Around the District
In March, I attended several events and meetings in the district. First, I was in Acton at the Discovery Museum for the grand opening of their newly renovated building. It was great to see so many community leaders come out to support the Museum, which has been a must-see attraction in the region for decades.
I met with the Harvard and Lunenburg Boards of Selectmen to discuss education, infrastructure, and local aid funding in the upcoming FY 2019 budget. As always, my main concerns during the budget debate will be fighting for district priorities, including increased education funding. I also met with Acton’s Chief and Deputy Chief of Police to discuss the town’s public safety legislative and budget priorities.
Additionally, Lunenburg and Harvard have two new Eagle Scouts, and I was privileged to attend their Courts of Honor on March 10. For their Eagle Scout projects, Owen Parker of Lunenburg installed and landscaped a veterans memorial in town, and Jonathan McWhite of Harvard installed lights on the veterans flag poles at two cemeteries in town. I presented both young men with citations congratulating them on their achievement, and thanked them for their service to their communities.
In Acton, I co-hosted a Gun Violence Prevention Forum with Senator Jamie Eldridge that was organized by two Acton-Boxborough Regional High School students, Mackenzie Cooper and Rachel Pryke. I’ve been inspired by the activism of students like Mackenzie and Rachel, and the forum provided an opportunity to discuss gun violence with the input of public policy experts and community members.
At the State House
At an event at the State House hosted by the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, I spoke with the members of their Community Leadership Institute. I discussed why I initially ran for public office, and why leadership is an important part of my job as a state representative and committee chairwoman. I also hosted another meeting of the After-School and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council, where the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center gave a presentation about inequality in funding for after school programs.
On March 27, Representative Stephan Hay and I met with Unitil to discuss the high electricity bills some constituents in Lunenburg received this winter. The primary reasons given for the high bills were the record-setting cold weather in January, and the high cost of natural gas for electricity generation. The company was not able to answer all of my questions, but has promised to get back to me with more technical information.
In March, a bill was passed in the House of Representatives that would regulate and tax short term rentals like those offered through Airbnb. The legislation would create a registry of short term rentals, and establish a tiered taxation system based on the number of units a host oversees. Cities and towns would have the option of adding a local excise tax, with at least half of the revenue going toward infrastructure or low-and-moderate-income housing. The Senate needs to weigh in before a final bill can proceed to the Governor’s desk.
The House also passed a collection of reforms to House Rules to strengthen sexual harassment protections. The reforms include expanding the House’s office of human resources, improving the investigation process for harassment complaints, and mandating sexual harassment training for all representatives and staff.
I also attended the quarterly regional meeting of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators in Connecticut, where I met with state legislators from around the country to discuss our carbon pricing proposals. Additionally, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held a hearing on March 14 on several late file bills.
In April, during the budget debate, I will be advocating for education funding and local aid, and the priorities of the towns and constituents of my district. You can reach my office by emailing Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, by calling my State House office at (617) 722-2140 or my district office at (978) 582-4146 ext. 4.