Around the District
This month, my staff and I attended several events and meetings in the district. On July 8th, National Grid held a meeting informing businesses and residents of Park Street in Ayer that the replacement of the natural gas pipeline under the street will continue through August. National Grid officials have assured me that they are doing everything possible to mitigate the construction’s impact on residents and local businesses.
Additionally, I attended a press conference with United States Representatives Nikki Tsongas and Jim McGovern, announcing that Central Massachusetts and North Central Massachusetts have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the US Department of Labor Disability Employment Initiative. This grant will allow people impacted by disability to receive job training and employment opportunities.
Near the end of the month, I met with the new MassDevelopment Vice President of Devens Operations, Thatcher Kezer. We discussed Mr. Kezer’s plans for Devens, his experience in municipal government, and the recent Super Town Meeting votes on re-zoning issues.
At the State House
On July 28, I chaired a hearing of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The Committee heard several bills regarding licenses for alcohol sales in several towns throughout the Commonwealth. This was the first hearing since the death of the Committee’s Senate Chair, and my colleague, Senator Thomas Kennedy. Senate leadership recently appointed Senator Barbara L’Italien as the new Senate Chair of the Committee. I look forward to a productive working relationship with the Senator.
In addition, my fellow Vice-Chairs and Chairs of the Women’s Caucus and I met with the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. I had the pleasure of meeting several new appointees to the Commission.
Several bills I am sponsoring were heard this month, including An Act to Preserve Eligibility for the PACE Program and Certain Waivered Services (H.966), which was heard by the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing. This bill would ease the financial impact of increased income by providing that PACE and Waiver participants with income over the program limit be charged a premium equal to income above the program income limits and below the average monthly cost of nursing home care. Additionally, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development heard An Act Relative to Workplace Discrimination (H.1682). This bill would add “family caregiver” to the anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
My Legislative Director attended an information session, led by the Massachusetts Attorney General, explaining how to navigate Earned Sick Time law that went into effect July 1 of this year. This will allow us to better serve constituents by ensuring that businesses and employees properly and efficiently resolve any earned sick time issues.
During the final week of July, the Legislature took up the matter of overriding over eighty of Governor Baker’s vetoes to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. I voted with the majority of the Legislature to reinstate full funding for several education programs, including kindergarten expansion grants, the University of Massachusetts system, early education and care services, MassCAN computer science curriculum, and the Reach out and Read program.
By restoring $5.17 million cut from the Office of Travel and Tourism, the Legislature restored $150,000 for the Acton Discovery Museums. Other overrides include restoration of funding for homelessness mitigation services, and substance abuse treatment programs.
You may reach my office by calling (617) 722-2014, or by emailing me at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov.
During August, the Legislature takes its summer recess. As such, there will be no monthly update for August—see you in September!