House Passes Representative Benson’s Energy Efficiency Bill

BOSTON – Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed Representative Jennifer Benson’s bill, An Act Relative to Energy Efficiency.

The legislation updates the Green Communities Act, passed in 2008, to include more energy efficiency technologies. This will allow homeowners access to more energy efficiency options so they can save money and reduce their carbon footprints.

“This bill will allow homeowners to leverage the revolutionary gains made in energy efficiency and renewables in the past ten years,” said Representative Benson. “Removing existing barriers and allowing consumers access to a broader range of technologies will ensure that Massachusetts remains number one in the country when it comes to energy efficiency.”

The House also passed three other energy bills:

  • 4737, An Act Relative to Expanding Resource Efficiency in the Commonwealth
  • 4739, An Act to Improve Grid Resiliency Through Energy Storage
  • 4738, An Act to Increase Renewable Energy and Reduce High-Cost Peak Hours

A conference committee has been appointed to reconcile these and Representative Benson’s bill with energy legislation passed by the Senate.

Rep. Benson Votes with House to Pass Legislation to Establish Automatic Voter Registration

BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives last week to pass legislation creating an efficient and streamlined automatic voter registration (AVR) system.

This legislation directs the Secretary of State to work with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and MassHealth to automatically add eligible individuals to the Commonwealth’s voter rolls. The Secretary of State will adopt regulations governing the AVR system, including provisions requiring electronic transmission, data security protocols, and integration with online portals.

“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy,” said Representative Benson. “The House just took a huge step to protect that right and expand the electorate. If it becomes law, H.4667 will make civic participation easier for every Massachusetts resident.”

Under this legislation, registration agencies will transmit electronic records of the legal name, age, residence, citizenship information, and electronic signature of each qualified person to the board of registrars of the municipality where the person lives. The board of registrars will then send a notice to the individual informing them that they have been registered to vote and offer the opportunity to choose a party affiliation or decline to be registered. If the individual does not decline within 21 days, their name will automatically be added to the voter lists.

The name and address of program participants will remain confidential and the Secretary of State will establish security measures to protect voter information.

The bill also requires Massachusetts to join the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit that assists member states with improving voter roll accuracy and increasing access to voter registration. Under this legislation, automatic voter registration would begin on January 1, 2020, in time for the November 2020 elections.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Legislature Passes “Grand Bargain” on Ballot Question Issues: Minimum Wage, Family and Medical Leave, and Sales Tax Holiday

BOSTON – On Wednesday, June 20, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate passed legislation to raise the minimum wage over a period of five years, create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers, phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays, and establish a permanent sales tax holiday.

The legislation is based on months of negotiations with stakeholders sponsoring proposed ballot questions for the November 2018 election.

“This compromise strikes the right balance of empowering employees, supporting our hardworking residents and ensuring that businesses can continue to provide good, steady jobs,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I sincerely thank the stakeholders who came to the table and the legislators who brokered this compromise.”

“I voted for this legislation to support working families by raising the minimum wage and providing paid family and medical leave,” said Representative Benson. “These have been policy goals for a long time, and I’m glad we were able to come together and get them passed.”

The bill (H.4640) passed by the Legislature does the following:

  • Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 over the next five years;
  • Increases the tipped wage to $6.75 over the next five years;
  • Establishes a Department of Family and Medical Leave within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development;
  • Creates a framework for family leave of 12 weeks; family leave for the care of a service member of 26 weeks; and medical leave for up to 20 weeks;
  • Creates a permanent sales tax holiday beginning in 2019; and
  • Phases out premium pay on Sundays and holidays over the next five years.

The proposal leaves the sales tax unchanged, and does not impose a teen sub-minimum wage. Small businesses are exempted from contributing to the paid family and medical leave fund.

Sheila Fitzgerald Kelly of Ayer Honored as Unsung Heroine

BOSTON – Sheila Fitzgerald Kelly of Ayer was honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2018 class of Unsung Heroines. Representative Jennifer Benson nominated Ms. Kelly for this recognition because of her role as the lead organizer of the 2018 Ayer Women’s March held on the first anniversary of the inauguration of the current presidential administration. Ms. Kelly was honored with 130 other Unsung Heroines for her outstanding contributions to her community in a ceremony on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

“For years, Sheila has modeled how to be an engaged, active participant in civic life,” said Representative Benson. “She deserves to be recognized for her commitment to social justice and equality, and the tremendous success of the 2018 Ayer Women’s March.”

After learning that many people in the community would not be able to make the trip to the Boston Women’s March, in a matter of days, Ms. Kelly and others planned a rally and march in the Ayer town center. The event was attended by over 400 people from Ayer and the surrounding towns – an impressive feat in a small town 30 miles from Boston. Ms. Kelly succeeded in organizing an inspiring event that brought together activists, legislators, and citizens to champion the values of equality, diversity, and economic justice. She is an Unsung Heroine because of her lifelong commitment to these values, and her work in organizing the 2018 Ayer Women’s March.

The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contributions.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency created by the Legislature in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.

Representative Benson’s May 2018 Office Update

Around the District

Memorial Day Observed in Boxborough

On Memorial Day, I marched in Boxborough’s parade and spoke at North Cemetery. It is important to take time to reflect each year and appreciate our fallen veterans.

Despite the rainy weather, it was a beautiful and moving ceremony thanks to the volunteers, the Boxborough Minutemen, and the talented R.J. Grey Junior High Band.

Harvard Receives Two Grants

It was announced last month that Harvard received two grants from the state. First, the town was awarded $192,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to renovate and make accessible the Hapgood Library (also known as the Old Library). The Old Library, located in the center of town, is currently leased by the Harvard Cultural Collaborative (HCC), which uses the historic building as a community center and cultural exhibit space. I was happy to support the HCC when they were applying for the grant, and I’m glad the Cultural Facilities Fund decided to finance this worthy project.

Later in the month, it was announced that Harvard will be receiving a $35,000 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant. The MVP grant program provides resources to aid communities as they prepare for the effects of climate change by financing vulnerability assessments and the development of resiliency plans. I applaud Harvard for being proactive in preparing for the effects of climate change, and I know they will put this funding to good use.

Acton Public Servants Honored at S.T.A.R. Awards

I attended the S.T.A.R. Awards and helped honor Acton municipal employees for their decades of service to the town. The 26 honorees included Fire Department Captain Jack White for his 30 years of service, and Highway Superintendent Richard Waite for his 40 years of service.

Acton Board of Selectmen Meeting

I met with the Acton Board of Selectmen to update them on the ongoing FY2019 budget process and discuss the town’s legislative priorities. We discussed Chapter 70 education funding, local aid, and my efforts to increase special education funding. We also talked about regional school transportation and the earmark for the Acton-Maynard senior and commuter shuttles.

Lunenburg Resident Recognized by Energy Secretary

At an event at the State House last month, Dr. Sarah Cammer, a Lunenburg resident and science teacher, was recognized by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton as an outstanding STEM instructor for her work educating students in the area of environmental science and technology.

Lunenburg/Ayer-Shirley Hockey Team Visits State House

The Lunenburg/Ayer-Shirley Men’s High School Hockey Team visited the State House on May 3, where they were congratulated by their legislative delegation for winning the 2018 State Championship. They enjoyed a tour of the State House and a meeting with Governor Charlie Baker.

 


Legislative Update

House Votes to Raise Tobacco Buying Age to 21

I voted with the House of Representatives to pass a bill that would prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine products to those under the age of 21. More than 170 cities and towns in Massachusetts have already raised the minimum sales age to 21, and this bill would expand that policy to the entire state. The bill would also expand the state’s smoke-free workplace law to include vaping, prohibit vaping on school grounds, and ban healthcare institutions from selling tobacco and nicotine products.

Civics Education Required Under House Bill

To prepare the next generation of engaged, responsible citizens, the House passed a bill that would require Massachusetts public schools to teach civics as part of their social sciences curriculum.

American history and the United States constitution are already taught in schools, and this legislation would add lessons about the branches of government, the electoral process, and the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy to curriculum requirements. Additionally, the bill mandates that middle and high schools provide opportunities for students to learn about civics through experiential projects.

Honoring our Veterans with the BRAVE Act

Just before Memorial Day I was proud to vote for the BRAVE Act to support Massachusetts’ veterans and military families. The BRAVE Act allows municipal buildings to have reserved parking spaces for veterans, increases the burial expense allowance for indigent veterans, expands property tax exemptions for veterans, and designates the Fort Devens Museum in the district as the official veterans and military museum of Massachusetts.

Gun Violence Prevention Bill Clears the House

The House passed legislation to establish a process to allow family members, household members, and licensing authorities to petition the court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for individuals who “pose a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others”. An ERPO, if issued by the court, is in effect for up to one year and results in the immediate suspension and surrender of all firearms and ammunition.

In the wake of yet another series of mass shootings, I heard from dozens of constituents calling for action. I voted with the House to pass this common sense bill that will protect innocent lives while preserving the right to due process.

 


Looking Ahead

In June, the House will taking up legislation funding capital improvements, and I will be attending several events in the district. You can contact my office at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov, or by calling my State House office at (617) 722-2140 or my district office at (978) 582-4146 ext. 4.
Sincerely,