Mass. House Speaker Teases Health Care Bill, Faces Harassment Criticism: Beacon Hill In 5

Mar 19, 2018

Late last week, in remarks made to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, House Speaker Bob DeLeo talked about the “Peter Kocot health care bill.” Kocot, who passed away last month, was chairman of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: From what DeLeo talked about, are the issues Kocot worked on for so long still in the bill?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yes. From our understanding, Chairman Kocot -- before his passing -- had been working on this bill for several months, and left behind a detailed blueprint of where he was headed with this legislation, and that is what the House is using for their template to finalize this.

The Speaker [of the House Bob DeLeo] on Friday kind of teased some of the things they are looking at doing. It's likely that this bill will probably be taken up in the next couple of months.

The Speaker kind of talked about how [legislators] were looking to address some kind of cost containment for out-of-network billing for patients -- protection for consumers who get charged for high out-of-network of bills. So, there are some consumer protections in this bill, we know, and we’ll go from there.

Before we move on, does one lawmaker’s personal story of harassment -- that was presented late last week on the floor of the House -- make moving the agenda forward for House Speaker Bob DeLeo more difficult?

It was certainly a fascinating moment last week, when Rep. Diana DiZoglio from Methuen told her own personal story as they were debating new policies for dealing with sexual harassment complaints in the House, and [she], along with another serving member -- the Dean of the House, Rep. Angelo Scaccia of Boston -- criticized the Speaker.

I think the big question, now that they've dealt with how the House is going to handle these complaints moving forward, and how they will use NDAs, or non-disclosure agreements, to cases of sexual harassment, has been dealt with, and they put in new policies.

There were other questions, surfaced by Rep. DiZoglio, about dozens of other employees over the past almost decade who have signed these NDAs, and the Speaker’s office says that these were not related to sexual harassment complaints. We don't really know why these employees were terminated or given severance packages, and those questions could continue to surface for the Speaker.

After she was called aside during Thursday's House session, Rep. Diana DiZoglio resumed detailing her personal experience with sexual harassment on Beacon Hill.
Credit Sam Doran / State House News Service

Whether or not that impacts moving the agenda forward, I'm not sure. I think largely, Democrats are still inclined to follow the Speaker’s leadership, and they have their own reasons for wanting to make some progress, as they're going to run for re-election, and need some issues and achievements this session to run on. So, I don't think it'll be a huge impediment.

Given that eight years of non-disclosure agreements are now free and clear, are we likely to hear more of those stories?

It’s a good question. Part of the rules package that they adopted would allow any of these people who signed a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement prior to last Thursday to simply make a request to the House -- into House counsel's -- that they be let out of those agreements, and they would be free to speak.

Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

But there was that provision to basically make it easy for people like Rep. DiZoglio, who signed one of these, to simply get out of these NDAs and share their stories.

What’s likely to be noteworthy this week on Beacon Hill?

Well, the House has wrapped up their budget hearings. They’ll be deep in trying to finish and write their own budget.

The Speaker last week, in addition to talking about the health care reform bill, spoke to the [Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce] about using gaming revenue to invest in early education and training for teachers and professionals.

We’re likely to hear more about that this week, when he gives a speech in talks in a panel forum on early education and child care.

And the MassBio Conference is coming to town, which could be an opportunity for leaders to take a new look at a life sciences bill that the governor [Charlie Baker] has filed, and would be a continuation of the billion-dollar life sciences investment that Governor [Deval] Patrick put in place in 2008, right when he began his first term as governor.

So that could take a new look as one of the major pieces we’re expecting to possibly get some action this session, and the bio convention is a good time to highlight that.