Massachusetts Legislation


Massachusetts 1000 Greatest Places… Road Trip Anyone?

Massachusetts legislature has evaluated more than 12,000 nominated locations across Massachusetts and released a list of “1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts”. The greatest places list was approved by legislators and signed by Deval Patrick last year in an effort to lure more tourists to the Bay State. For a fun weekend trip or less-expensive summer vacation, take a Massachusetts road trip – become a tourist yourself!

The list of great Massachusetts places includes the typical tourist spots, but it also mentions the lesser known wonders as well. Some of the obscure places mentioned on the list include: the Paul Bunyan statue in Bellingham, the Songline Emu Farm in Gill and the glacial potholes of Shelburne Falls. Use the 1,000 greatest places list as a map to explore the Commonwealth with a new set of eyes.

While hosting guests from out of state this list is key to showing them the great culture and beauty your Bay State has to offer. Guests may want to tour the more famous locations such as Plymouth Rock, Walden Pond, the Old North Church, Tanglewood and the Cape Cod National Seashore -all of which the list includes. Organized by city your guests can tour just a few surrounding towns and experience more of Massachusetts than the typical vacationer.

Even if you don’t have time for a weekend trip or vacation throw the list of 1,000 greatest places in your glove box for later on. If you finish a meeting early or find extra time to kill these wonderful locations can be a great escape from the daily grind. For the complete list of the Massahcusetts 1,000 greatest places click here.

Texting Behind the Wheel Bill: PASSED

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation H4794 into law last week banning drivers from texting behind the wheel. The new law has made Massachusetts the 29th state to pass a law restricting texting behind the wheel. The passed legislation bans drivers from reading or writing an e-mail, texting and basically anything that doesn’t include talking on the phone while driving. Drivers over age 18 will still be permitted to take phone calls while behind the wheel.

Drivers under 18 years are prohibited from using a cell phone while behind the wheel. On a first offense the teenager can face a fine of $100 and a 60 day license suspension. If a suspension is given, the driver will have to complete a driver attitudinal course in order to reinstate their license. For repeat offenses charges can reach up to $500. These fines will not be considered a moving violation and is not expected to affect a driver’s surcharge.

“Texting while driving has become a serious threat to the safety of our roads and drivers… We have taken strong action to keep our roads safe by banning texting while driving and instituting needed measures to keep impaired drivers off the road. Protecting the safety of our residents is our most important task as elected officials and this bill will do just that.”

– House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

The new law affects mature drivers as well. Those 75 years or older will need to renew their licenses in person and pass a vision text every five years to keep a current license. Under current laws these drivers have only needed to renew in person every 10 years. Further than the young and elderly, any driver who accrues three or more surchargeable incidents within a two-year period will be required to take a driver retraining and safety course or face a license suspension.

The new law is to take effect in October when officers may pull over any driver suspected of using a cell phone for a purpose other than making or receiving a phone call behind the wheel.

Massachusetts To Ban Texting Behind the Wheel?

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 150-1 last week approving a bill that bans texting while driving for all motorists and imposes a new requirement on elderly drivers. Only a day after the Massachusetts House passed the text-banning legislation the Massachusetts Senate voted in agreement passing the measure as well. This piece of legislation will travel onward to Governor Deval Patrick who has also announced he supports the bill and will review the proposal when it reaches his desk.

If passed the legislation will ban texting sate-wide while driving and restrict those under 18 to use a cell phone while driving except in emergencies. Drivers under 18 years of age who are caught texting and driving under this new legislation will face a $100 find on the first offense, $250 on the second, and $500 on the third and all subsequent offenses. The fine and ticket for texting while driving will not be considered a moving violation and thus are not subject to an insurance surcharge.

The proposed bill will also require drivers turning 75 years or older to take their license in to an RMV office to take an eye exam for a renewal and every five years after their 75th birthday. Another key part in the legislation is a provision created to encourage doctors to alert the state when a patient may be dangerous on the roads.

If this bill makes it’s way to law Massachusetts will join 28 other states and the District of Colombia in banning texting behind the wheel.

New Legislation Affects Massachusetts Homeowners

Beginning July 1st 2010 Chapter 453 of the Acts of 2008 will become effective… if you understood what that meant you deserve a large pat on the back. For the rest of us, Chapter 453 is a piece of legislation not yet well known however will soon affect homeowners across Massachusetts in two ways.

First, homeowners must now make sure their oil tank, whether it is above or below ground, meets the new code requirements of Chapter 453. They should also be aware there is no grandfathering in for this law. Secondly if the old oil system does conform to the new requirements the insurance company must make coverage for loss due to an oil spill available to them.

The Chapter 453 of the Acts of 2008 states:

An owner of a residential property utilizing a heating oil tank for consumptive use on the premises with 1 or more fuel supply lines or return lines in direct contact with concrete, earth or other floor surfaces shall:

1. enclose any fuel supply line with a continuous non-metallic sleeve

2. Cause an oil safety valve to be installed at the tank end of any fuel supply line in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; or

3. employ any other release prevention method approved by the board

A residential property defined for implementation of this law is a one to four unit dwelling used for living or sleeping.

Those who are exempt from the new law:

  • When the oil burner is located above the oil storage tank and the entire oil supply line is connected to and above the top of the tank OR
  • an oil safety valve or oil supply line with protective sleeve was installed on or after January 1, 1990 AND
  • those changes are in compliance with the oil burning equipment regulations; a copy of the oil burner permit from the local fire department may be used to demonstrate compliance.

If you find your oil system is not up to par, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has written an article, Homeowner Oil Heating System Upgrade and Insurance Law, to help guide and educate those in need of an upgrade. Here is a helpful excerpt:

The typical cost of installing either an oil safety valve or oil supply line with a protective sleeve ranges from $150 – $350 (including labor, parts, and local permit fees). For those households that meet certain income criteria, financial assistance of up to $300 is available through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For more information on financial assistance, see the Department of Housing and Community Development Web site at http://mass.gov/dhcd or call them at 1-800-632-8175.

After ensuring your oil safety system meets state regulations it’s time to take a look over your current homeowners insurance policy and determine whether or not you are covered for an oil leak or spill. If it does not, now is a good time to amend your policy to include this coverage. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has estimated the cleanup cost for a simple leak to cost as much as $15,000 and in cases where the leak impacts the groundwater or requires a more extensive cleanup costs could reach $250,000 or more. If you’re not sure whether or not your homeowners policy covers an oil leak, call your insurance agent and ask if he or she can explain what coverage you would have in case of an oil spill or leak.

If you’re unsatisfied with your current homeowners insurance policy or looking for a new one, give MassDrive a call. We would be happy to look into oil spill coverages for you and will quote you through different carriers, helping you to find the best price and save time. For a free quote call: 866-963-8231 or visit our MassDrive website at: www.MassDrive.com.

Attorney General Coakley Proposes Additional Insurance Regulations

Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General, has proposed new regulations that she believes will take force in sales and underwriting practices for auto insurers and agents across Massachusetts. The newly proposed regulations have been formed in response to a report published by Coakley’s office last year regarding the deregulated Massachusetts auto insurance market.

Coakley said in a statement, “We have seen some positive changes since the auto insurance marketplace was deregulated two years ago. However, there are still many improvements that should be made within the system to better protect consumers.” She believes the new proposals will increase the transparency of auto insurance to help consumers shop for better policies.

Two public hearings will be held this June on the proposed auto insurance regulations. These regulations include banning of the use of credit score to determine premiums and create rules for what statements auto insurance carriers can make while advertising prices.

Coakley’s proposal has been seen in a less than favorable light by some from the industry. Of those skeptical of the proposed regulations is Paul Tetraul, Northeast state affairs manager for the National Association of Mutual Insurance companies. Tetraul called the regulations unnecessary and ill-advised. He continued to explain:

“The underlying premises of the regulations, and the report issued by Attorney General Coakley’s office, are that consumers are not faring well under managed competition and that consumers are not protected adequately under existing regulations. Nothing could be further from the truth: the increased competition has resulted in most consumers saving money and having meaningful choices in the marketplace for the first time in decades.”

Read more about the proposed regulations at The Insurance Journal.

Teen Driving Fatalities Decrease Significantly!

Fatal accidents involving teenagers under 18 years of age has fallen 75% in the past three years after Massachusetts began implementing the Junior Operation License Law creating harsher penalties for younger drivers and making it more difficult to obtain a license. These added difficulties and punishments junior operators face have not only driven down fatalities, but speeding tickets as well. The number of speeding tickets young drivers under 18 has fallen almost 60% in the past three years. According to an article in The Boston Globe, the number of teens cited for seat-belt violations, passenger restrictions, and other offenses has fallen at a similar rate as the speeding ticket decrease.

These numbers are welcomed graciously as motor vehicle accidents is the number one killer of teens in the nation. According to the Massachusetts RMV website new drivers are four times more likely to be killed and 14 times more likely to be injured in an accident than any other group.  The tougher laws and testing are key efforts used to keep these high risk drivers from being involved in an accident, injured, or killed.

Massachusetts officials believe the decreasing fatalities may be accredited to the Junior Operator License Law passed in 2006 after a number of highly publicized fatalities involving junior operators or drivers under 18 years. The stricter laws took effect March 31st, 2007 increasing driver’s education requirements and penalties for violations junior operators.

A great example of just how firm these new laws are would be the consequences a junior operators experiences after their first speeding ticket. Under old legislation a young driver would be given a fine and slap on the wrist, however the newer 2006 legislation goes much further. Now a junior operator first time ticketed speeder will have his or her license suspended for 90 days. After a three month suspension the teenager must pay a $500 reinstatement fee, attend two four-hour training classes, and retake the state driver’s exam to regain a license. The newer laws have also doubled the time spent behind-the-wheel in driver’s education from six to twelve hours. It has also increased the supervised driving time from 12 to 40 hours teens must accumulate before seeking a license.

“As governor and as a parent I am happy to see that we are creating safer streets and better driving habits among our young drivers. Our number one priority is protecting the safety of the traveling public, and our successful implementation of the Junior Operator License Law is clearly reducing teen driver crashes and saving lives.’’

-Governor Deval Patrick

Patrick has earned bragging rights, from merely glancing over the decreasing number of tickets, violations and accidents involving junior operators since the new legislation. Massachusetts for years averaged two or more fatal accidents a month involving these young drivers, with over 79 in the three years prior to the new stricter legislation taking effect. The following year there were 20, the year after that 15, ans six over the last year. Speeding tickets were greatly reduced as well. The year prior to the Junior Operator License Law enactment, Massachusetts junior drivers received 10,127 tickets. This number has dropped drastically to 4,291 tickets from March 31, 2009 through March 30, 2010. Although it the consequences of young adult driving are harsh, our roads have been made a safer place.

Massachusetts Bill to Set Hourly Labor Rates in Auto Shops

Legislators are considering two bills that would regulate minimum labor rates for body, paint, frame, and mechanical repair shops. The two pieces of legislation, S.B. 122 and H.B. 1043, have gained a great amount of support and scrutiny.

Among supporters is the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Massachusetts. This Alliance claims for over a decade Massachusetts collision auto shops have received the lowest labor rates in the country despite the fact that they operate one of the highest cost states. The national average hourly labor rate as of September 30th 2009 was $45.02 while Massachusetts averaged at $35,75 an hour. This puts Massachusetts as the second lowest average hourly wage for this profession only behind Tennessee.

The proposed legislation would create an 11-member labor rate commission to to determine the appropriate minimum hourly labor rates based on the national labor rate and other factors. This committee would also determine assign a certain class for each shop– “A,” “B” and “C” – with an application and inspection process for each classification.

Labor rates paid would be based on shop classifications as follows:

• Level “A” shops must be paid an amount not less than 100 percent of the indexed hourly rate in force.

• Level “B” shops must be paid an amount not less than 90 percent of the indexed hourly rate in force.

• Level “C” shops must be paid a labor rate that’s fair and reasonable.

The proposed commission would consist of: the undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation as chairperson, two Senate members, two House members, three representatives of the auto insurance industry appointed by the Auto Insurance Bureau, and three representatives of the collision industry appointed by the AASP. Keep your eyes open for more news on the two pieces of legislation, it may affect where you take your vehicle for its next oil change!

Massachusetts rejects health care hikes

The state Division of Insurance denied 235 of 274 increases proposed by insurers.  The requested premium increases were for plans covering individuals and small businesses.

The denial of the insurers proposal marks the first time the state has turned down health premium increases.

Jay McQuaide, vice president of the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield released this statement,

“We share the concern about rising health costs, but we don’t think government price controls will solve the problem”

Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy found that most of the base rates proposed by state health plans were “unreasonable relative to the benefits provided,” according to a statement issued by the agency.

Further information on this story can be found in the original article in the Boston Globe.

Obama In Framingham & Ways to Seek Flood Relief

President Obama Visits Framingham, Massachusetts - Adresses Federal State of Disaster

President Barack Obama made an unprecedented stop in Framingham, Massachusetts yesterday. After a speech on health care reform in Portland and before two fundraising appearances in Boston, President Obama visited the  Emergency Management Agency. At the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Obama met with Governor Deval Patrick to receive an update on the flooding caused by the El Nino weather pattern over the past few weeks and thank workers and officials for their dedication and efforts to combat the flood.

The President declared a federal disaster in Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester counties. As a result of the federal disaster the Internal Revenue Service has postponed the federal April 15th deadline for filing to May 11th.It is important to not however that the extension is only applies to those who own a business or reside in the declared federal disaster area. For further information about the specific tax relief being provided, visit the IRS web site here.

Individual Assistance Programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) include individuals and households programs, disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, legal assistance, tax relief, and Small Business Administration disaster loans.

Business and homeowners may apply for assistance programs by contacting the FEMA Teleregistration numbers: 800-621-FEMA (3362) or 800-462-7585 for those who are hearing- and speech-impaired. You may also apply for the assistance programs online at: http://www.fema.gov. For information about the Small Business Administration low interest loans and other aid contact the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, 800-877-8339 for the speech- or hearing-impaired. SBA may also be reached by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visiting www.sba.gov.

Before contacting FEMA/ SBA pelase have on hand: your Social Security number, telephone number where you can be reached, address of damaged property, current mailing address, a brief description of disaster-related damages and losses as well as insurance information and direct deposit information to expedite the transfer of funds.

Early Success In Historic Accelerated Bridge Program

Early March Governor Deval Patrick visited the Interstate 190 Bridge passing over Route 12 in Worcester emphasizing the quick and early success of the Patrick – Murray Administration’s eight year Accelerated Bridge Program. This program was implemented to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state while creating construction jobs on the bridge projects. Short of two years the Accelerated Bridge Program has completed 13 bridge projects with 62 additional projects continuing or commencing this next spring and summer.

“Though our administration inherited hundreds of structurally deficient bridges, we have and will continue to make significant investments to repair these bridges through the successful implementation of our Accelerated Bridge Program. By strategically investing in our infrastructure, we will not only improve the safety for our residents, but will also create immediate and needed jobs across the state.”

– Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray

Massachsuetts Department of Transportation has been working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to use accelerated state of the art project development and construction techniques. Working together the two departments will complete projects on-time, on-budget and with minimum inconveniences to residents and drivers.

Since the program’s implementation in May of 2008 the number of structurally deficient bridges has decreased more than 9% falling from 543 to 494. An expected minimum of 200 bridge projects will be completed in the eight-year program. Under Patrick’s lead the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has reduced time for construction contract advertisement to construction beginning from 218 days in 2008 to 124 days in 2009. Advanced construction techniques and precast construction have assisted in the faster completion of projects while causing less of a disturbance throughout communities local to construction sites.

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