As we get ready to celebrate the holidays and usher in a new year, I want to take a moment to thank all residents of the Middlesex and Worcester District for responding to the dysfunction in our nation’s capital with an increase in grassroots activism around important issues such as criminal justice reform, environmental protection, and making healthcare a right. Throughout this year, I have been inspired by the growing number of residents across the state who keep turning frustration with Washington D.C. into effective activism.
Around the District
On October 20th, I toured four Middlesex and Worcester breweries with my Senate colleague Barbara L’Italien. We met with small business owners and highlighted S.136 filed by Senator L’Italien that would allow breweries to have more flexibility with distributors, and my bill (S.418) to allow the sale of craft beer at farmers markets. We started out in Acton at Rapscallion’s and True West brewery before heading to Battle Road Brewing Company at Mill & Main in Maynard, and ending the tour at Medusa Brewing Company in downtown Hudson where we were joined by Representative Carmine Gentile and several Town of Hudson administrators.
On October 27th, I spoke about why we should pass my single payer healthcare bill (S.619) at the Middlesex Central Mass Medical Society’s Annual breakfast at Emerson Hospital. The reaction from the medical professionals in the audience was largely positive as more and more people are realizing that our broken healthcare system is in need of comprehensive reform. Later that morning, I toured the Taravista Behavioral Health Center in Devens to learn more about challenges in ensuring mental health parity and services to Massachusetts residents. I spent the afternoon meeting with ECA Solar staff, a major solar developer located in Marlborough, to discuss net-metering, renewable energy, and the Renewable Portfolio Standard. ECA Solar is an impressive group of energy leaders and employees, and it’s great to see the clean energy industry in Massachusetts continue to grow.
On November 3rd, I was happy to join Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito at the Maynard Public Library to announce MassWorks Infrastructure grants of $3.2 million to the town of Maynard for sewer improvements to develop the former Digital site, and $1.2 million for road improvements to South Street in downtown Hudson. I was proud to advocate for these grants for our towns with Representative Kate Hogan, and am grateful to Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash for his support.
November is a month of volunteering and giving for many of us across the state. I continued an annual tradition in sponsoring the Acton Community Supper with Representatives Cory Atkins and Jennifer Smith Benson for Acton-area residents. It’s always a stark reminder of the poverty and isolation that exists in the shadows in the Acton-Maynard-Concord area, and I was moved by The Community Supper volunteers for their dedication to helping those in need in our communities.
In what has become another nice annual tradition for me as an honorary member of the Congregation Beth Elohim Brotherhood, it was great to help at the Bagel Drive, dropping off bagels, lox, cream cheese, and more to families, including longtime supporter Steve Sussman of Littleton and the Wrights in Acton.
Later in the month, my staff and I helped provide Thanksgiving meals for over 180 families at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Devens. If you ever think that Massachusetts’s strong economy means everyone is doing great, volunteer at a food pantry. Patricia Stern, Executive Director at Loaves and Fishes, deserves immense credit for running such an impressive multi-service agency.
On November 19th, I stopped by the Hudson Senior Center for the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner, sponsored by George Danis and ResTech Plastic Molding. It was wonderful to catch up with seniors, have a great meal, wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy this funny exchange with a senior: “I read something you said a few weeks ago that I disagreed with, but I forget what it was now.”
On Veterans Day, I was honored to show appreciation for our veterans across the Middlesex and Worcester District. Over 100 runners came to NARA Park for a 5K for the Paralyzed Veterans of America. The event, organized by Steven Rubner, manager at the Acton Stop and Shop and proud Acton Lion, raised almost $10,000 for the national organization, helping veterans who have been forever injured by war. I spoke at Minuteman Park in Westborough alongside State Representatives Danielle Gregoire, Carolyn Dykema and Hannah Kane, and marched in the Marlborough Veterans Day parade before ending the day speaking at the Doughboy Monument. I’m grateful to our veterans for their service, for keeping our country safe, and for protecting American liberties, including the right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition your government to address grievances.
On November 29th, it was terrific to tour the Littleton Historical Society with Town Administrator Keith Bergman, to learn more about the 300-year history of the Town of Littleton. The volunteers at the historical society work hard to preserve town documents, artifacts & photos.
On December 8th, it was wonderful to attend the American Planning Association (APA) Massachusetts chapter / Massachusetts Association of Planning Departments’ (MAPD) Annual Awards and Holiday Luncheon in Cambridge to recognize the Hudson Planning Department for receiving the APA / MAPD Planning Project Award for the Downtown Hudson Rotary Project. The rotary re-design project was selected for this award primarily because the project team executed a productive and inclusive community engagement process while maintaining a commitment to implementation. Planning Director Jack Hunter and Assistant Planning Director Kristina Johnson are to be commended for their outreach, vision, and hard work on the proposal to improve the Hudson rotary. I continue to be committed to getting the Baker-Polito administration to release $500,000 in bond funds to begin making the Hudson Rotary project a reality, and keep Hudson on the move.
At the Statehouse
The fall and beginning of winter brought hectic days to the State House with many lobby days and important bills passing the Massachusetts Senate. On Park and Water Lobby Day, I highlighted the importance of increasing funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The Baker-Polito administration has made deep budget cuts and staff reductions in recent years that have jeopardized the ability of MassDEP to do its work. Our state’s environmental protection agency will not be able to adequately safeguard our natural resources without sufficient funding, and I will continue to push for increasing the DEP line-item in the state budget.
The Right to Health MA Lobby Day had the biggest turnout of residents in support of single payer healthcare in my legislative career. Hundreds of “Medicare for All” advocates, including medical students, nurses, doctors, progressive activists, and patients turned out at the State House to fight for making healthcare a right in Massachusetts. This impressive lobby day, organized by Mass-Care along with Indivisible Massachusetts and Progressive Massachusetts chapters, was a testament to the powerful statewide movement that continues to build for single payer.
On November 16th, I held a press conference with Middlesex District Attorney (DA) Marian Ryan to announce a first-of-its-kind research study in Middlesex County that will use evidence-based solutions to prevent and reduce opioid-related overdoses. Families in Middlesex County have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, and I hope this assessment will provide us with a blueprint to save more lives. I was happy to secure funding for this critical study in the Senate’s FY17 budget, and applaud DA Ryan for being a strong partner in our fight to end opioid-related deaths.
Lastly, 125 state legislators signed onto bipartisan testimony calling for the passage of two bills that would protect consumers and the environment from risks associated with gas pipeline expansion. S.1855/H.2698 would prohibit electric customer financing of gas pipelines, often referred to as the pipeline tax. S.1847/H.3400 allows groups to intervene on behalf of their members, which may include ratepayers, municipalities, and legislators as well. The bill also strengthens the Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) review process so that environmental and community impacts of pipeline projects must be considered.
On October 26th, I joined my Massachusetts Senate colleagues to vote for a comprehensive criminal justice reform package that updates decades old criminal sentencing laws to improve outcomes of our criminal justice system. As the Senate Chair of the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, I’m proud that this comprehensive bill includes initiatives I advocated for, such as ending mandatory minimums for certain non-violent drug offenses, restorative justice, and solitary confinement reform. I was also happy to file amendments to institute de-escalation training for law enforcement, and prevent suicides among corrections officers and prisoners. The bill, S.2185, An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, includes provisions that reduce and eliminate over-burdensome fees and fines, reform the bail system, allow for compassionate release for infirmed inmates, and reform to the juvenile justice system. This landmark legislation could not have been accomplished without the organized effort of hundreds of community groups, and thousands of residents who have been fighting for decades for a more fair and rehabilitative criminal justice system that appropriately addresses crimes while reducing recidivism.
On November 8th, the Massachusetts Senate passed S.2196, a bill to establish a comprehensive adaptation management action plan (CAMP) in response to climate change. The plan would codify for the Baker Administration and all future administrations the goals, priorities and principles for resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s built and natural infrastructure, based on data around existing and projected climate change impacts including temperature changes, drought, inland flooding and sea level rise.
The following day, the Massachusetts Senate passed The HEALTH Act by a vote of 33-6. This sweeping healthcare reform legislation focuses on both short and long terms goals on how to fix our healthcare system to lower costs, improve outcomes, and maintain access. I was very proud that the Senate voted 35-3 to adopt an amendment that charges the state with measuring the impact a single payer system would have on the cost and delivery of healthcare in Massachusetts. I believe that having a thorough cost analysis on single payer, including how it would compare to the current profit-driven system, will show that single payer will save money, while guaranteeing care for all residents. We have come a long way since I filed this amendment 5 years ago without success – people are tired of the stranglehold that profit-driven insurance companies have on medical care, and I am heartened by the growing momentum behind the single payer movement across the state.
Finally, on November 20th, free access to contraception officially became a right for all Massachusetts women when the ACCESS Bill was signed into law. As the Senate chair of the Financial Services Committee, I was proud to report this bill, which requires health insurance companies to provide all FDA-approved contraceptives free of charge, out of the committee. The Senate voted to unanimously enact the bill to show that we stand unified and uncompromising in our opposition to President Trump’s harmful anti-women agenda.
Your advocacy is important
I’m very proud to represent a constituency that is committed to improving our communities and making sure our shared interests and goals are heard by the state legislature. Please continue to reach out by calling my office at 617-722-1120, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me on Twitter @JamieEldridgeMA, Senator Jamie Eldridge on Facebook, and @jamieeldridgema on Instagram. I value the time, energy, and thoughtfulness you put in your advocacy, and look forward to staying connected. If you enjoyed this newsletter and wish to receive future editions, you can click this link to subscribe.