Representative Benson’s April 2018 Office Update

Around the District

With Senator Jamie Eldridge, meeting with the Boxborough Board of Selectmen

Last month, I continued my series of discussions with the Boards of Selectmen in the district, and was able to meet with the selectmen from Boxborough and Ayer. We discussed the towns’ legislative priorities and local issues, and I reiterated by commitment to fighting for more local aid and education funding in the FY19 budget. I also met with the Chiefs of Police in Lunenburg and Shirley to talk about their departments’ legislative and budget concerns.

I attended the Harvard Multicultural Council grantee reception, where grants were awarded to many of Harvard’s cultural institutions. I have always been a supporter of the arts, and I appreciate the important work local cultural councils do to make our towns more vibrant and inclusive places.

At the topping-off ceremony for the new Minuteman Regional Technical High School

In Acton, I helped honor three new Eagle Scouts: Calvin Benelli, Eric Liu, and Luke Phillips. I presented the Scouts with official citations from the House of Representatives, and thanked them for their contributions to our community through their service projects. Later in the month, I attended a presentation at the Boxborough Historical Society about the 1938 New England hurricane that devastated Massachusetts. I also participated in the topping-off ceremony for the new Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School, which will serve students from Acton. The new building is expected to open in the fall of 2019.

Legislative Update

On April 4, the Legislature passed a set of major criminal justice reforms. The legislation creates a process for the expungement of certain criminal records for juveniles and young adults, and for instances where an offense is no longer considered a crime. It also raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to twelve years old, decriminalizes some first offense misdemeanors, and eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for many low-level non-violent crimes. I was proud to vote for the bill, which was signed into law by Governor Baker on April 13.

The Senate passed legislation to protect the credit data of consumers. A conference committee will reconcile the differences between the Senate bill and the legislation passed by the House in February, which was based on the bill I filed titled An Act Removing Fees For Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports.

Budget Update

Last month, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass our FY19 budget. The $41.1 billion balanced budget manages to increase funding for local aid and education, despite an uncertain revenue forecast.

I was able to secure funding for several district priorities, including:

  • $150 thousand for advanced manufacturing and technology training programs at Mount Wachusett Community College;
  • $500 thousand for Smart Growth School District Reimbursement;
  • $75 thousand for the Acton-Maynard Senior Van Service and the South Acton Commuter Rail Shuttle; and
  • $25 thousand for the Lunenburg Eagle House Senior Community Center.

To continue the fight against the opioid epidemic, the House budget funds the creation of five new recovery centers across the state, and provides increased funding for diversion programs and the bulk purchase of naloxone.

Looking Ahead

I received my certification from the Secretary of State’s office that I turned in enough signatures to appear on the ballot this year. Thank you to everyone who collected signatures and signed my nomination papers. I look forward to once again earning your vote in November.

In May, the House is planning to take up legislation in the areas of public health and public safety. You can always reach out to my office for help with a state government issue or to express an opinion on legislation 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.

Sincerely,

 

 

Jennifer Benson

Representative Benson’s March 2018 Office Update

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

With the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership Institute.

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.

Legislative Update

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.

Hearing testimony at a State Administration and Regulatory Oversight hearing

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Jennifer Benson

Representative Benson’s Office Update: January and February 2018

Around the District

In January, I met with the leadership team at the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, where I provided a legislative update and heard from the Chamber about their 2019 budget priorities.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I attended the annual MLK Day Breakfast at Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton. The speaker, Boston Globe Associate Editor and columnist Renée Graham, spoke about Dr. King’s legacy, emphasizing his role as a revolutionary figure. I also participated in Career Day at Lunenburg Middle and High School, where I met with students and talked about my career in public service as an elected official.

On January 20, I attended and spoke at Ayer’s 2018 Women’s March with my daughter, Maya. It was inspiring to see hundreds of people from in and around the 37th Middlesex District come together to support equality and protest the current presidential administration’s policies.

In Shirley, at The Bull Run, I organized an Economic Development Day. I brought together House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, and Cannabis Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan to talk about economic development and the economic outlook for the Commonwealth. Nearly 100 business and community leaders came to learn about development opportunities for the north central Massachusetts region, and ask questions about state resources and best practices.

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At the Economic Development Forum in Shirley with Commissioner Flanagan, Secretary Ash, and House Speaker DeLeo.

In Acton, I stopped by the Acton Chinese Language School to celebrate the Chinese New Year. In Harvard, I was at a League of Women Voters panel discussion on women running for public office.  I also visited the Dr. Franklin Perkins School in Lancaster, where I attended their legislative open house and met with constituents and their children enrolled at the School. The Perkins School serves children and adolescents with special psychiatric, social, and emotional needs.

Legislative Update

Screenshot-2018-3-14 Jennifer Benson ( RepJenBenson) Twitter

At the Youth Lobby Day for carbon pricing with the advocates.

January was an important month for my carbon pricing legislation. I was interviewed by Haverhill Community Television’s Richard Smyth, and I talked about carbon pricing and my role as an official observer at the United Nations Climate Change Conference last November. On January 23, the organization Our Climate held a Youth Lobby Day for Carbon Pricing, where dozens of young activists met with their Representatives and Senators to ask them to support carbon pricing. Seeing the grassroots activism among young people around my carbon pricing bill has been so exciting and encouraging.

At an MIT Forum, I spoke on a panel about carbon pricing, and my preference for a revenue-positive policy that would generate resources to fund renewable energy initiatives. On January 31, I announced the formation of a multi-state coalition for carbon pricing in association with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. There is a lot of momentum in Massachusetts behind the policy, and I’m hopeful that the Legislature will act on carbon pricing soon.

I hosted the annual legislative briefing on Special Education Circuit Breaker funding at the State House, where I discussed the important of this funding with my colleagues in the House and Senate. Circuit Breaker funding allows school districts to meet the needs of children with severe disabilities, including autism and other neurological conditions.

In February, the House of Representatives passed legislation providing further protections and resources for consumers in the event of a data security breach. In this legislation, credit freezes, lifts, and removals must be provided to consumers free of charge, and credit agencies must provide one year of free credit monitoring after a breach. I filed the original bill this legislation was based on back in 2016, and worked with the Attorney General and advocates to strengthen the bill after the Equifax breach.

The House also passed the PATCH Act, which would close a loophole that previously allowed for the private health care information of an individual to be shared with the primary health plan subscriber without that individual’s permission. The Senate has passed a similar bill, and the two bills are now being reconciled in a conference committee.

Committee Update

February was the Joint Rule 10 deadline, when the status of bills in most of the joint legislative committees must be decided, including the one I Chair, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. I worked with other Committee members in the best interest of the Commonwealth to make thoughtful, well-researched decisions on the hundreds of bills that came before the Committee. There are still several late-file bills in Committee, which will receive a hearing soon.

Looking Ahead

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Picking up my nomination papers at the State House.

I picked up my nomination papers at the State House in January to run for another term as your State Representative. Each time I’ve taken that yellow envelope, I think about the 37th Middlesex District – the friends I’ve made, the families I’ve helped, and the great honor it is to serve. I humbly ask for your support to continue this work. I attended several Democratic caucuses to collect signatures to get on the ballot in November, and will continue engaging with voters in the district throughout the campaign.

To reach out to my office for assistance with a constituent matter, or to express your opinion on legislation or budget items, please email Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or call (617) 722-2140. My district office can be reached at (978) 582-4146 ext. 4.

Sincerely,

Jen

Jennifer Benson

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