver to permit eligible older adults to choose to reside in certified assisted living residences (included in S2202 “HEALTH Act”)
This bill requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report on the availability and estimated cost of a waiver which would allow individuals qualifying for Medicaid and at-risk for entering a nursing home to reside in a certified assisted living residence.
S349 Resolve to examine cost trends and financial performance among nursing facilities (also included in S2202 “HEALTH Act”)
This asks the Center for Health Information and Analysis, in consultation with MassHealth, the Department of Elder Affairs, and the Health Policy Commission, to examine cost trends and financial performance among nursing facilities.
S629 An act preserving special needs trusts for disabled seniors (also included in S2202)
This bill would enable disabled older adults over 65 to continue to use special needs pooled trusts without penalty to pay for important services and care not covered by MassHealth.
The Alzheimer's bill passed by House includes my dementia training bill
S341 An act relative to training of elder services workers in dementia and Alzheimer’s is included in a comprehensive Alzheimer's bill, H4116
S341 would require elder protective service caseworkers to have training specifically focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease, and understanding how cognitive impairment may affect screening, investigation, and service planning. H4116 is a comprehensive bill and top priority of Alzheimer’s Assn MA/NH.
Elder Affairs also gave favorable reports to my bills:
S348 An act relative to small house nursing homes
Small house nursing homes (most notably the Green House modelTM) are an innovative model of care designed to create a more homelike environment for 10-14 individuals needing a nursing home level of care.
This legislation would require the Department of Public Health to develop regulations specific to small houses and would incentivize development of them by establishing an add-on to the Medicaid reimbursement rate in recognition of the additional capital costs involved in design and construction.
S346 An act relative to LGBT awareness training for aging services providers
This bill would require the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to develop a curriculum and training program for delivery of accessible and appropriate services by caregivers and institutions to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults and their caregivers.
S342 An act increasing the personal needs allowance for residents of long term care facilities
The Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) pays for expenses not covered by Medicaid for nursing/rest home residents. This money helps residents pay for clothing, shoes, medicine, and other personal needs which help them maintain their dignity and well-being. Currently, the PNA is subject to reduction in the budget each year. It's currently set at $72.80/month; the legislation would set a floor for the PNA base at $100/month and include an annual COLA provision.
S2039 An act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities (EAEDC)
This bill would increase the monthly EAEDC grant from $303/month to $429/month. It would allow people living in homeless shelters to receive the full amount instead of reducing it to $92.50.
Elder Affairs Committee extended some of my bills to May 9
S345 An act authorizing the option of providing basic common sense health services for residents of assisted living residences
This legislation authorizes an assisted living residence to choose to provide an expanded set of basic health services to its residents: providing injections, such as Insulin; managing oxygen; application of drops or ointments; and/or changing a dressing and managing wound care.
S350 An act protecting elders and persons with disabilities (Elder Abuse)
Legislation would prevent caregivers from working the moment a criminal investigation is launched, and if they are found guilty or their cases are continued without a finding, the caregivers’ licenses would be permanently suspended.
They also would be barred from ever working with the elderly, children, and people with disabilities, even if their cases were continued without a finding, and would be fined if they tried to seek work as a caregiver with a suspended license. See Channel 5 report.
S347 An act relative to rest homes
This legislation requires the Department of Public Health to separate regulations for Level IV rest homes like the Somerville Home from the long term care licensing regulations. Inappropriate regulations for the rest home setting and inadequate rates threaten continued existence of rest homes.