Around the District
I started off the month meeting with the Shirley Board of Selectmen, where Senator Jamie Eldridge and I provided an update about the FY2018 budget and our legislative priorities. Later in the month, I hosted a briefing in Shirley about my carbon pricing legislation, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs (H.1726). While it has been common practice in other countries for decades, carbon pricing is a relatively new concept in the United States, so it is important to me that I give my constituents the opportunity to ask me about the bill and debate the topic. I’m encouraged that so many people came out to learn about the legislation. The slides from the presentation are available at this link if you’re interested in learning more about carbon pricing.
At the State House
I enjoyed meeting with members of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce during their annual lobby day on June 6. We discussed the FY2018 budget, challenges faced by small businesses, and the Chamber’s legislative priorities. A few weeks later, Melissa Fetterhoff, the President and CEO of the Chamber, was honored as an Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women at the Statehouse. I’ve known Melissa for almost 10 years, and I’ve seen firsthand the great work she does. I was proud to nominate her for the Unsung Heroine award, and I know that she’ll continue to be an excellent advocate for the small businesses of my district.
On June 19, Harvard and Acton were awarded Green Communities Grants to fund energy efficiency improvements in their town and school buildings. Eric Broadbent was on hand to accept Harvard’s grant, which was presented by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton.
Legislative & Committee Update
There was a burst of activity last month around several of the bills I filed this session. On June 6, a bill I filed with Senator Eileen Donoghue and Attorney General Maura Healey had a hearing, and the Attorney General provided testimony. An Act Establishing a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (H.627) would create a fund to provide financial relief to students who have been defrauded by for-profit schools that suddenly close, discontinue programs, or violate state law. That same day my bill, An Act Relative to Diabetes Prevention (H.1128) had a hearing where patient advocates and health care professionals testified in favor of the bill.
On June 20, both my carbon pricing bill (H.1726) and my single-payer health care bill (An Act to Ensure Effective Health Care Cost Control – H.596), had hearings. I testified in favor of both bills, as did many of my colleagues in the House and Senate. The hearing for my carbon pricing legislation was attended by more than 300 people, and I was proud to have the support of some of my constituents who traveled from the district to deliver favorable testimony. Similarly, my single-payer health care bill received support from many of my colleagues, as well as patient advocate groups. This bill would require the state to compare our totally health care spending with our projected health care spending if the state were to implement a single-payer system; if after several years the “single payer benchmark” outperformed our actual health care spending, the state would be responsible for developing a single payer implementation plan and submitting it to the legislature. I am looking forward to seeing the bills continue through the legislative process.
Toward the end of the month, I attended the National Legislative Summit of Women In Government, where I met with women legislators from other states to discuss issues such as the opioid epidemic, human trafficking, and economic growth. It is useful to be able to collaborate with legislators from other states so that we can compare legislation, discuss best practices, and work on solving problems in a bipartisan manner.
The House met last month to pass two pieces of legislation, one being An Act for Language Opportunity for Our Kids. This legislation will enable districts to implement alternative English language learner (ELL) programs that are tailored to better meet the specific needs of their ELL population. Also passed was the House’s adult use of marijuana bill, which was sent to conference committee along with the Senate’s marijuana bill. The conference committee is made up of 6 lawmakers (3 Representatives and 3 Senators), and they are currently working to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate bills.
The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure held 2 hearings last month, where we heard and collected testimony on nearly 50 bills.
In July, the Legislature will pass a final FY2018 budget. A temporary budget was passed in June to allow the Conference Committee more time to reach an agreement. I will also be attending several events in the district, and overseeing another hearing of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure.
I can be reached at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or (617) 722-2014 if you have any questions or comments.