Roundup of State House news: Domestic violence legislation, support for military and veterans, call for justice reforms, conservation bills and more

by Beth Melo on April 24, 2014

Post image for Roundup of State House news: Domestic violence legislation, support for military and veterans, call for justice reforms, conservation bills and more

Above: Representative Carolyn Dykema and Senator Jamie Eldridge pose with Southboroug seniors during state house tour. (photo provided)

At a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, Representative Carolyn Dykema was congratulated for helping to draft and pass an important bill. The legislation is to close some dangerous “loop holes” in domestic violence laws.

That was just one of many items keeping our state legislators busy since February.

If you would like to know what else they have been up to on our behalf, here are the headlines from the press releases I’ve been stock piling:

  • Legislature Passes $13 Billion Transportation Bond Bill
  • House Passes Comprehensive Domestic Violence Legislation
  • Sannicandro, Eldridge Highlight Public Support for Criminal Justice Reform in Recent Poll
  • Senator Eldridge Announces 34th Annual Senior Conference at Hudson High School
  • Rep Dykema and Sen. Eldridge Host Southborough Senior Center at the State House
  • Valor Act II Legislation for Veterans Signed Into Law
  • Senator Eldridge, Representative Benson Appointed to Bottle Deposit Law Subcommittee
  • Bill Requiring Comprehensive Energy Analysis Of Public Buildings Advances
  • Senator Eldridge Announces Oil Heat Bill Advances Out of Energy Committee “Since
  • Senator Eldridge Votes To Pass Drinking Water And Wastewater Reform

Scroll down for excerpt from each story, and link to full press release.

Legislature Passes $13 Billion Transportation Bond Bill – April 18, 2014

Bill authorizes funding for aging infrastructure, including Chapter 90 Road and Reconstruction of Route 30 for Southborough . . . $13 billion in capital spending over the next five years to fund improvements to the state’s transportation system and includes a one-year $300 million authorization for the Chapter 90 program to fund local projects such as rebuilding and repairing roads and bridges.

“I am pleased that the Legislature worked together to craft a transportation bond bill to invest in every community in Massachusetts and complete critical road, bridge and public transportation projects,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “I was proud to vote for this transportation legislation in order to continue to improve the quality of life for people in MetroWest and attract more companies to create jobs.” (read more)

House Passes Comprehensive Domestic Violence Legislation – April 11, 2014
Earlier this week, Representative Carolyn Dykema joined her colleagues in the House to pass comprehensive domestic violence legislation which creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts and seeks to empower victims. . .

The legislation incorporates several elements from bills filed or co-sponsored by Representative Dykema with the support of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan including:

  • Increases allowable penalties in domestic violence cases in which offender has a previous domestic violence offense or history of violence;
  • Authorizes judges to impose both cash bail and conditions on domestic violence offenders to address flight risk, while also ensuring protection of a victim, witnesses and community. Current law does not allow for both bail and conditions; and
  • Creates a charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that are strongly correlated to escalating violence and homicide. (read more)

Sannicandro, Eldridge Highlight Public Support for Criminal Justice Reform in Recent Poll – April 11, 2014
Co-chairs of the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus, Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) and Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), announced Friday that Massachusetts residents are ready for criminal justice reform, based on data presented by MassINC Polling Group at Tuesday’s monthly caucus meeting. . .

“It’s clear from the MassINC polling, the large membership of the Drug Law Reform Caucus, and the countless stories of people across Massachusetts struggling with substance abuse that our government’s current approach to addiction and incarceration is broken, and that we need to make significant reforms,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge. (read more)

Senator Eldridge Announces 34th Annual Senior Conference at Hudson High School – April 11
Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) today announced details for the 34th annual Senior Conference at Hudson High School on Thursday, April 24th. The Senior Conference will feature a variety of services, workshops, food and entertainment free for seniors in attendance. (read more)

Rep Dykema and Sen. Eldridge Host Southborough Senior Center at the State House April 9, 2014
Last week, 25 Southborough residents visited the Massachusetts State House for a day of activities hosted by Representative Carolyn Dykema, Senator Jamie Eldridge and the Southborough Senior Center.

“Getting to know my constituents and learn about what’s important to them is one of the best parts of my job,” Dykema said. “Hosting our guests for the day was a great opportunity to spend time together while sharing the rich history of our state during their first visit to the State House. The Senior Center was a big help coordinating the event and I’m looking forward to another visit again soon!”

“Helping constituents, especially our seniors, is what we pride ourselves on doing every day as legislators,” said Senator Eldridge. “I was honored to be able to tour the State House with our seniors and spend time with them and discuss the benefits available to them from the state government.” (read more)

Valor Act II Legislation for Veterans Signed Into Law April 7, 2014
Today, the Valor Act II which was passed by the legislature in recent weeks, was signed into law by Governor Patrick. Representative Carolyn Dykema joined her colleagues in the House and Senate to vote in favor of the legislation that supports military personnel, veterans and their families. . .the bill includes the following provisions:

  •  Allows student veterans enrolled in college who are called to active duty to either complete coursework without penalty following duty or withdraw and receive a tuition refund;
  •  Increases penalties for disturbing military funerals or services;
  •  Enacts provisions to guard against veterans charity fraud;
  •  Lays the groundwork for expansion of veterans courts to veterans across the state;
  •  Requires the Division of Professional Licensure to waive the initial application or certification fee for licensure for any veteran;
  •  Establishes a post-deployment council to make recommendations and study mental health issues to support military members transitioning to civilian life after deployment;
  •  Requires the Department of Public Health to issue guidance to acute hospitals and ambulance service providers to ensure the identification of veterans in emergency settings. (read more)

Senator Eldridge, Representative Benson Appointed to Bottle Deposit Law Subcommittee – March 26, 2014
Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) were recently appointed to serve on a bottle law deposit subcommittee tasked with the objective of working out a compromise on bottle deposit law expansion. (read more)

Bill Requiring Comprehensive Energy Analysis Of Public Buildings AdvancesMarch 20, 2014
A bill filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) that would require new construction or major renovation projects in state buildings to measure the energy implications of all resources used was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

“This legislation is the next step in making Massachusetts government truly sustainable by measuring all aspects of the construction or renovation of state buildings that impact energy use,” said Senator Eldridge. (read more)

Senator Eldridge Announces Oil Heat Bill Advances Out of Energy CommitteeMarch 6, 2014
Legislation that would establish a new Oil Heat Energy Efficiency Fund sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The bill would help homeowners and businesses install new energy-efficient oil heat systems through a 2.5 cents per gallon surcharge on oil heat and would dedicate revenue to weatherization of homes and fuel assistance for low-income residents.

“Since the passage of the Green Communities Act and the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008, Massachusetts has led the nation in energy efficiency and made significant progress on reducing carbon emissions,” said Senator Eldridge. “However, there are tens of thousands of homes that have outdated oil heat systems that are emitting more carbon than they should, contributing to global warming. S.1586 would help homeowners upgrade their oil heaters, reduce emissions, use less oil and create long-term savings for residents across Massachusetts.” (read more)

Senator Eldridge Votes To Pass Drinking Water And Wastewater Reform – February 27, 2014
The Senate on Thursday passed legislation 37-0 that combines reform with increased commitments to improve existing partnerships with cities and towns, grow municipal options while incentivizing best management practices and responsibly address water and wastewater infrastructure challenges in the Commonwealth.

“I am extremely pleased that the Senate passed An Act Improving Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure today,” said Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “This bill, which I was proud to have filed with the Senate President, is the first step in making critical investments in our state’s water infrastructure while instituting reforms that will better protect our environment, water supply and make measurable contributions to public safety, economic development, tourism and the overall quality of life across the Commonwealth.” (read more)

1 Dean Dairy April 26, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Here’s my immediate take-away when I read this round-up of self-serving press releases from our state legislators. These feel good issues that legislators like to tout in the home district come at a cost from the one-party leadership on Beacon Hill who dole them out. Specifically, they buy silence from local representatives on the major fiscal issues. Where are our local representative’s voices on the macro budget issues of the increasing tax burden, runaway pension debt, revenue surpluses with continued absence of promised local aid or tax relief? Crickets.

Transportation Bond. The press releases don’t venture to say how much local residents will pay in taxes to pay-off the bond issue in exchange for the value of the local improvements listed. How much value will taxpayers in the district get for their tax dollars?

Domestic Violence. Does nothing to penalize domestic abuse allegations that are provably false, which are routinely abetted by unscrupulous lawyers in divorce proceedings. Such penalties would go a long way to increasing the seriousness with which such allegations are made and treated within the system, while increasing justice for the falsely accused.

Lighter Sentences for Drug Dealers. Sen. Eldridge doesn’t say it, but it sure sounds like he wants to reduce penalties for drug dealers. Notice the language in wanting the criminal justice system to focus on prevention and rehabilitation for “non-violent criminals and drug users”. Who are these so-called “non-violent criminals” that are distinct from “drug users”? They are drug dealers who are not engaged in violence (at least at the moment of their arrest). Whether you think it’s a good idea or not, Sen. Eldridge should make his intentions clearly known.

Higher Taxes on Essentials. Again, Sen. Eldridge, won’t say it directly, but he wants to increase state taxes on home heating oil and bottled water.

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