Around the District
In March, my staff and I attended more than a dozen events and meetings in the district. On the first of the month was a meeting of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Committee. This month’s meeting was held at the Ayer District Courthouse, where the committee discussed the regional opioid crisis with the Honorable J. Elizabeth Cremens, First Justice of the Ayer District Court.
Later in the month, I attended the annual legislative breakfast of the Massachusetts Municipal Association in Lunenburg, where I heard from municipal employees about their legislative and budget priorities for FY 2017. My staff went to the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools legislative breakfast to learn about their priorities.
On March 5, I spoke at a forum sponsored by the Harvard League of Women Voters, where I was happy to discuss my experience as a member of the Lunenburg Town Charter Commission, as Harvard goes through the process of deciding whether to write their own charter.
I continued my series of meetings with town boards of selectmen, and met with the boards and Town Administrators/Managers of Boxborough and Acton. Next month, I will be meeting with the boards of Ayer, Shirley, and Lunenburg. It is important that I discuss each town’s budget concerns with them before the House Committee on Ways and Means releases their FY 2017 state budget in late April, so that I have time to advocate for their priorities, such as increased education and infrastructure funding.
Additionally, I attended Democratic Town Committee caucuses in Acton, Ayer, and Lunenburg.
At the State House
My staff and I met with several visitors from the district at the State House last month, including Liam Jones, who, in addition to being an intern in my office last summer, was elected as the Speaker of the House of the Commonwealth’s YMCA Youth in Government Program. I presented Liam with a citation honoring him for his achievement and wished him luck as he pursues a career in public service.
On March 9, I hosted a School Chefs Day briefing, where I spoke about my legislation, H.3221, An Act relative to healthy eating in school cafeterias. The event featured food prepared by Paul Correnty, a chef at the Bromfield School in Harvard, which is known for serving some of the most nutritious and high-quality school food in the Commonwealth.
I visited the Edward Kennedy Institute in Boston to speak with students from the Bromfield School about public service as part of the Institute’s Senate Immersion Program. My staff and I also attended briefings hosted by the Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, Massachusetts Library Association, and Montachusett Regional Transit Authority.
With March being Women’s History Month, I had a role in several events organized by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women’s Legislators, on which I serve as the House Vice Chair. These included my delivery of the closing remarks at the Caucus’s Women’s History Month Celebration on March 23, where I talked about our fight for the right to vote, and the legacy of Alice Paul, who was a pioneer in the Suffragist Movement of the early 20th Century.
Last month, the House passed several important pieces of legislation, including a bill establishing regulations for the ride-for-hire industry. If it were to become law, the bill would create a state division to oversee regulation of the sector, and require background checks for drivers.
On March 30, the House passed H.4095, An Act Financing Improvements to Municipal Roads, which frees up $200 million for reimbursements to towns and cities for road and bridge improvements and repairs.
The House also passed, and I voted for, S.2021, An Act relative to motor vehicle license suspension. The bill was signed by Governor Charlie Baker on March 30, and repeals a law which automatically suspended the drivers’ licenses of those convicted of drug crimes, even if the crimes were not related to the operation of motor vehicles.
The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure has concluded legislative hearings for the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, but continues to analyze the legislation given an extension date of June 15th, as well as prepare for the 2016-2017 Legislative Session.
I continued to review letters and emails from constituents who have contacted my office with their concerns about, and priorities for, the FY 2017 budget. I will continue to consider these as the House Committee on Ways and Means prepares to release their FY 2017 budget in mid-April.
There are many upcoming events I will be attending in the district in April, including a Department of Public Utilities hearing on the proposed Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, receptions honoring recipients of local cultural council grants, and of course boards of selectmen meetings. The House will begin debating and voting on the FY 2017 budget the last week in April.
I encourage you to reach out to my State House office at (617) 722-2014, or via email at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov. My District office can be reached at (978) 582-4146.