Representative Benson’s Office Update: November and December 2017

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.

Touring New England Studios in Devens with Speaker DeLeo and some of my House colleagues.

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.

Legislative Update

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.

Climate Change

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

Representative Benson’s Office Update: October 2017

Around the District
Last month, I attended a meeting of the Ayer Board of Selectmen where town officials and constituents were discussing the issue of the odor coming from the Nasoya factory in town. I, along with Ayer’s other state legislators, sent a letter to Nasoya telling them that we expect them to work with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to resolve this issue. I have been keeping in touch with the Town Administrator as well as officials from the DEP to ensure that Nasoya is being held accountable and is working toward a solution.

Later in the month, I met with Lunenburg officials and a representative of the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to address the safety issue of speeding vehicles on Chase Road. MassDOT was receptive to Lunenburg’s concerns, and there is already a plan in place to make safety improvements.

I also attended the annual meeting of Loaves and Fishes food pantry in Devens. Loaves and Fishes does so much important work for the towns of my district, and helped to feed more than 800 families last year by distributing over 30,000 bags of groceries.

Being recognized by Clean Water Action Massachusetts.

In Acton, I was recognized for my leadership on environmental and renewable energy legislation by Clean Water Action Massachusetts. It was an honor to receive their Legislative Leadership Award along with Representative Mary Keefe.

At the State House

Boxborough Town Planner Adam Duchesneau, and Town Administrator Selina Shaw

At a ceremony at the State House celebrating rural communities, Boxborough was awarded a MassWorks grant for $575,000 to fund sidewalk and roadway improvements in the town center near the Blanchard Memorial School. This is the fourth consecutive year the town has applied for this grant, and the persistence of the Town Planner Adam Duchesneau and Town Administrator Selina Shaw paid off.

On October 24, I presented Shirley’s Bemis Associates, Inc. an award at an event at the State House recognizing Massachusetts’ top manufacturers. In addition to being one of the largest manufacturing employers in the 37th Middlesex District, Bemis has become an integral part of the community since moving to Shirley in 1990. I was happy to nominate them for the award and present it to them.

I also attended an event that featured a discussion about women in the military, where Congresswoman Tsongas was honored. The Congresswoman, who is retiring at the end of her current term, serves on the House Committee on Armed Services.

Committee Update
The Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight held four hearings in October for dozens of bills related to state assets, regulations, and procurement. The Committee will be conducting two more hearings in November on bills related to public records, ethics, and other matters.

Legislative & Budget Update
In October, the House of Representatives voted to override more of the Governor’s budget vetoes, restoring funding to suicide prevention programs, local councils on aging, and the After-School and Out-of-School Time grant program.

Additionally, I voted with my colleagues to pass H.1110, An Act Establishing Regional Commissions on the Status of Women and Girls, H.3952, An Act to Further Define Standards of Employee Safety, and S.2178, An Act Relative to Handicapped Parking.

Looking Ahead
In November, I will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. I will be serving as an official observer at the conference with unrestricted access to all meetings. At the Conference, I will also be discussing my carbon pricing legislation, which would establish a fee-and-rebate system on carbon to encourage the reduced use of these fuels, and fund infrastructure projects designed to reduce emissions.

As always, I can be reached at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or (617) 722-2140.

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

 

Representative Benson’s Office Update: September 2017

Around the District

Speaking at a forum on single-payer health care in Ayer with Senator Eldridge and Jackie Wolf of Mass-Care.

I attended several events around the 37th Middlesex District in September, including a forum on single-payer health care in Ayer hosted by the Ayer, Lunenburg, and Shirley Democratic Town Committees. Senator Eldridge and I discussed our single-payer legislation, and Jackie Wolf of Mass-Care talked about the movement for single-payer in the state. I’ve spoken at several of these forums in the district, and it’s great to see so much enthusiasm for improving our health care system.

Later that month, I appeared before the Harvard Board of Selectmen to provide an update about legislative and budget items, including the home rule petitions Harvard has pending. I had a productive discussion with the selectmen about the petitions and other legislation.

Later in the week, I went to the Massachusetts Municipal Association legislative breakfast, where I discussed my carbon pricing legislation and my support for increased infrastructure investments. On September 28, I was in Acton celebrating the groundbreaking of the new Insulet manufacturing facility, which will support hundreds of new jobs. The next day, I attended the Minuteman High School legislative breakfast. I and other area legislators received an update from administration, faculty, and students about the construction of the new high school building.

At the State House
Last month, I was sworn in as a member of the board of directors of the nonpartisan nonprofit Women in Government. I have served as a Massachusetts state director for the organization since 2015, and I am honored to be joining the board of directors to help further their mission of supporting women in public office.


 

On September 26, I participated in a legislative briefing on maternal health organized by the Caucus of Women Legislators and the March of Dimes. We learned about legislation related to aiding preterm infants and infants born with exposure to substance abuse

I also attended the 31st annual Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony at the State House. We honored law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and commemorated eight officers who were added to the permanent memorial in Ashburton Park this year.

Legislative Update
At a press conference last month, Attorney General Maura Healey announced her support for legislation I filed to better protect consumers from data breaches like the recent Equifax hack. This legislation was also filed by Senator Barbara L’Italien, and is currently pending before the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The day after the press conference, I joined the Attorney General and Senator L’Italien in testifying in favor of the bill at its September 26th hearing.

Testifying in favor of H.134 with Attorney General Maura Healey

An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports was originally filed in January, and in light of the Equifax hack, I have worked in conjunction with Senator L’Italien and the Attorney General’s office to draft and propose updated language. The new language strengthens the bill by eliminating fees, establishing a procedure for placing credit freezes, mandating encryption of personal information in credit reports, and requiring that companies obtain consent before accessing or using consumer credit reports and credit scores.

The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure is now examining the legislation and the proposed new language.

Budget Update
In September, the House of Representatives voted to restore $320 million in spending vetoed by Governor Baker from the FY2018 budget. I voted with my colleagues in the House to restore funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, housing for homeless youth, the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, and many other vital accounts.

Looking Ahead
In October, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight will hold several hearings. I will also be touring businesses in the district, meeting with local nonprofits, and attending a Shirley Board of Selectmen meeting.

I always enjoy hearing from constituents, and I welcome you to reach out to me via email or phone at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or (617) 722-2140.

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Benson
State Representative
37th Middlesex District

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

Representative Benson’s Office Update: June 2017

Around the District

Speaking at a forum on carbon pricing

I started off the month meeting with the Shirley Board of Selectmen, where Senator Jamie Eldridge and I provided an update about the FY2018 budget and our legislative priorities. Later in the month, I hosted a briefing in Shirley about my carbon pricing legislation, An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs (H.1726). While it has been common practice in other countries for decades, carbon pricing is a relatively new concept in the United States, so it is important to me that I give my constituents the opportunity to ask me about the bill and debate the topic. I’m encouraged that so many people came out to learn about the legislation. The slides from the presentation are available at this link if you’re interested in learning more about carbon pricing.

At the State House

Meeting with members of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce

I enjoyed meeting with members of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce during their annual lobby day on June 6. We discussed the FY2018 budget, challenges faced by small businesses, and the Chamber’s legislative priorities. A few weeks later, Melissa Fetterhoff, the President and CEO of the Chamber, was honored as an Unsung Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women at the Statehouse. I’ve known Melissa for almost 10 years, and I’ve seen firsthand the great work she does. I was proud to nominate her for the Unsung Heroine award, and I know that she’ll continue to be an excellent advocate for the small businesses of my district.

On June 19, Harvard and Acton were awarded Green Communities Grants to fund energy efficiency improvements in their town and school buildings. Eric Broadbent was on hand to accept Harvard’s grant, which was presented by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton.

Legislative & Committee Update

Attorney General Maura Healey testifying in support of H.627

There was a burst of activity last month around several of the bills I filed this session. On June 6, a bill I filed with Senator Eileen Donoghue and Attorney General Maura Healey had a hearing, and the Attorney General provided testimony. An Act Establishing a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (H.627) would create a fund to provide financial relief to students who have been defrauded by for-profit schools that suddenly close, discontinue programs, or violate state law. That same day my bill, An Act Relative to Diabetes Prevention (H.1128) had a hearing where patient advocates and health care professionals testified in favor of the bill.

On June 20, both my carbon pricing bill (H.1726) and my single-payer health care bill (An Act to Ensure Effective Health Care Cost Control – H.596), had hearings. I testified in favor of both bills, as did many of my colleagues in the House and Senate. The hearing for my carbon pricing legislation was attended by more than 300 people, and I was proud to have the support of some of my constituents who traveled from the district to deliver favorable testimony. Similarly, my single-payer health care bill received support from many of my colleagues, as well as patient advocate groups. This bill would require the state to compare our totally health care spending with our projected health care spending if the state were to implement a single-payer system; if after several years the “single payer benchmark” outperformed our actual health care spending, the state would be responsible for developing a single payer implementation plan and submitting it to the legislature. I am looking forward to seeing the bills continue through the legislative process.

Offering testimony in favor my single-payer health care legislation

Toward the end of the month, I attended the National Legislative Summit of Women In Government, where I met with women legislators from other states to discuss issues such as the opioid epidemic, human trafficking, and economic growth. It is useful to be able to collaborate with legislators from other states so that we can compare legislation, discuss best practices, and work on solving problems in a bipartisan manner.

The House met last month to pass two pieces of legislation, one being An Act for Language Opportunity for Our Kids. This legislation will enable districts to implement alternative English language learner (ELL) programs that are tailored to better meet the specific needs of their ELL population. Also passed was the House’s adult use of marijuana bill, which was sent to conference committee along with the Senate’s marijuana bill. The conference committee is made up of 6 lawmakers (3 Representatives and 3 Senators), and they are currently working to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate bills.

The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure held 2 hearings last month, where we heard and collected testimony on nearly 50 bills.

Looking Ahead

In July, the Legislature will pass a final FY2018 budget. A temporary budget was passed in June to allow the Conference Committee more time to reach an agreement. I will also be attending several events in the district, and overseeing another hearing of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure.

I can be reached at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or (617) 722-2014 if you have any questions or comments.

Sincerely,