House Passes Balanced Budget with Targeted Investments in Education, Housing, Environment

BOSTON – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives this week to pass its budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $42.7 billion, the House budget makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $200 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $2.5 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services.

“This fiscally responsible budget balances the needs of communities, families, and individuals across the Commonwealth with smart investments that boost local aid, support our healthcare system, strengthen education, and protect the environment,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am proud of the work we have done to further our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis and invest in high-quality early education and care. I believe these investments will have a lasting positive effect on the lives of Massachusetts residents for years to come. I want to thank Chair Michlewitz for his diligence and hard work, and my colleagues in the House who were instrumental to this process.”

“This budget represents yet another year of meaningful investments to support the Commonwealth’s residents,” said Representative Meschino. “I was proud to advocate for the line items my constituents cared about most.”

Representative Meschino was able to secure funding for several key priorities for the 3rd Plymouth District, including full funding for state aid for public libraries and the Division of Ecological Restoration.  She also secured $30,000 for municipal safety in Hingham, and $20,000 for the summer trolley in Hull.

The House furthered its commitment to cities and towns in the budget, by increasing Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by nearly $30 million and providing $5.1 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $236 million increase for investments in schools over Fiscal Year 2019.  In addition, the budget includes a $16.5 million reserve for low-income students while the Joint Committee on Education continues its work on this issue. It also addresses the need for integrated student health and wellness supports, providing $2 million to establish the Supporting Health Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program to address non-academic barriers to school success.  The budget also expands the role of the Office of the Child Advocate to oversee integrated coordination of education and health programming. Additional education allocations include:

  • $328 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
  • $113 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
  • $73.8 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.

The House budget continues its commitment to ensuring children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC). The budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. The House budget also includes additional investments into Head Start grants and quality improvement measures in core EEC programming.

The House budget represents some of the biggest increases seen in a generation when it comes to housing and homelessness funding. Access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential and provides the foundation from which families and individuals can lead successful lives. This year, the House continues these efforts by providing:

  • $110 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
  • $72 million for Public Housing Subsidies;
  • $7.2 million for Alternative Housing Voucher Program; and
  • $53.4 million for Homeless individual shelters.

The budget continues the Legislature’s commitment to fight the opioid epidemic – a public health crisis that has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth. To help those in need, the House budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to discounted naloxone, making it more available for use in the field. In addition, the budget includes:

  • $143.9 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts;
  • $49.4 million for the Substance Use Disorder Trust Fund; and
  • $1.5 million increases for Massachusetts Access to Recovery Services.

The House budget includes funding for public safety and the judiciary, including investments to implement last session’s criminal justice reform law. The budget includes:

  • $8.8 million for a new community-based re-entry program;
  • $24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals; and
  • $10 million for Shannon Grants, a competitive grant program to individual municipalities to address heightened levels of gang violence.

The House calls for over $282 million in spending for environmental programs. These funding levels will ensure that state keeps up with the needs of its parks and environmental protections programs. These investments include:

  • $46 million for State Parks and Recreation;
  • $61 million for the Department of Environmental Protection; and
  • $1.5 million for Watershed Protection.

In the area of labor and economic development, the House budget invests in programs that provide job opportunities for residents to participate in the Commonwealth’s thriving economy. These investments include:

  • $ 38.1 million for Adult Basic Education Services;
  • $500,000 to establish a specialized prevailing wage and construction investigatory and enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office;
  • $14.5 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth; and
  • $4.8 million for the STEM Starter Academy, to support underperforming students at community colleges interested in pursuing STEM subjects.

MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents. This program provides health insurance for the frailest amongst us: the homeless, the recovering, mothers with children, and the working poor. In addition to funding this key safety net program, the budget also ensures funding for crucial health and human services agencies and providers including:

  • $109.8 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
  • $35 million increase in the supplemental rates for nursing homes across the Commonwealth and an emergency task force aimed at helping to bring stability to the industry;
  • $17.9 million towards the Councils on Aging to help senior citizens; and
  • Fully funds the Lift the Cap on Kids initiative that removes barriers that prevent families from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits for certain children.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will be increasing the Commonwealth’s contribution into the Community Preservation Act, which will ensure that over $36 million more will be distributed to projects all across the Commonwealth and will help raise the state’s match up to 30 percent for investments in open space, affordable housing and historic preservation.

The budget will now go to the Senate.

House Announces $1B GreenWorks Resilient Communities Investment Plan

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues last week to announce a new initiative to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to help communities across Massachusetts adopt technologies – including clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate change resiliency measures – that cut greenhouse gas emissions, fortify infrastructure and reduce municipal costs.

The proposal – known as GreenWorks – builds on a long-standing approach by the House of Representatives to provide concrete tools directly to communities with an immediate positive impact.

“This long-term investment will help Massachusetts cities and towns build sustainable and resilient communities,” said Speaker DeLeo, (D – Winthrop).  “Not only will cities and towns have the ability to cut greenhouse gases and lower long-term energy and operating costs, but they will adopt Massachusetts-made innovative technologies and put people to work on cleantech infrastructure projects.”

“Investing in community-based projects is critical to ensuring that mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency efforts reach every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “Communities like Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and North Scituate experience climate change in a dynamic way through coastal storms and sea level rise, making it paramount for the Commonwealth to support efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen infrastructure.  Our communities are uniquely poised to lead the way.”

These competitive grants are for cities and towns to fund projects including, but not limited to energy efficient buildings, solar, microgrids, energy storage, electric vehicle charging stations, or resiliency infrastructure. Under the proposal, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will administer the grants through its agencies.

House Passes $135 Million Supplemental Budget; Heating Assistance, Homeless Shelters among key initiatives funded

(BOSTON)Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a supplemental budget which addresses multiple areas including heating assistance, enhanced support for victims of sexual assault, and programs to help those battling homelessness.

The spending bill, approximately $135 million, highlights the House’s ongoing commitment in support of critical social service investments while balancing fiscal prudence; this practice has resulted in Massachusetts prioritizing its most vulnerable residents while maintaining a strong and diverse economy.

“With state residents still facing winter weather, this supplemental budget provides vital funds for heating assistance,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop).“I thank Chairman Michlewitz and the members of the House for passing this legislation which provides funding for a number of important areas.”

“Legislators are making meaningful investments in much needed services for residents in the Commonwealth, setting a good tone for this year’s budget process,” said Representative Meschino. “Programs like LIHEAP are indispensable to so many members of our community.”

The supplemental budget includes key investments in crucial areas:

  • $30 million for Low Income Heating Energy Assistance to fill the gap created by Federal funding shortfalls.
  • $10 million to fund emergency assistance for homeless families.
  • $8 million to begin to address a backlog of Sexual Assault Evidence Kits at the State Police Crime Lab.
  • $39 million to fund ratified collective bargaining agreements at several state agencies.

Representative Joan Meschino files legislation for 2019-2020 session

(BOSTON) - With the start of the new legislative session on January 2nd, state lawmakers spent the first two full weeks of January filing new bills which will be taken up during the 191st Legislative Session. Nearly 6,000 bills were filed collectively by the 200 lawmakers.  

State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) filed legislation advancing a wide range of policy initiatives advancing the interests of the district, including sea level rise and climate change, environmental justice, the care and protection of children in foster care, and food insecurity among college students, among others.

Representative Meschino filed a signature piece of legislation, An Act to create a 2050 Roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth. The bill seeks to align the Commonwealth’s existing commitment to reduce carbon emissions goals pursuant to the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 (GWSA) with the most updated climate research.  The 2050 Roadmap would reset the Commonwealth’s carbon emission reduction goal to “net-zero” by the year 2050 and requires the administration to conduct a backcast analysis that will lead to the development of a statewide plan to reduce carbon emissions across multiple sectors, including areas such as energy, transportation, and home heating efficiency.  Through a transparent and iterative process, the bill seeks to create an intentional and equitable plan to reduce carbon emissions, and the accountability for its implementation. The 2050 Roadmap creates a much-needed people-centered framework for Massachusetts to achieve its carbon emissions reduction goal and create a clean environment and thriving economy.

“The 2050 Roadmap aims to reinvigorate Massachusetts’ strategy to combat climate change,” said Representative Meschino. “This is the policy piece, along with continued resiliency investments, which will protect our coastal communities from sea level rise and coastal storms.”

Other environmental legislation filed by Representative Meschino seeks to promote environmental justice, to regulate gas infrastructure, to incentivize municipal solar projects, and to protect public health.

Representative Meschino also filed legislation to authorize expenditure of campaign funds on childcare, raise the auto insurance surcharge threshold for minor accidents, strengthen the 2016 Right to Repair legislation, and establish a pilot program to address food insecurity on college campuses.  Finally, she filed a series of bills clarifying the role of the court, the department of children and families and legal counsel in care and protection cases. For a complete list of bill titles and text, please visit Rep. Meschino’s page on the legislature’s website at: https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Profile/J_M1/Bills.  

All bills will now be assigned to a committee for review and initial disposition. Each and every bill will have a public hearing. Hearings typically begin in the spring and will be conducted throughout the formal session.

Representative Meschino Appointed to Committees for 191st General Court

(BOSTON) - State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) and her colleagues in the House of Representatives received official legislative committee assignments for the 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Representative Meschino was assigned to two joint committees and two House committees for the new session. These committees position the Representative to be an influential voice on a key set of topics that are of importance to the 3rd Plymouth District and the larger South Shore region. As a member each joint committee, Representative Meschino will hear testimony on bills and weigh in on legislation relating to each of these subjects.

Representative Meschino will serve on the following committees:

  • Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
  • Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs
  • House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight
  • House Committee on Technology and Intergovernmental Affairs.

“I am looking forward to representing the interests of our communities on each of these committees, and working hard to advance good policy,” said Representative Meschino. “These committee assignments provide me with a platform to advocate for our district’s needs, particularly on the topics of climate change and sea level rise, veterans affairs and social services, good governance and data security.”

Legislators filed over 6,000 bills last month.  Currently each bill is being processed by the Clerk’s office for the House and for the Senate to be assigned to a committee.  Shortly, the committees will begin to schedule public hearings for the bills filed in each of these subject areas. Each bill has a hearing, which the public is welcome to attend and provide testimony for.  Laws, bills, and hearing schedules are accessible online at https://malegislature.gov.

October 2018 Newsletter

Click here to read our October newsletter, highlighting energy and environmental legislation from this session.

Legislation Investing in Environmental Protection Signed into Law

(BOSTON) – On August 9, 2018, legislation authorizing $2.4 billion of investments in the environment, agriculture, and climate adaptation in the Commonwealth was signed into law. The Environmental Bond Bill funds local sea level rise and climate change resiliency and adaptation efforts, enhances environmental and natural resource protection, and invests in our parks and recreational assets. These investments will reach every corner of the Commonwealth, from coastal infrastructure to agricultural preservation. The Environmental Bond Bill positions Massachusetts to lead on coastal resilience, and to preserve our local community’s natural resources for generations to come.

“Climate change and sea level rise mitigation and adaptation are critical to ensure a prosperous future for the Commonwealth, and safety for its residents,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D - Hull). “In coastal communities like Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and North Scituate, the need for these kinds of investments is urgent. The legislature was able to meet that demand this session, and I will continue to fight for additional resources to protect our residents and preserve our community.”

Representative Meschino obtained a $500,000 authorization for a Regional Hazard Mitigation Initiative for the towns of Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and Scituate. This initiative will coordinate a prioritized regional hazard mitigation plan to improve collective hazard planning, increase public safety, and streamline emergency response among the four towns.

Some other highlights of the bill include:

 - $100,000,000 for coastal infrastructure and resiliency measures, including but not limited to: seawalls, jetties, revetments, retaining walls, and beach nourishment, including $1,500,000 for seawalls, jetties, and wave attenuation devices in both Scituate and Hull

 - Funding to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the implementation of mitigation and adaptation-related projects

 - $225,000,000 for community investment grants for land, soil, water, and natural resource conservation; preservation; watershed remediation and coastal resource protection

 - $100,000,000 for investment in water and air quality protection, and for integrated energy and environmental projects to preserve environmental quality and public health

 - $54,000,000 for the development and implementation of programs designed to address agricultural economic and environmental sustainability

 - The creation of Global Warming Solutions, Fishing Innovation, and Agricultural Innovation Trust Funds

Clean Energy Legislation Signed into Law

Image result for offshore wind

(BOSTON) – The Massachusetts Legislature took another important step this session towards meeting its 2030 and 2050 carbon emission reduction goals by enacting a law promoting clean energy in the Commonwealth. An Act to advance clean energy was signed into law on August 9, 2018. The new law builds on last session’s work to diversify the Commonwealth’s energy generation sources with large-scale hydropower, offshore wind, and energy storage.

“Clean energy generation or ‘greening the grid’ is important to build a clean energy future for Massachusetts,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “Developing renewable energy technology in Massachusetts is healthier and safer, and will lead to new jobs and other economic opportunity, creating a prosperous and sustainable future for the Commonwealth.”

The new law accomplishes four important goals.  First, the new law requires electricity utilities to purchase more electricity from renewable energy sources overtime.  The Massachusetts’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) will increase our renewable energy sources by 2% annually until 2030, at which point 45% of our electricity should be generated by renewable energy sources. Analysis from a 2017 report shows that a 2% increase in Massachusetts, coupled with Connecticut’s 2018 RPS increase is likely to result in over 20,000 in-region jobs and nearly 2,000 megawatts of additional Class I renewable energy by 2030. Additionally, the legislation doubles the state’s authorization to build offshore wind.

Second, the new law prohibits electric utilities from assessing a Minimum Monthly Reliability Contributions (MMRC) on solar, otherwise known as a demand charge, unless it is based on system peak use demand.  The electric utility company must keep customers thoroughly informed about how charges or fees are calculated and must educate consumers how personal use can be managed to reduce charges or fees.

Third, to increase our grid’s resilience, the law increases energy storage to 1000 megawatt hours. Electric utility companies must provide the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) with a yearly resilience report that includes a heat map of the electric distribution system, highlighting areas that are most likely to need infrastructure upgrades, and would benefit most from energy storage. The law authorizes a competitive procurement for resiliency non-wire alternatives. Gas utility companies must also report “lost and unaccounted for gas” to DPU annually.

Finally, An Act to advance clean energy combines both renewable energy and storage, creating a first-in-the-nation program to use storage to deliver clean power into the hours of the day when energy demand is highest, and electricity is most expensive and least renewable.

"Grand Bargain" marks significant legislative accomplishment for economic justice

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives this session to pass An Act relative to minimum wage, paid family medical leave and the sales tax holiday.  The new law raises the minimum wage, creates a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers, and establishes a permanent sales tax holiday.  Referred to as the “Grand Bargain”, the new law reflects significant collaboration and compromise by the key economic stakeholders to achieve the shared goal of economic prosperity and to support our local economic centers.

“Raising the minimum wage and establish paid family medical leave are two key decisions that will lift up our hardworking local families and help us retain good workers for our local businesses,” said Representative Meschino.  “At the same time, the legislation balances the concerns of employers, particularly the small businesses that are the core of our local town economies.”

Effective January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will increase to $12/hour, and will then continue to increase in $0.75 increments each year until it reaches $15/hour in 2023. The minimum wage for tipped employees will also increase, rising $0.60 each year until it reaches $6.75 in 2023. Per the legislation, tipped workers will also have their wages brought up to the general minimum wage after each shift, rather than at the end of each pay period, to ensure that they make at least minimum wage during every shift.

Per the law, people will be able to take paid, job-protected leave to:

  • Receive treatment for a serious medical condition
  • Bond with a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Care for a family member with a serious medical condition
  • Care for a family member injured while serving in the armed forces
  • Handle matters arising from a family member’s active duty service in the armed forces or call for deployment

Family, medical, and both aggregate and military family leave will extend to 12, 20, and 26 weeks, respectively.  Individuals on leave will receive 80% of their wage up to 50% of the state average weekly wage, then 50% of their wages past the state average weekly wage, up to the weekly benefit cap of $850. Family, medical, and military family leave will all take effect January 1, 2021.

Legislature authorizes spending on economic development in Massachusetts

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives this session to pass an economic development “bond bill.” The legislation, An Act relative to economic development in the commonwealth, authorizes more than $1 billion in spending to spur economic growth and expand economic opportunity in the Commonwealth.

“Ensuring access to economic success for all is critical to the sustainability of the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “This legislation makes important investments in infrastructure, industry, and coastal communities, and aims to make the economy work better for everyone.”

The legislation seeks to spur economic development through a wide array of programs including public infrastructure projects like street and sewer improvements, multi-family housing and mixed-use development, and transportation. In addition, the legislation invests in manufacturing innovation, technology development, and career technical training programs.  The legislation also establishes and apprenticeship tax credit for employers, and limits enforcement and sets standards for non-compete agreements in Massachusetts. The legislation funds initiatives that help small businesses grow, and establishes tax credits for businesses that occupy vacant storefronts in downtown areas. 

For coastal communities, the legislation includes investments in the maritime economy and dredging projects. The legislation includes $50 million for a grant program to fund community planning and investment activities that stimulate economic development and create jobs in the maritime economy sector. Also authorized is $2 million annually to support Fishing Partnership Health Plan Corporation, which assists fishermen and fishing families in obtaining health insurance coverage. Finally, it authorizes $50 million for grants to coastal communities to assist with saltwater dredging projects.