Community Newsletter - Summer 2018
Budget Priorities | Bond Bills | Protecting Women's Rights |
Community Events | Intern Update | Clarendon Hill
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope you have been enjoying your summer, and all of the festivals and concerts that it brings around our communities!
We are a few weeks from the end of the legislative session, and I wanted to give you a recap.
There were a number of really good things that we accomplished – protections for women’s rights; steps forward on clean energy and fixing gas leaks; a bold bill to address opiate addiction, particularly for those in criminal justice system; automatic voter registration rules; new benefits for veterans; and paid family and medical leave.
And there were a number of big things that didn’t get done – creating protections for immigrants and a new funding plan for a more equitable education budget – that are incredibly frustrating.
I am proud of what we’ve accomplished, and ready to continue the fight for what still needs to be done.
In this newsletter you’ll find a wrap-up of impacts on both state programs and a particular focus on benefits for Somerville and Medford. I hope you find information to connect you to the work at the State House to foster more activism. Please contact me with any suggestions, and feel free to share with a friend.
Last month, the Legislature passed the FY2019 budget and after Governor Baker sent it back with vetoes, worked to restore funding for many critical Massachusetts programs.
On the local level, the FY19 budget includes my amendments instructing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to make improvements to pedestrian crossings and access to public transportation on Mystic Ave in both Medford and Somerville.
An amendment I filed with Sen. Jason Lewis was also included to provide critical funding for the Housing Families Inc. GREAT Youth & Families program, which provides tutoring and counseling for homeless students in Medford, Malden & Everett.
As a member of the Massachusetts Autism Commission, I work closely with advocates and families to make sure services are available for autistic individuals and their families. I am proud that the FY19 budget increased funds for the Children's Autism Waiver Program, which provides intensive at-home supports for children with autism through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The budget also includes new state funding to support the Autism Insurance Resource Center, a program of the UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, which assists patients with information, technical assistance, and support to expand access to autism treatments.
The budget also includes a funding increase to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women that I filed as an amendment. This funding support the new regional women's commissions throughout the entire Commonwealth.
See more on the FY19 budget here.
State Primary Election
Tuesday Sept 4th, 7AM-8PM
Find your polling location here.
Medford Arts Center: Night for the Arts
Friday, September 7th, 6-8PM
Commerce Place, Malden
Join Medford Art Center Inc (MACI) for live music and visual art to enjoy. Medford art will be on display for the month of September.
Ryan Harrington Foundation Corn Toss
Saturday, September 15th, 10AM
Trum Field, Somerville
Join the Ryan Harrington Foundation for its 7th annual corn toss fundraiser. Proceeds to Somerville youth organizations. Tickets.
Gilman Square Block Party
Saturday, September 15th, 3-7PM
Gilman Square, Somerville
Join Gilman Square Neighborhood Assoc. for food, fun, and opportunity to discuss the Green Line Extension with MBTA reps.
From our summer intern from UMass UWIL (Women into Leadership), Casey Kelleher:
"This summer I had the opportunity to intern for Representative Barber, and through this I learned invaluable lessons about state government and gained a deeper appreciation for the work of public servants. I was able to do research on important topics such as justice-involved women and gas leaks, attend briefings, and walk the floor of the House Chamber. Throughout the summer State House interns are able to hear from various representatives, senators, and other public figures. What stuck out to me when I listened to these speakers was that they were driven, not by a desire for recognition and praise, but instead by their desire to improve their communities. As a person who is pursuing a career in public service, this is a lesson that I consider often as I determine exactly what community issues will drive and inspire my work. I’m so grateful for the opportunity Representative Barber and her legislative aide Claire gave me to learn from them and be a part of the important work they do."
Protecting Women's Rights
Faced with a president who disregards women's rights, we had many state level progressive wins in the legislature:
Last fall, after a Trump Administration rule allowed employers to deny birth control coverage to employees, the legislature took action. H.4009, An Act to advance contraceptive coverage and economic security in our state (ACCESS), guarantees coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives with no copay, ensuring 1.4 million Massachusetts women who use birth control have access when they need it.
This spring, the legislature passed S.2296, An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare, which protects confidentiality in patient-provider relationships. When a person gets health care services, insurers send an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to the primary subscriber. The EOB can contain sensitive information on reproductive health, mental health, or sexual assault treatment. For patients who are dependents on a health plan, their confidentiality is compromised when an EOB is sent to the primary policyholder. The PATCH act closes this loophole by instructing health plans to send EOBs to each individual with general information.
Repealing Archaic Laws
This July, the legislature passed legislation to repeal unconstitutional laws that impose criminal penalties for contraception and abortion in Massachusetts. After Supreme Court Justice Kennedy's retirement and fewer federal protections, Massachusetts took action. S.2260, An Act negating archaic statutes targeting young women, repealed decades-old laws, and ensures a woman's right to make decisions about her health care.
Bond Bills, Explained
Capital bond bills authorize the Commonwealth to borrow funding for large-scale projects, critical to infrastructure. The legislature recently authorized spending for affordable housing, local economic development, and environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Funding in these bills must be appropriated by the Governor, but passing a bond bill is a step toward building local projects.
In May, the legislature passed H.4536, a housing bond bill, which authorizes five years of funding for programs that are critical to preserve and build affordable housing. The programs, including the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and Community-Based Housing, drive our investment in affordable housing, housing for people with disabilities, transit-oriented development, and transitional housing for families in homelessness. I was proud to work on this bill as a Housing Committee member.
This June, we passed H.4549, which funds projects to improve public higher education campuses, public safety complexes, and more. $2M was secured to address noise pollution along the I-93 corridor in Somerville, as well as $5m forimprovements to Somerville parks. $10M was included for a new public safety complex in Medford.
At the end of session, the legislature passed H.4835, an environmental bond bill that focuses on improving climate change resiliency and investments in our parks, and includes funding for improvements to Blessing of the Bay and Foss Parks in Somerville, as well as $5M to restore the Amelia Earhart dam on the Mystic River, which protects thousands of upstream homes and businesses from flooding.
In addition, H.4732, the economic development bond bill, authorizes spending in local infrastructure and $50M in funding for the Cultural Facilities Fund to enhance our creative economy. Included in this bill is $1M for the Clippership Connector.
Clarendon Housing: Update
Many community members have been involved in Somerville's work to rebuild public housing at Clarendon Hill. The city sent 2 home rule petitions needed for the development to the State House. Both bills (H4580 and H4856) passed on the last day of formal legislative session.
Without the home rule petitions, the project would not move forward. After State House hearings, it was clear that the bills would not advance without changes. H4580 was amended to require prevailing wage to be paid to workers on the entire project. The development team has said the full prevailing wage requirement creates a financing gap and are working to create a feasible project that covers these costs.
Although I do not know the final outcome for this project, I am hopeful that everyone will come together to create housing that is acceptable to Clarendon residents and neighbors.