Representative Benson’s June 2019 Office Update

At the State House

Nashoba Valley Chamber Beacon Hill Day

On June 12, the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce (NVCoC) held their annual Beacon Hill Day at the State House. I was happy to meet with Chamber leadership, including NVCoC President Melissa Fetterhoff, as well as small business owners of the 37th Middlesex District to discuss their legislative priorities and their concerns about transportation issues in the District.

Carbon Pricing Briefing

I hosted a briefing in June at the State House for legislators and staff to learn more about my carbon pricing bill, H.2810, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions. I was delighted that nearly 100 legislators and staffers attended to learn about the bill. I continue to be encouraged by the support building for my bill as we move through the legislative session.


Constituent Spotlight

Every year, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women honors “Unsung Heroines” across the state who make a difference in their communities. This year, I nominated Lisa Normandin from Lunenburg for this honor. Lisa has worked for the Town of Lunenburg for over 30 years, is an original member of the Lunenburg Turkey Hill Lions Club, and currently serves as the Club’s president. Through the Lion’s Club, Lisa plans fundraising events to benefit the local food pantry they operate, and distributes more than 120 baskets of food to needy families every Thanksgiving. Lisa’s three decades of quiet commitment to bettering her community and helping those in need is why she is deserving of recognition as an Unsung Heroine.


Legislative Update

Janus Fix Bill

In June, the House and Senate passed legislation protecting public sector unions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling. The bill allows public employee organizations in the state to charge non-members for the reasonable costs associated with representing them through the negotiation and grievance processes. The bill was sent to the Governor’s desk, but he returned it, unsigned, with an amendment.

Fair Share Amendment

In a Constitutional Convention on June 12, the House and Senate jointly voted to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to add a four percent surtax on household income above $1 million to fund public education and infrastructure programs. I was proud to vote for the Fair Share Amendment to support education funding reforms and infrastructure improvements in the 37th Middlesex District and across the Commonwealth. The Legislature must again approve the amendment in the 2021-2022 session in order for it to appear on the November 2022 statewide ballot for voter approval.

Budget Update

The Legislature passed a temporary spending measure that was signed into law by Governor Baker as the Conference Committee appointed to resolve the differences in the House and Senate budgets continues its work.


Committee Update

Legislative Hearing

The Joint Committee on Health Care Financing held a hearing on June 11 on more than a dozen bills, including several related to single-payer health care, also known as “Medicare for All”. My co-Chair, Senator Friedman and I, as well as members of the Committee, collected testimony from over 100 people and organizations. We are currently reviewing the testimony and preparing for more hearings in July.

Chan School of Public Health Discussion

At Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I participated in a discussion with faculty members, including public health experts and economists, as well as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Robert DeLeo. We talked about trends in health care spending in the state and nationally, and the policy solutions available to control costs and increase access to high quality care.

Health Center Tours

In June, I toured health centers around the Commonwealth to learn more about health care delivery in Massachusetts.  I traveled from Provincetown to Pittsfield and met with health center staff and leadership to learn how different types of communities provide health care services to their residents. I have further visits planned in July to other parts of the state.


Looking Ahead

In July, I’ll be attending several events in the District, and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing will hold two more hearings.

Please feel free to reach out to my District office at 978-582-4146 ext. 4, and my State House office at 617-722-2430. You can contact me via email at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov.

Sincerely,


Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

Lisa Normandin of Lunenburg Named an Unsung Heroine by the MA Commission on the Status of Women

BOSTON – Lisa Normandin of Lunenburg was honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2019 class of Unsung Heroines.  Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) submitted Lisa’s name for this recognition because of her more than 30 years of service to Lunenburg and her work with the Turkey Hill Family Lions Club. Lisa was honored for her outstanding contributions to her community in a ceremony on Tuesday in the Great Hall at the State House.

Lisa has worked for the Town of Lunenburg for over 30 years, is an original member of the Lunenburg Turkey Hill Lions Club, and currently serves as the Club’s president. Last year, when a grain silo collapsed and destroyed Cherry Hill Barn, a beloved landmark and family farm in Lunenburg, Lisa and the Lion’s Club sprang into action, raising over $60,000 to help offset costs for the family and rebuild the barn. Also through the Lion’s Club, Lisa plans fundraising events to benefit the local food pantry they operate, and distributes more than 120 baskets of food to needy families every Thanksgiving. Lisa’s three decades of quiet commitment to bettering her community and helping those in need is why she is deserving of recognition as an Unsung Heroine.

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 communities. They are mentors, volunteers, and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps communities together.

The ceremony included remarks from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Harriette Chandler. The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) is an independent state agency that was created by the Legislature in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.

Rep. Benson’s May 2019 Office Update

Around The District

Ayer Events

I began May as the guest speaker at Ayer Shirley Regional High School’s National Honor Society Induction ceremony. I spoke about the four pillars of the NHS: scholarship, service, leadership, and character, and how those qualities have helped me in my career as a legislator. It was wonderful to be able to address the ASRHS NHS inductees and their families, and I look forward to following their future accomplishments.

Also in Ayer, I attended the groundbreaking for the Ayer Commuter Rail parking facility. The event was 31 years in the making, and was made possible by leaders at the Congressional, state, and local levels overcoming many financial, legal, and logistical barriers. Starting in 2020, commuters and users of the Rail Trail from Ayer and surrounding towns will have access to a brand new, two-level facility and 180 parking spaces. While the facility is being built, limited parking is available at Depot Square. More information is available on the Town of Ayer’s website.

Celebrating the groundbreaking at the Ayer Commuter Rail Parking Facility with
Senator Eldridge and Representative Harrington.

Acton Happenings

In Acton, I toured First Connections with Senator Jamie Eldridge. First Connections is a non-profit organization that supports new parents by teaching them the skills they need to care for their children. I met with staff at the organization as well as some of the parents who use their services, and we discussed challenges facing working families and the need for more state support for parenting education programs.

I was invited to attend the monthly meeting of the Acton chapter of Indivisible, where I discussed my carbon pricing bill, H.2810. It was great to connect with constituents who are passionate about combatting climate change and engaged in the conversation about the policy options available to us.

Memorial Day in Boxborough & Lunenburg

At North Cemetery in Boxborough for Memorial Day.

To venerate our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, I participated in ceremonies in Boxborough and Lunenburg. In Boxborough, I marched in the parade and presented Governor Baker’s Memorial Day proclamation at North Cemetery. Later in the day, I attended the Lunenburg ceremony at the town’s Veterans Memorial Park. In both towns, many people came out in the beautiful weather to honor American soldiers who died in active service.

At the State House

RJ Grey Junior High Visit

On May 16, I hosted Mrs. Karamourtopoulos’ ESL class from RJ Grey Junior High in Acton at the State House. The class went on a guided tour of the State House and watched an informal session of the House of Representatives. Afterward, I spoke with the class about my experience in government, and my colleague Rep. Antonio Cabral discussed his immigration story. I’m glad the students are interested in learning about state government.

With Mrs. Karamourtopoulos’s class at the State House.

Legislative Update

In May, the House of Representatives passed several important bills related to transportation safety and infrastructure. On May 15, I voted with the House to pass legislation fining drivers who are pulled over for operating a cellphone with their hands while driving. The bill requires drivers to use hands-free technology such as Bluetooth, and still allows for the use of GPS apps if the phone is mounted to the dash.

The Legislature also sent a bill funding local infrastructure maintenance to the Governor’s desk. $200 million will be expended in FY20 to repair and update municipal roads and bridges, including $2.17 million for the towns of the 37th Middlesex District. Additionally, the House authorized $1.5 billion in spending for large-scale transportation projects across the state over the next few years, including:

  • $18.5 million for the resurfacing of Route 2;
  • $10.6 million for the next phase of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Acton;
  • $3.7 million for improvements to the Piper Road and Taylor Road intersection with Route 2 in Acton;
  • $1.6 million for the replacement of the Mulpus Brook Bridge in Shirley; and
  • $980 thousand for stormwater improvements along Route 2A, including in Ayer.

Committee Update

The Joint Committee on Health Care Financing held two hearings in May. We collected testimony on bills related to care management, support for special populations, and health care delivery system oversight. The Committee has collected testimony for hundreds of bills, and we still have a few more hearings scheduled.

Looking Ahead

June will be a busy month at the State House, with Health Care Financing Committee hearings, bills being taken up by the House, and a briefing I’m hosting on my carbon pricing bill.

If you’re having trouble with a state government issue or want to discuss a legislative matter, you can contact my District office at 978-582-4146 ext. 4. You can contact my State House office at 617-722-2430, or Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov.

Sincerely,

Rep. Benson Votes to Advance Constitutional Amendment for Education & Transportation Revenue

BOSTON – State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) and lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted during a joint Constitutional Convention on Wednesday to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to add a four percent surtax on household income above $1 million to fund public education and infrastructure programs.

“This is an important first step toward creating a new revenue stream that will fund critical infrastructure and further support public education,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I appreciate the work of Chair Cusack and Representative O’Day on this issue and look forward to advancing this measure further next session.”

The $1 million income level would be adjusted annually to reflect inflation, ensuring that the four percent surtax would continue to apply only to the highest earning households in the Commonwealth. The Department of Revenue estimates that the amendment, commonly referred to as the Fair Share Amendment, would generate $2.2 billion annually.

“I was proud to vote for the Fair Share Amendment at the Constitutional Convention,” said Representative Benson. “This new revenue will be used to finance critical reforms to public education funding, as well as improvements to our transportation infrastructure that will benefit communities in the 37th Middlesex District and across the Commonwealth.”

The amendment must pass in Constitutional Conventions in two consecutive legislative sessions. Wednesday marked the first passage, and the Legislature must approve it again in the 2021-2022 session in order for it to appear on the November 2022 statewide ballot for voter approval.

Rep. Benson Votes with MA House of Representatives to Protect Public Sector Unions

BOSTON – State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) voted with the House of Representatives on Wednesday to pass legislation protecting public sector workers’ rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) ruling.

The bill (H.3854) will enable Massachusetts unions to charge non-members the reasonable costs associated with representing them in the grievance and bargaining process.

“This legislation – which builds on the House’s long-standing support of labor – sends a clear message that Massachusetts will work to secure protections for the working men and women of the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This bill represents a consensus position not realized from last session, and I thank Chair Brodeur for his hard work to move this issue forward.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision was a serious setback for organized labor at the federal level,” said Representative Benson. “By passing this legislation, we can ensure that in Massachusetts, unions will still have the resources they need to advocate on behalf of public sector workers, including our teachers, law enforcement, and municipal professionals.”

Additionally, the bill will:

  • Provide new hires with opportunities learn about benefits and services available to them;
  • Protect worker organizations from outside attacks by empowering them to set policies regarding dues and membership;
  • Ensure that employee organizations are able to provide confidential legal advice and other communications by providing up to date employee contact information; and
  • Enable employee organizations to conduct meetings in the workplace.

In their decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled that fees which public employee organizations charged non-dues paying workers were unconstitutional, reversing decades of precedent supported by previous court rulings.

The bill will now go to the Senate.