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FY16 budget passes, vetoes overridden

Last week, I joined my colleagues to take final action on the FY16 budget to enhance support for Massachusetts residents and municipalities, and ensure that local programs, education funding, and economic development initiatives are well funded by the legislature. With this budget the Legislature extended its track record of making responsible and innovative investments that will continue to move Massachusetts forward. 

Through the FY16 budget, the Legislature advanced its standing as the national leader in education for students of all ages. Recognizing the importance of providing statewide access to full-day kindergarten the Legislature overrode a cut to kindergarten expansion grants, reaffirming its support for funding in the amount of $18.6 million. We also took action to emphasize our ongoing dedication to higher education, restoring cuts to the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges. 

Recognizing that education and economic development are intrinsically paired, the budget enhances the Legislature’s focus on bolstering job opportunities for residents of all skillsets in diverse regions of the Commonwealth. Following action on the Administration’s vetoes, the below programs are now funded:

  • MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private match program;
  • Talent Pipeline: $1.5 million to encourage young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and to provide mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs;
  • STEM Starter Academy: $4.75 million to promote STEM careers at the Commonwealth’s community colleges;
  • Mass Tech Collaborative: $750K for the Mass Tech Collaborative Tech and Innovation Entrepreneurship program to establish entrepreneur and startup mentoring.

Travel and tourism, one of the state’s largest industries, provides an opportunity for communities to bolster their economies in a way which is unique and appropriate for each region. The Legislature restored $5.17 million in cuts to the Office of Travel and Tourism and $2.37 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.     

Local Aid is one of the biggest hurtles the Legislature has to overcome each budget season. In that vein, I am happy to report that the Legislature also included hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional local aide for Franklin and Medway as follows:

  • $50,000 to assist the Town of Franklin to construct a park which would include a statue of Horace Mann, the father of public education; 
  • $50,000 to assist the S.A.F.E. Community Coalition to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in the area;
  • $60,000 for Franklin and $60,000 for Medway to purchase and install solar powered school zone lights to address public safety concerns;
  • $44,000 for stormwater management oversight in the town of Medway;
  • $35,000 to improve emergency medical service response in open space locations in the town of Medway; and
  • $200,000 for for affordable housing in Medway.

As always, I thank you for he opportunity to serve and I urge you to contact me with any questions about the budget or any other matter.

 

The  S.A.F.E coalition (Support for Addicts and Families by Empowerment) will meet at 7 p.m., Aug. 12 at Franklin High School for its second community event.

The Aug 12 meeting will feature Dr. John Kelly, the director of the Addiction Recovery Management Service at Mass General Hospital in Boston. Kelly, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is expected to cover the genetics of addiction and the need to frame the dialogue on the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis rather than a drug problem.

The S.A.F.E. coalition serves as a local resource for residents searching for information or help - for themselves, family members and friends. Since its first meeting on June 30, two support groups have been established specifically to aid families dealing with addiction.

Community of Hope meets on Monday evenings at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 262 Chestnut St., while Healing Hearts meets on Thursday evenings on the second floor of the Hockomock Area YMCA, 45 Forge Hill Road. Both groups preserve anonymity and create a “safe place" for families in crisis.

You can learn more about the Aug. 12 meeting by clicking here. To subscribe to the coalition newsletter and receive updated information, click here.

Sexting bill heard

Rep. Roy's bill aimed at changing the way the state prosecutes teenagers charged with “sexting” was heard by the Judiciary Committee on July 14. Rep. Roy, Franklin Police Sgt. Jason Reilly, and Bridgewater State University psychology professor Elizabeth Englander testified before the Judiciary Committee in favor of the bill. 

H.1567, An Act Relative to Transmitting Indecent Visual Depictions by Teens, has found supporters beyond the Legislature, including in law enforcement and academics. One supporter is a professor from the University of Colorado who authored the book Sexting Panic.

Last year Sgt. Reilly reached out to Rep. Roy for assistance with a growing number of “sexting” cases involving local high school students. 

Reilly, the department’s police prosecutor at the time, explained that they had only one option under the law: The students accused of storing or sending risqué pictures of their peers on their cell phones would face felony child pornography charges and, if convicted, would be required to register as a sex offender. Or, the officers could do nothing.

In response, Rep. Roy filed a comprehensive bill that, among other things, would amend the state’s child pornography laws to make sexting between minors a noncriminal offense or misdemeanor. The legislation would not hinder legitimate child pornography investigations, but rather establish an important, potentially life-altering distinction between child porn and sexting among teens.

“This bill would set up a new section of the statute to give police officers and prosecutors more tools to curb this behavior,” Roy said.

The Milford Daily News ran an editorial in support of the bill which you can view by clicking here. For additional news reports on the legislation, click here and here.

Pay-it-forward bill

Rep. Roy's bill (H1062) to establish a commission study the Pay-it-Forward model for financing college education will be heard at the State House on September 16, 2015.

Pay-it-forward would allow students to attend college without payments up front. Instead, students would sign a contract and agree to pay a portion of their income for a designated amount of time after graduating and entering the workforce. The idea behind "Pay It Forward" proposals came from a student-led project at Portland State University in December 2012.

The bill calls for a commission to conduct a comprehensive study relative the practical and fiscal impacts of adopting a program in Massachusetts similar to Washington and Oregon’s Pay It Forward Higher Education Financing plan. The study shall focus on the particular intricacies, details, and mechanics of funding, implementing, legislating and administering a “Pay it Forward” model of Higher Education financing. 

We will provide updates on the bill after the hearing.

License plate bill passes

The FY16 budget included the language from H3077 filed by Rep. Roy to expand the opportunity for more charitable organizations to create and sell distinctive registration plates. Special thanks go to Senator Karen Spilka, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, for including the language in the budget.

Sen. Spilka and Rep. Roy have been working since the last legislative session to lower the thresholds for charitable organizations to participate in the specialty license plate program. Several Massachusetts organizations, including the Pan-Mass Challenge and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, have faced challenges in their efforts to create specialty license plates to raise money and awareness for their charitable causes.

“By lowering the initial threshold for specialty plates, we help charitable groups who are finding it difficult to raise money and keep their programs going,” said Rep. Roy. “The current system creates substantial obstacles for smaller nonprofit groups and now they will have a better opportunity to get their plates into production and increase the long-term revenue stream they need, all at no cost to the Commonwealth.” 

The new provisions in the budget change state law to reduce the number of pre-applications required for specialty plates to be produced from 1,500 to 750 applications. Since its inception in 2003, the specialty license plate program has allowed participating charities to collectively raise close to $75 million. The MA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has raised over one million dollars since 2005. The Firefighter plate has raised $750,000 since 2007. And the Right Whale and two other environmentally themed license plates have resulted in $500,000 in grants for a number of cities and towns. 

Every year more than 60 organizations attempt to reach the minimum threshold, but to date the Commonwealth has only 19 special license plates. This legislation will allow smaller organizations to participate in this good will fundraising and allow them to raise awareness of their work and take advantage of this fundraising tool. 

Tax free weekend Aug 15-16

Last week, the Legislature passed H.3659, An Act establishing a sales tax holiday, designating August 15 and 16, 2015, as a Sales Tax Holiday weekend.

The holiday, which suspends the state's 6.25 percent sales tax for two days, would apply to items that cost less than $2,500, excluding some items like cars, restaurant meals and tobacco products. 
 
The Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) recently commissioned an economic study to gauge the support for and benefits of the Sales Tax Holiday. The study, conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University, can be viewed by clicking here.  Some of the findings include:
  • A May, 2015, poll by Opinion Dynamics surveyed 450 MA households and showed that 72% would be Very Likely or Somewhat Likely to shop locally instead of in NH or on the internet if the Legislature and Governor re-authorize future sales tax holidays.
  • The mean retail sales increases for MA retail employers which otherwise would go to NH or the internet would be $168 million.
  • The mean increase in MA employment would be 627 jobs.
  • The mean increase in new investment would be $50 million.
  • The mean increase in real disposable income would be $37 million.
Many retailers add to the savings by offering additional discounts, making this a good opportunity to buy.

Rep. Roy completes 13th Pan Mass Challenge

Last weekend, Rep. Roy rode in his 13th Pan Mass Challenge, a bicycle ride that raise money to fight cancer.   

The PMC raises more money for charity than any other single athletic event in the country, $450 million since 1980 and $41 million last year alone! This success is the result of a lot of people riding for, and caring about, a cure. 

There is still time to donate to the PMC and support Rep. Roy's ride. You can do so by clicking here.
Copyright © 2015 State Rep Jeff Roy, All rights reserved.


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