Around the District
On November 1, I visited the Acton Commission on Disabilities to celebrate their 30 years advocating for and assisting the disabled population in Acton. It was wonderful to celebrate the Commission’s important work and speak with constituents. Later in the month, I stopped by the Nashoba Valley Job Fair, which is organized every year by the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and presented by State Representative Sheila Harrington and myself. While I was there, I spoke with employers based in the district and constituents who were there looking for work.
In December, I toured New England Studios in Devens with the Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, and several of my legislative colleagues. I’ve toured the studio before, but this time we visited the sets of Castle Rock, an upcoming Hulu series. It’s encouraging to see that New England Studio has succeeded in bringing television and film production, and the jobs that come with it, to Massachusetts and the district. Also in Devens, I participated in the annual Wreaths Across America event at the Fort Devens Cemetery on December 16. I attend this event every year to honor our fallen heroes.
I also toured the Nasoya facility in Ayer with Representative Harrington. We urged the company to continue to work to remediate the problem of the foul odors coming from their processing plant. The company has committed to working to solve the problem, and I continue to receive regular updates from the Town Administrator and Department of Environmental Protection.
In November, the House of Representatives passed a bill introduced by Representative Dylan Fernandes reaffirming Massachusetts’ commitment to meeting the emissions targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, the House passed the ACCESS Bill, which guarantees the women of Massachusetts access to copay-free birth control in the wake of the Trump Administration’s decision to undermine key women’s health provisions of the Affordable Care Act. I attended the signing ceremony on November 20th and watched as Governor Baker signed the bill in to law.
The House also passed a criminal justice reform bill aimed at making the justice system more fair, reducing recidivism, and improving public safety. The legislation would allow for the expungement of certain juvenile and young adult criminal records, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level, non-violent crimes, and establish a Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Commission. It would also update the Commonwealth’s bail system, and establish limits on how long an inmate can be held in solitary confinement without review. The Senate passed a similar bill in October. The 2 bills are now being reconciled by a conference committee.
My step therapy, or “fail first” bill, An Act to Reduce Health Care Costs Through Improved Medication Management, had a hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services. Many doctors, patients, and advocates offered testimony in support of the bill, which would allow some patients to bypass the process by which insurance companies force patients to try a less expensive treatment before moving on to the treatment recommended by their doctors.
Additionally, Governor Baker signed H.1328 in to law on December 22, giving Devens firefighters the same protections, retirement benefits, and collective bargaining rights as other Massachusetts firefighters.
In November, I had the privilege of attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference as an official observer. Along with 3 other Massachusetts legislators, I traveled to Bonn, Germany to participate in the talks and let the world know that Massachusetts is still committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. I met with delegations from other states and countries, and discussed strategies for reducing carbon emissions, including carbon pricing and renewable energy incentives. I was proud to represent my district and state on the world stage at such an important event.
I’m looking ahead to a productive 2018, as I continue fighting for important legislation and being an advocate for my constituents. If you wish to get in touch with me, you can email me at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or call me at (617) 722-2140.
37th Middlesex District