Happy New Year! I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season and are beginning 2013 with health and happiness.
The new year brings a new legislative session here at the Massachusetts State House. Supporting our communities, strengthening our workforce, improving the economy, and protecting our most vulnerable residents continue to be my top priorities. I remain steadfast in my commitment to these important issues and my advocacy for my constituents and the entire MetroWest region.
This newsletter highlights a few of the bills that I have filed this legislative session and some of the recent happenings here at the State House. For a complete list of the legislation I filed for the 2013-2014 session, you can visit www.karenspilka.com.
Continuing Partnerships and Forging New Ones in the 2nd Middlesex & Norfolk
On January 3rd, I was sworn in for my fifth term as the Senator for the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district, representing the Towns of Ashland, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, and Natick.
This session, I look forward to continued collaboration with my colleagues in the House to represent these towns and their residents. I will be working with Representatives Tom Sannicandro, Chris Walsh, Carolyn Dykema, David Linsky, John Fernandes, Tom Conroy, and the newly elected Jeffrey Roy. Senator Richard Ross and I will continue to represent the Towns of Franklin and Natick together in the Senate, and I look forward to our ongoing partnership in serving these communities.
It is an honor to represent the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district and serve on behalf of my constituents. Your needs and priorities are always foremost in my mind. This session, I will continue my bipartisan collaboration with my colleagues at the State House, our partners at the local level, and residents in the area to support and strengthen our vibrant and diverse region.
Spilka Files Comprehensive Job Creation Bill
Senator Spilka and members of the Jobs Creation Commission listen to public testimony at the regional hearing in Framingham
Over the past two years, I have served as chair of the Jobs Creation Commission, which was charged with making an investigation and study of the economy in order to create and maintain quality jobs in the Commonwealth. To address this mission, we convened monthly meetings, conducted a regional hearing tour, and formed three subcommittees. In October, we released our final report, which outlined our suggestions on how to mitigate barriers to job creation, leverage the strengths of the Massachusetts economy, and better align the needs of employers with the available workforce.
Earlier this month, I filed An Act to Create and Maintain Jobs in the Commonwealth to address many of the issues brought to light by businesses and workers during the public hearings and meetings of the Jobs Creation Commission. The bill also incorporates a number of the recommendations from our final report. Highlights of it include:
Requiring state agencies to work together to ensure the state's education system is preparing students with the knowledge and skills necessary for employment;
Encouraging state government when making purchases to first look to those goods and services produced in Massachusetts;
Establishing a new supported internship program, the Massachusetts Work Ready Program, to give unemployed workers the on-the-job training and skills required for current job openings;
Helping veterans identify the skills they have acquired from military service and translate them to use in civilian employment;
Creating a basic technology skills training program within each of the state's One-Stop Career Centers to help all workers seeking employment improve or update the technology skills they need to participate in the workforce; and
Requiring the Office of Labor and Workforce Development to work with local One-Stop Career Centers to create and maintain a database of all available positions in a region to ensure training offered at the centers are aligned with the skills needed for current job openings.
First Meeting of the MetroWest Legislative Caucus
As co-chairs of the MetroWest Legislative Caucus, Representative John Fernandes and I convened the first caucus meeting of the new year and new session.
Our meeting proved to be a great opportunity for the MetroWest delegation to discuss legislation and initiatives important to the area, including transportation infrastructure, economic development, local and school aid, and legislation for specific communities in our region.
I look forward to continuing to serve as co-chair of the Caucus and working with members of the delegation on the needs and priorities of our region.
Bringing Equity and Fairness to the Massachusetts Transportation System
Senator Spilka speaks at a recent transportation funding announcement in Framingham (Background L to R: Rep. Chris Walsh, 495/MetroWest Partnership Executive Director Paul Matthews, MetroWest Chamber of Commerce President Bonnie Biocchi, and Rep. Tom Sannicandro)
Investment in the state's transportation and infrastructure systems is crucial to ensure a high quality of life for residents and to promote economic vitality in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. As in years past, I have filed legislation to bring equity and fairness to the transportation system while supporting the specific needs and priorities of the MetroWest region. Below are some highlights of the legislation I've filed:
Eliminating the tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike, which have placed an unfair financial burden on the commuters and residents of MetroWest;
Encouraging recognition that transportation infrastructure investments are an important economic development activity and calling for a study of the economic impact transportation and infrastructure projects have throughout the Commonwealth to encourage investment in key projects that will promote economic growth and job creation; and
Requiring the MBTA and the state's Regional Transit Authorities to have a transit rider on their advisory boards, giving commuters a seat at the table and increasing public input into transit decisions.
Click here to read a recent article in the MetroWest Daily News about my proposals regarding the tolls.
Visit www.karenspilka.com for more information about these and additional transportation-related bills I have filed this session.
Supporting and Protecting Consumers and Residents in the Commonwealth
Senator Spilka discusses The Electronic Privacy Act with her colleagues
(L to R: Senator Harriette Chandler, Rep. Jason Lewis, Rep. Jonathan Hecht, Rep. Marty Walz, and Sen. Spilka)
To ensure a strong, stable future for the Commonwealth, we must work to protect consumers and our most vulnerable residents. This has always been and continues to be one of my top priorities. This session, I have filed a number of bills to protect residents, including:
The Electronic Privacy Act - This bill requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access personal electronic information from telephone and internet service providers, including details of a person's telephone use, contacts, location, emails, and other communication. This bill will help bring current Massachusetts law and practices governing search warrants into the digital age.
An Act to Protect the Commonwealth's Residents from Identity Theft - This bill provides additional protections to social security numbers, gives law enforcement new tools to combat identity theft, encourages officials to collaborate and receive training in identity theft crimes, and criminalizes specific tactics identity thieves use.
An Act Relative to Domestic Violence by Repeat Offenders - I have filed this bill with Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone to create a new aggravated assault and battery charge for repeat offenders where the victim is a household or family member and the defendant has been previously convicted of certain violent crimes. This bill also amends existing laws to allow no contact orders to be issued as conditions of bail. This legislation improves the state's ability to properly serve victims of domestic violence and to ensure that victims of repeat, violent domestic batterers are protected.
An Act to Establish a Foreclosure Mediation Program - Last year, the legislature passed the foreclosure prevention bill I filed with Attorney General Martha Coakley. The law now provides provides new protections to struggling homeowners, prevents unnecessary foreclosures, and helps to stabilize the housing market and overall economy. This new bill encourages mediation between borrowers and lenders prior to foreclosure proceedings to work out renegotiated loan terms through a neutral third party, allowing homeowners and banks to meet face to face to try and facilitate the best solution possible.
I am proud of all that we have been able to accomplish these past few years to support and protect our residents but I know that our work is far from done. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the needs and priorities of our constituents, including our most vulnerable, and to build upon our recent achievements.