State Representative Dave Rogers

UPDATES

FY2016 House Budget


On Wednesday, April 30th the House passed its FY2016 budget. Totaling $38 billion, the budget represents a 4.7% increase over FY2015 and is based on a conservative revenue growth projection. The proposal does not draw from the Commonwealth's stabilization fund (commonly called the rainy day fund) and further reduces reliance on one time revenues. With spending growth and strong, fiscally responsible fundamentals this budget puts Massachusetts on firm financial footing while making key investments in a number of areas. These investments include over $20 million of new spending on housing vouchers and other programs to both keep families in their homes and save the state money, funding to move another 833 children off the early education waiting list, $10 million in new funding for substance abuse treatment, and $12 million in new funding for autism and other mental health services. Here are how some of my top budget priorities fared:

Local Aid: As always, my top budget priority was local aid for each of the communities I represent. The FY2016 House Budget includes substantial increases in local aid:

 

Town

FY2016 Chapter 70 Local Aid for Education

Amount and % Increase over FY2015

FY2016 Unrestricted General Government Aid

Amount and % Increase over FY2015

Belmont

$6,757,058

$336,954 or 5.25%

$2,081,476

$72,329 or 3.6%

Arlington

    $10,715,559

$480,977 or 4.7%

      $6,993,777

$243,027 or 3.6%

Cambridge

$10,793,300

$280,037 or 2.66%

$19,804,203

$687,997 or 3.6%


In addition to these increases in local aid, the House FY2016 Budget also fully funds the special education circuit breaker and includes funding for special education transportation costs for the first time in several years.

Chapter 90 Local Aid for Roads and Bridges: One of the primary ways that the state helps local government is by way of Chapter 90 Local Aid for roads and bridges. Chapter 90 Local Aid will be robust in FY2016 as Governor Baker authorized $100 million, the House and Senate approved an additional $200 million, and ultimately another $30 million has been authorized to pay for pothole repair after 2014/2015's destructive winter. Here is what this funding will mean for each of the communities I represent:

 

Community

Full FY2016 Chapter 90 Authorization

% Increase over FY2015

Arlington

$1,299,420

65%

Belmont

$879,469

65%

Cambridge

$4,239,955

65%



Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Administrative Funding: Federal cuts have outpaced our funding increases since DEP funding was slashed amidst recession, and despite performing admirably, DEP staff levels have dipped as low as 30% of optimal levels on some projects and overall staff levels are down from about 1200 to less than 800. DEP has also been tasked with implementing a new Sustainable Water Management Initiative, one more substantial responsibility taken on by a dwindling staff with diminished resources. I advocated hard for increased DEP funding, which was rose in the House budget by $1,398,619 (4.98%) over FY2015 spending levels.

Services for Homeless Individuals: Massachusetts remains home to great numbers of homeless individuals. Studies, meanwhile, show that housing is the fundamental building block for regularly delivering services and helping to get people back on track. Many shelters that work with homeless individuals have therefore designated some of their beds as “permanent,” allowing repeat visitors to stay long term and providing a place for them to receive services. The FY2016 House Budget invests and addition $1 million (2.37%) in funding for homeless individuals.

Civil Legal Aid: The need for civil legal aid in Massachusetts continues to grow. Close to one million people in the Commonwealth live at or below 125% of the federal poverty level (an increase of 170,000 since 2008), making them eligible to receive civil legal aid. Yet, in the face of this growing demand, 64% of eligible cases were turned away in 2013 due to a lack of resources. Some estimates put the return on investment at almost $5 for every $1 invested in civil legal aid. Besides, what good are rights if you cannot afford to press them? The House FY2016 Budget funds at $17 million, a $2 million (13.33%) increase over FY2015.

Legislation


Each newsletter provides me with a good opportunity to highlight a couple of my bills that I think are particularly timely. This session, my top legislative priority is criminal justice reform. Our current system is unnecessarily expensive and in many cases does a poor job delivering justice. Well over 90% of those incarcerated are coming back out to join us in society, so in my opinion our system needs changes at all stages of the process including: pre-trial, the treatment of prisoners, and improvements to the standards that determine when those incarcerated are released. Here are two of my bills to improve criminal justice in the Commonwealth:
 
  • HD 2380: An Act prohibiting the solitary confinement of inmates 21 years of age or younger: This bill bans solitary confinement for those 21 and under, except in limited circumstances. Research has established that brain development continues into the mid-20s, particularly in the frontal lobe. Solitary confinement is an extreme form of punishment for any person, but particularly for young people for whom it interferes with important brain developments and can cause irreparable harm. To make implementation of this measure feasible, in the case that an individual poses an immediate and substantial threat to the safety of others, corrections personnel may use isolation briefly, after which time isolation will end unless there is adequate, reported evidence that the individual continues to be an immediate and substantial risk to the safety of others.
 
  • H1559: An Act to promote public safety by improving the parole process: This bill would make the parole process more predictable and transparent. The bill establishes a rebuttable presumption that prisoners should be released under parole supervision once eligible, while maintaining the Parole Board’s ultimate discretion in granting parole. In making its assessment, the Parole Board would consider the applicant’s participation in available work programs, education, or treatment opportunities, as well as good behavior. In addition, H1559 calls for prisoners serving sentences of two or more years in state prison or a county correctional facility to be released on parole six months before they complete their sentences (again, subject to Parole Board rebuttal), with only those still serving the minimum term of their sentence exempted from this parole release process. The bill would increase prisoner engagement in rehabilitative programming, increase prison safety, significantly reduce corrections costs by increasing parole permits, ensure objectivity and consistency in parole decisions, and assist prisoners in their transition from an institutional environment back to living in their communities.
 
I am hopeful that we will be able to take action on criminal justice reform during this legislative session. You can find out more about my criminal justice legislation on my website or by perusing the advocacy work of organizations like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Jobs Not Jails, and Prisoners Legal Services.

Community Events

Shop Arlington


Ongoing until May 19th, Shop Arlington is a Planning Board initiative to gather data about customers' shopping habits. Shoppers are encouraged to pick up "passport cards" and get them stamped as they visit local businesses. You can learn more about Shop Arlington and find out where to pick up and drop off passport cards on the town website. Prizes will be given our to some participants!

Belmont Town Meeting


Belmont will hols the first two sessions of its annual Town Meeting at Belmont High School starting at 7:30 on Monday, May 4th and Wednesday, May 6th.

Belmont Town Day


Belmont's annual Town Day will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 16th in Belmont Center. The day is always fun and a great chance to turn out for some fun with the Belmont Community!

Annual Mystic River Run and Paddle


The 19th Annual Mystic River Herring Run and Paddle will be held on the morning of Sunday, May 17th at 32 Shore Drive, Somerville, MA. The run and paddle begin in the morning, and you can find out about how to register here!

Belmont Celebrates Gay Marriage


Each year members of the Belmont Community gather for a public celebration of the anniversary of the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts. This year's celebration will be held on Sunday, May 17th. Keep your eyes peeled for details, previous events have included ice cream socials and are always a good time.

32nd Annual MayFair in Harvard Square


The 32nd Annual MayFair will be held on Sunday, May 17th from noon to 6:00 p.m. and will feature the usual broad array of music and other events. You find out more here. Don't miss one of the most fun community days of the year!

Arlington Town Democratic Committee Meeting and Caucus


The Arlington Town Democratic Committee will hold a meeting and caucus on Tuesday, May 19th starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Senior Center (27 Maple Street). The caucus is open to all registered Democrats in Arlington and will result in the election of the delegation that will be sent to the 2015 State Democratic Convention.

May Office Hours


I will hold office hours at the following times and places during May. I encourage any and all to stop by and speak with me about any concerns or to offer any input you might have.

Tuesday, May 5th from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Beech Street Center in Belmont (266 Beech Street, Belmont, MA 02478).

Tuesday, May 19th from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Kickstand Cafe in Arlington (594 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476)

Saturday, May 23rd from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Verna's Donut Shop in North Cambridge (2344 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140)

Saturday, May 23rd from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Bruegger’s Bagels in Belmont (41 Leonard Street, Belmont, MA 02478).

You can also always contact me at any time in my office at 617 722 2400 or at dave.rogers@mahouse.gov.
 

Other Events


You can also look at the town and city calendars for Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge to find out about more town meetings and community events.

Social Media


I am glad to have already connected with many of you on Facebook. Due to the limitations on personal Facebook pages, however, I plan to start to do more of my political and community outreach from my political page. Please like my official State Representative page here. You can also follow me on twitter to find out more about my representation of the 24th Middlesex District.

Contact Me


I welcome your input and hope to hear from you on issues of mutual concern. Email: rep.dave.rogers@gmail.com. State House office phone: 617-722-2400. Personal cell phone: 617-817-9395. Website: repdaverogers.com.
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