Happy summer! I hope everyone is staying cool, and enjoying some time outside with family and friends. You can visit http://blog.mass.gov/blog/environment-2/10-tips-to-stay-cool-in-high-temps/ to learn 10 tips to staying cool in high temperatures.
Around The District
At the beginning of June, I joined Representative Atkins (D-Concord), and Senator Eldridge (D-Acton), in attending the Town of Acton’s Board of Selectmen meeting to discuss fiscal year 2015 (FY15) budget priorities. It is important to meet with the Board of Selectmen to make sure we know what priorities to advocate for on the state level.
Later in the month, I attended a meeting at the Ayer Town Hall to discuss the ongoing easement and access issues at the Ayer Railroad station. This is an ongoing issue impacting not only Ayer residents, but many surrounding communities, as it is one of the busiest stops on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail line. At the meeting, we were able to receive an update from the MBTA, and discuss next steps. I am hopeful that we are on the track to finding a solution.
On June 4th, I joined the Lunenburg School District at the Massachusetts School Board Authority (MSBA) meeting to have their Project Scope and Budget Amendment for the Lunenburg Middle/High School Project voted upon. The project was approved and is moving forward.
In June, there were two celebratory events in the district. I gladly joined the Town of Boxborough in celebrating Fifer’s Day and awarding the 2014 Golden Fifer. Later in the week, I joined Senator Eldridge, DOER, EEA, and MassCEC, in celebrating the Harvard Solar Garden (HSG) opening ceremony. I was more than honored to speak at the opening of HSG, after watching this project start as an idea and develop into a reality. This community shared solar project sets a standard for the Commonwealth and Nation. I look forward to seeing HSG succeed beyond measures we can imagine, and be referenced as a model for years to come.
Representative Benson and Senator Eldridge join local officials from the Town of Harvard, and Harvard Solar Garden members in cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Harvard Solar Garden
In preparation for hurricane and tropical storm season, my staff attended Unitil’s Annual Municipal Electric Storm Meeting to make sure both local and state officials were prepared, and aware of Unitil’s plan should a disaster strike this season.
At the State House
On the hill, my staff and I met with constituents for AdMeTech’s Annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Day to discuss prostate cancer education, and members of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, to discuss my work as a Legislator.
I also met with other groups to discuss An Act to increase opportunities for long-term substance abuse recovery (S2142), the importance of Hepatitis C screening, and An Act relative to net metering and solar power (H4185), among others.
Also in June, I attended the Prevention for Health Caucus’ 2014 Hepatitis C Briefing & Screening. I always enjoy this event, as it allows for staff to learn more about Hep C, and receive a free screening from professional medical providers.
I am proud to announce that on June 12th, the Joint Committee on Revenue gave a favorable report to a home rule petition, An Act relative to community share solar energy systems (S2138), that Senator Eldridge and I filed. This bill allows residents participating in the HSG to receive the same solar tax benefits as residents who install solar panels on their homes.
There have been some significant legislative accomplishments at the State House this month, including Governor Deval Patrick signing the biosimilars bill (An Act Relative to the Substitution of Interchangeable Biosimilars, H3734). I was a co-sponsor on the original bill (H3667), and proud to join my colleagues in pushing for policy that will allow for the substitution of interchangeable biological medicines in retail pharmacies.
Health Care Financing
As acting-Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing (HCF), I spoke at the Massachusetts Health Information Management Association’s (MaHIMA) 10th annual Beacon Hill Day. I was honored to discuss the importance of effective management of personal health information. More importantly, it was helpful to hear suggestions from people who are out in the field, and dealing with patients’ information day-to-day.
Throughout the month I met with a variety of organizations to discuss bills that were in the HCF committee, such as An Act to improve quality of life by expanding access to palliative care (H3977), and An Act relative to the modernization of optometric patient care (H1981), among others.
On June 16th, the HCF committee held another hearing to receive an update from the Massachusetts Health Connector. The purpose of the hearing was to take testimony and gather information on the current status of the expansion of access to health care in the Commonwealth through the Affordable Care Act. We received an update on the status of all applications, financial implications of the dual-track strategy, and the website.
Over the past 15 years, there has been a debate on Beacon Hill to establish a nurse-patient staffing ratio in Massachusetts hospitals. For years, and years, Legislators have worked together and with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), and the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA), to reach a compromise. Most recently, Representative Benson (D-Lunenburg) worked with both the MHA, and MNA attempting to reach a compromise on An Act relative to patient safety (S0557 and H1008). There was resistance from both sides, and the bills were set to go to the ballot in November. However, during the last few weeks of June, there was a long-awaited compromise reached (H4228).
This is an excellent accomplishment for the MNA, MHA, and my colleagues in the Legislatures, especially Representative Denise Garlick (D-Needham), and Senate Majority Leader Stand Rosenberg (D-Amherst). The bill, which passed unanimously in the House (145-0), and Senate (39-0), was tacked on to another bill (H4228) regarding a “folic acid awareness initiative,” and has been signed by Governor Patrick.
Other Committee Updates
The Joint Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy held one hearing in June to discuss An Act relative to cast iron pipelines in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (H4148).
During the last day in June, I joined my colleagues in the Legislatures to pass a $36.5 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15). For more information on the FY15 state budget, please review my Legislature Passes Balance FY15 Budget press release sent on July 1, 2014.
As always, I encourage each of you to keep in touch by contacting my office at 617.722.2430 or sending me an email at Jennifer.Benson@mahouse.gov.