North Pleasant Street Amehrst MA

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Democratic Caucus on June 1st At the Jones Library

Democratic Caucus on June 1st At the Jon…

REMINDER:  DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS ON JUNE 1 AT JONES LIBRARY 1-4:30 PMAssistance in setting up (starting at 12:30) and closing down, registration and voting appreciated!     If you can't come but are interested in being a delegate, let me know -- no gua...

Democratic Caucus on June 1st At the Jones Library

REMINDER:  DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS ON JUNE 1 AT JONES LIBRARY 1-4:30 PM

Assistance in setting up (starting at 12:30) and closing down, registration and voting appreciated!  

 
If you can't come but are interested in being a delegate, let me know -- no guarantees, but it is possible.
 
Mindy Domb will be there, as will other public officials.  Use your chance to bring your concerns and interests to them.
 
 
To keep you informed on state political events, I forward the message from our State Senator.
 
Friends,
 
I know this is a long letter, but working on the state budget is one of the most important things I will do on your behalf this year, so I want to provide you with as much information as possible about this process.
 
Thank you to everyone who contacted me and my office to share your priority amendments to the Senate’s FY20 budget. The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its budget proposal on May 7 and since then my team and I have been working non-stop to file strategic amendments that lift up the programs and priorities of the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district, as well as working to hear what’s important to YOU in the Senate’s final budget proposal.
 
Your emails, calls, office visits, and tweets have been wonderful to receive. Hundreds of you have reached out to me about funding that’s important to your family, to your work, to the environment, or that you support just because it creates some good in the world.
 
I filed over 30 amendments to the Senate budget with a focus on education and regional equity. Over the next week, my Facebook page will be the go-to place to hear much greater depth about the amendments I filed and co-sponsored, and to follow along as these amendments are debated. You can also use this link to see a full list of amendments I’ve filed and co-sponsored.
 
Here are a few examples, starting with a bundle focused on transportation.
 
  • I’m seeking $250,000 to market the Knowledge Corridor Rail Pilot program (amendment #461). The Department of Transportation is beginning a two-year pilot of expanded rail service between Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield, but the pilot will only become permanent if 24,000 riders take the train each year- and there’s no marketing budget.
 
  • I’ve also filed my bill (S.2054) to study rail from North Adams, through Greenfield to Boston as an outside section of the budget (bills can be filed as outside sections of the budget).
 
  • Finally on transportation, I’m seeking funding for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to develop and launch a rideshare demonstration program (amendment #1117). This program would demonstrate how transit services can be delivered differently in a rural area by employing the use of technology alongside, and in partnership with, public transit and the non-profit and private sectors, using a model that can be scaled and replicated. Not only is public transit very limited in this region, there are broad areas that are completely unserved. If funded, this rideshare program has the potential to benefit many communities in a region with low incomes and scarce services.
 
What's more, I filed many other amendments which would deliver much-needed funding to the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district, focused on important issues like homelessness prevention, active bystander training, veteran’s mediation, and stopping child sexual abuse.
 
In addition to the amendments I filed that would benefit our district, I submitted amendments that would benefit the entire state.
 
  • The CHERISH Act was the first bill I filed, and it would raise funding for public higher education back to its highest level ever. So as an amendment (#302), I’ve filed the first year of funding increases in the CHERISH Act.. This amendment would increase each of the higher education line items - UMass campuses, state universities and community colleges – by a total of over $62,000,000. Per student, public funding for higher education in Massachusetts has been cut by 31 percent since FY01, and Massachusetts now has the fastest-growing public college costs and the second-fastest increase in student debt in the nation. This amendment would begin to reverse those trends.
 
  • I also filed an amendment to increase the corporate minimum tax, which has not been increased in decades (amendment #303). The corporate minimum tax is the backstop amount that all companies pay if they owe nothing more in state corporate taxes. This amendment would keep the $456 tax level for small businesses, but then increases the amount for larger firms based on the amount of sales the company has in the state. I’m proposing to use the revenue generated by this tax to increase three school transportation line items: fully funding regional school transportation and homeless student transportation, and bringing out of district vocational school transportation funding back to its record high level. I’ve just learned that Mass Municipal Association has thrown its weight behind this amendment.
 
  • As Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, I’m also looking to increase funding for two Department of Public Health grant programs (amendment #s 439 & 440). One of these grant programs, the DPH Youth at Risk grants, sends funding to nonprofits with youth prevention programs dealing with addiction, bullying, suicide, teen pregnancy, discrimination faced by LGBTQ youth, and other crucial issues.
 
In addition to the amendments I filed, I’ve been thrilled to sign on as a co-sponsor to budget amendments filed by my Senate colleagues. I made decisions on which amendments to co-sponsor based off of what I heard from YOU. I’ve made a first pass at co-sponsorship, and will finalize my sign-ons on Monday before the Senate begins to debate these amendments on Tuesday.
 
  • I heard from an incredible number of constituents supporting Mass Cultural Council’s budget amendments, and so I was delighted to sign on to amendment #686 to increase funding for the Cultural Council, and amendment #832 which requires the Cultural Council to spend over 70 percent of their budget allocation on grants and subsidies.
 
  • I also heard from so many Community Preservation Act supporters, and I was proud to co-sponsor amendment #3 to increase the funding mechanism for the CPA. Supporters of the regional transit authorities also contacted me en-masse. The good news is that the Senate Ways and Means budget funds RTAs at their highest level ever, over $90 million. The challenge, and the focus of amendment #1136 which I co-sponsored, is to ensure this funding is distributed equitably to the PVTA and FRTA.
 
  • I signed on to amendment #936 to increase the budget for the Department of Conservation by over $4 million. This is a central part of the Green Budget package that environmental advocates have contacted me about.
 
  • I’ve co-sponsored amendment #544 to increase funding for the Healthy Incentives Program to $8.5 million, and amendment #212 to give our early educators a raise. I’ve co-sponsored amendments to devote more money to rest homes and nursing homes (amendment #542), more grants for local councils on aging (amendment #655), full funding for charter school reimbursements to public schools (amendment #323), increasing rural school aid funding (amendment #277), establishing a fund to get lead out of school drinking water (amendment #228), closing the SNAP gap by allowing one application for both MassHealth and SNAP (amendment #434), and so much more.
 
On Monday, the Senate Democrats will gather in caucus all day to make the case for our budget priorities. Then on Tuesday we will begin to debate the 1,142 amendments that have been filed, and we will debate into the early morning hours for the rest of the week until every amendment gets fair consideration.
 
I will bring your voices onto the Senate floor, as I debate my amendment to ensure that no town receives less in PILOT reimbursement for state owned land than it did the year before (amendment #399), or when I speak about the need for additional funding for the Franklin County Opioid Task Force (amendment #978) as they do groundbreaking work to fight the opioid epidemic that has touched so many of our lives.
 
THANK YOU for all of your incredible input during this budget cycle. A budget is truly a statement of our values, and my team and I are working as hard as we can to make sure that this budget reflects the stellar values of the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district.
 
Warmly,
 
P.S. Look at the spectacular students from South Hadley Schools and their allies on the School Committee and in the schools. The students organized to collect 700+ letters calling for the legislature to fully fund our schools and delivered them to Rep. Dan Carey and me. What an inspiration!

November Elections are Coming Up

State/Federal Elections

Lawn signs, buttons, bumper stickers, and campaign literature for Jay Gonzalez for Governor, Maura Healey for AG, Elizabeth Warren, and Jim McGovern are available at the joint headquarters for Western Mass at 18 Center Stree., Northampton.

Note that although Solomon Goldstein-Rose withdrew from the State Rep race, the ballot will have his name on it because the paperwork was not processed in time. Do not get confused -- Mindy Domb is the Democratic candidate.

There are 3 statewide ballot issues and two local policy reco's to our legislators.  The first ballot question sets minimum staffing standards for nurses in hospitals; ADTC has endorsed this one.   The second calls for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United interpretation that gave corporations free speech rights equivalent to those of people.  The third endorses a law passed by the legislature that adds gender identity to the classes protected from discrimination in public accommodations, resorts and amusement sites.
 
Question 4 asks our state legislators to support Medicare for all health insurance.  The 5th asks our state legislators to introduce and support legislation for ranked choice voting in state and local elections.
 
There is still lots of work to be done to Take Back the House.  Locally we have concentrated on nearby races in New  Hampshire and NY, but calls can be made for races across the country, and contributions are always desired. Reach out to https://sites.google.com/view/takebackthehouse2018/.
 
Early voting is offered at Town Hall Oct 22 - Nov 2, M-F 8:00 - 4:30; at UMass Student Union Oct 24-26, 9-3:00; and Oct 27, 9-3:00 at the North Fire Station and the Munson Library.  Anyone not registered yet has until October 17 to sign up.  Go to Town Hall or do it online at  https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleabsentee/absidx.htm.
 

Local Elections

There are now two candidates for each seat on the incoming town Council.  This is a nonpartisan election, so
 
This is a consequential election because it will set the precedents for how the Council will function long into the future.  What will be the role of advisory committees, how will they be appointed, will they represent the range of interests and people in Amherst?  How will the Council organize its work and share responsibilities?  What will be its relationship to the Town Manager, the School Board, the Library Board?

 

 
 

2017 Massachusetts Democratic Convention Summary

Our Town Democratic Committee has not had much discussion about local issues in Amherst, but the emails below show an interest in starting such an exchange.  We won't all agree, but there is no loyalty test here.  Start with Chris Brashear's note next to the bottom.
 
The Platform Convention went pretty well.  There were speeches by all the statewide officials, the three announced candidates for nomination to Governor, and from our State Senator Rosenberg, Congressman McGovern and the two Senators (among many others).  I  think the best speeches were by Elizabeth Warren, followed by Maura Healey and Ed Markey.  By the time these were done the 3,000+ delegates were ready to vote on the platform planks, but speeches continued for a while.
 
The platform business was really about the draft sent out by the state party after 30 hearings across the state, and the amendments proposed by various groups, mostly to emphasize issues more or move the party left.  Voting moved incredibly fast (one hour for the whole thing), with few speeches about them, divisions of the house by voice vote or standing up, and no roll calls.  We were supposed to move on to workshops, but because the voting started late the voting ended late and the workshops were cancelled, so the formal work of the convention ended about 4:30.  For real politicians, the work started the day before and continued after, as supporters were identified, organizing across the state was set up on issues and candidates, and friends found.
 
Our Revolution Massachusetts (the continuation of Bernie's campaign, or "ORMA") provided the following summary of the convention as they see it:
Convention Highlights
Pre-Convention

    The Draft platform produced by the party, including free higher education and Sanctuary legislation, was the most progressive draft in Massachusetts history, thanks to the testimony of the dedicated testimony of ORMA members and other progressives making their voices heard during platform hearings.

    ORMA collected over 5,400 signatures during the course of 6 hours (Friday6:30PM-11PM / Saturday 8AM-9:30AM).  That’s 700 signatures an hour!

    ORMA successfully registered 8 Platform amendments, 11 resolutions, and 2 Charter amendments into official consideration:  Many thanks to the dozens of volunteers who swarmed parties, credentials lines, and the whole convention center.  [NOTE:  all the resolutions were tabled and the Charter Amendments lost.]

Platform Amendments

Wins: 4 of 5 amendments were accepted, and we passed 4:

    A Public Safety Plank by Black Lives Matter, Indivisible Essex 6, and ORMA called for consequences for excessive force by police on minorities, an end to for-profit prisons, and a long term call for transitioning resources away from prisons toward restorative justice.

    A Climate Justice amendment which made the language in the Climate plank stronger on multiple points.

    Student Loan Debt Forgiveness was added into the Education plank:  A call for no means-test and no income cap requirement on who qualifies for Free Higher Ed and funding to cancel or forgive the current outstanding student loan debt for Massachusetts residents.

    A packed Voting amendment:  Rank Choice Voting, Election Day holiday, independent commissions to fix gerrymandering, and an end to Massachusetts DNC superdelegates.

Loss: 1 amendment was controversial.

    Our Fair Housing amendment was narrowly defeated by an extremely close margin. Many delegates objected to one of the bullet points, and our attempts to make a friendly amendment to remove that and ensure passage, was not allowed by the Chair.

Blocks: 3 of our 8 amendments were blocked from voting by the Chair, and although ORMA had a lot of support, a 2/3 supermajority of delegates was required to suspend the rules.

    2 Peace amendments to change foreign policy were blocked on grounds that the Rules specify “State & Domestic” issues only.  However, MA soldiers are killed abroad; MA taxes are diverted outside the state for wasteful wars; and our citizens suffer increased risk of terrorism when we fuel overseas conflicts with arms rather than heal them with diplomacy.

    1 “Platform in Action” amendment to hold our elected officials accountable who disregard our platform by prioritizing the campaigns of others who do; because Article 6, Section V of the Charter absolves officials from removal for opposing a platform plank.  However, we were NOT calling for removal, but selective campaign funding.

 
 
Nearly half of the delegates were first timers, so there was lots of energy . Emily Stetson, who was elected as a delegate here in Amherst, got to introduce Sen. Warren.  Next year's convention will be about nominations for state-wide offices, so if this sounds interesting, think about running in the next caucus.

 

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