Wicked Local Southborough: Jamie Eldridge: An update on state and local initiatives

By Jamie Eldridge
Guest Columnist

Posted Apr. 28, 2016 at 1:16 PM

HUDSON

The following list outlines projects state Senator Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, is working on in Beacon Hill and in the district to better connect constituents with his priorities, events and initiatives.

North-South Rail Link

As the Senate chair of the North-South Rail Link (NSRL) Working Group, I believe that in order to dramatically improve our transportation system throughout Massachusetts, the North-South Rail Link must be built. Through the construction of the North-South Rail Link, rail systems throughout the Commonwealth would be more strongly connected. I was pleased to co-host a presentation on Tuesday, April 12 at Acton Town Hall with Representatives Atkins and Benson, and led by Governor Michael Dukakis, on the North-South Rail Link to spread awareness, so that we can better connect our communities and regions together. The event was well attended and momentum for the NSRL continues to build.

Massachusetts Nurses Association Award

Nurses are our first lifeline during hospital visits. I was pleased to receive the Legislative Advocacy Award by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) for my advocacy work on behalf of nurses in the district, including fighting for fair wages, good health benefits, and reasonable work schedules for the nurses at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer. I am also a co-sponsor and advocate of the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s priority legislation, H.1958, the Patient Safety Act on workplace safety for nurses.

Criminal Justice Reform Bill update

The Senate has made criminal justice reform a top priority this session. We’ve made real strides in this area, including the passage of the repeal of the RMV sanctions law. This law repeals the current law that subjects individuals convicted of a non-violent drug offense to an automatic license suspension for up to five years and a license reinstatement fee of $500, even if the offense does not involve motor vehicle violations in any way. The Civil commitment for female prisoners bill was also signed into law, which ends the outdated practice of sending women with alcohol or substance abuse problems, but who have committed no crimes, to the state prison for women in Framingham. The Senate also voted to pass legislation raising the thresholds defining felony larceny and other property offenses from $250 to $1,500, putting Massachusetts in line with other states. Massachusetts also signed substance addiction legislation into law that enhances intervention, prevention and education efforts, including the creation of a framework to evaluate and treat patients who are present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose. The Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, in which I serve as the Senate chair, continues to hold briefings on various criminal justice issues and to advocate for future real reform. The caucus remains hopeful that more comprehensive criminal justice reform will pass next session, and it is critical that more people from the district make their voices heard if we want to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform in our time.

Housing and Homelessness Forum

I recently attended and spoke at a forum held by the Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness (ANEFH) along with Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, to educate people on affordable housing and to promote budget and legislative issues for advocacy at the State House. Despite some gains, there is still a huge need for affordable housing, especially in the suburbs, yet there are significant barriers to achieving this goal.. ANEFH’s priority legislation includes a bill I sponsored, H.1111, An Act relative to housing production, which provides the Commonwealth with the tools to produce housing the Commonwealth needs through zoning reforms, financial incentives for communities, and prioritizing the use of excess state land to build housing on.

Eversource proposal update

I, along with Representative Gentile and Representative Hogan, have submitted a letter to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) and the Energy Facilities Sitting Board regarding our opposition to the Eversource Transmission Line proposal. Four communities (Sudbury, Stow, Hudson and Marlborough) that we represent would be impacted by the proposed route of the Eversource project, including the potential destruction of conservation land, wildlife refuges, wetlands, open space, and trails. I was motivated to act on behalf of my constituents to communicate their concerns about the proposal and put forward a recommendation to build the transmission lines underground in our four communities. The proposed transmission line along the MBTA railroad would result in the destruction of an 82-foot wide area of trees and wildlife and negatively impact our four communities and abutters to the proposed transmission route. There is a clear and reasonable alternative to the proposed transmission line route and I will be fighting to ensure that our communities are not adversely impacted.

Environmental legislation update

There are a few big hitting environmental bills of note on the move in the Legislature. Most recently, the solar net metering bill, which would raise the cap on net metering, was signed into law by Governor Baker. Although, I am deeply disappointed that net metering benefits for affordable housing projects were cut, limiting the ability for many low-income families to benefit from solar power, the bill does allow larger solar projects, including municipal solar to go forward, but stronger action must be taken soon. Short-term, this bill will help incentivize the solar industry throughout Massachusetts. In addition, my Electric Vehicles bill, which would increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles and allow these vehicles to use the highway occupancy vehicles lane, received a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on Transportation. Also of note, my gas leaks bill received a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on Telecommunications. The bill would further incentivize repairs by requiring all leaks – including non-hazardous, grade three leaks — be repaired when a road is opened up for a construction project.

The Kinder Morgan Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline originally proposed to encompass a 188 mile stretch between Albany, New York and Dracut, Massachusetts, has been suspended due to a lack of commitment from prospective customers. This is a victory for clean energy advocates in the northeast, and validates the stalwart efforts of local grassroots organizations. I have been vocal about my opposition to the pipeline, testifying against it at public hearings and I co-hosted “stop the pipeline” forums along with other state legislators. The pipeline was intended to assist the region in meeting energy needs, but I believe there are more environmentally-friendly alternatives to fill the void.

For the full story, check out Wicked Local Southborough’s website.

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