Showing posts with label senate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label senate. Show all posts

Friday, June 11, 2021

MA Senate Votes to Extend Popular State of Emergency Measures; Sends to MA House

Today (06/10/21), the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill which would extend a slate of measures instituted in Massachusetts during the State of Emergency stemming from COVID-19. If signed into law, this bill would result in the included measures being temporarily extended beyond the State of Emergency’s expiration on June 15, 2021.


“The end of the State of Emergency in Massachusetts is both a testament to how far we’ve come and a reminder of the work that lies ahead as we seek a robust recovery equitable to all residents” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Massachusetts’ recovery will depend on our ability to respond to the lessons of the pandemic, in such areas as housing, healthcare, the restaurant industry and civic and community engagement. Today’s legislation keeps these conversations going and addresses the future of some of the most popular new ideas that have been embraced during the pandemic. Some of the included measures, like mail-in voting and greater access to public meetings, are not merely convenient but are crucial for the continued health of our democracy. I’m grateful for the work of Chair Rodrigues and the Committee on Ways and Means for moving this important bill forward swiftly.”


Many of the extended measures deal with elections and public meetings. Under the bill, mail-in voting would be extended in Massachusetts until December 15, 2021, giving voters flexibility and more opportunity to participate in upcoming fall elections. With municipal approval, early in-person voting could be extended through the same date.


Public bodies subject to the open meeting law would be able to continue holding meetings remotely until April 1, 2022. Similarly, remote town meetings would remain an option for Massachusetts municipalities through December 15, 2021, and quorum requirements for town meetings would be eased. Nonprofits and public corporations would be able to hold meetings remotely until December 15, 2021.


“Extending these emergency measures will allow municipalities, restaurants, businesses, and residents the flexibility they need to adapt as we continue on the path toward our new normal and we get back to a new better,” stated Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her steady leadership and thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for moving quickly to support citizens of the Commonwealth.”


Also included in the bill are measures relative to restaurant operations. The legislation would allow municipalities to approve and extend permits for outdoor dining through April 1, 2022. Restaurants would also be permitted to offer alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks, for off-site consumption with the purchase of food until March 1, 2022.


The bill also extends certain protections afforded to tenants during the pandemic. Among these is the requirement that a ‘notice to quit,’ including information on tenants’ rights as well as methods for seeking legal and financial assistance, be served to tenants prior to an eviction. Such notices will continue to be required until at least January 1, 2023. Furthermore, the legislation would also extend hardship protections to persons facing eviction by continuing the court practice of offering temporary continuances to tenants who have filed applications for rental assistance, thereby preventing unnecessary evictions in cases where tenants are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19-related financial hardship. This statutory requirement would have expired on June 15, 2021 and instead will be extended until April 1, 2022.


“We learned a lot during the COVID experience, and we may be able to use some of those lessons going forward. This legislation gives us the time to sort out which changes we should make permanent,” stated President Pro Tempore Senator William Brownsberger (D-Belmont).


“This bill represents responsible and proactive action by the Senate to ensure that important safeguards remain in place after June 15th,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The effects of this public health crisis are not over; we must continue to protect the public’s health and well-being. This bill maintains the rapid availability of our strong health care workforce and provides financial support to those most impacted by the pandemic, like those who struggle to secure adequate childcare as in-person work resumes. I thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and my senate colleagues for their speedy and thoughtful effort in addressing these matters.”


“The bill the Senate passed today recognizes that for many people in Massachusetts, the pandemic is far from over,” said Senator Joanne M. Comerford (D-Northampton). “By extending many of these emergency provisions, we can assure people that many of the important protections such as those having to do with public health, remote participation in civic life, outdoor dining, and protections against evictions will remain in place.”


In an amendment proposed by Senator Jehlen and adopted during debate, a lack of access to childcare will not prohibit someone from collecting unemployment benefits from continuing to access those benefits.  This practice, initiated during the pandemic and otherwise set to expire on June 15, 2021 will continue until federal unemployment protections expire in September. 


Finally, the Senate extended several measures to ensure that sufficient workforce and access to necessary healthcare services remain to address the needs of the Commonwealth during the continuing public health emergency. In a move which fulfills the Senate’s stated commitment to supporting telehealth’s inclusion as a healthcare option for Massachusetts residents, a requirement that certain in-network telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate as equivalent in-person services would be extended until at least December 15, 2021.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate passes spending plan unanimously"


"THE SENATE UNANIMOUSLY passed a $47.7 billion budget for next year after three days of debate over how best to invest state resources as Massachusetts looks to recover from the hardships of the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Karen Spilka said the budget that passed 40-0 would put Massachusetts on “stable fiscal footing” and begin to restitch the fabric of society that had frayed over the last year, while Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said the bill would help get the state “back to better.”

Continue reading the article online 

MA Budget page (not completely updated with the Senate action yesterday)
CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate passes spending plan unanimously"
CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate passes spending plan unanimously"


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

"today this action does not rely on federal money"


"THE HOUSE APPROVED a proposal Tuesday that aims to relieve employers this spring from major unexpected unemployment system costs, while punting the decision on whether to deploy one-time federal funds to address a benefits system that sagged under the weight of pandemic unemployment.

In a move that business groups described as a solid first step, representatives voted 157-0 to shuffle the distribution of unemployment claims costs so that they can be covered over two decades of borrowing and so businesses will not be in line for huge bills in the short term.

After weeks of review, the House on Tuesday also revived plans for an emergency paid leave program that would make participants eligible for up to one week of paid leave if they or a family member needs it to deal with COVID-19 issues, including self-isolation, seeking a diagnosis, or obtaining an immunization. The House sent the bill to the Senate after rejecting amendments to the measure sought by Gov. Charlie Baker."

Continue reading online ->
Direct link to House Legislation ->

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate budget reflects need for post-pandemic social services"


"THE SENATE WAYS and Means Committee on Tuesday released a $47.6 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2022, a $1.2 billion increase over the current year’s budget that reflects the anticipated need for additional social services as Massachusetts emerges from the pandemic.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftershocks have frayed the fabric of our Commonwealth, this budget takes on the important but sometimes invisible work of stitching that fabric back together,” Senate President Karen Spilka said at a virtual briefing with reporters. "

Continue reading the article online
"Massachusetts Senate leaders on Tuesday unveiled the contours of a $47.6 billion budget proposal that would boost spending by $1.2 billion over the current year and funnel hundreds of millions of more dollars to local schools, without any broad-based tax increases.

The chamber will debate changes to the bill on May 25, after which Senate and House leaders will have to reconcile differences between their proposals before sending a final product to Governor Charlie Baker for the fiscal year starting July 1."

Boston Globe coverage:  (subscription may be required)
The link to the legislative details can be found here
CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate budget reflects need for post-pandemic social services"
CommonWealth Magazine: "Senate budget reflects need for post-pandemic social services"


MA Senate Ways and Means Releases FY 2022 Budget Recommendations

Today (05/11/21), the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a $47.6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). The Committee’s budget is a forward-looking plan that maintains fiscal responsibility and recommends targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguard the health and wellness of our most vulnerable populations and ensure our residents can benefit equitably as we recover from the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more inclusive and resilient Commonwealth.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftershocks have frayed the fabric of our Commonwealth, this budget takes on the important, if sometimes invisible, work of stitching that fabric back together,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The investments made in this budget–in our children and families, students and communities, and in housing, public health, veterans, older adults and friends and neighbors with disabilities, and especially in mental and behavioral health–are like threads of gold, acting to strengthen and reinforce the fabric of our Commonwealth, making it stronger and more resilient for the years to come. I’d like to Senate Ways & Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for his tremendous work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, as well as all of the members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, especially Vice Chair Senator Cindy Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Senator Jason Lewis, and Ranking Minority Member Senator Patrick O’Connor. This is an extraordinarily hopeful budget, designed to get us ‘back to better.’”

“As we work to recover from this pandemic stronger and more resilient, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2022 budget is a forward-looking, fiscally responsible plan that doubles down on our commitment to building an equitable recovery; shifting our focus from surviving to thriving; and from not just getting back to a new normal, but getting back to better,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Charting a path forward for our post-pandemic future, I am extremely proud of this budget that makes targeted investments – in areas like education, mental health, public health and much more - while working to combat poverty and expand opportunity. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate, especially my colleagues on the Committee, whose continued advocacy and dedication helped to inform the overall direction of this budget plan, and Senate President Spilka for her continued leadership as we work to ensure our residents can benefit equitably and recover from the impacts of the pandemic while building a more inclusive and better Commonwealth for all.”

“Just months after finalizing the FY21 budget, the Senate Ways and Means FY22 budget once again represents the Senate’s strong and ongoing commitment to ensuring that the fundamental needs of our residents are met,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget also reflects the major lessons learned from the pandemic, including funding for public health initiatives, addressing the critical lack of children and adolescent mental health services, and getting our schools ready to support returning students.”

“This budget represents an essential step forward as our Commonwealth looks ahead to recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding a strong and equitable economy for Massachusetts families, businesses and communities,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m especially proud that this budget invests substantially in Massachusetts K-12 public schools and in early education and child care, which form a key pillar of economic opportunity for millions of working parents and families across the state.”

The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $47.6 billion in spending, a $1.2 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $30.12 billion for FY 2022, representing 3.5 per cent growth, as previously agreed upon during the consensus revenue process in January. With tax revenue collections exceeding expectations, the Committee’s FY 2022 budget employs a sensible approach to maintain long-term fiscal health by including $1.55 billion from the Stabilization Fund, ensuring that our Commonwealth maintains healthy reserves for years beyond the pandemic, and taking advantage of changes at the federal level to maximize revenue opportunities. It also excludes the use of federal American Rescue Plan funds as we await further federal guidance that will help to inform the development of a responsive and thoughtful plan to support the needs of our Commonwealth.

As a cornerstone of our Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the Committee’s budget maintains access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, and educators. This budget continues the Senate’s strong commitment to students and builds off the more than $2.6 billion in available federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds through the inclusion of a number of meaningful investments in education. As the Senate remains committed to fully implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, this budget fully funds the first year of the SOA consistent with the local aid funding agreement reached in March with the House Committee on Ways and Means by $5.503 billion, an increase of $220 million over FY21.

Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, this increased level of investment represents a 1/6th implementation of SOA rates and ensures that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide high quality educational opportunities for all students. The budget also includes $387.9 million for the Special Education (SPED) Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75 per cent reimbursement rate. In addition, recognizing that school districts across the state have experienced fluctuations in student enrollment related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee’s budget creates a $40 million reserve consistent with the March local aid agreement to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020.

Education investments include:

•    $5.503 billion for Chapter 70 education funding
•    $387.9 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker
•    $149.1 million to reimburse public school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
•    $78.6 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing a 90% reimbursement rate
•    $571.2 million for the University of Massachusetts, $321.7 million for the fifteen community colleges, and $298.1 million for the nine state universities
•    $40 million reserve to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020
•    $15 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
•    $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas
•    $9 million for a reserve to cover parent fees for families receiving subsidized childcare through the end of calendar year 2021
•    $6 million for Dual Enrollment and $5 million for Early College Programs, more than doubling our commitment to these programs that provide high school students with better opportunities for post-graduate success
•    $5 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million for a new pilot program to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
•    $3 million for rural school assistance
•    $2 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities

The Committee’s budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of COVID-19 and sustains support for the state’s safety net, while protecting and safeguarding the health and wellness of vulnerable residents. The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion to provide over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. Understanding that the pandemic has strained our health care safety net, the Committee’s budget also targets investments in mental and behavioral health while supporting children and families across the continuum of services that our Commonwealth provides.
Health investments include:

•    $507.5 million for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
•    $175.3 million for a complete range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families
•    $97.1 million for children’s mental health services
•    $50.3 million for domestic violence prevention services
•    $38 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, including funds to support health equity initiatives.
•    $23 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
•    $10 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives, including $5 million for loan forgiveness for mental health clinicians, $3 million of which is for child and adolescent psychiatrists, $1 million for public awareness campaigns, $3.5 million for student access to telebehavioral health services in schools, and $500,000 to enhance the mental health workforce pipeline
•    $10 million for new grants to create Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) in each of the six executive office of health and human services regions of the Commonwealth to provide intensive community-based wraparound services to children and adolescents with serious mental and behavioral health needs
•    $10 million for grants to support local boards of health, including funds to build upon the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program
•    $3.9 million for the Office of the Child Advocate, including $1 million for the establishment and operation of a state center on child wellness and trauma
•    $2.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused
•    $2 million for veterans’ mental and behavioral health supports through Mass General’s Home Base Program

In addition to these health care investments, the Committee’s budget recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected children and youth while exacerbating a growing behavioral health crisis. As such, the Committee’s budget engages the existing Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council, established in 2008, and charges the Council to evaluate the impacts of the pandemic on the behavioral health continuum of care for children in the Commonwealth and submit an interim report to the Legislature by November 15, 2021, and a final report by March 15, 2022.

As we work to emerge from this pandemic stronger, the Senate remains committed to an equitable recovery, combating poverty, expanding opportunity and building a more inclusive Commonwealth. To that end, the Committee’s budget takes a number of critical steps to strengthen supports for workers and lift up working families with economic opportunities.

Opportunity investments include:

•    $50 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce
•    $30 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program
•    $23 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
•    $18 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to ensure vulnerable households have continued access to food options during the pandemic
•    $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant program to provide economic supports to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
•    $10 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
•    $8.5 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities.
•    $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in every region
•    $5 million for Community Foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations
•    $4 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
•    $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million for new regional security operation centers which will partner with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses
•    $2 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
•    $1 million for employment programs for young adults with disabilities

In addition to investments that support an equitable recovery for all, the Senate recognizes that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on families experiencing barriers to economic opportunity. To confront this, the Committee’s budget addresses the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting existing tax deductions for children under 12, dependent adults and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the Committee’s child tax credit will help to lift 85,000 families out of poverty and support low-income working parents.

Additionally, the Committee’s budget builds on the success of last year’s efforts to tackle ‘deep poverty’ with a 20 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits over December 2020 levels, ensuring families receive the economic supports they need to live, work and provide stability for their children. The Committee’s budget also expands eligibility for these programs by eliminating the asset limits for both the TAFDC and EAEDC. This will allow families in need to receive economic assistance without having to spend down their savings accounts. With these steps, the Senate is supporting an equitable recovery that opens doors of opportunity, provides relief, and builds a more inclusive and resilient Commonwealth.

Over a year into the pandemic, the role that access to affordable housing will play in our economic recovery is clear. Stable and affordable housing is linked to economic security and should be a right and not a privilege for all who call the Commonwealth home. Recognizing this, the Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s strong commitment to affordable housing and housing stability by investing $572 million in housing and homelessness services. In addition to the more than $800 million in federal resources made available to support housing stability efforts, the state investment will help to keep families in their homes and support tenants and property owners during this challenging time.

Housing investments include:

•    $195.9 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, including funds to create an independent ombudsman’s office to act as a mediator and advocate for households applying to or residing in family shelters
•    $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2021, and recommended changes to the program to cap the share of a household’s income paid towards rent at 30 per cent
•    $85 million for assistance to local housing authorities
•    $16.3 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), in addition to $350 million in federal emergency rental assistance, and including emergency changes to the RAFT program to increase the maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 and allow eligible households facing a housing crisis to access both RAFT and HomeBASE
•    $56.4 million for assistance for homeless individuals
•    $14.2 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) providing rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.5 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2021, and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
•    $8 million for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs).
•    $8 million for assistance for unaccompanied homeless youth
•    $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQQ youth
The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns, and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can continue to provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.168 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), consistent with the March local aid agreement, to support local level investments and provide predictability for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $35 million. PILOT funding is a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic.

Local investments include:

•    $94 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation system as a public good necessary to helping commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities and supporting economic mobility
•    $36 million for libraries, including $13.5 million for regional library local aid, $13 million for municipal libraries
•    $20 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives

Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations until Friday, May 14, at 2 p.m. The full Senate will then debate the FY22 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 25. The FY22 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website:


Friday, April 30, 2021

Massachusetts Senate Advances Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Bond Bill

On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill authorizing $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new facility for the soldiers’ home in Holyoke. It also authorizes the issuance of $200 million in general obligation bonds to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for Massachusetts veterans across the state, with an emphasis on those areas not primarily served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke.

“The funding in this bill will ensure that we begin to rethink how we deliver care to veterans of every generation across Massachusetts,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Ensuring that our veterans are connected to their communities is an important factor in ensuring that their physical and mental health is taken care of, and so I am proud of the steps we have taken to ensure geographic equity and accessibility, especially for our women and LGBTQ veterans, as well as veterans of color. Our quick action in passing this legislation will help ensure we maximize federal funds in this important endeavor.”

“To meet the needs of the ever changing veteran population, the bill adopted today is a reflection of the strong advocacy of the members of this Senate to begin providing the long-term care services desperately needed for all veterans across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. "I want to thank Senate President Spilka for her leadership along with Senators Rush, Velis, Feeney and others for their contributions to improve the bill to address regional equity and increase accessibility to services for our veterans who are not served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke.”

In passing the $400 million bond authorization for a new soldiers’ home in Holyoke, Massachusetts is eligible to receive up to 65 per cent in federal reimbursement through the Veterans Affairs State Home Construction Grant Program. The existing soldiers’ home in Holyoke was built in 1952 with many triple and quadruple-bed rooms. The bill passed by the Senate will advance the construction of a modern facility with a “small house” concept to meet the needs of future generations of veterans. 

The Senate adopted an amendment on the floor to ensure that construction of the project utilizes a diverse workforce and provides for well-paying, middle class jobs. The amendment inserts Project Labor Agreement language that mandates a pre-bid, pre-hire labor agreement for the construction of the new facility in Holyoke, which will ensure that the workforce is local, diverse, inclusive, well-trained, safe and skilled.

Historically, such agreements on large taxpayer funded projects result in the completion of construction on-time and on or under budget. Additionally, this amendment mandates bold action to establish, recruit, and assist women, minority, and veteran owned businesses who may participate in the design and construction of the facility. The bill establishes the Access, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee to help set and monitor progress of diversity and inclusion goals and recommend solutions and programs to meet them, throughout the design and construction of the facility.

“The new Holyoke Soldier's Home should be a safe, comfortable and welcoming facility worthy of its residents and their service to this country,” stated Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “Our veterans deserve the very best in care and treatment. The passage of this bond authorization will ensure that their needs are met for generations to come. I am proud that the Senate added additional language during our debate that strengthens the bill to reflect our Commonwealth’s collective values. It is critical that significant taxpayer funded projects of this scope be completed on-time and on-budget with a diverse, local, safe, well-trained and highly skilled workforce. Additionally, we should be working diligently to assist women, minority, and veteran owned businesses in creating jobs and opportunities now and in the future. The bill we passed today accomplishes these goals by authorizing funding for a modern facility for our Commonwealth's veterans while expanding opportunities for many local working-class people in the construction trades."

“Massachusetts has always been a leader for veteran services, and this bill reflects the Senate’s deep commitment to those who have served our nation,” stated Senator John Velis (D-Westfield), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “While our veteran population and their medical needs are changing, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home’s mission remains the same: to provide care with honor and dignity. This bond bill will ensure that the next generation of residents at the Home receive the care with honor and dignity that they have earned in service to our country.”

As part of the Senate’s commitment to increase geographic equity and accessibility for all veterans, the bill requires the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), in consultation with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and the Department of Veterans

Affairs (DVA), to hold hearings across the state to better understand the regional long-term care needs of veterans throughout the Commonwealth. Based on these hearings, communities will be better positioned to advocate for the $200 million authorized in new capital spending for long-term care services for veterans across the continuum of care, including potentially new “small home” satellite veterans’ homes, or new or expanded capital supports for community or home-based care.

One of many amendments adopted on the floor also requires the Department of Veteran's Services to consider the needs of veterans in designing facilities to ensure new facilities meet the needs of a changing veteran population, while another requires plans for new long-term care facilities to prioritize equitable access, regardless of race, religion, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The bill must now be reconciled with the version recently passed by the House of Representatives.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Community Conversation on Police Reform - Mar 24, 2021 - 7:00 PM

Franklin Area Against Racism (FAAR) is hosting a Community Conversation on Police Reform.

When: Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 7:00 PM

  • Senator Becca Rausch
  • Representative Jeff Roy 
  • Franklin Police Dept. Chief Thomas J. Lynch
  • Franklin Police Dept. Deputy Chief James Mill
  • and other community leaders

More details, including the Zoom link, in the image below.

In preparation for the Community Conversation Wednesday on Police Reform, here is the collection of articles on the legislation as it passed both Senate and House in December, got returned by Gov Baker, was revised and sent back to Gov Baker who signed the legislation on Dec 31, 2020. (Note: The Boston Globe links may require a subscription. The other links will not.)

MA Legislature press release

Boston Globe

Boston Globe

Gov Baker rejects, sends back

CommonWealth on Senate compromise

Senate press release on passage

Globe/CommonWealth report on House passage

MA Legislation link

Gov Baker press release

Globe on 12/31/20 after Gov Baker signs

Globe on roadmap future

Globe on what’s in/out
Community Conversation on Police Reform - March 24, 2021
Community Conversation on Police Reform - March 24, 2021

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

MA Legislature News: no action on move to slow school reopening; Senate advances Climate change bill again


"Massachusetts lawmakers have not been shy about criticizing Governor Charlie Baker’s balky vaccine rollout, especially amid the recent, escalating conflict between Baker and teachers unions over school reopenings.

State lawmakers could turn those rebukes into legislative action by passing a new bill to delay Baker’s timetable for school reopenings by several weeks and mandate that all school staff have “equitable access” to vaccines before they’re required to return.

But so far, few seem eager to do so."

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

"THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATE passed climate change legislation on Monday by an overwhelming vote of 39-1, signaling the Legislature is unwilling to go along with several amendments sought by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The bill approved by the Senate includes a number of tweaks sought by the governor, but on several key provisions – a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and mandatory interim goals for industry subsectors – the legislation did not budge. Baker has insisted the 50 percent target, as opposed to the 45 percent he favored, would end up costing Massachusetts residents $6 billion unnecessarily."
Continue reading the article online

Friday, February 12, 2021

Statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka: Senate Special Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts - Post-Pandemic Resiliency

Senate President Karen E. Spilka


"Today, I am announcing the creation of the new Senate Special Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended assumptions about the way we live, work, and travel in Massachusetts. It has also laid bare long-standing inequities in various aspects of our economy and communities. As we look to the future as we recover from the pandemic, we have a rare opportunity—and a responsibility—to question the status quo and reimagine the path towards continued vibrancy for the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts has historically been a leader in innovation, and we are well poised to lead in the "new normal." But we must ensure that our efforts are integrated across multiple areas. This committee will serve as a hub to synthesize information and share best practices that have been developed in response to COVID-19, as well as a forum for new ideas as to how to move forward. The committee will also work to actively ensure that historical inequities are addressed.

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives; this committee acknowledges that and asks how we help direct the change we know lies ahead. While the newly-created COVID-19 committee will be focused on pandemic response and the challenges posed by COVID-19 today, the Reimagining Mass committee will be focused on tomorrow and the next day. We have not experienced anything like this pandemic in a hundred years, and this crisis deserves our attention and our best efforts at mitigating its effects.

The Reimagining Mass committee doesn't look like anything the Senate has done in the past, but that's intentional. We will need collaboration and creativity to reimagine our future. But it does draw on the best practices from the working groups the Senate developed last session—on revenue, transportation, COVID-19 and racial justice. These working groups were cross-functional and called on experts from across the Commonwealth, as well as the experience of the Senate members and their constituents. The efforts of the COVID-19 working group resulted in legislation such as vote-by-mail, telehealth, more flexibility for municipalities to work remotely, expansive outdoor and take out options for restaurants, and other innovations spurred by the pandemic. It is my hope that this committee will catalyze innovation in a similar way.

I look forward to the Senate Special Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency acting as a forum for oversight, coordination and ideas as we create a new vision for the Commonwealth's future."

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Statement from House Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Spilka - Nov 30, 2020

“Today, we are pleased to announce the filing of An Act Relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth, the result of the deliberations of the conference committee on police reform and racial justice.
The compromise reached, which is intentional in bringing better transparency and accountability to policing in Massachusetts, represents one of the most comprehensive approaches to police reform and racial justice in the United States since the tragic murder of George Floyd.
Our approach strikes a balance that will provide greater protections for the rights of all residents through a strong police officer certification process via a new, independent agency, and setting clear standards for training and use of force, while providing a wider range of tools for law enforcement to provide for the safety of the public.
While there is still much work to be done, we are proud of the foundation laid by this bill as we continue to build toward racial justice and equity.
We would like to sincerely thank Senators Brownsberger and Chang-Díaz and Representatives Cronin and González for their efforts in advancing this important legislation.”

For the legislation itself visit =>
An overview on the legislation =>

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

In the News: MA "may become recruiting field for Team Biden"

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:

"When President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced his COVID-19 advisory board on Monday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo quickly did the math, pointing out on Twitter that more than half of the members “were educated and/or employed in Massachusetts.”

And while Boston Mayor Martin Walsh noted Sunday that Biden “can’t take everyone from Massachusetts to Washington with him,” speculation has started to swirl about which Bay State pols might find a new home in a Biden administration.

Walsh and U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren -- who’d indicated a willingness to serve as Biden’s running mate after her own presidential bid came up short -- are frequently mentioned names among Democrats, and another one-time 2020 presidential contender, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, endorsed Biden in January after ending his own campaign.

With Biden trumpeting a message of unity, the Delaware Democrat could look to pull some members of his cabinet from across the aisle. Gov. Charlie Baker’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate, and former acting Gov. Jane Swift said she was “honored” to be among the ”#unexpected5″ blogger Patrick Riccards floated as potential education secretaries."

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

State Senate Candidates Debate Oct 6, 2020 (YouTube video)

The State Senate candidates for the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex District participated in a debate broadcast by the North Attleboro cable TV station and available via YouTube.

Senator Becca Rausch is running for re-election as the Democratic candidate and current Franklin Town Councilor Matt Kelly is running as the Republican candidate.

Candidate webpages:

Video link =



Thursday, September 3, 2020

You can help with the Franklin Voter's Guide update for November's Election

The Franklin Voter's Guide is being updated for the November election. This time the group developing the guide is looking to get questions for the candidates sourced from Franklin residents and voters.  

Please take a couple of minutes to respond. This is only a two question survey. 

What are the most important issues for you in the State Senate and State Representative races?  

If you could pass the survey on or circulate to your friends and neighbors, that would be great.  

Survey link = 

You can help with the Franklin Voter's Guide update for November's Election
You can help with the Franklin Voter's Guide update for November's Election

The Franklin Voter's Guide for the Primary was previously shared here

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

“We must pass a Green New Deal”

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Tuesday’s hard-fought Democratic primary, harnessing support from progressive leaders to overcome a challenge from a younger rival who is a member of America’s most famous political family.

Kennedy, who represents Milford, won the town with 58.18% of the votes in the Democrats’ primary.

It was the first time a Kennedy has lost a race for Congress in Massachusetts.

Markey appealed to voters in the deeply Democratic state by positioning himself as aligned with the liberal wing of the party. He teamed up with a leading progressive, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, on the Green New Deal climate change initiative — and at one point labeled Kennedy “a progressive in name only.”

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Related article from Commonwealth Magazine

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Voices of Franklin: Six Combine Voices for Markey

Voting in the Massachusetts Primary Election closes at 8:00 p.m. on September 1.  A few Franklin residents explain why they support Ed Markey as U.S. Senator in this primary.

These respondents are impressed by Sen. Markey’s record as a legislator.  Karen Landers notes  that he has long been known for his leadership and productivity.  He entered national politics in 1974.  In the succeeding 46 years he has been re-elected more than 20 times, first to the House (1974-2013) and subsequently to the Senate (2013 to present).  Clearly the Democrats in Massachusetts have recognized him as an effective congressman.  

These Franklin voters also admire Markey’s character.  They see in him a strong and visionary leader, and author of the Green New Deal, which may be the most important legislation before the Congress in our time.  Yet they also like his unpretentious, blue-collar origins and his personal modesty.  Karen Landers and Mara Downie found themselves standing beside Markey in the crowd at the Youth Climate Strike in Boston last year.  They noticed that he came to support the young strikers, not to grab the limelight.  

Markey’s causes resonate with these voters.  As Sue Cass puts it, Markey “has been indefatigable, participating on diverse committees and authoring or sponsoring hundreds of bills on diverse subjects, always focusing on improving American circumstances.”  More particularly, these voters applaud the senator’s support of racial justice, net neutrality, gun control, health care for all, women’s rights, the COVID-19 Relief Bill, and especially the Green New Deal with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  This bill addresses the twin crises of climate change and economic inequality.

There are also strategic reasons to support Markey.  Jayson Joyce admires him because, in drafting the COVID-19 Relief Bill with Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, Markey brought both wings of the Democratic party to the table.  Likewise, the senator commands inter-generational support from both ends of the age spectrum, from young Gen Z voters to aging Baby Boomers.  According to Joyce, Markey is a visionary leader who constantly challenges the status quo.  Or as Chorr-yi Chin puts it, Markey legislates with compassion for all, including future generations.  Colin Cass thinks it’s naive to trust what politicians say.  He judges them by what they actually do.  He believes that Markey “is committed to action on the most pressing issues of our time.”

Finally, there is the uniqueness of this moment.  As Joyce says, during this pandemic when many people have lost their jobs and their health insurance; when economic depression threatens and many are facing evictions, foreclosures, and heavy debts, the moment calls for strong leadership and moral authority.  Or as Chin puts it, “The demands of today require somebody who understands the hardships we face.”   

Ed Markey has spent his life as a prolific, principled, and successful legislator.  This man has earned his place as our senator, and the voters of Massachusetts should keep him in office.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Voices of Franklin: State Rep Jeff Roy, State Rep Brian Murray "We are with Joe Kennedy"

We are with Joe Kennedy in his campaign for the United States Senate because he cares, he shows up and he leads.
We first saw Joe in 2010, talking about the need for civility in government. That speech captured our moral imagination and we sure hoped that he would run for office.
In 2012, he was in our communities talking with us and our friends about what he would do in Congress.
While a member of Congress, he has been a champion on  such very important issues as health care, manufacturing, substance use disorder, energy, the environment and civil rights,
We have witnessed firsthand his dedication, thoughtfulness and energy. His ability to work across the aisle with those who may have different beliefs is impressive, as is his ability to clearly see complex issues and get to the heart of the matter. And he does it all with a strong sense of empathy, a trait possessed by truly great leaders.
His service to our District is unparalleled. His commitment to constituent services for the folks throughout our communities has been exceptional.  His belief that everyone counts and should be counted is his high watermark.
At this moment in the history of our nation, we need his commitment, compassion and leadership on the floor of the United States Senate now more than ever.
Joe has been with all of  us, he is one of us and he has the vision to lead us.
That is why we hope you will join us in voting for Joe Kennedy for the U.S. Senate on September 1st. It is a vote not only for a better Commonwealth, but for a better country as well.

Jeffrey N. Roy
State Representative – Franklin & Medway

Brian W. Murray
State Representative – Milford, Medway Hopedale, & Mendon

In the News: 4th District candidates for ranked choice; Pelosi endorses Kennedy

From the Milford Daily News, articles of interest for Franklin:

"A significant majority of the Democratic candidates in the Fourth Congressional District race support the initiative petition on the Nov. 2 ballot that seeks to implement a ranked choice voting system in the 2022 elections.

The field includes eight contenders who are seeking to fill the seat that U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III is giving up as he challenges U.S. Sen. Ed Markey this election cycle. Out of the eight candidates who responded to a News Service request for their positions on the major voting reform, seven voiced concrete support for the ballot question — an initiative that appears designed to come into play in races with large fields just like the one the candidates are competing in in the Fourth Congressional race.

Natalia Linos, Ihssane Leckey, Ben Sigel, Jake Auchincloss, Jesse Mermell, Becky Grossman, and Alan Khazei all voiced support for the initiative, saying ranked choice voting increases representation of people of color, boosts election participation and encourages candidates to appeal to a wider base of voters."

"U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed fellow Democratic House member Joe Kennedy III on Thursday in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in the Democratic primary.

Pelosi said when Democrats were working to take back control of the House from Republicans during the 2018 elections, Kennedy stumped for candidates across the country.

“From climate change to health care to racial justice, Joe has been a leader in our Caucus organizing us around our core values,” Pelosi said in a press release. “We need leaders who are willing to give every inch of themselves to the causes and concerns that unify Democrats. Joe Kennedy represents this Party’s future,”
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Voices of Franklin: Raymond D Milici - "Kennedy Supporter! Not Anymore"

In 2012, at a house party here in Franklin Massachusetts, I met a young man who wanted to get into politics and run as a US Representative in the 4th congressional district. I listened to him and I was quite impressed with what he was saying. He seemed to be compassionate, concerned and wanted to do good for the people in the state and country. His name happened to be Joe Kennedy. I've been a strong supporter of Representative Kennedy and was happy and proud to have helped in his campaign. 

That has changed for me since his decision to run for the Senate in the Democratic primary, challenging Senator Edward Markey. Even in politics, there should be a moral code of what's right and what's wrong. Running against Senator Markey is just plain wrong. The Senator is a well respected public servant who has been fighting for racial, economic and environmental justice. He is a proven effective leader. There is no good reason why Representative Kennedy should run against Senator Markey.

His decision to challenge Senator Markey has given me a totally different perspective of who Kennedy is. I thought I was supporting a different kind of politician. An idealistic young man who could rise in the Democratic Party with patience and persistence without hurting anyone. I guess I was just being naïve. It turns out he is one of those typical politicians, ready to step on and step over anyone that gets in the way. 

At a time when Democrats should be focused on winning the White House, the Kennedy campaign has managed to divide the Democrats, spending precious time and resources on an unnecessary primary election. But that doesn't seem to matter. After all, he's a Kennedy, a man of wealth and privilege, who thinks the senate seat belongs to the Kennedy family, not a guy from a working class family in Malden. I decided to vote for the working class guy. I hope my fellow Democrats will do the same.

Raymond D Milici,
75 Grey Wolf Dr,
Franklin MA 02038

Friday, August 14, 2020

Letter to the Editor: Bill O'Donnell

 August 12, 2020 

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Residents,

I have never written a letter to the editor on behalf of a candidate running for office. However, we live in unique times with a number of serious issues that need to be collaboratively worked on and addressed.

I urge you to vote for Congressman Joe Kennedy in the Democratic Primary for United States Senator. Joe Kennedy can meet the pressing issues of our society. He will make himself available to the communities that make up Massachusetts and the residents that live in our Commonwealth.

It is my hope that Joe Kennedy can make government work at the federal level for all of us. As an elected official whose job takes him to all 28 communities in Norfolk County I have been very impressed with Joe Kennedy since he undertook to represent a good portion of Norfolk County as an elected Congressman. Joe Kennedy's decency, compassion, thoughtfulness and record of accomplishment is a solid foundation with which to build upon in years to come.

Please consider voting for Joe Kennedy for United States Senator.

Bill O'Donnell

Norfolk County Register of Deeds

Thursday, August 13, 2020

MA Legislature - Senate and House candidates

The state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is called the Massachusetts General Court (one of my college professors always called it by the original and formal name “The Great and General Court”, so that’s how I always think of it).

The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the colonial assembly, in addition to making laws, sat as a judicial court of appeals. It was established in 1630, and meets in the State House in Boston.

The upper house is the Senate, which has 40 members. The lower body, the House of Representatives, has 160 members.


***if you need to look up your precinct, go to


Franklin precincts 1-4, and 7  

There are no Libertarian or Green Rainbow nomination for this office


Franklin precincts 5,6 & 8

There are no Republican, Libertarian or Green Rainbow nominations for this office


TENTH NORFOLK DISTRICT  (all Franklin precincts)

There are no Republican, Libertarian or Green Rainbow nominations for this office

For other information to prepare for the Primary (on Sep 1) and Election (on Nov 3) visit the 2020 Election Collection

MA Legislature  - Senate and House candidates
MA Legislature  - Senate and House candidates