Finegold Praises Senate Passage of ‘Revenge Porn’ Legislation; Bill Would Increase Penalties

Sen. Barry R. Finegold is hailing the state Senate’s passage of legislation that would criminalize the sharing of sexually explicit images or videos without consent and launch an educational program for adolescents to demonstrate the consequences of posting indecent visual depictions online. The so-called “Revenge Porn” law unanimously passed the Massachusetts Senate last Thursday. “Our digital reality is rapidly evolving, and I am proud to support this legislation that will help protect individuals from harm caused by the dissemination of illegal and inappropriate images online. It is critical that we recognize the growing number of ways individuals can be abused and coerced through online platforms, which is why I am grateful for the educational component that will ensure our youth understand the gravity of these actions from an early age,” said Finegold, whose district includes Haverhill and North Andover. The bill increases the allowable fine for unlawful distribution of indecent images, proponents say, rein in coercive control of abusers.

Rep. Vargas Seeks Expansion of State Earned Income Tax Credit for Those Not Currently Eligible

Immigrant advocates, including Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas, last Thursday lobbied for expanded eligibility of a tax credit that’s seen as a key tool to prevent poverty and improve education outcomes among low-income households. About 21,000 to 26,000 households that are not currently eligible for the state Earned Income Tax Credit due to their immigration status stand to benefit from the expansion, according to the Healthy Families Tax Credits Coalition. At a briefing co-hosted by the legislative Black and Latino Caucus, supporters said the provision should be incorporated into the fiscal 2025 budget. “If we want Massachusetts to continue to be a place where people want to come to work, to provide for our economy, for their families and for others, then the least we can do is to ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly, and that’s what this message is about,” said Vargas, caucus vice chair. “We’re going to continue to push as hard as we can on this.”

Immigrant workers are required to pay taxes, but often do so using Internal Revenue Service-issued individual taxpayer identification numbers.

Finegold to Introduce Resolution Thursday Remembering Late Sen. Susan Tucker

The state Senate will remember late Sen. Susan C. Tucker and honor her legacy Thursday. Tucker of Andover died last November at age 79. She served as a state representative from 1982 to 1992 and then as a state senator from 1999 to 2011. Her successor, Sen. Barry R. Finegold will deliver a resolution and personal remarks at the beginning of the Feb. 29 session at 1 p.m.

Friends of Tucker will gather following the adjournment of session.

Mass. Municipal Association, Local Officials to Talk State House Issues in North Andover

Local elected officials have an opportunity this Friday to learn about, and discuss, various emerging issues at the local and state levels. The Massachusetts Municipal Association hosts the networking session Friday, March 1, from 8:30-10:15 a.m., at North Andover Senior Center, 481 Sutton St., North Andover. Organizers say it is one in a series of meetings across the Commonwealth for local leaders, legislators and Association staff. Massachusetts Municipal Association’s legislative staff will discuss the latest activity in the current legislative session which, they say, “has wide-ranging implications for cities and towns,” including the next state budget, the Municipal Empowerment Act, PFAS regulations, road and bridge funding, the Housing Bond bill and more.

Healey Threatens Steward Hospitals with Admission Freezes, Closing Beds if Demands Not Met by Friday

Gov. Maura Healey Tuesday released a list of demands—including financial records and safe staffing and supply levels—she said she is making of Steward Health Care, owner of Holy Family Hospitals in Haverhill and Methuen. Healey, in a letter sent to Steward CEO Ralph de la Torre, asked the chain to take a number of steps by Friday or face the state “freezing admissions, closing beds, canceling procedures and transferring patients to other hospitals.” One step asks Steward to produce financial records that are required of other health care systems, but that Steward has refused to submit for years.” The governor said information would show whether spending and resources might “put profits over patient care.”

“The time has come to move past our many months of discussions and begin executing a safe, orderly transition of your seven licensed facilities in Massachusetts to new operators as soon as possible,” the letter read. The governor went on to say, “For years, you have refused to engage in the same level of basic transparency that every other system in Massachusetts offers by not releasing your audited financial statements,” wrote Healey. “Your continued refusal to do so, particularly at this moment, is irresponsible and an affront to the patients, workers and communities that the Steward hospitals serve. It also leads to a further breakdown in trust and creates a major roadblock to our ability to work together to resolve this effectively.”

Steward disputed that the chain hasn’t provided financial data.

Top House Leaders: No Steward Hospital Bailout, Taxpayers Already Gave $54 Million in COVID-19 Aid

Angered over the serious financial challenges at Steward Health Care that could jeopardize the future of safety net hospitals in eastern Massachusetts, top House Democrats insisted Thursday they will not bail out the company, while acknowledging the hospitals received $54 million in taxpayer money already. Steward, which owns Holy Family Hospital campuses in Haverhill and Methuen, said last week it doesn’t plan to shutter any facilities after securing a new funding stream. Criticizing past financing deals struck by Steward CEO Ralph de la Torre, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Aaron Michlewitz sounded dubious as they discussed the bridge funding deal touted by a Steward executive to stave off the feared hospital closures for now. Steward operates nine hospitals in Massachusetts, serving tens of thousands of patients including many low-income residents who have public health insurance coverage. “We are not in a financial position to commit to financing anything to bail these people out,” said Mariano, a Democrat from Quincy, where Steward closed Quincy Medical Center in 2014 due to multi-million-dollar losses.

Sen. Finegold Lists Legislative Bills to Survive Deadline and Will Advance to Deliberations

More than a dozen bills championed by state Sen. Barry R. Finegold—ranging from studying the effectiveness of the Massachusetts School Building Authority to student and educator data privacy—will advance to debate in the state legislature. Finegold said the proposals survived a legislative procedure, known on Beacon Hill as “Joint Rule 10 Day,” a deadline for committees to pursue various proposals. “I’m looking forward to the work ahead on a wide range of issues from cybersecurity and data privacy to health insurance, access to care and economic development. Every one of these bills touches the lives of my constituents and I’ll be working hard with colleagues to see them passed into law.” said Finegold in a statement. Finegold represents Andover, Amesbury, Haverhill, Merrimac, North Andover, Tewksbury and Wilmington, and chairs the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Finegold Bill Would Ban ‘Deepfake’ Depictions of Candidates or Political Committees

A law, proposed by Sen. Barry R. Finegold, that would ban phony depictions of candidates is headed for debate within a legislative subcommittee. The Senate Monday referred to the Committee on Election Laws, Finegold’s proposal to prohibit “Deceptive or fraudulent deepfake” media within 90 days of an election featuring the actual candidate or committee. A deepfake is defined as “synthetic media that depicts a candidate or political party with the intent to injure the reputation of the candidate or party or otherwise deceive a voter.” It would apply to any false image, audio or video. An example of such fraud come to light in advance of this week’s New Hampshire Presidential primary. New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella’s office said it received complaints about “a recorded message encouraging voters not to vote.” A press released reported, “Although the voice in the robocall sounds like the voice of President Biden, this message appears to be artificially generated based on initial indications.”

Those who violate the law would be subject to a penalty of up to $10,000.