BARRETT ADDS FUNDS TO AID LOCAL GROUPS The Senate officially closes the books on the 2019 Fiscal year, greenlighting a supplementary budget that includes dedicated funding for Waltham-based non-profits.

BOSTON – During recent debate, the State Senate adopted an amendment offered by local State Senator Mike Barrett to support a building that has become a Waltham institution.  The amendment provides $200,000 for improvements to a structure that’s home to eight non-profits devoted to food, farming, and agriculture.

Tenants of the building include Waltham Fields Community Farm, Waltham Land Trust, Green Rows of Waltham Community Gardens, Boston Area Gleaners, Mass Farmers Markets, Grow Native Massachusetts, and Boston Area Climate Experiment.

Each organization works on sustainable agriculture, local produce, and healthy diets, from a century-old “field station.”   The main administrative building, which sits on a large agricultural site at 240 Beaver Street, is in need of some repair and maintenance, which Barrett’s amendment will help address.

“For the sake of a group of non-profit tenants that do a great job serving the interests of everyone in Waltham,” said Barrett, “we need to invest in this building. It needs a lot of work, but these organizations are well worth it.”

In addition, the Senate’s supplemental budget furthers the chamber’s commitment to ensuring all children have access to greater educational opportunities.  The budget dedicates $50M to fund educational programming costs associated with the Student Opportunity Act, which recently cleared both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The Senate’s budget also ensures student safety and mental well-being through separate $10M investments in both school behavioral health services and enhanced public school safety and security measures, respectively. Additional education investments include:

  • $30M for targeted assistance for school improvement
  • $20M for the Endowment Incentives Program for public higher education institutions to provide an incentive for campuses to leverage private contributions
  • $10M for campus safety and security infrastructure grants to institutions of higher education
  • $5.1M to assist school districts with regional school transportation costs
  • $2M for special education circuit breaker reimbursements
  • $1M in rural school aid

 

The Senate’s closeout budget makes a number of targeted investments to help communities update aging transportation and water infrastructure, and improve public health.  The supplemental budget invests $60M in Chapter 90 funding to support improvements of local roads and bridges. It also provides $5M for a new pilot program to tackle increased traffic congestion, which is currently threatening quality of life and access to jobs.  Additional investments to support our communities include:

  • $50M for the MBTA capital acceleration program
  • $35M for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to help finance improvements to local water systems
  • $28.4M for targeted per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination remediation of public water supplies and ongoing monitoring
  • $5M for culvert and dam repairs
  • $5M for costs associated with mosquito spraying to reduce the risk of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE)
  • Authorizes $5M in grants for de-leading projects at early education facilities, childcare centers and elementary schools

The Senate’s budget addresses the pressing issue of climate change by investing $5M for a program to provide consumer rebates and other economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions.  In addition, the proposal dedicates the use of $32M in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds per fiscal year to promote the purchase and lease of electric vehicles, and to support the Green Communities program through December 31, 2021.

Finally, the supplemental budget reinforces the Senate’s belief that voting is key to a healthy democracy by authorizing an early voting period for the 2020 presidential primary, to begin on Monday, February 24, 2020 and end on Friday, February 28, 2020. It also funds $1.25M for early voting implementation.

The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 closeout supplemental budget will now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed last week.

Barrett vote on Student Opportunity Act, passes unanimously in the Senate Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 4, 2019

 

Barrett vote on Student Opportunity Act, passes unanimously in the Senate
Bill would invest $1.5 billion in public schools, update statewide education policy, and support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps for students throughout the Commonwealth.

BOSTON – On October 3, Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined their Senate colleagues in unanimously passing the Student Opportunity Act, which would invest an unprecedented $1.5 billion in Massachusetts K-12 public education. This legislation would ensure public schools have adequate resources to provide high-quality education to students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level. Assuming inflation, over time the bill could provide an estimated $2.2 billion.

The Student Opportunity Act would significantly help school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students. At the same time, school districts across the Commonwealth would benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as transportation, school construction and renovation and special education.

Taking into account these new investments, policy updates and the needs of all types of districts, the Student Opportunity Act would create new ways to monitor and measure progress, support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps, and deliver results for all students.

“Most of the funding in the bill ensures equal opportunity by providing money to the poorest school districts in the state,” said Senator Barrett. “Still, our local districts get full reimbursement of the cost of out-of-district transportation for students with disabilities. This is no small thing, financially. So we all come out ahead.”

There are five recovery high schools across the Commonwealth that provide a safe, sober, and supportive school environment for students with substance use disorder. These schools have been tremendously successful – resulting in higher graduation rates, lower absenteeism, and the opportunity for students to develop skills and strengths needed for personal, academic, vocational and community success. In addition to providing traditional academic courses, these schools offer students a wealth of therapeutic and other support services for students. These additional treatment services, however, can be expensive and pose a funding challenge for recovery high schools.

To help meet these challenges, Friedman successfully secured an amendment in the Student Opportunity Act that would allow school districts to establish a local reserve fund to pay for unanticipated or unbudgeted costs of students attending recovery high schools. She also secured an amendment that would direct the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to determine the appropriate per pupil costs at recovery high schools to better inform future policy regarding staffing and funding levels needed to ensure the quality and sustainability of these schools.

The Student Opportunity Act would fully implement the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC), ensuring that the school funding formula provides adequate and equitable funding to all districts across the state. The bill would provide an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the next seven years. It would also modernize the K-12 education funding and policy landscape in four areas:

  • Estimate school districts’ employee and retiree health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collected by the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC);
  • Increase special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment;
  • Increase funding for English language learners (ELL) that is differentiated by grade level to reflect the greater resources required to educate older ELL students;
  • Address the needs of districts educating high concentrations of students from low-income households by:
    • Providing additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district; districts educating the largest percentage of low-income students would receive an additional increment equal to 100% of the base foundation; and
    • Returning the definition of low-income to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, as opposed to the 133% level that has been used in recent years.

To ensure that education-funding levels remain adequate, effective and equitable, the legislation includes forward looking provisions to address additional funding challenges and policy areas. The bill would direct the Department of Revenue (DOR) and DESE to analyze the method of determining required local contributions in the Chapter 70 school funding formula for the purpose of improving equity, predictability and accuracy. It would also establish a Rural Schools Commission to investigate the unique challenges facing rural and regional school districts with low and declining enrollment.

Finally, the legislation would create a “21st Century Education Trust Fund” to support schools and districts pursuing innovative approaches to learning, increase the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s annual spending cap by $200 million to allow for more school building and construction projects, set up a three-year timeline to fully fund charter school tuition reimbursements, increase foundation rates for guidance and psychological services, and expand a special education reimbursement program to include transportation costs.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2350.

Hearing exposes tensions over climate policy pace The Taunton Daily Gazette

Barrett voiced frustration that the administration would not be committing itself to a plan before the 2020 elections to allow candidates for the state legislature to have a debate about the state’s climate policy.

Holding up a copy of the 2018 Comprehensive Energy Plan published by the Department of Energy Resources, Barrett described it as 165-pages with “not a single discernable plan.” He said he wanted to know, for example, what the administration’s plan was to convert 2.4 million privately-owned, gas-powered vehicles to electric.

“Your leadership on TCI is crucial and it’s also gutsy, and I appreciate that. Still, this endless infatuation with planning and scenario building is frustrating,” Barrett said.

“At some point, scenarios become a dodge,” Barrett said.

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HEARING EXPOSES TENSION OVER CLIMATE POLICY PACE STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

Barrett voiced frustration that the administration would not be committing itself to a plan before the 2020 elections to allow candidates for the state legislature to have a debate about the state’s climate policy.

Holding up a copy of the 2018 Comprehensive Energy Plan published by the Department of Energy Resources, Barrett described it as 165-pages with “not a single discernable plan.” He said he wanted to know, for example, what the administration’s plan was to convert 2.4 million privately-owned, gas-powered vehicles to electric.

“Your leadership on TCI is crucial and it’s also gutsy, and I appreciate that. Still, this endless infatuation with planning and scenario building is frustrating,” Barrett said.

“At some point, scenarios become a dodge,” Barrett said.

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MASSDEMS ENDORSE “GREEN NEW DEAL FOR MASSACHUSETTS NOW” The Somerville Weekly News

“Climate change is relentless, and ‘putting a price on carbon’ is the single most effective thing a state government can do to fight it,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, a longtime champion of carbon pricing.  “We need to put Massachusetts state government at the forefront — right where our constituents want it to be.”

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Lexington Climate Strike demands action against climate change Wicked Local

With other speakers on the bleachers with him, State Senator Mike Barrett talks to the hundreds gathered on the Lexington High School football field for the Lexington Climate Strike Friday, Sept. 20, 2019

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Solar backlash may make it tough to build larger projects in Mass. Boston Globe

Senator Michael Barrett, cochairman of the Legislature’s energy committee, says he has watched this backlash against solar power with dismay. Rooftop solar is great — he has panels on his house in Lexington. But Barrett says the state can’t wean itself off natural gas- and oil-fired power plants without larger, industrial-scale solar projects getting built. He worries that the anti-solar attitudes are driven by NIMBY attitudes among neighbors who simply don’t want to see panels near them.

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Local legislators chime in on licenses for undocumented immigrants Wicked Local

BOSTON — Supporters of a bill that would make driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants packed the State House’s largest hearing room on Sept. 4 to renew the push for a policy that has come up short in previous sessions and would need to be passed with enough support to survive a likely veto by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The legislation — House Bill 3012 and Senate Bill 2061 — filed by Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield and Christine Barber of Somerville, and Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn, would permit all qualified residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for and receive a standard state license under the state’s now two-tiered system.

Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) also supports the legislation.

“I’m in favor … and my constituents are, too,” he said. “I’ve gotten about two dozen supportive emails at this point. I know realistically, that the district won’t be unanimous about the idea, but there is no system here for making sure everybody on the road is licensed and has demonstrated some degree of competence. I don’t want anyone driving unless they are licensed. So, I want to open a channel for them.”

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Lexington senator pushes for president tax return requirement Wicked Local

With legal challenges pending over a new California law requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to appear on the ballot, the sponsor of a similar bill in Massachusetts said the Bay State should follow suit before waiting for the court cases to play out.

Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, who filed a presidential tax returns bill in January for the second consecutive session, said the Legislature often passes laws that could be subject to a challenge in court, and in those cases they act on the bill and then “let litigants sue.”

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Lawmakers hike assessment on utilities 50% CommonWealth

THOUGH LAWMAKER LEFT a handful of proposed taxes on the cutting room floor when they compromised on a budget, the fiscal year 2020 spending plan being reviewed by Gov. Charlie Baker includes a 50 percent increase in the annual assessment imposed upon gas and electric utility companies.

The assessment of a percentage of each utility company’s Massachusetts revenue is meant to be a reimbursement of the cost of overseeing and regulating the gas and electric industries. The budget awaiting Baker’s action would raise the maximum rate of that assessment from 0.2 percent of revenue to 0.3 percent of revenue.

Sen. Michael Barrett, who filed the assessment increase as a budget amendment, said the idea stemmed from September’s natural gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley, and the subsequent closer look at the Department of Public Utilities.

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Lawyering for the poor

Met to discuss representation of low-income people on matters like evictions, heating shutoffs and hospital bills.  From left to right: Michael Avitzur, Gov. Relations Director for the Boston Bar Association; Jonathan Albano of Weston, President of the BBA; Abbigail Shirk, Staff Attorney at MetroWest Legal Services; Elizabeth Soule of Waltham, Exec. Director of MWLS; me; and Joseph Sherman of MWLS.

Tribute to Retiring State Representative, Jay R. Kaufman

At yesterday’s tribute to the illustrious Jay R. Kaufman, I joined State Rep. Michelle Ciccolo (Jay’s able and excellent successor) and Deborah Johnson Brown (representing terrific State Senator Cindy Friedman) in presenting the honoree with a rather rare document — a Resolution, honoring his achievements, enacted jointly by the Massachusetts State Senate and the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The lovely head of hair in the foreground belongs to the distinguished Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

 

CARBON TAX with a TWIST Politico Massachusetts Playbook

EXCLUSIVE: CARBON TAX WITH A TWIST — As we cross the first deadline of this legislative session — bill filing day — education funding and climate change have emerged as top issues. The challenge, of course, is how to get them done.

But Lexington state Sen. Michael Barrett has an idea to kill two birds with one stone: Why not direct some of the money generated by carbon pricing to fund education? A draft of Barrett’s carbon tax bill circulated to various environmental groups, viewed by POLITICO, would disburse 30 percent of money in a “carbon pricing trust fund” to education aid for cities and towns. Sixty percent of the money would go to the state transportation fund, 5 percent would go to a new environmental health and justice trust fund, and 5 percent would go toward electric vehicles, Barrett said.

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In Massachusetts, momentum builds for carbon pricing for transportation Energy News Network

As Massachusetts legislators start their new year, bills calling for carbon fees for transportation are gaining momentum, with many lawmakers and advocates optimistic that a measure could make it to the governor’s desk this session.

“This issue is now up on everybody’s radar screen,” said state Sen. Mike Barrett, a longtime advocate of carbon pricing. “Let the debate about fair and effective design begin.”

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