Senate Passes Legislation on Veterans, Healthy Youth, Physical Education, Social Media Privacy

We share this press release from the Senate President’s office on legislation passed on the last day of formal sessions until January.

For Immediate Release

November 18, 2015

Senate Passes Legislation on Veterans, Healthy Youth, Physical Education, Social Media Privacy

Boston – Today the Massachusetts Senate passed a variety of pieces of legislation covering veterans, public education and social media privacy. Today’s session wrapped up the formal legislative sessions for the legislature until January.

“One of our most important obligations is to honor and protect those who have fought for our country. The veterans’ legislation we passed today ensures we are doing all we can to make Massachusetts a leader when it comes to supporting our vets,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “The Senate also used the last day of session to bolster our long list of accomplishments from the past year by passing bills tackling fentanyl trafficking, promoting healthy youth, and protecting workers and students privacy when asked for their social media passwords from employers or education institution.”

“I am pleased to stand with my colleagues in passing these important pieces of legislation for our veterans in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Mike Rush (D-Boston).   “These new provisions are excellent illustrations of why Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in providing benefits and protections to our veterans.”

“Our comprehensive work in the Senate today honors our veterans, punishes drug traffickers, protects the privacy of social networking users, strengthens the physical education of children, and clears the way for an expansion of solar energy projects,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “While we have achieved significant progress on a host of issues this term, we have much more to do.”

The veterans’ legislation covers numerous areas of protecting and providing benefits to our veterans.

H.1641, The Stolen Valor Act criminalizes the practice of falsely representing oneself as military personnel, a veteran or a recipient of specific military honors in order to receive money, property or a tangible benefit. This crime would be punishable by a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of not more than one year.

H.3243, An Act providing free park access to Purple Heart recipients waives entrance or parking fees at state parks, forests, and reservations for recipients of the Purple Heart. Under current law, only disabled veterans or handicapped persons whose vehicles bear distinctive license plates are allowed free access to these public spaces.

Several other bills passed by the Senate impose additional fines and penalties for the destruction of veterans’ gravesites, including for the destruction or removal of gravestones and gravemarkers and the removal or destruction of veteran, police, and firefighter commemorative flag holders and flags.

In addition to the veterans bills the Senate also passed:

An updated amendment of the solar net metering legislation that would increase the cap on residential and commercial projects.  Notably, the amendment seeks to ensure the future growth of community shared solar and virtual metering while grandfathering in existing projects. Promoting continued solar growth is essential to help the Commonwealth reach the goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions established in the Global Warming Solutions Act.

  1. 3798, An Act Relative to the Trafficking of Fentanyl, this bill would penalize, with up to 20 years in prison, anyone who traffics in fentanyl, a dangerously strong narcotic often mixed with heroin. In addition any derivative of fentanyl, and knowingly or intentionally manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, and dispense within the Commonwealth is subject to the same penalties. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

  2. 2013, An Act Relative to Healthy Youth, requires each school district, public school and charter school that offers sexual health education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate education.   The bill also requires schools that offer sexual health education to adopt a written policy ensuring notification to the parent or legal guardian and the right of the parent or guardian to withdraw a child from the education program.

  3. 1976 An Act to Promote Quality Physical Education, updates the current statutory requirement that physical education be taught in all public schools to include charter schools. The bill re-defines physical education to include physical activity, fitness, nutrition and wellness and requires physical education to be age appropriate and evidence-based.

S.2034, An Act Relative to Social Media Privacy Protection, prohibits any public or private institution providing elementary, secondary or higher education from requiring a student or applicant to disclose a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account or service. In addition, the bill prohibits any employer from requiring an employee or applicant to disclose a user name, password or other means of access to a personal social media account or service.

The bill also prohibits any employer from requiring an employee or applicant, as a condition of employment or consideration for employment, to include any employer or employer’s agent on a list of contacts associated with a social media account or service.

The Senate will return to formal sessions in January.

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Will Brownsberger
State Senator
2d Suffolk and Middlesex District