I welcomes another busy legislative year, reflects on 2015
The New Year is always full of promise, providing a fresh start and great expectations. However, it is also a time to reflect upon all that has been accomplished in the previous year and what still remains to be done.
Last year, the Legislature embarked on a new legislative session and my colleagues and I in the Senate began a new era of leadership under Senate President Stan Rosenberg. I now have the great privilege of serving in the Senate President’s leadership team as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate President has adopted a new philosophy of shared leadership which has created a more open and collaborative environment in the Massachusetts Senate.
Last year was a productive one for the Senate, setting the stage to tackle many of our Commonwealth’s most pressing issues in the remaining year of this legislative session. One of the guiding principles of the Senate this session has been that of shared prosperity, with the goal of addressing income inequality and helping to lift all families throughout the Commonwealth.
One of our greatest achievements as a legislative body was the passage of the first increase of the Early Income Tax Credit in nearly 18 years. This was a Senate-led initiative, first passed in the Senate budget and included in the final Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) budget passed by the Legislature. The state’s EITC has now increased by 50 percent, helping more than 400,000 hard working families as a result.
Another important highlight was the inclusion of $12 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget to address the waitlist for early education services. This was of particular importance to me as early education has always been one of my top priorities. As Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means, I was proud to include this funding in the budget and to vote with my colleagues in the Senate to override the Governor’s veto of this funding.
My colleagues and I in the Senate also took steps to protect taxpayers by investing in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. As a result of our efforts, the final budget included an investment of $120 million, making significant progress towards building the state’s reserve.
We also reaffirmed our commitment to combatting the opioid crisis by instituting a bulk purchasing program in the FY16 Budget that allows municipalities to obtain the overdose reversing drug Narcan at a significantly reduced cost. In addition, my Senate colleagues and I passed an opioid bill that focuses on prevention, education and reduction of prescription opioids, which included a provision from one of my bills that protects first responders who administer Narcan from civil liability.
I am also excited to report that several pieces of legislation that I sponsored have passed the Senate in 2015. Two of these bills will provide workers with greater wage and labor protections: one of these bills ensures that workers who suffer permanent bodily harm in the workplace are compensated for their loss under the state’s worker’s compensation law. The other bill clarifies the authority of the Attorney General’s Office to enforce wage and hour violations directly in Massachusetts courts, thereby providing the AG’s Office the same options as private litigants and strengthening the actions the Office can take against unlawful wage practices.
The Senate also passed my Healthy Youth Bill, which will ensure that each public school district that offers sexual health education provide medically accurate, age-appropriate information. This legislation will not only guarantee that kids receive comprehensive information to help them make healthy decisions, but also ensures that parents remain informed about their child’s education along the way.
These critical pieces of legislation now move to the House of Representatives for consideration and I look forward to continue advocating on behalf of them during this legislative session.
Overall, my colleagues and I in the Senate accomplished a lot in 2015, but it is now time to look ahead at the work that remains to be done.
The Senate is committed to getting a comprehensive opiate addiction prevention bill on the Governor’s desk for his signature as soon as possible, and we look forward to working with our House colleagues and the Governor to pass a bill that tackles this crisis head on.
Early education will continue be one of my top priorities in the remainder of the legislative session. I have filed a number of early education bills this session that I will continue to advocate for and, as Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means, I will work hard to secure additional funding for early education programs and all education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
Other top priorities on my list for 2016 include increased funding for mental health services, fulfilling our commitment to our veterans by ensuring they have access to the resources they need, and creating new opportunities for sustainable economic growth and job creation.
Of course, these are only just a few highlights of what we have accomplished and what remains on our to-do list. We have an ambitious agenda for 2016, but my colleagues and I in the Senate are committed to doing great work here on Beacon Hill.
As Massachusetts Senators we confront many of the most challenging issues that our communities and Commonwealth face, and I look forward to continue working for you this year as we move forward. As always, it has been an honor representing you in the State Senate, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.
Senator Sal DiDomenico
Senator Sal DiDomenico is Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and he has represented the Middlesex and Suffolk District since 2010
I support H. 3877
Dear Representative Straus and Senator McGee
On behalf of the City of Everett, I am pleased to write in support of H. 3877, An Act relative to transportation infrastructure value capture. If enacted, this legislation would create a local-option tool to enable municipalities to partner with the state to finance crucial transportation infrastructure projects. In Everett, we are seeking creative ways to facilitate the connection of the city to the MBTA’s rail system, and I believe that this legislation may represent a very important opportunity in expediting interconnection.
The City is experiencing rapid growth and redevelopment, particularly along the Lower Broadway and Revere Beach Parkway corridors. Everett is a dynamic, diverse city. We have the largest privately funded economic development project in the state happening here. We have the advantage of geography- we are located within a vibrant, thriving region of the commonwealth. At the same time, we remain the only city in the metro Boston region with MBTA service limited only to bus. It is imperative that investments to the transportation network be made to accommodate and serve our growing number of residential units and job centers, and to promote further economic development in the city and surrounding communities.
We believe that this is an important issue of regional and social equity, and that capital transportation improvements within Everett will only serve to strengthen the economy of the larger region.
To that end, the City and MassDOT are currently completing the Everett Transit Action Plan to identify feasible capital projects which could include Bus Rapid Transit along Broadway, extension of the Silver Line BRT system beyond Chelsea to the Mystic River, or the addition of a commuter rail station in Everett along the Newburyport line, amongst other options. We are very pleased by this partnership with the state and the work that they are doing to improve transportation options on behalf of our residents. Additionally, the City is seeking to improve the bicycle and pedestrian trail network through the extension of the Northern Strand Community Path and trail connections to the new Woods Memorial Bridge that would bring better transit access to thousands of commuters in the communities of Everett, Malden and Revere.
Recognizing the limitations and constraints of federal and state funding for transportation projects and the importance of these initiatives to the City of Everett, this legislation would allow the City to independently contribute some or all of the funding necessary for these improvements through the enactment of a Supplemental Infrastructure Financing for Transportation agreement with the state. A SIFT agreement would allow the city to designate a portion of tax revenue derived from new growth and development in a designated region towards a specific capital transportation project in partnership with the state Department of Transportation. This represents an innovative transportation financing option that may create an expedited pathway for critically important transportation projects, and we ask that the committee give this legislation a favorable report.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to offer input on this major issue of transportation and economic development, and for your consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Catherine Rollins of my staff at 617-394-2270.