House Passes Legislation to Enhance Consumer Protections Following Data Breaches

BOSTON –Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the House this week to pass legislation providing added protections and resources for consumers in the event of a data security breach that impacts a credit agency or other business.

Under this legislation, credit freezes, lifts or removals must be provided to consumers without a charge. Credit agencies or businesses must provide one year of free credit monitoring after any breach.

“This legislation includes many powerful consumer protection tools that also modernize the way we do business,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said. “I thank Chairman Chan for his exhaustive study into this complex problem and Chairwoman Benson for her ongoing commitment.”

“As an advocate for consumer protection, I filed legislation to make it easier for consumers to freeze their credit reports so that victims of identity theft and fraud could more quickly regain control of their credit,” said Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “In the wake of the Equifax breach last year, I worked with the Attorney General and advocates to strengthen the bill with additional language offering further protections. I’m proud of my colleagues in the House for coming together to pass this important legislation to protect and empower Massachusetts consumers.”

The legislation updates the framework for the implementation of a freeze and related communication including:

  • Modernizes the current law by allowing consumers to request credit freezes electronically or by telephone.
  • Requires clear and accurate disclosure to consumers of basic information about credit freezes.
  • In the event of a security breach, mandates credit agencies place a security freeze on a consumer report within one day of an electronic or telephone request, and within three days of receipt of a written request.
  • Credit agencies must send confirmation of the security freeze within three days.
  • Credit agencies must lift a security freeze within three days of a written request and 15 minutes of an electronic/ phone request.
  • When a consumer requests a freeze, national credit reporting agencies must inform consumers of other reporting agencies that may have files on the consumer. They must also inform consumers of appropriate websites, toll-free numbers and mailing addresses that would permit the consumer to place additional freezes.

For the first time in Massachusetts, this legislation establishes specific guidelines for parents and guardians to freeze accounts of children under the age of 16 and incapacitated individuals.

The legislation also updates notification guidelines for breached entities and third party affiliates.

  • Breached entities must provide consumers with immediate notice and timely updates.
  • Upon receiving notice of a breach, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation must post notice online within 24 hours.

Additionally, the Attorney General must provide information online to consumers regarding the breach. This bill also updates current law to require companies and organizations to obtain consent before running a credit report.

Statement on H.3361 (Demographic Data Disaggregation)

Following a thorough process during which testimony was heard and collected from over 500 members of the public regarding H.3361, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight has voted to substitute the original bill with new legislation, titled “An Act to Establish a Special Commission to Investigate and Study the Feasibility and Effects of Collecting Disaggregate Data.”

This legislation would establish a special commission to study the feasibility and impact of directing state agencies to collect disaggregated demographic data for all ethnic and racial groups, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The proposed special commission would be comprised of 11 commissioners, including legislators, as well as members of the Governor’s Advisory Commissions, and appointees from the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office. The commission would submit its recommendations to the Legislature by December 31, 2018.

I had concerns about the original legislation from the start, but every bill must have, and deserves, a thorough process in committee and in the hearing room. I was disappointed at the vitriol aimed at Chairman Chan, Chairman Timilty, and myself from some opponents of H.3361. It was inappropriate and damaging to this process. I am appreciative of those who conducted themselves with civility while delivering passionate testimony.

Jennifer Benson
Chair, Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight

Rep. Benson Announces Multi-State Carbon Pricing Coalition

State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) and State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) held a press conference at the State House today to announce a major development in the campaign to put a price on carbon in Massachusetts.

The legislators, both of whom have carbon pricing bills before the MA Legislature this session, discussed the creation of a new coalition in support of carbon pricing made up of lawmakers from nine states (Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.) The group comes together as the Carbon Costs Coalition, in association with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.

The lawmakers were joined by Michael Green, Executive Director of the Climate Action Business Association, who announced the growing momentum of support for carbon pricing within the business community.

Representative Benson’s Office Update: November and December 2017

Around the District

On November 1, I visited the Acton Commission on Disabilities to celebrate their 30 years advocating for and assisting the disabled population in Acton. It was wonderful to celebrate the Commission’s important work and speak with constituents. Later in the month, I stopped by the Nashoba Valley Job Fair, which is organized every year by the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and presented by State Representative Sheila Harrington and myself. While I was there, I spoke with employers based in the district and constituents who were there looking for work.

Touring New England Studios in Devens with Speaker DeLeo and some of my House colleagues.

In December, I toured New England Studios in Devens with the Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, and several of my legislative colleagues. I’ve toured the studio before, but this time we visited the sets of Castle Rock, an upcoming Hulu series. It’s encouraging to see that New England Studio has succeeded in bringing television and film production, and the jobs that come with it, to Massachusetts and the district. Also in Devens, I participated in the annual Wreaths Across America event at the Fort Devens Cemetery on December 16. I attend this event every year to honor our fallen heroes.

I also toured the Nasoya facility in Ayer with Representative Harrington. We urged the company to continue to work to remediate the problem of the foul odors coming from their processing plant. The company has committed to working to solve the problem, and I continue to receive regular updates from the Town Administrator and Department of Environmental Protection.

Legislative Update

In November, the House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by Representative Dylan Fernandes reaffirming Massachusetts’ commitment to meeting the emissions targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, the House passed the ACCESS Bill, which guarantees the women of Massachusetts access to copay-free birth control in the wake of the Trump Administration’s decision to undermine key women’s health provisions of the Affordable Care Act. I attended the signing ceremony on November 20th and watched as Governor Baker signed the bill in to law.

The House also passed a criminal justice reform bill aimed at making the justice system more fair, reducing recidivism, and improving public safety. The legislation would allow for the expungement of certain juvenile and young adult criminal records, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent crimes, and establish a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission. It would also update the Commonwealth’s bail system, and establish limits on how long an inmate can be held in solitary confinement without review. The Senate passed a similar bill in October. The 2 bills are now being reconciled by a conference committee.

My step therapy, or “fail first” bill, An Act to Reduce Health Care Costs Through Improved Medication Management, had a hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services. Many doctors, patients, and advocates offered testimony in support of the bill, which would allow some patients to bypass the process by which insurance companies force patients to try a less expensive treatment before moving on to the treatment recommended by their doctors.

Additionally, Governor Baker signed H.1328 in to law on December 22, giving Devens firefighters the same protections, retirement benefits, and collective bargaining rights as other Massachusetts firefighters.

Climate Change

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

In November, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference as an official observer. Along with 3 other Massachusetts legislators, I traveled to Bonn, Germany to participate in the talks and let the world know that Massachusetts is still committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. I met with delegations from other states and countries, and discussed strategies for reducing carbon emissions, including carbon pricing and renewable energy incentives. I was proud to represent my district and state on the world stage at such an important event.

Looking Ahead

I’m looking ahead to a productive 2018, as I continue fighting for important legislation and being an advocate for my constituents. If you wish to get in touch with me, you can email me at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or call me at (617) 722-2140.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

Representative Benson’s Office Update: October 2017

Around the District
Last month, I attended a meeting of the Ayer Board of Selectmen where town officials and constituents were discussing the issue of the odor coming from the Nasoya factory in town. I, along with Ayer’s other state legislators, sent a letter to Nasoya telling them that we expect them to work with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to resolve this issue. I have been keeping in touch with the Town Administrator as well as officials from the DEP to ensure that Nasoya is being held accountable and is working toward a solution.

Later in the month, I met with Lunenburg officials and a representative of the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to address the safety issue of speeding vehicles on Chase Road. MassDOT was receptive to Lunenburg’s concerns, and there is already a plan in place to make safety improvements.

I also attended the annual meeting of Loaves and Fishes food pantry in Devens. Loaves and Fishes does so much important work for the towns of my district, and helped to feed more than 800 families last year by distributing over 30,000 bags of groceries.

Being recognized by Clean Water Action Massachusetts.

In Acton, I was recognized for my leadership on environmental and renewable energy legislation by Clean Water Action Massachusetts. It was an honor to receive their Legislative Leadership Award along with Representative Mary Keefe.

At the State House

Boxborough Town Planner Adam Duchesneau, and Town Administrator Selina Shaw

At a ceremony at the State House celebrating rural communities, Boxborough was awarded a MassWorks grant for $575,000 to fund sidewalk and roadway improvements in the town center near the Blanchard Memorial School. This is the fourth consecutive year the town has applied for this grant, and the persistence of the Town Planner Adam Duchesneau and Town Administrator Selina Shaw paid off.

On October 24, I presented Shirley’s Bemis Associates, Inc. an award at an event at the State House recognizing Massachusetts’ top manufacturers. In addition to being one of the largest manufacturing employers in the 37th Middlesex District, Bemis has become an integral part of the community since moving to Shirley in 1990. I was happy to nominate them for the award and present it to them.

I also attended an event that featured a discussion about women in the military, where Congresswoman Tsongas was honored. The Congresswoman, who is retiring at the end of her current term, serves on the House Committee on Armed Services.

Committee Update
The Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held four hearings in October for dozens of bills related to state assets, regulations, and procurement. The Committee will be conducting two more hearings in November on bills related to public records, ethics, and other matters.

Legislative & Budget Update
In October, the House of Representatives voted to override more of the Governor’s budget vetoes, restoring funding to suicide prevention programs, local councils on aging, and the After-School and Out-of-School Time grant program.

Additionally, I voted with my colleagues to pass H.1110, An Act Establishing Regional Commissions on the Status of Women and Girls, H.3952, An Act to Further Define Standards of Employee Safety, and S.2178, An Act Relative to Handicapped Parking.

Looking Ahead
In November, I will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. I will be serving as an official observer at the conference with unrestricted access to all meetings. At the Conference, I will also be discussing my carbon pricing legislation, which would establish a fee-and-rebate system on carbon to encourage the reduced use of these fuels, and fund infrastructure projects designed to reduce emissions.

As always, I can be reached at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or (617) 722-2140.

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District