Friday, May 24, 2019

Senate Budget Debated and Adopted

The Senate voted last night on a state budget plan. There were more than 1,100 amendment offered over three days of debate. Here are many details about what was approved-

 The Massachusetts State Senate passed a $42.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020, after adding $74.4 million during three days of deliberations. The budget recommends targeted investments to provide access to opportunity and economic vitality across the Commonwealth.

“I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the members of the Senate for their kindness, thoughtfulness, willingness to work collaboratively, and commitment to service during this entire budget process,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Together, we worked hard to produce a fiscally responsible budget that reflects our Senate values.”

“I am proud of the collaborative process that the Senate employed this week, my first budget debate as Chair. Through robust debate, we made further investments across several key areas including substance use treatment and supports, civics education, security upgrades at non-profits, and suicide prevention,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

“This budget was the product of bipartisan input, debate, and adoption. It recognizes important Senate priorities such as public education, aid for cities and towns, health care, senior care, transportation, substance abuse and more while creating opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce government costs,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “We deposit more than $260 million into the Stabilization Fund, provide tools for MassHealth to pursue savings, probe the MBTA pension problem, respond to the growing skilled nursing home crisis, and we take steps to foster greater economic prosperity for all; this is a bold budget that avoids broad-based tax hikes and adheres to principles of fiscal discipline”

The Senate’s budget strengthens Massachusetts’ commitment to being a national leader in ensuring children of all backgrounds have access to greater educational opportunities. Consistent with the Senate’s long-standing commitment to supporting increased investments in education, this budget makes a significant down payment on the work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC), and funds Chapter 70 at its highest level ever; $5.176B, an increase of $268.4M over FY 2019.

This historic education investment allows for a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per pupil over FY 2019 for every school district across the state, as well as 100% effort reduction to bring all school districts to their target local contribution. With this record level of investment, this budget focuses on school districts with the most pressing needs and addresses four key areas identified by the FBRC: employee health benefits, special education, English language learners, and low-income students in economically disadvantaged communities.

Consequentially, the budget also includes $345M for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate. Education investments include:
• $5.176B for Chapter 70 education funding
• $345M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker
• $75.8M to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs
• $100M to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
• $558M for the University of Massachusetts, $293.2M for the fifteen community colleges, and $274M for the nine state universities; $2.5M for the Early Colleges program to allow students to earn college credits and get a head start on the transition to college; and $2M for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities • $12M for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income
families
• $7.5M for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to preschool in underserved areas
• $5M for Youth-At-Risk Matching grants, including support for YWCAs, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs
• $2.5M for Rural School Aid

The Senate’s budget continues Massachusetts’ leadership in keeping health care accessible and affordable, increasing resources, making investments to deliver services to our most vulnerable residents, and ensuring the well-being of individuals and families.

The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $16.55B to maintain access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.8 million people, ensuring comprehensive care for our most vulnerable children, seniors and low income residents. In an effort to contain program costs and keep health care affordable and accessible to all, the budget takes many steps including providing MassHealth with additional tools to tackle the rapidly growing cost of pharmaceutical drugs by permitting the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate for fair and additional rebates or cost effective payment arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The budget also explores new and creative cost savings initiatives for MassHealth to purchase prescription drugs and requires greater transparency from pharmacy benefit managers. Health investments include:
• $10M for the new Behavioral Health Outreach, Access and Support Trust Fund to support a loan forgiveness initiative for behavioral health workers and a general public awareness campaign
• $150.2M for a range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services, including $3.5M in new funding to open five new recovery centers
• $5M for investments in the substance use disorder workforce, including training on medication management, medication-assisted treatment and treatment of co-occurring disorders
• $93.4M for children’s mental health services, including $3.9M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and $675K for MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women
• $16.5M for Family Resource Centers to expand to new communities and meet increased demand for services
• $489M for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
• $25M to fully fund Department of Developmental Services Turning 22 services to help young people with disabilities transition to adulthood
• $5M for the coordination of a comprehensive statewide strategy, in partnership with municipalities, public health harm reduction organizations and other stakeholders, to promote existing harm reduction efforts and community-based harm reduction services
• $1M for the Healthy Relationship grants program to support teen dating violence prevention efforts

The Senate’s budget invests in programs and policies to educate, train, and prepare Massachusetts workers in order to provide them with opportunities to grow and succeed. The budget also supports working families by investing $13M to ensure over 8,700 families with children will receive the transitional assistance benefits to which they are entitled. Opportunity investments include:
• $38.1M for adult basic education services to improve access to skills and tools necessary to join the workforce
• $15.5M for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
• $7M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
• $2.5M for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Innovation Institute
• $2.5M for the Precision Manufacturing Program
• $2M for Small Business Technical Assistance grants
• $2M for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
• $1M for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state

The Senate’s budget maintains the Senate’s commitment to increasing access to quality, affordable housing, investing in low-income housing and homelessness services and supports. Housing investments include:
• $178M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
• $110M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
• $48.3M for assistance for homeless individuals
• $30.8M for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs
• $20.5M for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $3M to continue expanding eligibility for individuals in need, including persons with disabilities, seniors, unaccompanied youth
• $8M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) providing rental assistance to people with disabilities and $2.7M for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
• $7.5M for rental subsidies to help those suffering from mental health find or maintain stable housing
• $5M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth
• $2.9M for the Home and Healthy Good program, including $500K for a new housing program to support those experiencing homelessness who also have complex medical and behavioral health needs.

The FY 2020 budget furthers regional equity and supports cities and towns by directing significant resources to local and regional aid. This includes increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to $90.5M and ties future funding to inflation, while incentivizing RTAs to adopt best practices to ensure that commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities are able to rely on public transportation to access jobs, education and opportunity. In addition to traditional local aid, the Senate’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $30M. PILOT funding has been a beneficial source of local aid that provides cities and towns with additional resources to support core public services. Local investments include:
• $1.129B for unrestricted general government aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges
• $29.1M for the Board of Library Commissioners, $11.5M for regional library local aid, $9.9M for municipal libraries and $3.3M for technology and automated resources
• $18M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
• $17.2M for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state.
• $11M for Shannon Grants, which are distributed to municipalities for youth gang violence prevention

A Conference Committee will now convene to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2020 begins on July 1, 2019.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Senate Memorial Day Observation

Today, and every day there are men and women around the world serving our country in uniform. Without them we would be in grave danger. Each makes a contribution to the nation and our world
that deserves or recognition.  They, and those who have served before them represent the American spirit that makes us great. 

Memorial Day was established so we would remember those who died in service to our country. The State Senate marked the day in our session. Cities and towns across our state and country will remember these heroes with plaques, parades and solemn occasions this Monday.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wenham Road Work Supported By Senate Budget Amendment

ADOPTED: Route 1A is a state road that travels through Wenham where town officials and residents have been active in undertaking plans to improve the road for bike lanes, a smoother flow of traffic and safety improvements.

Today, the Senate voted to approve my budget amendment to appropriate some funding to aid in those improvements. Wenham has been engaging with MassDOT, the state's transportation agency, to coordinate the projects. The town will pay a portion of the costs with the larger share coming from both federal and state sources.

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My Senate Budget Amendment And Per Pupil Minimum Aid

The Senate Ways and Means Committee has proposed a $30 per pupil minimum aid - today, I offered an amendment to raise that to $100 per student.

Each student deserves the strongest possible learning environment and every school district struggles to provide one. Our support for education, in this way, would be, I believe, both fair and equitable. Per pupil minimum aid is an important factor in the state's school funding formula.

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Plum Island and West Newbury Approved for Senate Funding

ADOPTED: My amendment to provide for some expenses for a handicap access ramp for West Newbury AND to help defray costs for public facility improvements for Plum Island was adopted by the Senate.


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The Senate voted to support my amendment to provide #Gloucester and #Boxford with turnout gear for their firefighters. These public safety professionals need special jackets, pants, gloves, boots, and hoods - they are expensive and absolutely necessary.




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Senate Passes Local Infrastructure Funding Bill

Legislation provides $200M to support municipal road repairs 

BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed the so-called “Chapter 90” bond bill to fund local road and bridge repairs, and to continue the legislature’s ongoing commitment to invest in local communities. The bill will provide $200 million in Fiscal Year 2020 for municipal infrastructure improvements across the Commonwealth.


"Chapter 90 funds help keep the Commonwealth moving by providing direct assistance to our cities and towns for essential repairs and roadway projects,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

“This bond authorization is a major step toward placing our communities’ roads on a path toward good repair,” said Senator Joseph A. Boncore (D-Winthrop), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.  “After a seemingly interminable winter, a severe toll has been taken on our roadways and with the construction season already underway, this funding is essential so that municipalities may begin work now.”

“As a former selectman, I know all too well how critical this funding is to support local infrastructure repairs,” said Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury), who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets.  “The improvements made possible by this funding will strengthen transportation opportunities and help ensure that all members of the community have safe, accessible opportunities to move about.”

“This funding is crucial for communities across the state; construction season has begun and cities and towns need to address their current transportation needs and projects,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).  “Maintaining the safety and repair of local roads and bridges is a priority for the Senate and it provides an economic boost to the Commonwealth.”

Chapter 90 funds are allocated using a longstanding formula based on community road miles, population and employment.  The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for enactment before returning to the Senate for final approval and then sent to the Governor for their signature.   

To continue tracking the bill, H.69, visit the legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Senate Votes to Provide $200 Million For Local Roads

The Senate has voted to provide $200 million in Chapter 90 funding for community road and bridge projects across the state. Maintaining the safety and repair of local roads is a priority for the Senate and it provides an economic boost to the Commonwealth.

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Celebrating Selectman Susan Beckmann

Last night I had the opportunity to express my appreciation for Selectman Susan Beckmann as she concluded her tenure on the Manchester-by-the-Sea Board of Selectman.

Not only did Susan serve on the board she had also been Chairman. Over the years she was also a member of the Manchester Essex Regional School Committee for 9 years, serving 6 as Chairman. She has been co-chair of the Master Plan Committee.

Representative Brad Hill and I presented her with citations recognizing her for her dedication and service to the people of Manchester-by-the-Sea.

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Massachusetts Senior Care Association Advocacy Day

Today is Advocacy Day for Massachusetts Senior Care Association at the State House and it is also the start of the Senate debate on next year's state operating budget. Nursing homes are facing a crisis even as they provide around-the-clock care, treatment, and housing for more than 120,000 of our frailest. They deserve our support.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Gloucester Job Fair Tuesday

Tomorrow's job fair will have more than 32 employers at the Kyrouz Auditorium at Gloucester City Hall from 10 AM to 1 PM.  Parking for this event is available at the 14C2/Harbor Parking Lot, near Gloucester House Restaurant. MassHire will offer Rapid Response Services for National Fish and Seafood displace workers.

Don't miss this opportunity to meet with employers with a variety of available jobs!  






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27th Annual #Rockport Emergency Medical Service Day

EMS Day featured great displays and demonstrations which included Rockport’s Ambulance, Fire, Harbor, Police and Forest Fire Services, the Coast Guard and TALLY'S TRUCK CENTER INC.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and who serves every day on behalf of public safety!




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Friday, May 17, 2019

MassDOT Advisory: Newbury – I-95 Northbound Exit 56

Temporary daytime off-ramp ramp closure on Saturday

NEWBURY – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced there will be a temporary closure of the I-95 northbound Exit 56 (Scotland Road) off-ramp on Saturday May 18, from approximately 8 a.m., to 3 p.m.

This closure is necessary to allow crews to safely and effectively conduct construction operations. Travel lanes on the I-95 northbound mainline will not be impacted during these operations.

Throughout this time, travelers on I-95 northbound seeking to utilize the Exit 56 off-ramp will be detoured to Exit 57 (Route 113) and then directed to reverse direction onto I-95 southbound.

Signs, traffic control devices, temporary detour signs and variable message boards will be used to guide drivers through the work zone. MassDOT encourages drivers to reduce speed and use caution while approaching and traveling through the work zone and to allow for extra time through this area. All work is weather dependent and is subject to change without notice.

For more information on traffic conditions travelers are encouraged to:
• Dial 511 and select a route to hear real-time conditions.
• Visit www.mass511.com, a website which provides real-time traffic and incident advisory information, and allows users to subscribe to text and email alerts for traffic conditions.
• Follow MassDOT on Twitter @MassDOT to receive regular updates on road and traffic conditions.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

O’Malley School of Gloucester Visits the State House

Today, we had a great visit at the State House from the 8th Grade students from the O’Malley School in Gloucester. They were led by their teacher, Jennifer McKay as part of their civics class. Currently, they learning about local, state and federal government and their first stop today was the Massachusetts State Senate.








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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

North Shore Health Project 30th Anniversary

Last night at the Beauport Hotel, the North Shore Health Project presented their 10th Annual Health Activist Award to Governor Charlie Baker.

The Health Project is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year and they wanted to recognize the efforts that Governor Baker has made to put our state in a leadership role of fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic. We have , doubled spending on prevention, education, treatment, and recovery and he has signed two major bills that have served as models for other states. The Health Project continues to be a vital service agency for the Cape Ann area and greater Essex County.

The program included presentations by Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and me. Congratulations Governor.



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Monday, May 13, 2019

Sudden Closure of National Fish And Seafood Harms Cape Ann Families

150 families have been directly impacted by the surprising and unwelcome news of the immediate closure of National Fish & Seafood’s Gloucester facility. Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken has reached out to Governor Charlie Baker and his administration, Representative Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and I to marshal resources to aid all of those who are being impacted.

The state’s Office of Business Development has activated its Rapid Response team to help navigate the process of filing unemployment insurance claims, connections with career resource centers, and more. First steps include:
* Informing them of their eligibility and benefits as laid off workers
* Answering their questions about job search and unemployment insurance
* Registering and refer them to One Stop Career Centers
* Conducting a survey of employee needs (such as retraining and skills upgrading)
* Orieningt them to the content and timetables of the various on-site services

In addition, the Mayor has points of contact Jim Destino, her Chief Administrative Officer at jdestino@gloucester-ma.gov and Jill Cahill, Community Development Director at jcahill@gloucester-ma.gov.

The leaders of the Fishing Partnership Support Services have activated resources to help with insurance information. More information will be developing and I will update this page shortly.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

North Reading Selectmen Retirement

Serving in elected public office as a local official takes tireless effort and boundless commitment, two attributes, of many, possessed by Michael Prisco and Bob Mauceri who retired this week from the North Reading Selectboard.

Very appreciative of their many years of dedicated service to North Reading.














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Friday, May 10, 2019

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project

Beginning Monday, it is anticipated, weather and other factors permitting, that MassDOT will mobilize crews to expand the current work zone for the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project. The expansion will mean that by the time of the morning commute on Tuesday the following conditions will be in effect. In the northbound direction, the lane reduction implemented on April 1st will be extended beyond the Tobin Bridge and into the Chelsea Curves. In the southbound direction one lane will be closed between County Road in Chelsea and immediately to the north of the Everett Street on-ramp from Chelsea. Mobilization will begin at 10PM on the night of the 13th. At this time, all ramps to and from Chelsea will remain open to traffic.

Combined, the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves structures carry more than 63,000 drivers on Route 1 through Chelsea and over the Mystic River into Boston. Though they are safe to drive on, both are in critical need of repair. MassDOT is carrying out work along both sections of Route 1 at the same time so that highway impacts can be completed by the end of 2020, and without the need for weight restrictions and postings.

Completion of this necessary project will ensure that the elevated section of Route 1 can continue to carry passenger and freight traffic safely and efficiently and eliminate 15% of the structurally deficient bridge deck in Massachusetts, but construction of this nature has inevitable traffic impacts. MassDOT encourages you to leave more time for your trip, exercise caution while traversing the work zone, and if possible, divert to an alternate route or mode of travel in and out of downtown Boston.

For more information on traffic conditions, travelers are encouraged to:
• Visit www.mbta.com/tobinbridge for North Shore transit options
• Dial 511 before heading out onto the roadways and select a route to hear real-time conditions.
• Visit www.mass511.com, a website which provides real-time traffic and incident advisory information, access to traffic cameras, and allows users to subscribe to text and email alerts for traffic conditions.
• Check parking availability at the T’s 8 largest garages, including Wonderland on the Blue Line @MBTA_Parking and Lynn on the Newburyport/Rockport Line @MBTA.
• Download MassDOT’s GoTime mobile app and view real-time traffic conditions before setting out on the road.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Senate Reception for Cape Ann Art Artists

I was delighted to welcome visitors from Cape Ann to the State House’s newly renovated Senate Chamber and Lobby today for a public reception to officially open an art exhibit of Cape Ann artists. We celebrated these amazing Cape Ann artists and their works which are currently on display in the Senate Lobby. Having these pieces in such an historic setting is a wonderful way of showcasing this great talent. The exhibit, curated by Karen Tibbetts, includes the works of artists from Rockport, Essex, Gloucester, and Manchester.

These works of art are available for public viewing and will remain on display until mid-June. Members of the Senate will have an opportunity to admire these works throughout the entirety of the debate on the state's budget. Cape Ann has a long history of attracting talented artists including; Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Frank Duveneck, and Childe Hassam, each of whom lived and worked on Rocky Neck in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

I was happy to individually introduced the Cape Ann artists during today's Senate Session. 






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Dog Days of Lobbying

When you meet Janet Waldron there's a good chance you'll meet Louie too. Today, many House & Senate members showed their support for bills that help animals like my "Beagle Bill" S534 which gives lab animals a chance at being adopted. Janet and Louie have been raising awareness about a new chance for a forever homes for these animals. the dogs and cats involved in research make a tremendous sacrifice on behalf of our society, and they deserve every opportunity for adoption when their service is completed

This bill will facilitate relationships between research laboratories and non-profit rescue organizations so that animals are given a chance of life after the lab with a Massachusetts family. More than 60,000 dogs and nearly 20,000 cats are used for animal experimentation in the US. Because the vast majority of the dogs used are beagles which is why this legislation is often called the "Beagle Bill".




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Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals Leaves Victims in a Legal Loophole

Doctors who have sexually assaulted patients have avoided being charged with a crime. Boston 25 News​' Kerry Kavanaugh​ reported last night on sexual abuse by medical professionals.   Victims should never be lost in a loophole of the law. Sexual assault and abuse by medical professionals using fraudulent 'treatment' practices should have serious consequences.  Legislation I filed with Representative Kate Hogan will do just that.    Watch Kerry's story-

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Boston 25 News Coverage at 10 PM on Efforts to Punish Medical Profesionals Who Sexual Assaults Patient

Kerry Kavanaugh Solowski of Boston 25 News will air an important story tonight at 10 on an issue that deserves grater awareness - sexual assault and abuse by medical professionals using fraudulent 'treatment' practices.

The law in Massachusetts considers that the patient has given ‘consent’ if they believed or were told that the inappropriate touching was part of the medical process.

Representative Kate Hogan and I have filed legislation to close this legal loophole for good. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan has been instrumental in pursuing this legislative remedy.

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