I hope this update finds you all well! With summer in full swing, I hope you and your loved ones have been able to get outside and enjoy the weather and festivities. I want to provide you all with another update of some of the actions taken by my colleagues and myself at the state level as I continue to work on your behalf.
Unrestricted Aid and Education (Chapter 70) Funding
In July, the Governor signed the FY23 budget. After strong advocacy in the House my colleagues and I passed the budget back in April. Funded at $52.7 billion, the conference budget continues my strong commitment to cities and towns, and included significant investments in health care, education, housing, and workforce development, among other priorities. This budget responds to the needs of residents and makes targeted investments to support families in the Commonwealth. Notably, Woburn will receive a 30% increase in state education funding.
Chapter 70: $12,693,670
Unrestricted Aid: $6,935,100
Chapter 70: $11,171,799
Unrestricted Aid: $3,755,416
I was also happy to announce further funding for Woburn and Reading in Fiscal Year 2023.
– $100,000 for the Woburn Public Library Foundation for enhanced children’s learning
– $25,000 for the Rumford Historical Association for maintenance and refurbishment at the Count Rumford Birthplace in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War
– $25,000 for the Reading Memorial High School Robotics Team
– $50,000 for the Reading Fire Department for the purchase of a ladder truck
– $25,000 for repairs to the rock walls at Memorial Park
Better Bus Project – Save the 354!
In May, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) released its Better Bus Project proposal which would have direct impacts on the bus routes in Woburn and Reading – as well as nearly all communities serviced by the MBTA. I met with representatives from the MBTA and explained my strong opposition to the plan to do away with the 354 bus that currently serves as the ‘rapid route’ from the Woburn area to State Street in Boston. Over the course of the summer, there have been several virtual and in-person public hearings held. I was happy to join so many constituents who showed up to voice their concerns. In early July, my colleagues and I sent a letter to the MBTA regarding the proposal and shared our opposition to the elimination of the 354 Bus servicing Burlington, Woburn, Stoneham, and Medford Center. All in all, the 354 is crucial to our residents, our businesses, as well as our community’s long-term economic competitiveness and I will continue to voice the frustration of our shared communities.
Women’s Reproductive Rights
The Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation that provides legal protections to abortion providers, out-of-state patients and insurers, mandates insurance coverage with no cost sharing for abortion-related care and expands access to emergency contraception. I support a woman’s right to choose and I support safe, legal access to reproductive health care in our country. The decision by the Supreme Court in June takes away a fundamental right of the people to make their own health care decisions and will endanger lives by forcing unsafe health care options upon women. We all must stand together to fight for women to have control of their own bodies.
During this time, I was able to work to pass several bills that directly affect Woburn and Reading.
I was proud to support An Act Relative to Military Spouse Licensure Portability, Education and Enrollment of Dependents (The SPEED Act), which addresses the Commonwealth’s most immediate needs in the veteran community, makes necessary updates to service member quality-of-life issues, including supporting military families who relocate to the Commonwealth with expedited licensure and school enrollment, creating education awareness programs and establishing the Massachusetts Medal of Fidelity. This bill will allow those who have served our nation to access educational opportunities more easily in the Commonwealth, will educate our service members on the dangers posed by open burned pits, and will further our efforts to properly recognize the sacrifices of these individuals.
We also passed oversight legislation that goes a long way in better protecting our veterans who are served by the Soldiers Homes. The inexcusable loss of life at these veteran’s homes during the COVID pandemic shone a bright light on the failings of the leadership structure at these institutions. This legislation, accompanied with the bond authorization to rebuild these antiquated facilities, will help our Commonwealth provide the best possible care for the men and women who have served our nation honorably. Notably, the Veterans Services Director, who directly oversees the superintendents of the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes, will be elevated to a cabinet position.
These pieces of legislation build upon the Commonwealth’s proud history of supporting our military men and women – and will help make sure these heroes receive the support they deserve.
I was proud to support An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health. This comprehensive legislation addresses longstanding issues with our behavioral health care delivery system. The bill focuses on acute psychiatric care and crisis response, youth behavioral health initiatives, community-based behavioral health services, investments in the workforce, and enforcement of existing behavioral health parity laws and represents yet another step towards meeting the mental health needs of residents, and particularly children, in the Commonwealth. In part due to the challenges of the last few years, we all recognize the increasing demand for these services. We must continue to advance measures that require us to deal with crisis response in the mental health sector and that includes helping to address the labor shortage, valuing behavioral health as we do physical health, and better support for young people living with behavioral health challenges.
I was pleased to support An Act Relative to Step Therapy and Patient Safety. This legislation limits the use of step therapy protocols, in which insurance companies refuse to pay for the prescription drugs prescribed by a patient’s health care provider until the patient first tries cheaper, and oftentimes ineffective, alternatives. The legislation establishes exceptions a patient can use to avoid their insurer’s step therapy protocol and requires both MassHealth and commercial insurers to provide a clear and transparent process for patients and their care team to request an exception.
In Mid-July, I was proud to announce that Reading would receive $100,000 in funding for the Track Road neighborhood, under the FY23 Municipal Small Bridge Program. With these resources, our community will be able to help reconstruct the bridge over Walkers Brook on Track Road. I look forward to continuing to support the community’s efforts in rebuilding these small bridges that serve as vital links for area neighborhoods.
I was pleased to support An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind. The legislation bolsters green transportation, green buildings, electric vehicle charging stations, and clean power production, including offshore wind, solar, storage and networked geothermal, while creating thousands of new jobs and economic benefits in the process. This bill builds upon the Next Generation Climate Roadmap bill, which we passed earlier this legislative session and overhauled the state’s climate laws by putting Massachusetts on a path to reach net-zero limit on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This bill makes clear the Commonwealth’s commitment to a clean energy future as well as our commitment to building a clean energy economy with high paying jobs. This is yet another example where our public policy creates a path towards real energy independence, bolsters green job creation, supports moving our transportation sector away from fossil fuels, encourages clean wind energy, updates our electrical grid, and incentivizes all of us to move towards greener, cheaper energy policy.
I was proud to support An Act Regulating Sports Wagering, which would authorize and regulate sports betting in the Commonwealth. The legislation authorizes the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant in-person licenses at gaming establishments, including casinos, racetracks, and simulcast facilities, as well as mobile licenses through mobile applications or digital platforms. This legislation will generate an estimated $60 million in annual tax revenue for Massachusetts, in addition to collecting up to $70 to $80 million in initial licensing fees, which must be renewed every five years. The revenue collected will be distributed to municipalities, and for economic, workforce, education, and public health priorities. Our residents have been traveling to bordering states for years to place their sport wagers. This bill offers residents the opportunity to place sporting bets in our state rather than going to one of the other thirty states where it is legal, includes proper safeguards, helps get sports betting out of the shadows, and any revenue collected would benefit Massachusetts residents.
On July 31, 2022, the Legislature’s final version of the Transportation Bond bill was enacted by both the House and Senate. It authorizes over $11.3 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects, including $400 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to address ongoing safety concerns and $275 million for the East-West passenger rail project. This bill is a substantial investment in the transportation needs of the Commonwealth and will help us to leverage federal infrastructure dollars to make substantial improvements to our roads, bridges, electric charging stations, and transit systems. Residents expect, and quite frankly deserve, a transportation network that is safe and reliable. I fully recognize the failings of the MBTA and these resources, if implemented correctly, will help address the immediate and long-term safety concerns plaguing our transit system.
An Act Relative to Accelerating Improvements to the Local and Regional Public Health System addresses disparities in the delivery of public health services. The bill aims to establish minimum standards for local public health departments, create a unified standard public health reporting and data collecting system, and advance the capacity of state and local public health departments. This legislation recognizes that local Board’s of Public Health are on the front lines everyday of keeping people safe and healthy in our communities. We all relied upon these professionals during this pandemic and this legislation helps these institutions to be better equipped to deal with the next public health emergency. Making sure these responders have the tools and expertise they need to keep our community safe is incredibly important.
An Act Relative to Equity in the Cannabis Industry encourages and facilitates participation in the cannabis industry from communities disproportionally harmed by marijuana criminalization by creating a Social Equity Trust Fund. The bill also strengthens the host community agreement process and clarifies procedures for permitting social consumption sites which was passed by the voters back in 2016. This legislation will help make sure the cannabis industry is properly regulated, equitable, and safe. It also updates our regulations for individuals with past cannabis related charges so they have a path forward in expunging their criminal records so they can move on with their lives.
Pride Flag Raising
“Equality is the soul of liberty”. I was proud to stand with the LGBTQ community and raise the Pride Flag in Woburn. It was a great turnout to show support for this important group who need our strong support!
Civics Showcase at Woburn Memorial High School
It was my pleasure to address the Juniors at Woburn Memorial High School as part of the Civics Showcase. The student’s projects were very well thought out and they had inspiring ideas on how to improve our community, our schools, and our Commonwealth. I reminded the students, “The responsibility of advanced citizenship is to not turn away but rather to engage in trying to bring people together to solve the challenges of our time. That is going to be your responsibility.”
Phoenix Tailings Facility Tour
Thank you to the Phoenix Tailings team for a great tour of their Woburn-based facility!
Phoenix Tailings is a Woburn startup company that is one of the world’s only sustainable and environmentally friendly producer of rare earth metals. Massachusetts has always been at the forefront of new technological developments and green technology is no exception. As we switch our economy over to electric power, there will be a huge demand for rare earth metals as a component in batteries, magnets, and additional essential parts of wind turbines, electric cars, electronics like laptops and smartphones, and many other products. Thanks to Phoenix Tailings, we can refine these rare earths sustainably – with zero direct carbon emissions and no toxic waste – so we are not building clean technology with dirty components.
It was wonderful to celebrate Juneteenth and recommitting ourselves to the work of equality in our communities and our nation. Very moving remarks by Michael Curry. Special shoutout to Social Capital, Phil Gordon and all the organizers! Proud to join you!
Gun Violence Awareness
I was proud to support H.4879, An Act Addressing Barriers to Care For Mental Health. This bill initiates a public awareness campaign on the Commonwealth’s red flag laws and extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) that limit access to guns for people at risk of hurting themselves or others. Back in June, I joined the public on the Woburn Common as part of the MA “Wear Orange” event for gun violence awareness. We can take common sense steps to keep us all more safe – this bill is one such measure.
Woburn Breakfast Lions Event
It was a pleasure to attend the Woburn Breakfast Lions Club’s 36th Anniversary Celebration and Installation of Officers event. Thank you to outgoing President, Richard Capistran, for your service and dedication and many congratulations to successor, Kenneth Lorenzten, on your election!
Reading’s Erin Gaffen Recognized
I was proud to nominate Erin Gaffen of Reading as a member of the 2022 Class of Commonwealth Heroines. In Late June, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women recognized the honorees at a in-person celebration in Boston. Thank you, Erin, for your continued contributions and dedication to the Reading community!
State House Tours
It was my pleasure to be able to host several constituents, this summer, at the Massachusetts State House for tours. In addition to a great group of Woburn Scouts, I was also happy to welcome Jeff and Ian Johnston to also discuss the steps the House has recently taken to further support mental health needs of the residents of the Commonwealth.
There is still plenty of work to be done, and my office stands ready to continue working hard on behalf of the residents of the 30th Middlesex District. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to my office by phone at (617) 722-2460 or email my Legislative Aide, Nicole Redigan, at Nicole.Redigan@mahouse.gov.