Over the past two months, the State Senate toured Massachusetts to make government even more accessible and hear directly from residents on issues that matter most to them. It was a memorable and heartening experience to hear people express their thoughts about the FY16 budget, legislation, and policy that they believe would benefit the Commonwealth during the forum. I appreciated hearing the feedback, particularly as the Legislature wrestles with another tight budget this coming year.
As a takeaway, we gained a better understanding of the unique set of issues each region is facing, and that state government needs to be more in tune with these circumstances. What’s more, hundreds of people from Pittsfield to Newburyport showed up at each forum to express their opinions. It was very humbling to have so many people participate in Commonwealth Conversations.
A few of the concerns residents highlighted included:
• Solving the state’s drug crisis
• Increasing funding for local aid, especially education
• Improving public transportation
• Investing in higher education and workforce training
• Helping low-income workers
• Raising the quality of healthcare
• Stimulating the economy
With Commonwealth Conversations now over, the State Senate will begin reviewing the testimony throughout the tours and hopefully generate new ideas. Here’s hoping those innovative proposals make their way into the FY16 budget or a new bill. It is absolutely critical that the legislative agenda of the State Senate meets the needs of the thousands of people who took time off from work and a night with friends or family to express their hopes, dreams, and wishes for Massachusetts.
Since I was first elected, I have fought for greater transparency and decentralization in the Legislature. After three months of the new session, I’m extremely proud of the improved outreach, transparency, and equity of the Massachusetts State Senate. Not to be an exception, Commonwealth Conversations blended all three of these key values into each of the tours.
Now it’s time for action.