With Election Day and Thanksgiving now behind us, legislators are spending more time at the State House, meeting with one another, advocates and our legislative staffs to begin crafting legislation to be filed next session, sometime in early January after our swearing-in on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013. In each of our respective districts we are meeting with constituents and attending community events, which are often focused on ideas for legislation and budget priorities for FY14.
One of the benefits of having a competitive election is that I had the opportunity to speak with thousands of constituents on the campaign trail this year, whether door to door, on the phone, at campaign meetings, or at community events. With a little over a month before incumbents and newly-elected legislators get sworn in, here are some initial thoughts on some policies that I plan to focus on. These are difficult challenges to take on and it will take political will “backbone” and grassroots advocacy to work to pass legislation that will address these challenges:
● Building the best transportation system in the nation. Right now, some legislators, business leaders and advocates are focused on the state’s transportation crisis, which we must address. Transportation affects every aspect of what is important to progressives: providing equal opportunities, whether for quality of life, education, or work; doing more to reduce our carbon footprint by increasing investment in public transportation and using less fossil fuels; providing access to human services for the poor, the disabled and the elderly; and stimulating the economy through public works projects. If we are going to fix the state’s transportation crisis, however, let’s make sure we come up with a plan that builds the best transportation system in the country and that addresses all of the Commonwealth’s needs across the entire state.
● Raising adequate revenue to reverse budget cuts and properly invest in our Commonwealth’s future. Now is the time for frank assessment of 30 years of across-the-board budget cuts, which have affected local aid, higher education environmental protection, affordable housing, human services, public health and transportation. With proposals like An Act to Invest in Our Communities and efforts to repeal or reduce corporate tax breaks and tax cuts, what kinds of decisions will Governor Patrick and Democratic legislators make on these fronts?
● Supporting Immigrants. Will the Massachusetts Legislature take further steps to support our state’s immigrants, including passing the full tuition equity bill, and better connecting immigrant students with work and educational opportunities? Our President and Governor Patrick have made a bold start; will the legislature follow?
● Passing Paid Sick Leave. Over 1 million Massachusetts workers do not have any paid sick leave to take care of their children, themselves, or another loved one in need. Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support passing paid sick leave. Yet this modest proposal has been beaten back every session in the Legislature! Will Governor Patrick truly fight for the bill and move us forward on this policy so important to Massachusetts families’ health and quality of life?
● Updating the Bottle Bill. Is this the year to finally pass the updated Bottle Bill? Last session’s impressive advocacy and organizing led by MassPIRG brought us closer to passage than it’s been in decades. But the bill was removed from the Legislature’s economic development package. What politics, pressure and inside games have to be played to pass this popular legislation? Can we take up that bill early or should advocates bring the legislation to the ballot box as a referendum?
None of this will happen without hard work. As the State Senator for the Middlesex and Worcester District, I will fight for these important policy changes, and many others, to help move us toward a more just Commonwealth. But I need your help.
Public advocacy doesn’t end with the work of legislators, it requires every resident to get engaged and become more active on what kinds of policies will make a difference in your communities and your lives. Progressives accomplished a lot in terms of electoral victories on Tuesday, November 6th, but the work doesn’t stop there. Please share your ideas with me, either through this blog post, or at Jamie@JamieEldridge.com. Thanks!