Happy August everyone! I hope you all have been having a great summer so far. As of July 31st, we finished the 2015/2016 legislative session and this month's edition is a good opportunity to take a look back at all we have accomplished in the last two years.
I also want to share with you my experience in attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Democratic Convention in Philadelphia
It was tremendously exciting to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as my party made history by nominating Hillary Clinton. The atmosphere was electric and featured outstanding speeches by Michelle Obama, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders and of course our next President, Hillary Clinton. It was also a great opportunity for me to continue to develop important relationships with other Massachusetts political leaders. It made me proud to be a Democrat, but more importantly proud to be an American.
Hillary Clinton accepting the nomination for President of the United States
Members of Congress Jim McGovern and Niki Tsongas
U.S. Senator Ed Markey, Speaker of the Massachusetts House Bob DeLeo, and my sister Kathleen
Senator Bernie Sanders speaking to the convention
Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood and daughter of the famous former Governor of Texas, Ann Richards
Hillary Clinton after her speech
2015/2016 Legislative Session Accomplishments
The FY2016 and FY2017 Budget
Some of the most far-reaching work of your state legislature is the budget. Each year's budget is not just a spending blueprint it is a values statement. The 2015/2016 legislative session featured two budgets. The FY2016 budget established new oversight of the MBTA as well as making targeted investments in housing and programming to combat the opioid crisis. The size of the FY2017 budget was revised down at the last minute in light of declining revenue projections, but the budget still manages to increase local aid and funding for Councils on Aging, as well as boosting funding for the Department of Children and Families, among others.
Both budgets feature no new taxes, dedicate additional monies to Massachusetts Stabilization Fund (commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund), makes progress towards meeting our unfunded pension obligations, and maintains the Commonwealth's AA+ bond rating. While I favor a budgetary approach that increases revenue to make greater investments in a number of areas - transportation infrastructure and early education in particular - these are fiscally responsible budgets that position Massachusetts well for the coming years.
I have also written extensively about each House budget in previous newsletters and I encourage you to review my my work on both the FY2016 budget and the FY2017 budget.
The 2015/2016 Legislative Session has been my second in the House. Although the legislative process can seem slow and arduous at times, it is designed to be deliberative and a look back over the accomplishments of the past two years reveals another set of progressive steps forward for the Commonwealth. I have regularly reported on many of these bills in this newsletter. Below is a quick run-through of just some of the accomplishments we made this session.
An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention
This law represents another step taken by the Legislature to combat the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. It limits opiate prescriptions first time users, requires verbal screenings of public school students, and mandates hospitals to conduct substance-abuse evaluations on emergency room visitors believed to be suffering from opioid overdose, among other measures. Together with substantial additional investments in the budgets, the Legislature continues to do its part to confront this public health crisis.
An Act Relative to Motor Vehicle License Suspension
Historically people convicted of non-violent drug offense had their drivers license automatically suspended for up to five years with a $500 reinstatement fee. This legislation ends that rule, enabling people who have served their time to successfully re-enter society. Without a car, work is difficult to find, court dates are difficult to make, and rehabilitation meetings are less accessible.
An Act Providing for the Establishment of the Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan in Response to Climate Change
This law calls for a comprehensive adaptation management action plan advisory committee to be established. This committee would be responsible for putting out a report and a proposal documenting how prepared and vulnerable the states emergency response, energy, transportation, communication and other infrastructure are ready for climate change and predicted sea level rise. It also helps grow the solar industry by allowing for shared solar and virtual metering.
An Act To Improve Public Records
A long-overdue update, this law reduces the time the government has to produce records and encourages cities and towns to make their records more accessible to the public. Making public records what they should be - public - is of critical importance to the health of our democracy and I am glad progress was made on this issue.
An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination
This bill marks a major step forward for civil rights in the Commonwealth by prohibiting discrimination in all public accommodations, including hotels, restaurants, public transportation, and sex-segregated locker rooms, bathrooms, grocery stores, and the like. Despite the many and varied issues the Legislature takes up, nothing I do as a state legislator is more important than protecting human rights, civil rights and guaranteeing equal protection under the law.
An Act Regulating Transportation Network Companies
Just passed at the end of session, this bill is meant to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft. This legislation mandates background checks for drivers and imposes a 20 cent per ride fee, proceeds from which would be split between the cities, towns and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. It would also allow these ride sharing companies to be able to pick up passengers from the Boston Convention Center and would allow drivers to apply for the permits necessary to pick up from Logan Airport.
An Act to Promote Energy Diversity
A comprehensive energy bill, this legislation will require utility companies to buy up to 2,800 megawatts of hydro and wind power. This represents almost one third of the power used in the Commonwealth and will greatly help reduce our carbon footprint as well as helping to strengthen the renewable energy industry in our state. The bill also requires utilities to devise a plan to fix gas leaks.
An Act Relative to Job Creation and Workforce Development
This legislation makes important investments in economic development, including funds for the MassWorks infrastructure, to help clean up brownfields in Massachusetts and to support career and technical education. Also included is a tax deduction to help families to save for college.
An Act Modernizing Municipal Finance and Government
This bill contains updates of obsolete laws. The main goal is to give cities and towns more municipal authority and flexibility over local issues. With this legislation, it will be easier for cities and towns to manage their affairs.
Additional Legislative Actions
Much of the work of your state legislature is accomplished by way of proposals far smaller than those laid out above. While large legislative actions and the state budget understandably grab headlines, good legislation is often more targeted. Some additional legislation of interest that was passed this session includes a law increasing the earned income tax credit for low and middle income families, a law making health care pricing more equitable, requiring the disclosure of in-kind contributions within a week rather than within a year, and legislation replacing "mentally retarded person" with "person with developmental disability" throughout the legal code. These are just a few of the important but more targeted pieces of legislation passed this session that will make our Commonwealth stronger.
Finally, two bills for which I was the lead sponsor appear poised to become law. The first is a measure that creates a fine for parking in bike lanes, which should improve public safety. The other establishes the proper punishment for the solicitation of felony crimes, a fix for a loophole in the law ensuring that soliciting others to commit the most serious crimes will be handled appropriately by our justice system.
The Belmont Citizens Forum
The Belmont Citizens Forum is an always informative publication. Check our the July/August edition here.
Belmont Light Energy Efficiency Grant Program
Belmont Light operates an energy efficiency grant program that many Belmont residents have taken advantage of to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. You canfind out more on the town website.
Register to Vote
Massachusetts residents can register to vote online. If you are not registered to vote or have family and friend that are yet to do so, be sure to encourage them to to register!
As many as 1 in 10 citizens of the Commonwealth, including many of my constituents, are owners of unclaimed property. Unclaimed property includes savings accounts, checking accounts, unpaid wages or commissions, stocks, underlying shares, uncashed dividends, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, money orders, paid-up life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes, and uncashed benefit checks, and gift certificates, all of which sat unused and were ultimately taken by the state. If you want to research whether or not you own unclaimed property, you can find out here.
I have been using this newsletter as and opportunity to highlight one or more of the bills I have filed each month. I have now run through each of the 26 bills I filed for the 2015/2016 legislative session. As always, you can review all of the bills that I have filed on my website.
Arlington Democratic Town Committee Meeting
The meeting will be held at the Arlington Senior Center on August 2nd at 7:15pm.
Danehy Park Concert Series
Every Tuesday in August there will be free family outdoor music concerts from 6:00pm-8:00pm at Danehy Park.
August 2 - The Loomers
August 9 - Huneysuckle
August 23 - The Edna Project
Belmont Democratic Town Committee Meeting with Watertown Democratic Town Committee
The meeting will be on August 4th in the Selectman's meeting room at Belmont Town Hall. Come hear three Democratic candidates for the Governor's Council 3rd District. Social time will begin at 6:30pm with the meeting starting at 7:00pm.
Mystic Valley Area NAACP's Annual Freedom Fund Breakfast
The Mystic Valley NAACP is hosting its annual Freedom Fund Breakfast on Saturday August 6th from 9:00am-11:00am at the Menotomy Grill and Tavern at 25 Mass Ave in Arlington. This years theme is "Legacy of Leadership in Social Justice."
Archery on the Lawn of the Robbins Library
The Arlington library will be holding Archery on the Lawn for the second time on August 8th from 4:00pm-5:00pm for kids 9-14. Register at https://archeryonthelawnaugust.eventbrite.com
Sustainable Arlington August Meeting
On Tuesday August 16th Sustainable Arlington will be meeting at Town Hall Annex at 7:30pm.
Discover Bees! At the Harvard Museum of Natural History
Open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge is featuring an exhibit for all ages on bees. See a working beehive and learn about different kinds of bees.
14th Annual Meet Belmont
On Tuesday August 30th from 6:00-8:30pm at the Chenery Middle School, the annual Meet Belmont Community Informational Fair will be taking place.
There are a number of other places to find out about events in your community:
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.
August Office Hours
I will hold office hours at the following times and places during August. I encourage any and all to stop by and speak with me or my staff about any concerns or to offer any input you might have.
The Arlington Farmers Market opens June 8th and is held every Wednesday 2:00pm to 6:30pm in Arlington Center in the Russell Common parking lot, behind Park Terrace. The Belmont Farmers Market opens June 9th and is held every Thursday 2:00pm to 6:30pm in the Town Center parking lot. Cambridge has a farmers market every day of the week: check out the times and locations here.
Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge are vibrant communities that sport multiple local news platforms that are worth perusing to learn more about what is going on in your community.
I welcome your input and hope to hear from you on issues of mutual concern. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. State House office phone: 617-722-2013. Personal cell phone: 617-817-9395. Website: repdaverogers.com.