Barrett Bill Requires Tax Returns for Pres. Candidates

At a recent public hearing at the State House, local State Senator Mike Barrett urged support for his bill to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the Massachusetts primary or general election ballot.

“Until recently, Americans just assumed that the stature of the Office of President ensured the observance of certain principles of transparency and integrity,” Barrett said, at a hearing of the Committee on Election Laws.  “While unwritten, the ideas seemed well-established.  One such idea is the disclosure by presidential candidates of recent tax returns in order to reassure the public about possible conflicts of interest.”

In front of the packed crowd, Barrett added that “There is continuing and intense support for a bill requires anyone running for president to disclose his or her tax returns.  The voters have a right to know.”

This session Barrett’s bill is co-sponsored by 32 members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Recently, California’s Legislature and Governor have put on the books a law similar to Barrett’s disclosure proposal for presidential candidates running in Massachusetts.  Barrett says that “Now it’s high time for us to act.”

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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.

Legislature Gives Clean Energy a Boost Press Release

BOSTON – On the last day of July, in the closing hours of the Legislature’s two-year session, negotiators for the Senate and House hammered out agreement on a bill that will boost electricity from solar and wind, get a better handle on natural gas leaks, and create “clean peak” incentives for driving down energy use at the busiest times, when the costliest and dirtiest electric power turns on.

“An Act to Advance Clean Energy” was worked out by a six-member negotiating team led by State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and Rep. Tom Golden (D-Lowell).  It drew the unanimous support of the Senate and every vote but one in the House of Representatives. 

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Mass. Senate Takes on Opioid Crisis Press Release

With the support of area state senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), Massachusetts Senate has passed major legislation to tackle the opioid crisis.  Provisions of the bill increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), explore tools to reduce harm and save lives, expand education and prevention efforts, and address the high rates of co-occurring conditions of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illness.

The legislation draws on extensive new research into evidence-based best practices and accents collaboration among healthcare researchers and clinicians, hospitals, behavioral health providers, law enforcement officials, patient advocates and individuals with lived experience, to develop policies to address the opioid epidemic.

“There’s help here for addicted people whether in the community, the emergency room, or in prison,” Sen. Barrett said.  “Whether they’re in long-term recovery or the immediate throes of an overdose, we’re bringing a determined effort and the latest thinking to every link in the addiction chain.”

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Massachusetts Senate Passes Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) Press Release

BOSTON – Local State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass legislation meaning eligible voters will be automatically registered to vote when receiving services from the RMV, MassHealth, and other state agencies.

This means that the burden to register voters now falls upon the state, instead of individual citizens, and it will allow hundreds of thousands of eligible citizens who are currently not registered to have their say at the ballot box.

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State Senate says Community Access TV should go HD Press Release

BOSTON – Local State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his Senate colleagues to pass a bill requiring cable companies to provide High Definition (HD) capability to Community Access channels and to include detailed programming information in viewers’ electronic guides.

The bill means that community TV will be on the same playing field as bigger channels. It allows local media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to pay stations — now and in the future.

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From a $15 dollar minimum wage to a ban on ivory, the State Senate takes action Press Release

BOSTON – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his Senate colleagues this week to pass bills raising the minimum wage, creating a paid leave program, banning the sale of ivory and rhino horn products, and putting an end to the practice known as wage theft.

A “grand bargain” bill — a product of months of deliberation between lawmakers, activists, and business groups — raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour, establishes a paid family and medical leave program, and creates a permanent sales tax holiday.

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MA State Senate makes history, votes carbon pricing Press Release

In passing a major clean energy bill today, the Massachusetts State Senate voted to authorize the most comprehensive carbon pricing program in the country.  Its author, State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington), told his colleagues, “In taking a fresh run at combating climate change, you’re putting Massachusetts state government at the forefront — right where our constituents want it to be.”

The action made history, in that the Senate became the first legislative body in the U.S., either federal or state, to approve revenue-neutral fees as a carbon pricing option.  If the policy survives intact after debate in the Massachusetts House and is signed into law, the Commonwealth will also become only the second state, after California, to extend the concept of carbon pricing to transportation.

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A Year After Trump Nixed Paris, Senator Pushes a Novel Response Press Release

On the first anniversary of the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) is promoting innovative legislation that would change Massachusetts tax forms and let taxpayers direct voluntary contributions, over and above their regular payments, to poverty-stricken countries hit hardest by climate change.

The full title of Barrett’s bill is An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.


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Senators and retailers wrap up work Press Release

Boston – With local State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) as a member, the Massachusetts Senate Task Force on Strengthening Local Retail today unanimously approved its final report.  The Task Force was charged with assessing the economic health of the Massachusetts retail sector, and identifying challenges and opportunities facing retail communities.

Welcoming the report, Barrett said, “People in my district are really into nurturing the business centers of their communities. When it comes to making policy, I wanted a seat at the table on their behalf.”

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Barrett Bill will Protect Personal Biometric Data Press Release

Boston –The Massachusetts Senate has unanimously approved new legislation to protect consumers facing hacked thefts of their fingerprints, facial profiles, retinal images and other aspects of their unique personal biology. 

The bill is a priority of State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington).  An already existing law requires businesses and government to protect personal information and to notify people in the case of security breaches.  This law has resulted in the identification of thousands of breaches, including as many as 947,000 Target customers compromised in late 2013. 

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Barrett welcomes Foundation Budget reforms Press Release

Boston – On Thursday, students, parents, and teachers filled the State House as the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to pass a key education reform bill to update the state’s 25-year-old funding formula.

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Barrett Protects State Aid for Bedford Veterans Press Release

Boston – During recent State Senate debate on legislation to support veterans and their families, Sen. Mike Barrett won passage of an amendment to ensure full state reimbursement of monies Bedford expends for indigent veterans moving into Bedford Green, situated on the grounds of the local VA hospital.

While the state Department for Veteran Services (DVS) currently reimburses Bedford at 100%, the arrangement is voluntary and the agency is under no legal obligation to do so.  The 69-unit Bedford Green complex serves low-income and high-risk veterans from all over Massachusetts.

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Barrett Backs Student Loan Bill of Rights Press Release

Boston – On April 11, Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) joined his Senate colleagues in voting to pass the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” giving greater protections to student loan borrowers in disputes with companies servicing their loans.

The bill, ‘An Act establishing a student loan bill of rights’, requires student loan servicers to be licensed companies with the state Division of Banks, and empowers state officials to investigate loan servicers and take action against those that violate the state’s banking and consumer protection laws.

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Barrett Backs More Privacy for Social Media Press Release

Boston – The Massachusetts State Senate has taken a major new step to protect the social media accounts of students and employees in the Commonwealth. 

For the past year and a half, Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) has served as an original cosponsor of “An Act relative to social media privacy protection,” which passed the Senate last week.  The legislation prevents employers and schools from requesting or requiring access to the personal social media accounts of employees, students and job or school applicants as conditions of acceptance, employment, or participation in school activities.

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Carbon Pricing Picks Up Steam Press Release

Boston – Senate Chair of the Energy Committee Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and environmental advocates are making headway in their campaign to put a price on carbon in Massachusetts.

Barrett — who filed a carbon pricing bill in the Legislature this session — joined his colleagues on the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee to announce the release of an omnibus energy bill that includes carbon pricing. The incorporation of carbon pricing into an overall policy initiative by the Senate is a breakthrough.

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Barrett Grills Eversource on its New Charge on Solar Users Press Release

Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell) quizzed Eversource Energy and the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) at a formal oversight hearing last Tuesday, January 30.

Senate Chair Barrett joined House Chair Golden and their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the public hearing, following the DPU’s approval of a request from Eversource for a new fee on solar users.

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Mass. Residents May Be Able to Fight Climate Change Via Their Tax Returns Press Release

Joined last week by prominent researchers and humanitarian leaders, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) asked the Legislature’s Committee on Revenue to approve legislation tweaking Massachusetts tax forms and letting taxpayers direct voluntary contributions, over and above their regular payments, to poverty-stricken countries faced with worsening conditions caused by global warming.

The full title of Barrett’s bill is An Act enabling taxpayer donations to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an initiative of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Mass. Climate Math: Getting to Paris Reductions Goal Won’t Get Us Further Press Release

Sounding a note of caution on today’s debate in the Mass. House of Representatives, the Senate chair of the joint committee that deals with energy matters cited “an inconvenient truth about Massachusetts climate change math: our share of the U.S. emissions goal set in Paris for 2025 is almost identical to a state-specific emissions goal we’ve already set for ourselves for 2020.  By 2025, Massachusetts will need to have progressed well beyond this point, or we will have little chance of meeting our ultimate emissions goal set for 2050.”

“Merely running in place on emissions reductions between the years 2020 and 2025 will throw us off pace and forfeit Massachusetts’ hopes to lead on this crucial issue,” said State Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington).

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