Rep. Benson Joins Women In Government Board of Directors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, Women In Government (WIG) announced the appointment of Massachusetts State Representative Jennifer Benson to the Board of Directors as an At Large Member for the Eastern Region. Women in Government is the nation’s leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of women state legislators across the country.

Representative Benson began her involvement with the organization in 2013 and became a State Director in 2015. Representative Benson will bring close to a decade of legislative know-how to the Member At Large position.

“I am honored to be joining the Board of Directors of Women In Government,” said Representative Benson. “I look forward to working with the Board to support and inspire women in public office to craft effective policy and advocate for bold solutions.”

Elected in 2008, Representative Benson is serving in her fifth term in the Massachusetts Legislature. Before being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, she served five years on the Lunenburg School Committee. Representative Benson is the chair of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

“For nearly thirty years, Women in Government has provided leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues,” said Colorado State Senator Nancy Todd, Chair of the WIG Board. “Representative Benson brings valuable  experience and perspectives to this important work.”

Representative Benson was sworn in during a conference call of the Board of Directors on Wednesday.

Women In Government Foundation, Inc., headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of women state legislators that provides leadership opportunities, networking, expert forums, and educational resources to address and resolve complex public policy issues to all 1,808 women state legislators. Learn more at www.womeningovernment.org.

Representative Benson’s Office Update: July and August 2017

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.

Legislative Update

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.

The signing ceremony for the resolution condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

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.

Committee Update

Chairing my first State Administration hearing.

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

Legislature Passes Resolution Introduced by Rep. Benson Condemning Hate Groups

BOSTON – Representative Benson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to support a resolution that unequivocally denounces white nationalism and neo-Nazism, and condemns the hatred, bigotry and violence these groups consistently espouse. The resolution will be transmitted to the Mayor of Charlottesville, Governor of Virginia, and President of the United States.

In highlighting Massachusetts’ historic role in promoting civil rights and justice, the resolution emphasized that the values of these groups stand in irreconcilable conflict with the founding principles of both the Commonwealth and the nation.

“I am proud that the Commonwealth came together to denounce the violence in Charlottesville and condemn the hateful ideologies of white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” said Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “I was honored to propose this resolution, and I thank Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Rosenberg, and Governor Baker for their leadership on this issue.”

“I’m proud to sign this joint resolution on behalf of the House to clearly and unambiguously condemn neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups at work in Charlottesville,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “I’m grateful to Leader Rushing, Chairwoman Benson, and the members of the House for pushing for this important action. Massachusetts residents can be reassured that on matters like this, Governor Baker, Senate President Rosenberg and I, and our respective institutions, stand shoulder to shoulder in opposing violent hatred and intolerance.”

Following the signing of the resolution on August 17, legislators joined Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito in a moment of silence for the Charlottesville victims. The legislation, filed in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy, states that “intolerance has led to senseless acts of violence that continue to terrorize members of ethnic and religious communities.” It urges law enforcement agencies and elected officials 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 language of the resolution can be found here.

Rep. Benson and Sen. Eldridge Announce $795k Grant for Shirley

BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) announced that the Town of Shirley has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $795,953 from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development. The grant will be used by the Town to fund the rehabilitation of 18 housing units, and to support Shirley’s home heating fuel assistance program for low-and-moderate-income households.

“Over the past few years, Shirley has made excellent use of CDBG funds, rehabilitating dozens of homes and sustaining their winter fuel assistance program,” said Representative Benson. “The CDBG program is a vital resource for the towns in my district. If Congress follows through on President Trump’s plan to completely eliminate the CDBG, it would be devastating for Massachusetts.”

“I want to thank the Baker-Polito administration for awarding Shirley these critical CDBG funds, which will help residents access essential services, including improved housing and heating assistance,” said Senator Eldridge. “If President Trump eradicates CDBG funding, many low-income and working-class families that rely on this assistance will suffer. It is crucial that Congress acts to preserve the CDBG in years to come.”

The CDBG is a federally funded program administered by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development that awards grants to communities to fund improvements to housing, infrastructure, accessibility, and community buildings, among other programs.

President Trump’s proposed budget completely eliminates the CDBG, which is also used to fund many local Meals on Wheels initiatives, affordable housing, and other anti-poverty programs.

Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. The legislation 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.

“This legislation makes certain that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workforce,” said Representative Benson. “I was proud to vote for this bill to protect pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts.”

Reasonable accommodations may include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent breaks; modifying equipment or seating; obtaining temporary transfer, job restructuring, or lighter duty; and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, among others.

The law prohibits employers from taking the following actions against an employee who is pregnant or has a condition related to the employee’s pregnancy:

  • Taking adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation;
  • Denying an employment opportunity to an employee based on the need of the employer to make a reasonable accommodation;
  • Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation if the accommodation is unnecessary to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job;
  • Requiring an employee to take a leave of absence if another reasonable accommodation may be provided without undue hardship to the employer; and
  • Refusing to hire a person who is pregnant because of the pregnancy or because of a condition related to the person’s pregnancy if that person can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation that does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The bill directs companies to engage in a collaborative process with employees and prospective employees to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. In specific instances, employers may require documentation pertaining to the need of accommodation from appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional.

The bill was signed into law by the Governor on July 27, and has an effective date of April 1, 2018.