BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – Cybersecurity and opioid abuse are shaping up as policy focus areas of the Massachusetts Senate.
During a session Wednesday, the Senate approved orders creating special committees to explore both topics.
Millbury Sen. Michael Moore offered the order for a special Senate committee to improve the state’s “cybersecurity readiness.” He pointed to records stored on the internet, like health care and financial records.
“Sensitive material is increasingly being stored online. With that has to come the advent of cyber criminals who have the ability to inflict tremendous damage from anywhere in the world,” Moore said. “These attacks can result in serious human and economic costs, and how we prepare to meet these threats will ultimately determine the degree of harm.”
According to the order, the committee will make recommendations to “enhance technological responses to homeland security and public safety threats.”
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg appointed Moore to serve as the chair of the committee. Rosenberg also appointed Sens. Cynthia Creem, Michael Brady, Anne Gobi and Eric Lesser. An additional member will be appointed by Minority Leader Sen. Bruce Tarr.
The committee is charged with filing its report with Senate clerk by March 30, 2018, the order states.
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster sponsored an order to create a special committee on opioid abuse. The committee will address “addiction prevention, treatment and recovery options,” the order states.
Rosenberg appointed Flanagan as chair and appointed Sens. John Keenan, Brady, Gobi, Lesser, Moore, Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, Sen. Joan Lovely and Sen. Walter Timilty. Tarr will appoint additional committee members, the order states.
“We really want to make sure we pay close attention to the implementation of the laws we signed into law in 2014 and 2016,” Flanagan said. “This is the deadly disease, one we’ve seen on the front page of newspapers across the Commonwealth almost every day of the year, and something that we really want to continue to work on.”
The committee intends to review the implementation and enforcement of new laws addressing substance abuse. In March 2016, Gov. Baker signed a substance abuse prevention bill into law.
The Department of Public Health has reported that 1,465 people died of unintentional opioid overdoses in 2016. Suspected opioid-related deaths totaled an additional 469 to 562 deaths. The year before, 1,579 people died from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts, DPH figures showed.
The Senate last session used special committees to launch numerous policy proposals, but senators were not always able to reach common ground with the House and move those bills through the Legislature to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.