Around the District
In April, I visited the Boxborough Board of Selectmen to discuss the FY18 state budget and legislation I have filed, as well as several town issues. I provided an update about the local aid numbers in the House Committee on Ways & Means’ budget, which was released on April 10. I reaffirmed my support for increasing Chapter 70 education funding, and my plans to file an amendment for more special education Circuit Breaker funding. We also had a productive conversation about the deteriorating condition of the stretch of Route 111 that goes through Boxborough. After a lengthy engineering and environmental impact study process, MassDOT has pledged that work on installing culverts and repaving will begin soon.
At the State House
After returning from a week-long conference organized by the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks, I hosted a meeting of the After-School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Coordinating Council at the State House. I discussed my experience at the conference and the importance of integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning into afterschool programs.
I was proud to participate in Denim Day with my colleagues in the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. On April 26, all of the women of the House and Senate wore denim in solidarity with victims of rape and sexual assault to demonstrate that no matter what you are wearing, no one deserves to be, or is asking to be, sexually assaulted. I heard powerful, personal stories from my colleagues, and I was heartened by the outpouring of support and compassion.
At a forum on the future of health care in Massachusetts, I discussed my bill, An Act to Ensure Effective Health Care Cost Control. The bill would direct the state to compare total health care spending to projected spending under a hypothetical single-payer system. If after several years, the single-payer model outperforms actual spending, the state would be required to develop a single-payer plan and present it to the Legislature.
I also spoke about my carbon pricing bill at both the MIT Day of Action and at a forum at Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment. I’m encouraged that the bill is gaining so much attention and support, and I’m proud to be a leader in the House of Representatives for environmental and energy legislation.
The House Committee on Ways & Means released their budget on April 10. During that week, my staff and I worked diligently to draft and file budget amendments while we continued to meet with constituents and advocacy groups about their funding priorities. I ended up filing 10 amendments, and after two full days of debate, several of them were included in consolidated amendments with increased funding in the final House budget. These included funding for ASOST grants for out-of-school programming, funding for micro-lending grants for community development organizations, and reinstatement of the regional bonus aid line-item for recently formed regional school districts.
The House budget funds local aid at historically high levels, with Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) increased by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by $106.4 million. The increase to Chapter 70 funding ensures that every school district will receive a minimum increase of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also adds $4 million to the special education circuit breaker and increases the regional school transportation line-item by $1 million over the FY17 level.
The Senate will present and debate their budget in May, and then a final FY18 budget will be agreed to in July.
In May, I’ll be participating in two forums hosted by groups in the District on the topics of health care and environmental legislation. For more information about these events, you can visit my Facebook page. I’ll also be continuing to meet with Boards of Selectmen to discuss their budget priorities and town issues, and attending several other events around the District.
At the State House, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure will hold its first hearings of the 2017-2018 legislative session, which I will be overseeing as the House Chair of the Committee.
As always, you can reach my office at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, or by calling (617) 722-2014.