Around the District
2017 got off to an active start in the District. In the first two months of the year, I attended multiple Eagle Scout Courts of Honor and spoke at Acton’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. I always enjoy going to the Breakfast to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and hear from contemporary scholars and activists who are carrying on his legacy. It is more important now than ever for Massachusetts to continue to lead the nation in civil rights and protections for minority populations.
In February, I spoke at a forum at Trinity Chapel in Shirley on the topic of education, and how Massachusetts is working to provide access to quality education to all students, regardless of circumstance or disability. I talked about my legislation related to providing better education options for special needs students, and my work advocating for increased education funding. I was delighted that so many people turned out to discuss these important issues. My staff and I also met with various groups in the District, including chambers of commerce, libraries, and educational institutions to discuss their legislative and budget priorities for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session and the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018) state budget.
At the State House
I was honored to be sworn in as the State Representative for the 37th Middlesex District for a fifth term on January 4. It is a privilege to be an elected official, and I am grateful that you have put your faith in me once again to represent you in the State House. In February, I was re-appointed as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, where I will continue to review legislation concerning consumer issues, the issuance of alcoholic beverage sales licenses, professional licensing boards, and other matters.
On January 17, I, along with some of my colleagues in the House and Senate, announced the release of the Women in Government Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Policy Toolkit. The toolkit will help state governments across the country craft mental health and substance abuse legislation and policy.
Legislative and Budget Update
I have filed 31 bills so far this session, on topics including health care, energy, and education. I worked with Senator Eileen Donoghue and Attorney General Maura Healey on legislation that would establish a Student Tuition Recovery Fund to help students who have been victimized by predatory, for-profit schools.
At the Rare Disease Day event at the State House in February, I discussed another of my bills, An Act to Reduce Health Care Costs through Improved Medication Management. The legislation would give doctors the ability to override the “fail first” medication protocol required by many insurance companies. The protocol requires patients to try, and fail on a less expensive or generic medication before the insurance company will pay for coverage for the medication originally recommended by the doctor.
I also filed An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Create Jobs, which aims to reduce carbon emissions from the Commonwealth and help the state meet the emission mandates established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008. I filed the legislation after studying carbon pricing initiatives from around the world, and determining which methods would be most effective for Massachusetts and be compatible with our vibrant economy. I am excited that the bill is being supported by the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, and about the swell of support the bill is receiving from constituents and others across the state.
In February, I hosted a briefing on the importance of Special Education Circuit Breaker funding in the FY2018 budget. Full-funding of the Circuit Breaker account allows schools to meet the needs of the increasing number of children with severe disabilities, including students with autism and other neurological disorders. I am looking forward to continuing my work with the MA Coalition for Special Education Funding and my colleagues in the legislature to ensure that the account is adequately funded in the FY2018 budget and future budgets.
In the months ahead, as the House of Representatives continues to formulate its FY2018 budget, I will continue to make sure that education funding and local aid are prioritized.
I am looking forward to attending many events in the District in March, where I hope to get the opportunity to speak with as many constituents as possible. If we do not connect in person, you can always email my office at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, or call at (617) 722-2014.