Around the District
On July 10, I visited Little Leaf Farms in Devens with Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, State Senator Jamie Eldridge, and officials from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. I met with the company’s founders and employees, and toured their massive hydroponic farming facility that captures rainwater to grow produce without the use of soil. It was great to see a small business in the district thriving and utilizing sustainable production practices.
Later that day, I spoke before the Acton Board of Selectmen in support of Indivisible Acton, Green Acton, Mothers Out Front, and other organizations that were urging the town to pledge support for the Paris Climate Accord. The Board voted to support the Accord and restated the town’s commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment.
In August, I attended the signing of a Community Compact between the Town of Harvard and the Baker-Polito Administration. The Lieutenant Governor and selectmen signed the compact, which commits Harvard to developing a capital needs assessment and an information technology strategy, and implementing traffic engineering improvements.
At the State House
I hosted a briefing in July with State Representatives Stephen Kulik and Peter Kocot on the topic of carbon pricing. A full room of Representatives and staffers came to learn more about the topic from Climate XChange’s Marc Breslow. I have been encouraged by the strong level of interest in my carbon pricing bill (H.1726), and I am looking forward to building on the momentum of the briefing.
The Legislature recently passed a bill establishing consumer access to recreational marijuana with robust public safety and regulatory measures. The bill maintains the personal use provisions approved by the 2016 ballot initiative while instituting a 10.75% state excise tax, a 3% local option excise tax, and an optional 3% impact fee on top of the state’s 6.25% sales tax. Adults 21 and older can use marijuana, and possess up to one ounce in public and ten ounces at home. They may have six plants per person but no more than 12 plants per residence.
On July 27, Governor Baker signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law. The law guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers, and makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against, refuse to employ, or terminate an individual due to pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy. I was proud to vote for the bill to protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination in the workplace.
In reaction to the violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, I drafted a resolution denouncing white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and condemning the hatred, bigotry and violence these groups espouse. The resolution also urges law enforcement agencies to condemn white nationalist and neo-Nazi ideology, vigorously pursue justice in response to hate-fueled violence, and work to ensure the protection of marginalized and targeted communities. The resolution was signed by the Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, and Governor on August 17 at a ceremony at the State House.
After more than 2 years of serving as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, in July, I was named the House Chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. The Committee considers matters regarding public contracts, public construction, state regulations, state agencies, and open meeting laws. I co-chaired my first hearing of the new Committee with the Senate Chair, Walter Timilty, and I am looking forward to working with him and the House and Senate committee members.
In September, I will continue to review the more than 200 bills in the new Committee as I begin planning for hearings. I will also be going to several events in the district, including a forum on single-player health care legislation on September 12 in Ayer.
If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to comment on a particular piece of legislation, you can reach me at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, or at my new office phone number, (617) 722-2140.
37th Middlesex District