State Representative Dave Rogers

Unsung Heroine


Phyl Solomon and Dave RogersI was honored this month to have the opportunity to nominate Phyl Solomon as the 2013 Unsung Heroine from the 24th Middlesex District. Phyl has spent many years as a quiet but energetic leader on environmental and intergenerational issues in Belmont. A teacher and a garden builder, Phyl leads classes at the Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary that bring young and old together. Her involvement in the construction of the Beech Street Senior Center helped to get the project off the ground. It was her insistence that the right way to build was the only way to build that resulted in the building earning a Leeds Certification. Phyl was instrumental in putting a courtyard in the Chenery Middle School, and served many terms on the Belmont Council on Aging. Finally, Phyl’s house has long been a hub for town discussion, where problems are solved while cookies are eaten.

Phyl came to the statehouse on Monday, April 29th to receive this honor along with 82 other "unsung heroines" from around the Commonwealth. At the ceremony, each heroine was recognized individually as her name and accomplishments were read and she was applauded. It was a wonderful afternoon where recognition was paid to so many women whose contributions to their communities cannot be overstated.

Budget

This past week, April 22nd through April 26th, was budget week in the House of Representatives.  The Massachusetts budget process begins each year with the Governor’s budget plan, called “H1”.  This plan reveals the Governor’s budget priorities. The version of H1 released this year made a particularly large splash, as it included $1.9 billion in increased revenue targeted for education and transportation.  After some time and much public discussion, the House Ways and Means Committee released its version of the budget.  While H1 opens the discussion about the budget, it is the House Ways and Means budget that comes to the floor.  

After the Ways and Means budget comes out, legislators have time to file and co-sponsor amendments to the budget. These amendments can be requests for additional funding, changes of language, or both.   This process having just happened in the House, a similar process will soon begin in the Senate. Ultimately, the two budgets will be combined by a conference committee where all differences will be reconciled.

Here are some highlights of the House budget (bear in mind they will only fully come to pass should the Senate agree with them):

I was able to join with other lawmakers in supporting an amendment to increase funding for Mass Cultural Councils. $2 million in additional funds were secured through the dedicated advocacy of many lawmakers, making the total allotment $1,554,815 more than in FY 2013.

Those familiar with some of the structural problems with MassHealth (Medicaid) know well that dental care is not adequately covered. During this budget process, other lawmakers and I banded together to get $13.5 million in additional funding to begin to restore MassHealth Adult Dental Care. While this is not nearly enough to make the full strides needed to bring dental care and health care together, it is a meaningful step in the right direction.

A great triumph of this year’s budget process was an increase of $95.7 million for higher education.  This includes an additional $3 million was found to further fund state scholarship and financial aid programs for higher education.  While one of the major disappointments of this budget was the failure of lawmakers to make substantial investments in early education (related to the failure to pass a larger revenue package), I was pleased to support investment in these other areas of education.

As it was recently put to me, it seems to have become the norm of the budget process that METCO is initially underfunded and then fought for by legislators. I joined with this group, helping to secure an additional $500,000 that would increase the funding per student given to each town.

Anyone who is familiar with the work of Massachusetts’ Councils on Aging knows the tremendous value it adds to our community. Through the budget process an additional $1,283,232 was granted to Councils on Aging over the original Ways and Means total. Councils on Aging are funded per elder in each community, and this increase would bring important additional funding to our community.

Belmont Town Day

The Belmont Center Business Association is once again pleased to be sponsoring Belmont Town Day!  Come down to Belmont Center and enjoy the spring, food, games, and a chance to learn about town organizations.
 
Where: Belmont Center
When: Saturday, May 18th, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Diet Climate Connection

Sustainable Belmont will be hosting this presentation by David Freudberg David  recently wrote and produced a four-part series under this title for public radio, and will be presenting a condensed version of his research. Click here for the full length program, and here for a recent Huffington Post piece on his work
 
Where: Assembly Room, Belmont Library, 336 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA
When: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 7:00-9:00pm 

Friends of Spy Pond work day

Come be part of the solution!  Join friends and neighbors to clean up the pathway on the south side of Spy Pond.  Light refreshments provided!  Bring your work gloves, gardening tools, and sunscreen!  Get down and dirty!
 
Where: The Pathway on the south side of Spy Pond
When: Saturday, May 11th, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Office Hours

Tuesday, May 7th 
9:30-10:30 am at the Beech Street Center (266 Beech Street, Belmont)
Saturday May 11th 
11:30am-12:30pm at Sweet Peach Diner (628 Trapelo Road, Belmont)
Saturday May 11th 
1:30-2:30 pm at Singa Bella Café (2401 Mass Ave, Cambridge)
Tuesday May 14th 
9:30 am at Jam ’n Java (594 Mass Ave, Arlington)

Transportation Vote

The biggest legislative initiative at the state level that has dominated discussion thus far was Governor Patrick’s proposal pertaining to transportation and education and the revenue increase to fund these plans.  Here is a link to an article on the House plan and my vote: BelmontArlingtonCambridge.  Since I wrote this piece, the Senate has passed a more substantial transportation package. While the Senate plan does not provide funding for important policy objectives other than transportation, it does come closer to addressing the major challenges facing Massachusetts transportation and infrastructure. A conference committee (three members from each side of the Legislature) is currently working on a compromise between the two plans.  

Committees

Joint Committee on Health Care Financing: I had my first Health Care Financing Hearing on Tuesday, April 30th.  The committee heard testimony on several bills, including some particularly compelling testimony on mental health parity. The cost of health care is clearly one of the central challenges facing society today, and with an expanding elder population these issues will require hard work and innovative solutions.  I look forward to engaging deeply in the work of this committee and participating in developing these strategies.

Joint Committee on Housing: The Housing Committee has already heard testimony and voted positively on a bond bill that will provide funding for local housing authorities.  Still coming in this session is legislation on housing authority reform.  Two plans have been offered, one by the Governor and one by housing authorities and other housing organizations. The debate on this issue is sure to be lively and complex. This committee will provide an opportunity to continue learning about housing in Massachusetts and to contribute to the difficult and important process.

Marathon Bombings

All of us were shocked and outraged by the terrible events at the Marathon.  Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.  For those of you so inclined, donations to the One Fund may be made here

Donate to the One Fund

Arlington Bike Ride

Join The Arlington Bike Advisory Committee's annual family-friendly bike ride through town!  Dust off your bike, make sure there is air in the tires and join this easy ride highlighting what is going on in town; light refreshments at end of ride.  BIKE HELMETS REQUIRED; watch here for starting location updates.
 
Where: TBD
When: Sunday, May 19th, 9:30 a.m.

Arlington Community Collection Day!

At this semiannual drop-off event residents can drop off a variety of home items to be recycled including CRTs ($10 per unit), bikes, books, confidential papers, old prescriptions and sharps, small electric items such as hair dryers and toasters (no large appliances), clothing, old sneakers, and more. Updated information will be posted at arlingtonma.gov/recycle.

Where: DPW Yard, 51 Grove Street, Arlington
When: Saturday, May 11th, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., RAIN OR SHINE!
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