Gov. Baker Signs 5 New Bills Backed by Sen. Cyr

Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr.

BARNSTABLE – Governor Charlie Baker recently signed five new bills into law that were supported by Senator Julian Cyr.

The bills include educational grants, public health safety laws, and campaign transparency in local legislature.

The first bill was the Student Opportunity Act, which will grant $1.5 billion for public education to create resources for districts with high percentages of low-income students, English language learners, special education students, or students with other needs.

“It’s particularly going to mean big things for a district like Dennis-Yarmouth or Barnstable where you’ve got a number of English language learner students and you’ve got a number of students who are low-income who weren’t being counted in the old formula,” said Cyr.

So this really continues keeping Massachusetts first in the nation on education,” he said.

Governor Baker also passed An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control in the wake of recent increases in tobacco-related addictions among the younger population.

The act will severely restrict the sale and use of flavored chewing tobacco and vaping products including menthol, though it is not an outright ban on the products.

Other legislation pertaining to public health include the Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness.

“The state of mental health in Massachusetts is in crisis. This is something we’re not best in the nation for, we’re actually lagging in it,” said Cyr.

“We passed the Children’s Health and Wellness bill that does several first steps, particularly looking at insurance reforms as it relates to wider directories, or what are called ‘ghost networks,’” he said.

 “So currently, if you’re someone who’s looking for a behavioral healthcare provider, you can’t really actually find any of those providers through your insurance network.”

After the bill is enacted, it will allow residents to more easily find and access behavioral health providers thanks to up-to-date online directories.

The law will also allow children raised in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families’ care to stay on MassHealth coverage until they are age 26.

The final bill pertaining to public health was Hands Free Driving.

This bill will ban the use of mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle, which Senator Cyr says will save lives.

Baker also signed an Act Relative to Campaign Finance, a law designed to make campaign funding and expenditures more transparent to residents.

“Currently, state-wide folks have to disclose essentially on a bi-weekly basis, while the legislature only has to do so three times a year,” said Cyr.

“What this is going to mean under the new law is that we essentially have to play by those rules as well. So you’ll be able to see in near-real time who is contributing to our campaigns and what we’re spending money on. So what it’s going to do is provide a much more accurate and real time snapshot of what is going on.”

This bi-weekly reporting system will be required for all elected officials so citizens and media can examine spending, not just those candidates who are running for governor and other state-wide offices.

“For instance—and we ran into this a few weeks ago—if an off-cape developer is giving money to an elected official on Cape Cod to try and curry favor in a certain way, the public and the media will be able to sit and look at that in a more immediate way. Under the old system, essentially you had to wait until the end of the year to actually see what these contributions are,” said Cyr.


About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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