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This is a year-end review of activity from Beacon Hill and the 10th Norfolk District. To view our previous newsletters, click here.
Dear <<First Name>>,

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to serve you in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As I look ahead at 2014, I wanted to take this opportunity to review recent session accomplishments and provide this report on 2013. For me personally, it was an exhilarating first year. I learned a great deal about the process of legislating and worked with my colleagues to make Massachusetts a great place to work and live.

In addition to the work in the State House, we maintained a commitment to constituent services, assisting residents with unemployment matters, health care issues, and a variety of other topics. To view some of the photo highlights from 2013, click here. In addition, we hosted scores of residents who visited the State house, and we attended a number of events and meetings in Franklin and Medway to hear firsthand about the needs of residents here. 

I look forward to continuing to work with you in 2014.


 
Here are some of the highlights from the 2013 legislative year:
BUDGET
 
This session the House passed two major finance bills, the FY14 budget and the transportation finance bill, both of which were designed to stimulate economic growth. The FY14 budget, a $34 billion plan, allocates essential funds that advance the growth of the local economy and support the Commonwealth’s essential services and programs, including local aid, education, housing and health and human services. The budget reflects the priorities of the Commonwealth and the needs of cities, towns and residents, while also maintaining the highest level of fiscal responsibility and accountability. It makes important and thoughtful investments in many of our core services and programs in the Commonwealth, including education, care for the elderly, housing, distressed hospitals and mental health.

Locally, the budget included Chapter 70 increases of $157,550 for Franklin and $60,525 for Medway. It also included a $20,000 grant for Franklin's sculpture park and $15,000 to help fund the Vietnam Moving Wall in Medway. In addition, Franklin received a SAFE grant in the amount of $6,325. On the environmental front, Franklin received a $75,000 grant and Medway received $99,197.

The budget increased key areas of local education funding including $4.31 billion for Chapter 70, full funding for educating high-needs special education students and $51.5 million for Regional School Transportation. The budget also allocated a $15 million investment in early education that will take approximately 2,000 children off the waitlist for income-eligible child care. The budget also took decisive action to bolster funding for the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges, including a $478.9 million allocation for UMass that will prevent tuition and fee increases in the upcoming school year.  This reinforced our ongoing commitment to strengthen our education system as a means to create jobs and provide residents with a competitive edge.

The budget provided numerous health and human services provisions including $187.2 million to elder home care services, an increase of $6.2 million that will eliminate the 1,500 person waitlist for elder home care services, and increased funding for housing programs by $18.2 million to ensure safe and sustainable housing options.
 
ECONOMIC GROWTH
 
This year’s budget also provided new funding and resources for various programs enacted through the 2012 economic development legislation, including the Manufacturing Futures Program and the Mass Works Infrastructure Program, to foster job creation for employees of all skill levels across numerous industries.

The transportation finance bill, passed in August, was designed to solve long-standing financial problems within the state’s transportation system through continued reforms and a future, stable funding source without placing too great a burden on working families. The bill continued on the promise of the 2009 transportation reform law by enhancing efficiency and accountability, providing revenue to initiate economic growth and supporting necessary infrastructure projects.

PUBLIC SAFETY
 
Regional dispatch center: Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Rep. Roy's bill to establish a regional dispatch center for Franklin, Wrentham, Plainville and Norfolk. Known as of House No. 2189, the law allows the four communities to enter into a written agreement for the purpose of establishing a district to construct, equip, operate and maintain a consolidated regional public safety communications and dispatch center.

This was an important matter for public safety. Combining the dispatches for all of the towns will improve the response times, save taxpayer dollars, and make the citizens of the region safer. The bill also gives the towns quicker access through joint resources. Dispatchers at a regional center will have state-of-the-art tools and the latest technology. Rather than facing the numerous distractions in a typical police station, the dispatchers in the regional center can focus exclusively on taking calls and alerting first responders.

In addition, the consolidation of resources and enhanced technology will allow dispatchers to stay on the line with a caller during an emergency—providing CPR instructions, for example—while another dispatcher follows through with lining up the response resources. And the dispatchers will receive training that will get them up to, and keep them at, professional standards set by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. In short, the center will offer amenities that communities could not afford by going it alone.

Gun violence: Facing a challenge in balancing mental health privacy and public safety considerations, the gun violence task force appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo held its final hearing on Dec. 13 with a report to be issued soon. The group, which includes a diversity of opinions, met in private with advocates on both sides of the gun access debate, mental health practitioners and researchers, school officials and police chiefs from rural, suburban and urban areas.

To help prepare for the upcoming debate on the report, Rep. Roy spent trained with the Gun Owner's Action League (GOAL). The coursework included training in handling firearms, shooting at a range, and a review of safe handling techniques.  Earlier in the year, Rep. Roy hosted our gun violence forum at Dean College featuring a panel of legislators, Franklin's police chief, two college professors, and the Executive Director of the Gun Owners Action League. The event was well received in the community and was helpful in sorting through many of the issues surrounding this volatile topic. The information and comments provided by the panel were thoughtful, engaging, and material to the discussion, highlighting the difficulties faced by legislators in this area. The forum also made it clear that by sticking to the facts and avoiding hyperbole, we can have a civil discussion on reducing gun violence.

Compounding pharmacies: The House of Representatives worked in a bipartisan effort and voted unanimously to pass legislation that will increase the oversight of compounding pharmacies, improve quality and safety standards in the Commonwealth, and establish rigorous transparency and accountability practices for compounding pharmacies across the state. This compounding pharmacy bill modernizes pharmacy oversight while enhancing patient access to critical medications. The unanimous vote distinguishes Massachusetts as the first state to pass comprehensive legislation relative to compounding pharmacies. This legislation was carefully crafted following the 2012 meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated drugs produced at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts. 
 
WELFARE REFORM
 
Rep. Roy joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass comprehensive legislation that enhances the efficacy of the state’s welfare system through new initiatives and reforms. The Economic Independence Act enhances the efficacy of the state’s welfare system through new initiatives and reforms, including the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency program which provides numerous resources designed to help recipients achieve financial independence. It also builds on the House’s ongoing commitment to preventing welfare fraud and closing loopholes that incentivize individuals to remain on welfare through numerous provisions:
  • Expands the scope of prohibited EBT transactions to include foreign transmittal agencies to prevent the use of EBT cards for international wire transfers;
  • Requires the DTA to notify recipients who have not used benefits or have high balances, and subsequently requires the DTA to expunge or recoup funds;
  • Codifies regulations mandating that SNAP benefits are for household use only as a means to prevent overseas food shipments;
  • Requires the DTA to create a fraud detection program to analyze risk and refer cases to the Bureau of Program Integrity for investigation;
  • Requires self-declarations to be signed under the penalties of perjury and prohibits self-declarations from being used as the only verification of eligibility;
  • Allows state agencies to disclose tax forms for eligibility determination;
  • Reduces the time period that results in a presumption of abandonment of Massachusetts residency.
HOUSING & HEATING
 
In the midst of the federal government shutdown, the Legislature passed finance legislation that allocated additional and immediate funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, an indication of Massachusetts’ government’s ongoing commitment to working together. The Legislature also passed legislation and enacted numerous provisions to help residents secure safe and stable housing including a $1.4 housing bond bill which modernizes public housing and allows for home modification for elderly or disabled homeowners.
 
VETERANS
 
Massachusetts continues to lead to the nation in providing benefits and services to veterans, military members, and their families. Massachusetts ranks first in the nation by local and state government expending more than two times as many resources per veteran as any other state.  The Commonwealth spent $173 per person on its more than 388,000 veterans in 2011, more than twice the amount spent by the next closest states, Illinois ($86) and Iowa ($84).   Furthermore, Massachusetts leads the nation in in the number of benefits programs available to its veterans, by offering 67 services targeted for veterans. This is more than the second closest state and almost twice the number of financial assistance programs offered by any other state.

This fall, the House passed the 2013 VALOR Act which builds on existing legislation to provide increased property tax relief and enhance employment, educational and healthcare support services to veterans. The House also passed a military bond bill which funds projects at military installations around the state.
 
ELECTION LEGISLATION
 
Rep. Roy joined colleagues in the House to pass legislation that establishes early voting for presidential elections and provides resources to local officials and residents to make the voting process more efficient. Early voting for presidential elections will begin in 2016. It is expected to significantly decrease wait times on Election Day and allow more individuals to vote.  The bill also creates a secure online portal through which individuals can register and view their registration status.

Early voting will take place ten business days prior to presidential elections in accordance with regular business hours of the municipal office. Following the 2016 election, a task force will issue a report including information on costs, administrative requirements, voter turnout and the lines at polling places.
 
TAX RELIEF
 
As a result of thoughtful fiscal management, responsible budgeting and prudent investments, the Commonwealth announced an automatic reduction of the state income tax for the second time in three years. As of January 1, 2014 the rate will decrease from 5.25 percent to 5.2 percent. To achieve the automatic rollback the state must reach various benchmarks including:
  • Inflation-adjusted growth for baseline revenues in fiscal year 2013 must exceed those from fiscal year 2012 by 2.5 percent; and
  • The consecutive three month period between August and November 2013  must have a positive inflation-adjusted baseline revenue growth compared to the same three month period in 2012.
NEW HOUSE WEBSITE
 
Updates to the public website allow users to personalize their experience when navigating bills, committees, hearing information and connecting with legislators. Through “MyLegislature,” users can create a user-id and password to access their secure MyLegislature account. Users can identify specific bills, hearings, committees and legislators that they are interested in following and their personalized homepage will display each selection. Any hearings scheduled for their selected committees will automatically be included in their MyLegislature hearing list. In addition, users can further personalize MyLegislature by identifying any accessibility needs. The updated website also includes an easy-to-use format to connect with legislators. The public website can be found at www.malegislature.gov.
 
OTHER SESSION ACCOMPLISHMENTS
  • Legislation was passed to increase the maximum penalty for corporate manslaughter from $1,000 to $250,000.
  • Franklin's Barbara Rondeau was honored by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as an unsung heroine for 2013. She was recognized, along with 82 other women from across Massachusetts, for her outstanding contributions to the Franklin community.
  • Rep. Roy joined 30 riders for a guided bike tour of the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT). The trail offers some exciting recreational opportunities, and also has some economic development potential. He also brought representatives from DCR to Franklin to view some proposed structural changes to the trail and advocate for State funding.
  • In celebration of Medway's 300th birthday, Rep. Roy joined his colleagues in presenting the Board of Selectmen with an official 300th anniversary proclamation from the General Court. 

10th Annual Gary Mirliss Memorial Blood and Bone Marrow Drive

It has Arrived! Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 is the 10th Annual Gary Mirliss Memorial Blood and Bone Marrow Drive. It will be held from 8:00 am-3:00 pm at the King Philip Middle School, 18 King Street, Norfolk, MA.
 
To schedule an appointment, click here. But remember, walk-ins will be accommodated.
 
If you are planning to donate a couple things to remember:
  • Get a good night sleep
  • Increase your fluid intake with non-alcohol and non-caffeinated beverages we will have coffee for you after you donate
  • Have a valid photo ID 
Thank you and look forward to seeing you Saturday.
 
Copyright © 2014 State Rep Jeff Roy, All rights reserved.
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