It's been an exciting time in the Massachusetts legislature - I had my budget meeting to request funding for some of our district's top priorities, I've mentioned the Tax Swap proposal (see below) to the Governor and House leadership several times, and I've gotten some great responses from people excited about my change to nonpartisan registration.
Before getting into everything that's been happening legislatively, I also need to mention one awful thing that has happened in the last month, which is that our nearby State Rep from Northampton Peter Kocot died. If you didn't have experience with him personally, he was friendly and conscientious, a reasoned and skilled policymaker and a wonderful person.
A few weeks ago I changed to nonpartisan registration, aligning the letter with the spirit of how I've always acted in politics, and successfully bringing more attention to the energy, election reform, and other priorities you elected me to advance. I've gotten some great reactions, from constituents who after talking it through with me decided to change to nonpartisan registration themselves, to young people who see most of their generation choosing not to identify with either party and agreeing that this will help engage that generation that is the least politically engaged in U.S. history, to folks in our district who are lifelong and continued Democrats but recognize the need for a "new politics" that moves beyond the current two-party system.
I've done a couple of group meetings to hear from constituents about this, and gotten solid questions, support, and criticism. I'm happy to talk with anyone interested in hearing about how this will affect work in the legislature or any logistics, and if you're interested in hosting a group gathering, let me know! I didn't anticipate the full range of reactions, so I'm both interested to hear any thoughts you have, and excited for the increase in civic engagement this has sparked.
I wrote my monthly Bulletin guest column about this, which I encourage you to read here. If you'd like to check out an editorial from MassLive and a piece from Valley Advocate about the move, you can do so hereand here.
|FY19 Budget Debates|
Springtime means longer days, warmer weather, and budget season on Beacon Hill! Folks have already begun contacting my office to let me know what they'd like to see me support during the budget process, so I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what my very top priorities this year will be.
My number one priority is funding for UMass Amherst. UMass is obviously important to our district, and it is also the largest contributor to the Commonwealth's workforce. Investing in higher education means world-class faculty and staff to train our next generation of thinkers, workers, and leaders - who should be able to graduate without being tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I was glad to hear President Marty Meehan speak at the 'State of the University' address (pictured below) about his vision to make UMass more affordable for students.
|I've also had many, many folks reach out about the potential funding cuts to the PVTA, which could mean cuts to routes that Pioneer Valley residents and students depend on, especially those who couldn't afford to get around otherwise. Securing funding for our regional transit authority is critical in my eyes and my work with other regional legislators to increase PVTA funding is ongoing.|
Craig's Doors, the only homeless shelter in Hampshire County that takes people in who have been drinking or using other drugs, is another one of my budget priorities. Despite the Governor freezing and unfreezing this earmark for two years in a row, the staff at the shelter continued their incredible work serving the most vulnerable members of our community.
Since I took office, I have worked hard to get carbon pollution pricing legislation on the agenda. I have proposed a form of carbon pollution pricing be passed in the budget, to promote clean energy and as a way to protect ourselves against the potential revenue loss that would stem from the sales tax reduction question that will likely be on the ballot in 2018. I'm advocating for a "Tax Swap" wherein we reduce the sales tax (a tax on something good, retail sales) and implement a carbon pollution price (pricing something bad, dirty fossil fuels). You can learn more about this nonpartisan policy by clicking here! I'm glad to say that although it's quite an uphill struggle to get something this big on the agenda, I've gotten support from members of both parties in the House and have heard openness to the idea from House leadership. Since making the change to nonpartisan registration, I've successfully attracted more attention to this proposal, and gotten increased support from a key business group.
|Safe Communities Act|
I continue to support the Safe Communities Act, which recently received the unanimous endorsement of the Police Chiefs Association (shown here at a press conference that I was proud to join them at)! You can check out coverage of the event at this link.
|PATCH Act Passage|
This month, I was excited to vote in favor of an Act to Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare (the PATCH Act), a bill that establishes mechanisms to ensure that, when people are on the same healthcare plan, confidential medical information is shared with only the patient. For young adults and minors on their parents' plans who seek sexual healthcare, spouses who are on an abusive partner's plan, and others, this will help folks to feel more comfortable going to the doctor and getting the healthcare that they need. A special shoutout to NARAL Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood, and Healthcare for All for their advocacy on this important bill!
|Civics, Civics, Civics|
Last month, I gave you all an update on the civic education bill that I've been working on, along with a wonderful group of my colleagues. That bill is still making it through the legislative process, and I'm so glad for the Speaker's support - he has named it as a priority to pass this session! Click here to read a great op-ed that highlights the importance of uniform, high-quality civic education for all students in Massachusetts.
I'm also excited to remind you of our local civics-themed event! The League of Women Voters and I have planned a fun-filled event building off last yearâ€™s successful first CivicsFest. This yearâ€™s will be April 6that ARHS, and you should register teams now. Go toLWVAmherst.org to sign up!
|This yearâ€™s competition will include trivia, the debates which were so popular last year, and a new â€œcreative policyâ€ section which the top trivia teams will advance to. Those teams will be tasked with coming up with proposed solutions to real-life issues or questions on our 2018 event theme: Public Education. There will also be some food, and short performances interspersed with the competitions, so bring friends to watch!|