Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Legislative Coffee With Harborlight Community Partners

Harborlight Community Partners invited me and other area legislators to meet with members of the HCP board, staff, and members of the community for a “Legislative Coffee” event today at the Community House in Hamilton.

We talked about the significance of affordable housing for seniors and families and how we can work together to better support our citizens in need of housing. HCP communities include Beverly, Hamilton, Ipswich, Gloucester, Marblehead, Peabody, Rockport, Salem and Wenham.

Andrew DeFranza, Executive Director of Harborlight Community Partners was our host.

In the photo from left to right: Representative Brad Hill, Senator Bruce Tarr, Andrew DeFranza, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and Representative Jerry Parisella State Representative.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Senior Care Day on the Hill

Today we welcomed elder service organizations from my district in their visit to my State House office. SeniorCare Inc.​ of Gloucester, which delivers service to nine North Shore communities and Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley​ which serves 23 communities in the Merrimack Valley were visiting the State House as part of a lobby day to provide information about the needs of seniors for home care, nutrition programs, protective services, and housing. My conversations with them reinforced how valuable their work is.

These non-profit agencies work directly with thousands of elders and disabled adults to help them remain living in the community with dignity. Care managers and other professionals support elders and their families by providing assistance for health and wellness. Both organizations do so much to help secure independence and safety for elders every day.

Mike Festa​, State Director of AARP MA​, and a former colleague in the House of Representatives, was the host of a gathering of 300 elders, caretakers, and family members. Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts​ and the Mass Senior Action Council​ co-sponsored the day’s event.

Elder needs are vitally important. In just three years, 22% of our state’s population will be a senior. By 2025 nearly one in four residents will be 60 years of age or older. Clearly, we need to be paying due attention to their needs. Enabling our seniors to remain independent, vibrant and connected to their communities is good for us all.

If you know an elder or a person with a disability, perhaps a relative, friend, or neighbor, who needs information about nutrition resources, health care services, nursing home information or other areas of interest I recommend that you visit http://www.seniorcareinc.org/ or http://www.esmv.org/.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Annual Boy Scout Day on the Hill

I sponsored this first annual Boy Scout Day on the Hill along with Senate President Stan Rosenberg as a way to highlight the service and action that Scouts have engaged in in the previous year. I was very pleased to welcome to the State House today members of all eight councils of Boy Scouts from across the state.

We began in the Senate Chamber where scouts led us in the Pledge of Allegiance before they recited the Scout Oath and Law. From their annual report we learned that last year, Massachusetts Boy Scout troops gave 150,000 hours of community service. And the statewide one-day service project "Scouting for Food" resulted in the donation of more than 200,000 pounds of food.

After our session we moved to the Grand Staircase and were welcomed by Governor Charlie Baker. He shared some sage advice about respect and fair treatment for all with the scouts, "I would urge you all to model that behavior, not just as scouts, but as leaders in your community and as you grow up and become leaders in other organizations because the lessons you learn, the skills you develop, those will be there to help make you part of your generation's success story if you choose to understand them and take advantage of them and incorporate them into the way you live your life."

I am so proud of the accomplishments that these Troops have made. At its best, scouting can have a profound and life-long impact for those who wear the uniform. In 351 cities and towns, in every corner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, whether it be a large city or a tiny hamlet, scouting is committed to the proposition, that we will have a spirit of being ready, willing and able to support each other.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Iwo Jima Day at the State House

365,000 veterans live in our Commonwealth: they all deserve our thanks and they should be frequently in our thoughts. Today, in a Memorial Hall ceremony, we observed Iwo Jima Day at the State House to honor the Marine veterans who served there in the major World War II battle in 1945.

Governor Charlie Baker, the first Massachusetts Governor to attend Iwo Jima Day, greeted each of eight Iwo Jima veterans who were present personally. Department of Veterans' Services Secretary Francisco UreƱa, State Senator McGee (whose father fought in the battle and who later helped establish the Iwo Jima Day ceremony), State Senator Mike Rush, a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, Sergeant Richard Gates, a marine veteran who was part of the American invasion, and others addressed the gathering.

Governor Baker expressed a sentiment that captures my feelings about our veterans “The only reason we are able to do the people’s business is because of men and women like you, and your families, since the start of this nation’s history. They signed up to put themselves in harm’s way to defend our freedoms and our way of life.”

In attendance today was Larry Kirby a Manchester by the Sea resident and friend. Now 93 years old, Larry was a young man when he fought the enemy hand-to-hand more than 70 years ago. He lost 22 close friends. He once said that he visits with them every day in his mind.

Before the invasion, there were 22,000 Japanese soldiers heavily entrenched within a network of tunnels and caves. The fighting was particularly fierce and the casualties were high. When it was over, the U.S. Marines were victorious, they captured the island and raised and American flag high on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945

American forces suffered as many as 7,000 dead and 17,400 wounded in the battle. "All those young boys - they didn't just die, they gave their lives," said Mr. Kirby.

Semper Fi

If you are a veteran, or care about a veteran, I want you to have this link to our nation-leading set of veterans benefits administered through the Massachusetts Veterans Services.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gloucester Nets $2.7 Million Marine Science Award

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker came to Gloucester to announce $3 million in capital funding for the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute and for middle and high schools in Gloucester, Lynn, and Salem. The commitment of $2.7 million to support the Institute marked another major milestone in our efforts to advance the science to sustain our fishing industry, and build new industries that will employ a developing workforce with the skills they need.

Six years ago, I was asked to participate in a plan to develop support for a marine research institute on Cape Ann. The idea was powerful and important; because commercial fisheries face numerous challenges it is vital that we identify all possible resources to achieve the mission. Together, we set out to support a world-leading marine biotechnology research institute that connects knowledge with the needs of the oldest working fishing harbor in America.

Years of hard work and the commitment of the Gloucester community was rewarded. I was pleased to join Governor Baker as he announced the funding at the Institute, alongside Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President and CEO Travis McCready, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, GMGI staff and students.

The expected science-based data on fisheries will have a profound impact on our understanding of marine life and that will shape fisheries management decisions which in turn will impact the economy of our region. Scientists and researchers at the Institute are now making great strides toward accomplishing that mission.

Over the years I have been able to add funds in several Senate versions of the state budget for the Marine Genomics Academy’s workforce training skills program. And, I have worked with colleagues to expand our states commitment to research and development in the life sciences which helps sustain and support the industry. Massachusetts is truly leading the way.

The commitment of funds, and the ongoing interest from elected officials, scientist, the fishing community and others, will help us lead the world and improve the quality of life for people. I told those gathered at the celebration that the official life science policy of this Commonwealth has begun taking us to new heights in scientific endeavors.

The $2.7 million in funding will have important impacts, it will; accelerate the Institute’s work to make Cape Ann a biotechnology hub; promote sustainability in fisheries; advance our knowledge of ecosystems; stimulate economic growth; and inspire people to engage with our natural resources as we never could before.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Celebration of the Arts

The Massachusetts Cultural Council announced the winners of the 2017 Commonwealth Awards in a State House event today. These awards honor exceptional achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences from among more than 500 non-profit organizations that receive grants through the Council.

The Commonwealth’s creative economy, fueled by these non-profits, generates $2 billion of economic impact throughout the state each year. The creative economy represents the third largest industry in the state. Our tax dollars provide $14 million in arts and culture grants which produce $104 million in taxes and spending by patrons which are collected by the state - a seven to one return. In addition, these organizations have a strong employment history, having a base of 62,000 jobs.

More than an economic multiplier, our cultural originations generate thousands of dedicated volunteers who support an average of 140 events each day. Not only that, but reports show that students who participate in the arts have lower dropout rates and a higher chance of attending college.

The 175 members of the Springfield Sci-Tech High School Band performed on the Grand Staircase in front of Memorial Hall and filled the halls of the State House with their music.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and to contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Understanding the Massachusetts Drug Addiction Problem

This morning there was horrific news from Louisville, Kentucky – a massive spike in drug overdose calls caused authorities there to respond to 52 emergencies within a 32-hour period. The area had nearly 700 overdose cases in January alone, a 33 percent spike from last year according to a report.

Across the nation, and in our own home state, the massive impact of drug-related overdoses has spread at a rate that has been difficult to fathom and even more challenging to effectively combat.

I have sponsored legislative initiatives to provide funding and tools to enhance opportunities for treatment efforts such as the ‘Angel Program’ and pilot programs to study best practices. My colleagues and I have championed a number of ideas including those that support the efforts of emergency responders. Together, we have implemented prescription monitoring, promoting a Good Samaritan law, stronger medical training for understanding pain management and reductions in volumes of opioid prescriptions.

Drug addiction is more than a medical or public safety problem; substance abuse is a societal problem and our best way to control it is through information, communication and community supports that connect families and abusers with those who can help.

I invite you to look at a special report, a data visualization of the Massachusetts opioid crisis, which powerfully conveys the state of our state. This is a tool that I hope empowers you with facts and engages you to stand with me and others who want to help people overcome addictions and quash this epidemic.

Check back here for future updates on new insights, legislation and our efforts to prevent drug abuse and our work to promote access to treatment.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Snow Storm On The Way

Meteorologists and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency are forecasting a major snow storm with as much 2-3 inches of snow fall per hour and expected cumulative totals of between 8 and 14 inches for Thursday.

This morning’s icy commute caused dangerous conditions and multiple accidents; with that in mind, be prepared for storm conditions and strong winds and gusts around of up to 40 miles per hour.

Pease, use good judgment tomorrow. Roads will be dangerous – make way for plows and sander trucks. Expected high tides Thursday morning could cause coastal flooding. Take breaks when shoveling, and take a look today and make note of fire hydrants close to your home or workplace. If you are able, make sure that the hydrant is kept clear from snow. Clear exhaust vents - carbon monoxide is odorless however, carbon monoxide poisoning is deadly. Check in with family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly and those who live alone or with medical conditions.

For critical updates and direct general questions to the 24-hour citizen information telephone line by dialing 2-1-1. When the storm ends keep in mind that sub-zero wind chills start Thursday night and are expected to last into Friday morning. Be safe.


Friday, February 3, 2017

A Special Happy Birthday

A very special treat to be able to wish a Happy Birthday to Alice Shepard.

The Senate citation is in recognition of her 101st birthday.   In the photo with Alice is Irene O'Brien, Director of the North Andover Senior Center, and Richard Curran, my Constituent Services & Community Outreach Coordinator.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Senate Republicans Seek to Drive Rules Reform Debate

The Senate will be voting today on the rules that we will use throughout this legislative session – one bill will determine Senate rules and another will define Joint rules for our interactions with the House.

The Senate Republican Caucus and I have offered several amendments which we believe will make the legislature more transparent and accountable to the citizens of the Commonwealth. We believe that the public deserves to know, in advance, the text of legislation that will be voted on. We also believe that we should prevent midnight sessions where votes are cast in the dead of night. In combination, our rules reforms are designed to maximize disclosure, minimize interruptions in informing citizens of what actions are being contemplated, and we seek to compel committees with using their expertise to recommend government savings and efficiencies. You can see our recommendations at these links- Senate Rules - Senate Bill 8 and Joint Rules - Senate Bill 9.

Here are some highlights of our proposals:
  • Facilitate greater transparency for informal sessions by:
    • preventing anything from being considered in them that has not had a public hearing or a committee discharge vote, and
    • requiring matters to be posted on the General Court website at least 24 hours in advance of an informal session in order to be considered, and
    • requiring them to be recorded in the same manner as formal sessions for public viewing,
  • Ensure that committee members can examine the text of proposed bills by requiring all committees to provide legislation to members before requiring a vote on such matters for executive sessions or polls,
  • Mandate that committee votes be posted on the General Court website,
  • Prevent the Senate from voting on legislation after midnight without the unanimous agreement of all members,
  • Declare a ‘not less than’ amount of Local Aid, including Chapter 70 education funding and unrestricted general government assistance, to be distributed to the cities and towns no later than March 31 of each year so school district, and communities can plan budgets with greater assurance of funding amounts,
  • Require all joint committees to include a taxation impact statement showing the fiscal impact of any change to fees or taxes in proposed legislation,
  • Require each standing committee to hold at least one public hearing each year to determine if the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction can achieve savings or operate in a more cost-effective manner.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Leading in Learning

Today was a very good day for three school districts in communities that I represent.

Manchester Essex Regional High School, Masconomet Regional Middle School, and North Reading’s L. D. Batchelder school where recognized in a State House ceremony for their accomplishments in making significant progress in demonstrating very high achievement, showing strong progress overall, or for making strong progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps between students.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Education Secretary James Peyser, and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester were on site to congratulate them and several other school districts from across the state.

I want to applaud these schools and those that staff or support them and the community members that champion them for their efforts and accomplishments; a strong foundation in education is a fundamental to our success as a commonwealth.