WORCESTER – Despite a tight deadline, state Senate President Harriette Chandler and other lawmakers said at a forum Wednesday night were hopeful that a major piece of energy legislation will be on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk to sign into law by the end of July.
The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund and 14 other organizations sponsored the energy and environment town hall, at which Ms. Chandler was joined by state Sens. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and Michael Barrett, D-Lexington.
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On May 15, Rep. Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington, Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, and Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, raised their voices in support of transgender equal rights in the wake of the recent decision to allow a question onto the November 2018 ballot that would repeal equal protections and civil liberties for transgender individuals in Massachusetts.
With Pride month on the horizon, elected members of the Lexington delegation are making it clear that bigotry and hatred toward the LGBTQ community is not acceptable in the state of Massachusetts.
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Following their recent success in state competitions and on WGBH TV’s “Sing That Thing,” Waltham High School’s show choir played for the Massachusetts State Senate recently at the opening of a formal senate session. Music Unlimited consists of 43 accomplished young men and women who are students at the Waltham High School.
The choir witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of newly-elected Senator Nick Collins (D-Boston) before performing two musical numbers — “Man in the Mirror” and the gospel piece, “Don’t Feel No Ways Tired.” Music teacher and former member Alyssa Cincotta led the choir.
“Colleagues are buttonholing me to tell me what fantastic talents these young people are,” said Senator Michael Barrett (D-Lexington). “Music Unlimited did a fantastic job entertaining the Senate and representing Waltham.”
Douglas A. Trudeau, director of Fine and Performing Arts at Waltham Public Schools said,
“We were truly excited to perform for the Senate. Seeing the swearing-in ceremony was a special treat for all of us. Our song choice of ‘Man in the Mirror’ exemplifies what all senators should do to make the Commonwealth a better place.”
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State Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, and Rep. Ken Gordon, D-Bedford, both of whom represent Bedford in the state legislature, joined their colleagues in passing criminal justice reform legislation that will lead to a more equitable system that supports young and vulnerable residents, reduces recidivism, increases judicial discretion and enhances public safety.
“We made real progress in reforming our pretrial system,” said Barrett. “While the bill codifies the SJC’s recent Brangan decision to help move our bail system away from a cash-based system, a comprehensive overhaul of our pretrial bail statute is still necessary to ensure than an individual is not held solely based on his or her ability to pay.”
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When state Sen. Mike Barrett left Massachusetts General Hospital on March 28, six weeks after being admitted, he knew exactly what topped his to-do list.
His first request: dinner and a movie with his wife, Nancy Dolberg. By Thursday, March 29, out they went to have pizza and to see “Black Panther” in Arlington.
“It was fantastic,” Barrett recounted. “It was everything I imagined it to be.”
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“Because the white blood cell counts of APL patients are way below normal, infections such as the flu can have consequences,’’ said Barrett in his statement. “My doctors tell me I won’t be leaving the hospital for a month and that, for some additional period of time, I’ll need to avoid crowded situations where people may have bad colds, etc.”
“Unfortunately, my docs will not let me hop out of bed at Mass. General and head up Beacon Hill to vote in a packed chamber,” he said. “But otherwise, with the help of my fantastic staff, I expect to advance my legislative agenda quite effectively throughout my convalescence, and to resume my duties in full thereafter.”
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The Senate’s $3.65 billion bond bill contains funding for regional courthouses, public safety facilities and equipment, according to local senators pleased with the measure that also includes authorizations for bonds to improve facilities statewide, including local colleges and universities, parks and public works.
For surrounding towns, Sen. Michael Barrett, D-Lexington, said the measure contains $3.5 million to expand and renovate the Bedford Police Station, $1 million to make playgrounds in Sudbury more accessible and $695,000 to replace firetrucks in Waltham.
Read the article on the Senate bond bill
The bill, proposed by Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and members of the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee, would create a fee for fuels that contain carbon, like home heating and motor fuel. The money raised would be returned to residents and businesses in the form of rebates for adapting carbon-reducing measures.
Barrett told the Statehouse News Service that if the bill passes, the Legislature must select a carbon pricing scheme for transportation by 2020, for commercial and industrial buildings by 2021 and for residential buildings by 2022.
Read the article on the carbon pricing bill
The Federal Communications Commission in December adopted an order repealing past rules that deemed internet service a public utility and required internet providers to treat all traffic equally. Daniel Lyons, a Boston College Law School professor, told lawmakers the order also “expressly preempts any state or local measures” attempting to reinstate those rules.
Noting that he pays between $50 to $60 per month for his Verizon internet access, Sen. Michael Barrett said he wanted the committee to figure out what would happen to the market without net neutrality if the legal challenges fail. He asked Healey if there is a way of “extracting any good” out of the rollback, such as lower prices for a “basic” package that could make technology more accessible to low income consumers.
Read the article on the net neutrality debate
New England’s biggest utility has won approval for new charges on future solar customers starting next January — but in the process Eversource has angered some lawmakers with jurisdiction over its industry, including members of the Chelmsford’s delegation.
Vote Solar and Attorney General Maura Healey have both appealed the department’s approval of the new Eversource rates.
Mahony, who is Healey’s senior policy adviser for energy, suggested lawmakers should craft legislation that discourages customers from using electricity when demand on the grid is high. Demand fluctuates throughout the day as consumers turn on lights, flip on air conditioning and run electrical appliances. The demand charge in the Eversource rates does not vary based on time of day.
Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and the Senate chairman of the committee, had a similar perspective to Mahony on the demand charges, questioning Eversource about why it wasn’t linked to when demand was highest on the grid as a whole.
Read the article on Eversource’s new charges
Most committee hearings on Beacon Hill are mild affairs, planned out well in advance, to solicit input on various bills. Not this one.
Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Thomas Golden decided last week to revisit Eversource’s new solar fee. Barrett says precipitating factors included a Globe story and a particularly unhappy constituent.
Lawmakers authorized the adoption of this kind of solar charge back in 2016. But Barrett and Golden made it clear they believe Eversource has taken that permission beyond what the Legislature initially intended.
Read more about the Eversource solar fee hearing
An opinion piece from the Worcester Telegram supporting bills S.1821 and H.1726, which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts in an efficient and equitable manner.
Read the opinion piece on “An Act combating climate change” and “An Act to promote green infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs”
On Jan. 25, a panel at MIT explored the benefits, costs, and political challenges involved in translating carbon pricing from concept into law in Massachusetts and beyond. Hosted by the student-led MIT Climate Action Team and held at the MIT Stata Center, the panel disucssion included Massachusetts state Sen. Michael Barrett and state Rep. Jennifer Benson, authors of two different carbon-pricing bills; Marc Breslow, research and policy director of the carbon-pricing research and advocacy group Climate XChange; and three experts on the topic who are affiliated with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change — Department of Urban Studies and Planning Associate Professor Janelle Knox-Hayes, Joint Program Co-director and Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer John Reilly, and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research Director and MIT Sloan Professor Christopher Knittel. The panelists weighed advantages and disadvantages of carbon pricing as a climate-change solution, clarified differences between the two pending bills, and discussed political challenges faced by these bills.
“The most progressive thing to do if you care about working people is to have absolute revenue neutrality,” said Barrett, who, like Knittel, argued that solar and other renewable energy programs could best be funded through a progressive income tax. “I want to make sure that 100 percent of a carbon fee goes back to working people.” Concerned that a revenue-positive carbon pricing bill would be framed by opponents as a tax, he cautioned that such a bill would be politically unviable for fellow legislators.
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Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr and Senator Michael Barrett of Lexington discuss business with Lydia LeClair of Lydia LeClair Photography in Harwich Port during a Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail walking tour of the village on Monday.
HARWICH — A lot needs to be done on the Cape to improve the retail climate for local businesses. That message was conveyed to the Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail during a visit to town on Monday.
The task force, which also met in Hyannis, will be holding similar meetings with small business owners in the Merrimack Valley and Berkshire County as they seek to assess issues facing small businesses across the state.
Read more about the task force visit
Lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House Tuesday presented a new bill that would allow taxpayers to donate part of their tax returns to combat the effects of climate change in developing nations.
Senate Bill 2056, if accepted, would enable lawmakers to add a box to state tax returns to give Massachusetts taxpayers the option to donate to the Least Developed Countries Fund.
“My constituents really want to strike the note of sympathy and solidarity around the world, at the very time that we have a president walking away from them,” said Sen. Michael J. Barrett, the bill’s lead sponsor.
Read the article on my bill
The legislative package aims to reduce unnecessary incarceration, and measures encourage less severe responses to offenses and remove policies that disparately burden the poor.
“We [the state] are absolutely addicted to the money we extract from you as you move through the criminal justice system. Even after you pay your debt to society and begin to knit your life back together again, we want to extract user fees at every point in the system,” Barrett said, stating that this practice must end.
The bill provides for waiving, eliminating or reducing many fees. Another reform would revise bail policies in light of increasing awareness that too often, people of little means are jailed pretrial only because of inability to afford the bail price, not due to flight risk or likelihood of causing harm if released.
Read the article on the criminal justice reform bill
The task force is charged with identifying ways to help local retailers become more competitive, and is taking shape as retail sector leaders mull a ballot question to reduce the 6.25 percent sales tax to either 5 percent or 4.5 percent.
Senators on the task force include its chairman, Michael Rodrigues, as well as Michael Barrett, Julian Cyr, Jason Lewis, Kathleen O’connor-Ives, Vinny Demacedo and Don Humason.
Read the article on the retail task force
Under the bill, motorists could only use their cellphones, or other electronic devices such as GPSs, with hands-free technology. It also would be illegal to access social media, make video calls or use any camera function while driving.
“If you are poor and your car is a little older, you should still avoid distracted driving but these fees are going to hit you very hard,” said Barrett, whose amendment to lower the progression of fines to $50, $100 and $150 was defeated on a 26-12 vote.
Read the article on the bill on distracted driving
“I’m extremely happy to be here. This project was a little bit larger than the project that put solar panels on my house, and it just shows you how quickly solar energy is moving as a utility enterprise,” State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, said at the ceremony. “Massachusetts really is a leader here and it began with folks at the grassroots level that encouraged individual communities to move out front to do this.”
Read the article on Lexington’s new solar farm
“We need a carbon price to get us to carbon neutral and beyond,” said Gene Fry, an environmental scientist from Brookfield. The Earth is warming, he said. Carbon dioxide needs to be reduced and, in doing so, the state can create jobs and expand the economy. His testimony drew some of the largest applause of the night.
Read the article on the Commonwealth Conversations Tour