Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Senator Ross: July 2017 State House Update

Senator Richard J. Ross, State House Update, July 2017
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State Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) proudly serving the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex District.

State House
Room 419
Boston, MA 02133

Ph: 617-722-1555
Fax: 617-722-1054
Email: richard.ross@masenate.gov

Dear Friends,

Where has the summer gone? The hot, sluggish days of August are upon us and soon it will be time to pack up the beach chairs and start the back to school shopping.

Here in the Senate, things are finally slowing down after a busy July.

During this past month, I joined with my colleagues to address graduate student loan debt, and protection for first responders. We debated telecommunication regulations and reached a compromise on the new marijuana law.

Unfortunately, we still have not completed work on the FY18 budget, and have yet to settle on a sales tax holiday.

Please take the time to read this update on what I have been working on this past month. Share this newsletter and invite your friends and neighbors to sign up for the mailing list.

As always, please feel free to reach out to my office directly at 617-722-1555.


Legislation for Special Education Funding

During this legislative season, I co-sponsored a bill pertaining to special education enrollment. This legislation would ensure students can receive special education services when they need it. Furthermore, the bill would relieve school districts from some of the financial weight of special education programs. Current Massachusetts law limits how special education enrollment is calculated for purposes of local education funding. Presently, there is an artificial cap set for special education funding.  This ignores the actual number of students receiving services, and instead relies on an assumed rate of enrollment. These caps under estimate the number of students who require special education as well as the cost of services to them.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has reported that the average enrollment of special education students in school districts across the Commonwealth usually hovers around 17% with small fluctuations each year. This is significantly higher than the current laws artificial cap. Furthermore, districts spend substantially more on special education than what is allocated to them from the budget.

S.305 would remove the artificial cap on special education enrollment and replace it with the prior five year district average of special education students. Using the prior five year average will provide a consistent number to estimate enrollment. This bill encourages the Commonwealth to recognize the particular needs of each school district in order to provide sufficient state education funding. 

Addressing Food Waste 
In 2015, The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection estimated that after recycling, food waste accounts for over 1 million tons per year. This is wasteful and unnecessary when so many Massachusetts residents experience the need for food assistance. I have explored solutions to the commonwealth's tendency to dispose of perfectly good food while also providing food assistance programs. In July, I co-sponsored a bill offering a solution to remedy this. Bill S.292 was heard by the Joint Committee on Education and aims to allow schools to donate excess food to local voluntary assistance programs. These programs include food banks, soup kitchens and others. Food waste in schools is needless and preventable. Helping reduce waste and assisting local families is a win-win with S.292. For this to be effective, schools must know this option is available to them and that it is done safely. The board will be able to notify educational institutions of their ability to donate and could provide technical assistance on how to best donate excess food in a safe and sanitary manner.
Riding in the Needham 4th of July Parade with Needham Town Clerk Tedi Eaton
Needham 4th of July Parade with Representative Denise Garlick, Board of Selectmen Matt Borrelli, Marianne Brons Cooley, John Bulian, Maurice Handel, and Norfolk County Treasurer James Timilty

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