Representative Benson’s Monthly Office Update: February 2016

As I do each month, I would like to provide you with an update about the work I’ve been doing as your State Representative.

Around the District

On February 13, I attended Montachusett Home Care’s annual Legislative Breakfast in Leominster, where I heard from medical professionals, caretakers, and administrators who provide services to the elderly population. We discussed their budget priorities and Governor Baker’s FY 2017 budget recommendations.

Speaking at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Liam Jones and Alejandro Zambrano in Acton.

Speaking at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Liam Jones and Alejandro Zambrano in Acton.

I also met with the Town of Harvard’s Board of Selectmen to discuss their FY 2017 budget priorities, attended an Eagle Scout Court of Honor celebrating Liam Jones (a former intern in my District Office), and Alejandro Zambrano of Acton. Additionally, I arranged and attending a meeting between the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Town of Boxborough to discuss ongoing delays affecting a critical infrastructure project in town. MassDOT assured me and the town that the project would be completed in a timely manner.

The audience at the solar forum I hosted in Acton with Rep. Cory Atkins.

The audience at the solar forum I hosted in Acton with Rep. Cory Atkins.

On the 22nd, I hosted a forum in Acton along with State Representative Cory Atkins to listen to constituents’ concerns about solar energy legislation and the future of solar energy in Massachusetts. The forum was well-attended, and more than 70 of you showed up to discuss net metering, the solar capacity cap, energy policy, community solar, and other related topics for nearly two hours. After taking everyone’s opinions under advisement, I signed on to a letter addressed to my colleagues on the solar bill conference committee, urging them to consider the impact on the solar energy industry and solar customers as they work to reach a compromise on solar legislation.

While we’re on the topic of solar, I was also excited to learn of some good news for solar customers in Lunenburg last month. After nearly a year of discussions, Unitil, which provides electricity to most of the town, has agreed to pay for the grid improvements that will allow more solar projects to come on line in Lunenburg. The company came to the decision after numerous conversations with my office and months of pressure from constituents. I look forward to seeing more solar panels going up on roofs around Lunenburg.

At the State House

During the first formal Legislative Session of the month, I proudly voted in favor of H.3985, a House Resolution urging Congress to put forth and ratify a constitutional amendment to limit and regulate campaign contributions and expenditures, and expand public financing of campaigns. The resolution passed and was adopted on February 3.

My staff attended the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Gold Star Awards ceremony, where the organizers of the Essence of India festival, held each summer in Acton, were honored for their cultural contributions to the state. Additionally, I attended the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women event at the State House to help raise awareness about heart disease among women.

While I was in the district, my Chief of Staff was able to meet with a constituent from Harvard who works with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. They had an informative meeting where they discussed how the lives of those managing Crohn’s Disease could be improved, and the constituent’s and organization’s priority legislation.

Talking with a troop of Girl Scouts from Acton with Rep. Cory Atkins  in the House Chamber.

Talking with a troop of Girl Scouts from Acton with Rep. Cory Atkins in the House Chamber.

I also met with a troop of Girl Scouts from Acton, and gave them a tour of the House Chamber. I answered their questions about women in government and the legislative process, and presented them with citations congratulating them for earning their Inside Government badges. It was wonderful to see girls as young as 10 and 11 so interested in government and public service.

At a meeting with Matthew Beaton, the Secretary of the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, I discussed my concerns with the Baker administration’s approach to the Commonwealth’s energy future, as well the issues of the circuit capacity solar cap in Lunenburg. It was a productive conversation, and I will continue to be in touch with Secretary Beaton.

Legislative Update

In February, a Home Rule Petition, An Act authorizing the commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to convey certain land to the town of Acton in exchange for other real property (H.3792), that I filed on behalf of the Town of Acton, was passed to be engrossed in the House. Additionally, on the last day of the month, An Act Relative to amending the Junior Operator Law (H.2948), which I sponsored this session, was heard by the Joint Committee on Transportation. H.2948 would ensure that parents and guardians remain informed of their children’s driving status and are positioned to help their children make responsible decisions.

Committee Update

The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure has concluded legislative hearings for the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, having heard testimony on and considered more than 200 bills. All joint committees are required to make their final report on bills in their committee (or report extension orders) by the third Wednesday in March of the second annual session of the General Court. This is referred to as the “Joint Rule 10 Deadline.” I have been working diligently with the Senate Chair of the committee and staff on this final report and will be continuing to do so until mid-March. If you have any questions about the committee process as we near the deadline for Joint Rule 10 I would encourage you to reach out to my office.

Budget Season

Throughout February, I have received many emails, letters, and phone calls from constituents advocating for funding for programs such as public libraries, developmental services, and local aid. My staff and I have also attended many organizations’ budget priority briefings at the State House.  I will continue to consider these requests as the House Committee on Ways and Means formulates their FY 2017 budget.

Looking Ahead

For March, I have several meetings scheduled with Boards of Selectmen, as well as plans to attend events throughout the District. I’ll also be preparing for the release of the House Committee on Ways and Means’ FY 2017 budget, so please continue to contact my office to express your budget priorities.

Serving the 37th Middlesex District has been a great honor. I have so enjoyed working with Acton, Boxborough, Harvard, Shirley, Ayer and Lunenburg. I would love to be able to continue doing so if you will have me. I have nomination papers and will be collecting signatures to secure a place on the ballot for the 2016 election. I would be very grateful for your support.

As always, I encourage you to reach out to my State House office via telephone at (617) 722-2014, or via email at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov. My District Office can be contacted at (978) 582-4146.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Benson