Lack of affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues facing Massachusetts. Housing insecurity and homelessness is the number one call I receive from constituents. In 2018, the Legislature authorized $1.8 billion in affordable housing investments, including expanding tax credits for the development and modernization of the Commonwealth’s affordable housing stock. However, there is still more work to do. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature in the 191st Session to pass zoning reform to allow our cities and towns the flexibility needed to address local housing concerns. Massachusetts must continue to expand the availability of affordable housing to reduce homelessness and ensure all our residents can continue to access adequate housing.
The storms of the last few years have shown us that the Commonwealth must do more to adapt to the effects of climate change and improve our green energy infrastructure. In 2018, the Legislature passed an Environmental Bond Bill to provide capital funding for the Commonwealth to address environmental concerns. The bill included authorizations for a new drainage system and flood mitigation in Peabody; for the construction of a water treatment plant in Topsfield; and for repairs to a solar field in Beverly. I learned a great deal about carbon pricing by serving on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy during the 2017-2018 legislative session, and enthusiastically joined with my Senate colleagues in voting for a market-based compliance mechanism for carbon emissions in the Senate’s green energy bill. I look forward to the Legislature taking additional steps in the 191st Session to ensure Massachusetts meets its emissions goals.
By making necessary prudent investments to create the conditions for and to stimulate economic growth, the Commonwealth plays an important role in helping to grow our economy. As Vice Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, I helped to scrutinize and shape the Commonwealth’s $41 billion budget for fiscal year 2019. The Economic Development Bill, which passed the Legislature in July of 2018, made necessary reforms to our non-compete laws and authorized funding for key local projects in Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem, and Topsfield. I also proudly introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that became law in July 2017 and prohibits employment discrimination against pregnant workers to ensure greater economic participation for pregnant women and new mothers. Access to reliable transportation systems is also integral to the economic development of our communities. Given the high numbers of both residents who commute to greater Boston for work, and visitors who come to the Second Essex District for recreation, I support transportation fixes that will ease our travel networks and make them more environmentally friendly, including efforts to study a trolley system in Peabody and to buy a second ferry in Salem.
Access to quality education is key to ensuring the success of future generations, and ensuring equal and adequate funding for schools is one of the most important issues we face as lawmakers. In the 190th Session, the Legislature passed bills supporting second language learners across the Commonwealth and promoting civics education. This session, the legislature is focused on updating the formula that provides funding to our schools. In the beginning of October, the Senate passed the Student Opportunity Act, which implements all the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, and increases funding to all school districts across the Commonwealth. The bill also increases funding for social-emotional support services in schools, commits the legislature to fully funding charter school tuition reimbursement, and expands special education cost reimbursements including transportation. The legislation is now before the House of Representatives for its review and passage.
While Massachusetts continues to have one of the highest quality healthcare systems in the country, it is also one of the most expensive. The rising cost of healthcare affects our businesses – large and small – and our families. Despite both the Senate and House passing healthcare cost containment bills during the 190th Session, a final compromise could not be reached. This session, the Legislature has prioritized addressing the rising cost of healthcare in the Commonwealth and ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable care.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
In the 190th Session, the Legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill aimed at reducing recidivism and helping those who have been incarcerated to get back on their feet after release. Aspects of that law are currently being phased in across the Commonwealth. Since getting into office, I have made the prevention of child sexual abuse a legislative priority. This session, I filed three bills relative to preventing child sexual abuse and seeking justice for survivors. The first bill, which focuses on education and prevention, would require training for all mandated reporters on the signs of child sexual abuse and mechanisms for reporting. Children would also be provided with age-appropriate education. The bill also enhances screening protocols for hiring teachers and others working with children to ensure no one who has previously abused a child can find themselves in a situation to do so again. The other two bills focus on judicial recourse for those harmed by child sexual abuse, including making those who engage in teacher/student relationships civilly and criminally liable for their actions, and eliminating the statute of limitations for the crime of sexual abuse of a child.