Around the District
I was fortunate to be able to go to several events in and around the 37th Middlesex District last month. First, I hosted a group of Cub Scouts from Lunenburg’s Pack 1728 at my district office, where I discussed my role as state legislator, how a bill becomes a law, and the Massachusetts constitution. The boys asked a lot of questions, and were especially interested in the map of the District hanging in my office.
I also participated in Community Reading Day at the Page Hilltop Elementary School in Ayer. I read to a class of fifth graders, and they asked me about my job as State Representative. After I answered their questions about the State House, the kids proposed a bill to outlaw homework! I walked them through the process of how it would start as an idea, be written into a bill, be assigned to a committee, and then be voted on by the House and Senate. We held a vote, and unsurprisingly, the class voted overwhelmingly to outlaw homework! Their teacher was sure to remind them that it was just a mock exercise, and that they still had to turn in their assignments.
On November 9, I was back in Ayer to speak at the Ayer-Shirley High School’s annual Veterans Day program, where I talked about my stepfather, who was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Being that the event was held the morning after the election, I thanked the assembled veterans on stage and in the audience for protecting our right to vote, and for promoting democracy around the world. Later that day, I met with National Grid officials at a solar farm in Shirley to discuss energy storage technology and their initiatives to modernize the electrical grid.
Later that month, I attended the dedication of the Dr. Daniel M. Asquino Science Center at the Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) campus in Gardener. MWCC has been an excellent resource for the people of the 37th Middlesex District, and I was glad to be able to celebrate the dedication of the new Science Center in honor of Dr. Asquino.
At the State House
At the State House, my staff and I met with a number of organizations, including the MSPCA, the Carbon Pricing Coalition, and the Acadia Center. We discussed legislation related to animal welfare, clean energy, and electrical grid modernization.
Additionally, my Legislative Director attended an oversight hearing of the Joint Committee on Education on the topic of Chapter 766 private special education schools. The Committee discussed the findings of recent investigations, and discussed the legislative actions that may be necessary to improve accountability at these schools.
World Diabetes Day on November 17 was marked by an event at the State House, where a bill I filed, An Act Relative to Diabetes Prevention (H.3871) was a focal point. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in July, and would direct the Commissioner of Public Health to establish a diabetes action plan to reduce the prevalence of diabetes in Massachusetts.
I also presided over a meeting of the After-School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Coordinating Council, which I co-chair with Senator Thomas McGee. The Council was created in 2012, and is tasked with finding resources and researching evidence-based policies to support children outside of school hours. We discussed the Council’s mission, and strategized about our priorities for the upcoming 2017-2018 legislative session.
On November 21, my bill related to the state’s AIDS Fund was engrossed by the House of Representatives. The bill would rename the current AIDS Fund to the State Public Health HIV and Hepatitis Fund and ensure that the Department of Public Health can continue to use the funds for AIDS prevention and reduction efforts, but also for efforts to reduce illness and death related to HIV infection and viral hepatitis.
In response to the dozens of emails, letters, and phone calls I have received from constituents who are concerned about the result of the 2016 presidential election, I signed on as a co-sponsor to a resolution calling on Congress to abolish the Electoral College and allow for the direct election of the President by the popular vote. Additionally, I reaffirm my support for the National Popular Vote compact, which I voted for and Governor Patrick signed into law in 2010. The law will go into effect when states totaling more than 270 electoral votes have passed it. Currently, 11 states totaling 165 electoral votes have adopted the law.
In December, I am looking forward to spending 10 days in Israel to study the history, challenges, and opportunities there, for what I hope will be an educational and enlightening experience. When I get back, I will be attending events in Acton, Devens, Shirley, and Lunenburg.
As always, I encourage you to keep in touch by contacting my district office at (978) 582-4146, or by emailing me at Jennifer.Benson@mahouse.gov