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OpEd: State Sen. Ken Donnelly Reflects on Legislative Accomplishments

Donnelly, an Arlington Democrat, writes about a "busy and productive year" in the Massachusetts State Senate.

 

It was a busy and productive year in the Massachusetts State Senate. With the 187th Session of the General Court coming to a close, the Senate made a strong push to pass important legislation on a variety of issues with a focus on the needs of our constituents and making the Commonwealth a better place to live and work for all.

My key focus this session has been on increasing job training that will prepare our workforce – young and old – to fill the good jobs in growing and important industries in Massachusetts like advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and healthcare. The jobs bill passed in July incorporated legislation I filed that will provide training tailored to fill these jobs known as middle-skills jobs. Middle skill jobs require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree. The legislation creates and funds partnerships between employers in high growth industries, community colleges and voc-tech schools in order to build a workforce that is tailored to Massachusetts’ job needs and provide good jobs for our residents.

In this session, we backed our commitment to our cities and towns by increasing local aid funding from fiscal 2012. A total of $46.3 million in local aid was allocated to the towns in the 4th Middlesex district for FY13. Education funding for children from kindergarten to 12th grade throughout the district was also increased along with state reimbursements for special education costs. Major reforms to municipal healthcare were passed, including the bill I filed that allows municipalities who save money by joining the state health insurance system to provide health reimbursement accounts to protect those who depend most on health services.

In the February 2012 supplemental budget, we provided relief to small businesses by freezing the unemployment insurance rates. This budget increased funding for  adult day health services to low-income seniors and disabled persons and increased funding for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help offset heating costs for those in need.

This year, I worked diligently for the passage of the updated Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA is a state law that provides a mechanism, along with matching funds, for cities and towns in Massachusetts to acquire and protect parks and open space, create and support affordable housing, and preserve historic buildings.

After leading the nation in implementing comprehensive healthcare for all, our focus shifted to health care finance reform. We passed a bill that will save up to $200 billion over the next 15 years in health care costs. The bill, signed into law on Aug. 6, establishes a statewide health care cost growth goal that will be proportional to the growth in the state’s overall economy. It will also increase access to essential care services, require more transparency and accountability, encourage new payment models, and makes key investments in prevention and wellness efforts.

Other notable pieces of legislation which I supported this year include the VALOR Act, which further strengthens Massachusetts’ commitment to veterans and their families, alimony reform, strengthening laws against human trafficking, a $1.4 billion transportation bond bill focused on fixing our roads and bridges, and an energy bill that aims to reduce the price of electricity and support renewable energy efforts.

This is just a snapshot of the legislative work done this session. It remains an enormous privilege and honor to serve the constituents of the 4th Middlesex district and represent you on Beacon Hill. It has been a productive two years in the legislature and I am looking forward to another two years to come.

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