Around the District
On May 4, I attended the signing of a Community Compact between the Town of Lunenburg and the Baker-Polito Administration. Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and the Lunenburg Selectmen were on hand at the Public Library to sign the compact, which will provide state assistance for the Town to complete a cyber security assessment, implement a citizen engagement plan, and put into practice stormwater management measures.
Later that day, I spoke at a forum with Senator Jamie Eldridge organized by the Harvard League of Women Voters on the topic of health care policy. I spoke about my single-payer health care legislation, An Act to Ensure Effective Health Care Cost Control. The bill directs the state to compare total health care spending to a hypothetical single-payer model. If after three years, the single-payer model outperforms actual spending, the state would be required to draft and submit a single-payer plan to the Legislature.
I also met with the boards of selectmen of Acton and Lunenburg, where I discussed the latest developments in the FY2018 state budget process, and legislation I have filed this session. In Lunenburg, Senator Jen Flanagan, Representative Stephan Hay, and I commemorated Tom Alonzo’s last selectmen meeting by presenting him with a citation honoring him for his years of service to the Town.
On May 24, I participated in a forum in Acton on environmental and energy policy, where I spoke about my carbon-pricing legislation. In light of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA and their decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, it was encouraging that about 100 people turned out to discuss policy and activism.
At the State House
At the State House in May, I hosted the School Nutrition Association Luncheon to highlight the work our public schools are doing to provide fresh, nutritious meals to students. I talked about my bill, An Act Relative to Healthy Eating in School Cafeterias, which would create a pilot program to help schools update their kitchens to make it easier for them to serve fresh, locally-grown food.
At the 2017 Lobby Day for Animals, I spoke about legislation I filed, An Act to Protect Puppies and Kittens. The bill would put further protections in place for dogs and cats sold by breeders and pet stores to ensure more humane treatment for pets. I also hosted another meeting of the After-School and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Coordinating Council. The Council discussed ASOST funding in the FY2018 state budget, as well as recent successes in the latest cycle of the ASOST-Q Grant, which provided funding to enhance existing extracurricular programs.
My staff attended the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Policy Summit, where they heard presentations about justice reinvestment and new insights from opinion polling about criminal justice issues. I am proud to be a member of the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, and a cosponsor of several criminal justice reform bills.
Legislative & Committee Update
In May, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure, on which I serve as House Chair, began holding legislative hearings. The Committee has already heard and collected testimony on over 50 bills, including legislation regarding alcoholic beverage sales, consumer protection, and the state lottery.
The House passed several pieces of important legislation last month, and among them was the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Act would protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace, and require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who experience limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Also passed was An Act Limiting the Use of Prison Labor, which would require that any labor performed by Commonwealth inmates is performed within Massachusetts. I was proud to vote in favor of both bills.
In May, our office recruited a new District Director, Josh Bedarian. Josh is from Shirley, and grew up in the District. Please feel free to reach out to him about District matters at Joshua.Bedarian@MAHouse.gov. Our former District Director, Sean Rourke, is transitioning into the role of Communications Director, and my Chief of Staff, Cat Bunker, has taken on the management of my legislative portfolio and budget priorities.
In June, I will continue to oversee hearings of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure. I will also be attending the National Women in Government Legislative Summit.
As always, you can reach me at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, or (617) 722-2014.