Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The spring has been a busy season on Beacon Hill. Here are some highlights of what has happened over the past several months.
Paid Sick Days
On April 1st, I spoke at the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition Event in the Great Hall at the State House to discuss my Paid Sick Days legislation. Lilly Ledbetter was the keynote speaker whose landmark Supreme Court case spurred the enactment of The Fair Pay Act, named in her honor, which prevents other women from suffering the same fate as Ms. Ledbetter. This legislation was the first bill signed into law by President Obama. Governor Deval Patrick and Senator Kennedy's widow, Victoria Kennedy, also offered supportive remarks.
Parent Child Home Program
On May 5th, the Parent Child Home Program Anniversary event was held at the State House, and as House Chair of Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities Committee, I was one of the speakers. The Newton Community Services Center (NCSC) was recognized for their 40 years of promoting the importance of reading for very young children and families. I was joined at the celebration by Secretary of Education Paul Reville, Commissioner of the Department of Early Childhood Education Sherri Renee Killins, and representatives from NCSC. In the final House budget, I was able to successfully include an amendment to continue funding for this important resource.
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Program
Also on April 1st, I facilitated the panel discussion with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts on, "Improving Futures by Reconnecting Girls & their Incarcerated Mothers". This collaborative conversation centered on ways for families to address the needs of incarcerated mothers and their children. The goal was to gather the collective wisdom of the group to move the agenda forward to maximize resources to better serve these families. Panelists included Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley, and Patrick Leahy of Public Council Services.
On Thursday, March 25th, I presented an Employer of the Year Award to Steve Hilton, local employer and award recipient at the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition Employment Celebration: A celebration of work, the key to recovery. This event recognized Massachusetts employers who provide employment opportunities to Massachusetts citizens recovering from mental illness, and celebrates the employment success of clubhouse members.
City of Newton
Newton Cultural Alliance
As a founding member of this new organization, it is my pleasure to report that the NCA received an Adam's Grant Award, totaling $3,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), to raise awareness of Newton's cultural organizations and create synergies between the NCA's member organizations, the business community and the city in an effort to increase the quality of life for all in Newton. Check out the NCA website: www.newtonculture.org which includes a Newton events calendar.
Old Lower Falls Rail Bridge Update
The Newton and Wellesley Conservation Commissions recently approved the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) design plan for the reconstruction of the old rail bridge for pedestrian access, crossing the Charles River fom Newton to Wellesley. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2010. This project is funded through the Accelerated Bridge Bond Program established by Governor Patrick at the end of 2008. There are two other pedestrian bridges in Auburndale that are also included in the program and are currently in the design phase.
Hamilton Community Center
This past January, my legislative funding proposal of $500,000 for the Hamilton Community Center, which was secured in the 2008 Capital Improvements Bond Bill was approved by Governor Patrick. I will be working with Mayor Warren and his team to address much needed capital improvements. This funding comes at a critical time, when the heating system, roof, windows, floors, lighting are in need of replacement or upgrading. This community center is a central resource for the community, after school programs, pre-school classes and many other activities in Newton.
Check out the two Newton sound barriers currently under construction. After advocating for years through many administrations with the Waban/Quinobequin neighborhood and the West Newton neighborhood, thanks to Governor Patrick, these sound barriers are finally coming to fruition at the juncture of Rt. 128 and Rt. 16 in Waban and along the Massachusetts Turnpike in West Newton.
Paid Sick Days Bill
Paid Sick Days, a bill I have been working on for several years, recently moved from the Health Care Finance Committee to House Ways and Means. This proposal would help increase productivity, reduce the spread of seasonal flu, cut down on emergency room visits and permit workers to stay home to care for themselves or an ailing family member. In Massachusetts, 40 percent of all workers lack a single guaranteed paid sick day. That means that nearly half of the hard working people of our Commonwealth will lose wages and may even risk losing their jobs if they must take care of themselves or their family members when they get sick. This legislation would allow an individual to earn up to 7 paid sick days on an annual basis, but not carried over to the next year. This is a critical aspect of the bill, because more and more working people are caring not just for children, but also for elderly relatives. Older residents of Massachusetts often depend on working family members for the majority of their non-medical care. I look forward to working with the business community in support of working people who lack these benefits.
School Nutrition Bill
Earlier this year I voted to ban the sale of unhealthy foods and drinks in Massachusetts public schools, through legislation that improves food choices at Commonwealth schools to help fight childhood obesity. I was pleased that the bill included my legislation which will provide communities with the necessary tools to help our schools partner with parents and health care providers to create a healthier future for our children. The bill is currently in conference committee.
House Passes Impaired Driving Legislation
The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed impaired driving legislation that prohibits texting while driving, requires vision testing for drivers over the age of seventy-five and bans junior operators from using a cell phone behind the wheel. One of the main features of the bill included my impaired driver legislation, H. 2241 which allows health care providers to report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles a patient of any age who demonstrates a cognitive or functional impairment believed to affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The health care provider would be immune from civil liability that might otherwise result from reporting or failing to report. This language received the support of the Massachusetts Medical Society, AARP, AAA Southern New England, the Gerontology Institute, the Massachusetts Councils on Aging and Middlesex D.A. Gerry Leone. There are now two versions of impaired driving legislation in conference committee.
Other legislation I am working on for Nurse Anesthetists and Midwives continue to progress through the legislature. Please visit www.kaykhan.org for more information on these important bills.
At the end of April, after a long legislative week, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing a balanced budget for the fiscal year 2011. Given the consensus against new taxes and a budget that already included deep cuts, there wasn't much room for additional funding, but we did make language changes. Although members offered 869 amendments to the House Ways and Means (HW&M) version of the budget, most were not debated because of the economic climate and much of the original FY11 HW&M budget remained unchanged. There was a 4% cut to local aid, many state agencies received further funding cuts and there were no tax cuts and no tax increases. Grants to Head Start programs and universal pre-kindergarten grants were level funded in the House budget, $75.9 million for Substance Abuse Services was allocated with the income generated from the new alcohol sales tax and $3.6 million in funding was restored to the Suicide Prevention and Intervention Program. The bill also provides $45.8 million for Enhanced Home Care Services. From here the Senate will debate its version of the FY11 budget at the end of May before both versions go to a conference committee to settle the differences, and then one final budget goes to the Governor's desk.
The House approved the gambling bill by a vote of 120 to 37 in April. The debate over a period of two days was thoughtful and though it turned out the final vote was not close, for many Representatives, this vote was difficult. The proposal has strong economic promise with the some of the income generated going back to municipalities much like the lottery. I heard from many of my constituents who were concerned about the impact of casinos on arts and culture and I successfully added an amendment that would give 1% of the income generated to the Mass Cultural Council. While the delegation was split on the vote, I invite you to read my TAB OPED column, which is on website,
explaining my vote in favor of the bill. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass in some form, before a three way negotiation, which will include the Governor. The likely outcome is some form of final approval for casinos. The largest uncertainty is whether the final bill will include "racinos" - slot parlors at the race tracks. The House bill allows for the building of two casinos as well as slots at four racetracks in the Commonwealth.
As the new year began, the Governor and the Legislature focused on eliminating the achievement gap in schools across the Commonwealth. The bill that passed- entitled An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap - strengthened the state's application for $250 million in federal "Race to the Top" funding, which would have allowed for stronger intervention authority for the state in underperforming districts, lift the cap on charter schools in the lowest performing school districts and help to facilitate innovation and excellence in schools throughout Massachusetts. Though Massachusetts was unsuccessful in the first round there will be a second grant opportunity.