October 2014 Office Update

Rep. Benson honors firefighters

Happy fall to the 37th Middlesex District. I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather.

Around The District

There were a lot of great events and meetings in the district last month. In the beginning of October, I served meals at the Acton Community Supper (which occurs every Wednesday night for anyone in need of a hot meal), and attended the MAGIC Regional Transportation Forum to discuss solutions for suburban mobility challenges. Throughout the month, I also attended the annual meeting of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg, and was honored to join MassDevelopment in celebrating National Manufacturing Day. I was delighted to speak at the event about the importance of modern manufacturing. Another great event in the district last month included the Ayer Recycling Committee’s Annual Recycle Your Reusables (RYR) drive.

As the new school year is underway, I joined Senator Eldridge and Chef Paul Correnty for breakfast, at the Bromfield school, to discuss public schools’ access to nutrition and healthy food for school lunches. As a result of this meeting, we are looking into school lunch regulations and where changes need to be made on the state level. To follow up on the discussion, I also met with the new Acton-Boxborough School Committee Legislative Issues Liaison to also discuss access to healthy school lunches, and later start times for the junior high and high school.

I was also delighted to attend the Lunenburg Middle-High School homecoming and groundbreaking ceremony on October 18. The new school project is a team effort of over ten years of work, and it is exciting to see the project become a reality.

If you see Captain James Ricci or Firefighter Austin Flagg, of the Lunenburg Fire Department, congratulate them on being recognized at the 25th Annual “Firefighter of the Year” Award ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. I was able to present both firefighters with citations from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as a small token of appreciation for their selfless commitment to protecting our community.

My colleagues and I are still frequently discussing the proposed natural gas pipeline and keeping up-to-date on Kinder Morgan’s requests to FERC. The Congressional Delegation has committed to making sure that Kinder Morgan and FERC are using the most up-to-date information and are transparent about the need for and planned use of the pipeline. On November 15, I will be stopping by Stop the Pipeline’s Statewide Summit, at the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, in Fitchburg.

Office Hours

In October and November I am hosting my last round of office hours for the year. If you missed office hours in Acton on Monday, October 27th, or in Ayer on Monday, November 10th, there will be one more opportunity in Shirley on November 17th.

All members of the 37th Middlesex District are welcome to attend office hours. Please feel free to stop by to say hello, share ideas, or if you need assistance with an individual issue. Please take note that locations and times will rotate throughout the year.

Office Hours Schedule:

Monday, November 17, 2014:
5:30-6:30 PM
Shirley Town Hall
Conference Room 1
7 Keady Way Shirley, MA 01464

On Beacon Hill

On Beacon Hill last month my staff had the opportunity to attend a Narcan training hosted by Chairwoman Liz Malia and the Boston Public Health Commission, and also joined Chairman James O’Day in bringing awareness to World Homelessness Day 2014. The Alliance of Mass YMCA’s also stopped by my office to introduce their new team.

There were two Public Hearings regarding Ebola Awareness hosted by the Joint Committee on Public Health. The purpose of the hearings was to discuss the Commonwealth health system’s activities regarding Ebola and emergency preparedness. Most recently, the Department of Public Health (DPH) requested and received agreements from six Massachusetts hospitals to serve as part of a collaborative system that would handle and treat person(s) at high risk of Ebola in the state.

Legislative Updates

The Supplemental Budget (H.4508) was amended and enacted in both the House and Senate and signed by the Governor on October 31, 2014. The Supplemental Budget increases certain existing appropriations and specific activities for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14). To view the full text of the bill you can access https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H4508/History.

Also on the legislative front are two Home Rule Petitions for the Towns of Shirley and Harvard. Senator Eldridge and I filed An Act providing for appointment of the town collector in the town of Shirley (H.4433) in August. H.4433 was enacted in both the House and Senate. The second bill, An Act relative to community shared solar energy systems in the town of Harvard (S.2138) was also enacted in both the House and Senate. Both home rule petitions (H.4433 & S.2138) are on Governor Patrick’s desk waiting to be signed into law.

As we are quickly approaching a new legislative session, I am working on my legislative priorities and the bills I will file for the New Year. I will be refiling some bills such as spouses as caregivers (HB73), among others. However, I am also working on new initiatives including enhancing campus safety, expanding access to primary care providers, and healthy food in public schools.

Health Care Financing

Although it is not the busy season for legislation in the Health Care Financing Committee, we are still hosting a variety of meetings and attending events. This month, I attended the Spectrum Health Systems Inc. Annual Meeting, a Diagnosis Debate to discuss the best approach to diagnostic testing and treatment of patients, and met with the Attorney General’s office to discuss Behavioral Health Payment Issues in the Commonwealth. Additionally, I had the privilege of speaking and presenting a proclamation at the Susan G. Komen Massachusetts chapter’s Metastatic Breast Cancer event at Simmons College.

The Open Enrollment period to purchase health insurance through the Health Connector is November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. You should take note of this if you have a plan through the Health Connector or MassHealth that ends on December 31, 2014, you are currently uninsured, your current healthcare premiums are costly and you would like to explore other options, or you are unsure if you are eligible for tax credits or assistance paying for insurance.

If you are unsure if the open enrollment period applies to you, please contact my State House office at 617-722-2430 and my staffers will be happy to assist you or you can stop by the Health Connector Open Enrollment Informational session at the Bolton Public Library on Tuesday, November 18th at 5:00 PM.

In regards to the status of the expansion of access to health care in the Commonwealth through the Affordable Care Act, my staff and I attend the Health Connector Board’s weekly meetings, and I frequently receiving updates from the Special Assistant to the Governor.

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.