Senator Jason Lewis and Organizational Partners to Hold Regional Forum in Reading on Opioid Abuse

Later this month, Senator Jason Lewis, the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, and the Mystic Valley Public Health Coalition will present a regional dialogue on opioid abuse.  Residents of the 5th Middlesex district and neighboring communities are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts and feedback.

The presentation will take place on Thursday, October 23, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm, at the Hawkes Field House at Reading Memorial High School, 62 Oakland Road, Reading.

“Opioid addiction in the Commonwealth has reached crisis level, and we need to take aggressive steps to prevent and treat addiction,” said Senator Lewis.  “With no community and no family immune to the reach of this epidemic, it is critically important that we engage all members of our community to be informed and take action.  This forum will be a helpful step in that direction.”

The evening’s agenda will include a panel presentation on the opioid issue from 7:00 to 7:30, followed by a rotating group discussion geared toward action items people can take to combat the opioid epidemic from 7:30 to 8:30, and then concluding from 8:30 to 9:00 with a summary of next steps members of the community can take.  In addition to Senator Lewis, the panel discussion will feature Penelope Funaiole, the Mystic Valley Opioid Abuse Prevention Coordinator, and Erica McNamara, MPH, Director of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse.

“To fully tackle this crisis, it is critical to have as many voices at the table as possible,” said Funaiole.  “This is a dynamic disease, and it will take dynamic strategies and approaches to make change in our communities.”

“Our coalition leaders look forward to welcoming partners from around the region to our community for a thoughtful discussion on the issues we face in addressing opioid misuse,” said McNamara.

Youth, parents, educators, first responders, healthcare professionals, faith leaders, law enforcement, business professionals, prevention advocates, treatment professionals, individuals in recovery and their family members, community leaders and elected officials, and any member of the public interested in substance abuse prevention should attend.

If you are planning to attend, please RSVP to the Director of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, Erica McNamara, MPH, at emcnamara@ci.reading.ma.us.

Column: Ensuring Adequate and Equitable Funding for All Our Schools

Throughout our nation’s history, Massachusetts has stood at the forefront on the issue of public education.  The Commonwealth, holding true to that designation, was the first state to provide access to free public school for all children.  A few decades after, we instituted the first special education program for students with additional needs.

Since the time of Horace Mann, we have recognized that education is the critical ingredient to producing a vibrant civil society, as well as a strong economy that continues to grow.  While Massachusetts has enjoyed much success in the area of public education, the good test scores our students achieve cover up increasingly urgent crises in how we finance our public schools, in the areas of both adequacy and fairness.

The funding for our public schools is determined by the Chapter 70 formula which was created as part of the state’s landmark Education Reform Act of 1993.  First, a “foundation budget” is calculated for each school district to determine the resources needed to educate the students in that district.  Then, the “local contribution,” the amount that each municipality must contribute from its own revenues, is calculated based upon each community’s income levels and property values.  Finally, the state government allocates Chapter 70 aid to fill the gap between the “foundation budget” figure and the “local contribution” figure.  Additionally, if it so chooses, each community can put more of its local resources toward education if it wants to spend an amount greater than the foundation budget.

Much has changed in the more than twenty years since we passed education reform.  Unfortunately, the foundation budget has become outdated and no longer accurately reflects the true cost to educate our young people in the 21st century.  This is due to a variety of factors from increasing healthcare costs, to a growth in special education needs, to vast advances in educational technologies, to the foundation budget under-accounting for teachers’ salaries and professional development.

For these reasons, I fought in the Legislature to achieve a Chapter 70 Education Foundation Budget Review Commission, which will enable a careful and thorough examination of current educational needs and best practices, an important step toward achieving more adequate and equitable funding for our public schools.  I am proud of having successfully advocated for the Commission’s inclusion in our FY15 state budget.

The Commission will be made up of legislators, educators, and other stakeholders, with a goal of producing substantive legislative recommendations by the summer of 2015.  The Commission will hold a series of public hearings around the state in order to solicit input from Massachusetts residents.  Once these hearings are scheduled, my office will publicize them to ensure that you have the opportunity to make your voice heard during this important process.

The work of this Commission will be a profound step toward updating the Chapter 70 formula and ensuring that all of our communities have the resources needed to provide our children with an education that is second-to-none and that prepares them for professional success that will contribute to our economy’s growth and our society’s vibrancy.

As it is my highest priority to be accessible to the residents of the 5th Middlesex district and to hear your concerns and feedback on all issues, I recently held a forum on education funding at Wakefield High School.  Members of the community brought their questions and we enjoyed a thoughtful exchange of ideas and information.  For many constituents, we demystified the Chapter 70 education financing formula, and we productively discussed ways to address inadequacy and inequity in state education financing, beginning with the Chapter 70 Education Foundation Budget Review Commission.

If you were unable to attend our recent forum, and would like to access the information we discussed – or if you have any questions or feedback about this or other issues – please don’t hesitate to contact me at my State House office at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or at 617-722-1206.  I welcome our ongoing dialogue, and I remain committed to doing all that I can in the Legislature to ensure that our communities have the resources needed to prepare our young people for successful and productive futures.

Malden Awarded Two State Grants

Over $24,000 in state grants awarded to Malden for literacy and recycling programs

The Malden state legislative delegation, including Senator Jason Lewis and Representatives Paul J. Donato, Chris Fallon, and Paul Brodeur, are pleased to announce that Malden has been awarded over $24,000 in state grants for literacy and recycling programs.

Malden Public Schools has been awarded a Literacy Partnership grant in the amount of $16,963 courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The purpose of the state-funded Literacy Partnerships grant program is to support the use of Pre-K to grade 6 model curriculum units in literacy and humanities, as well as aligning curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development with the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy.

The City of Malden will also receive a grant in the amount of $7,200 courtesy of the Patrick Administration’s new Recycling Dividends Program (RDP), aimed at helping communities maximize their current recycling, composting, and waste reduction programs.  The RDP is the newest initiative under the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Sustainable Materials Recovery Program, which was created under the Green Communities Act.

“These grants for important initiatives in the areas of child literacy and waste reduction are great examples of how our state government can be a helpful partner for our cities and towns,” said Senator Lewis.  “I’m very pleased that Malden will benefit from these investments in our education and environment.”

“Our community will benefit from these grants,” said Representative Donato.  “Children, literacy and waste reduction are important areas for the state to allocate funds.”

“Funding literacy and waste reduction initiatives goes a long way to improving our communities,” said Representative Brodeur. “Malden will make great strides in these areas and I am glad to see these funds go towards such useful endeavors.”

Senator Jason Lewis Reads to Children at the Stoneham Public Library

Senator Jason Lewis recently joined several of his youngest constituents in the Children’s Room of the Stoneham Public Library for the library’s weekly StoryTime.  Senator Lewis and the kids read Swimmy by Leo Lionni and I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.  Opinions were split between which book was the children’s favorite, but Senator Lewis enjoyed them as much as the kids did!

 

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Senator Jason Lewis to Hold Forum in Wakefield on Education Funding

Later this month, Senator Jason Lewis, in collaboration with the Wakefield School Committee and Wakefield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen Zrike, will present a public information session on state education finance reform.  Residents of the 5th Middlesex district are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts and feedback.

The presentation will take place on Wednesday, September 24, at 6:30pm at The Savings Bank Theater at Wakefield High School, 60 Farm Street, Wakefield.

“I am committed to making sure that our cities and towns receive adequate and equitable resources from the Commonwealth in order to provide a second-to-none public education for our young people,” said Senator Lewis.  “This forum will be an opportunity for residents of the 5th Middlesex district to gain information on how those resources are allocated and to feel empowered to have an impact on this critically important issue.”

In addition to Senator Lewis, presenters will include Wakefield School Committee member Christopher Callanan and Colin Jones of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MBPC).  Mr. Jones is the Education Policy Analyst at the MBPC, and will focus his remarks on demystifying the Chapter 70 education financing formula, as well as on discussing ways to address inadequacy and inequity in state education financing today.

There will also be ample opportunity for members of the public to ask questions of the presenters, as well as for audience members to discuss the issues raised and offer their thoughts.

Melrose Legislative Delegation at the Melrose Dog Park

Melrose’s legislative delegation, State Senator Jason Lewis and State Representative Paul Brodeur, held a special outdoor District Office Hour yesterday at the Melrose Dog Park.  They discussed significant animal rights legislation that was signed into law this year and took questions from area residents.  Senator Lewis and Representative Brodeur also enjoyed meeting several of their four-legged constituents.

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Senator Jason Lewis Receives 2014 YMCA Legislative Champion Award

Senator Jason Lewis recently received a 2014 YMCA Legislative Champion Award from the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, thanking Senator Lewis for his “outstanding service” during the 2013-2014 legislative session.  In a letter accompanying the award, Executive Director Peter R. Doliber noted Senator Lewis’ support for key programs benefiting children, including early education and Youth-At-Risk funding, as well as the Active Streets program that enables communities to provide safe places for children to play.

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Senator Jason Lewis’ West Nile Virus Prevention Legislation Passes Senate

Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to announce that yesterday the Massachusetts Senate passed his legislation to strengthen municipalities’ ability to combat the mosquito-borne disease West Nile Virus.

Senator Lewis’ bill would return to municipal public works employees and seasonal workers the authority to drop non-toxic pesticide pellets into storm drains and catch basins in an effort to eliminate breeding grounds for Culex mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus.  Between 2001 and 2009, public works employees were authorized to use pesticides in this manner; but, in 2010, the Department of Agricultural Resources opted not to renew that authorization, leaving licensed professional pesticide applicators as the only authorized population.

“It is critically important that our communities have the tools needed to proactively combat the spread of serious diseases like West Nile Virus,” said Senator Lewis.  “My legislation will simply return to municipal officials the authority to use the tools at their disposal to safeguard the public health for residents of our cities and towns.”

“The passage of this legislation is very important for public health in that local government will be allowed to directly provide critical protection measures to control mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus,” said Jennifer Murphy, Director of the Health Department for the Town of Winchester.  “This prevention service will be provided in a timely, cost-effective and safe manner, and is a critical step in protecting public health by reducing the risk of these mosquito-borne diseases.”

With a surge in cases of West Nile Virus in recent years, public health advocates and municipal officials have been calling for the restoration of this policy.  In recent days, mosquitoes found in Roslindale and Jamaica Plain have tested positive for West Nile.

The legislation passed the House earlier this year, and now heads to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk.

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Senator Jason Lewis Supports Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

The Massachusetts Senate last week unanimously passed a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees and bring a higher level of transparency to elections in the Commonwealth, Senator Jason Lewis announced.

“The more transparent our political process is, the more faith voters will have in it,” noted Senator Lewis.  “This legislation holds true to that fundamental value by strengthening the ability of voters to know who is funding political activity in elections – where the money is coming from and where it is going – in a more comprehensive and in a more timely fashion.  In a post-Citizens United world, this legislation is an important step in the right direction to restore necessary oversight in our politics.”

Under the bill, corporations, labor unions and political committees will be required to report within seven business days of making an independent expenditure or within twenty-four hours of making an independent expenditure if the expenditure is made within ten days but more than twenty-four hours before a primary or general election.

Senator Lewis broke with many in his political party when he voted for an amendment offered by Republican Senator Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, which would have closed a loophole that allows some organizations to exceed the $500 contribution limit by giving up to $15,000 to a single candidate.  However, the amendment failed 28-10.

Legislators did move to enhance their own campaign finance reporting, as the bill increases the frequency of reporting for state legislative candidates.  Under the bill, candidates for state Senate or Representative must file with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) by July 20 before a biennial state election and by the thirty-fifth day before a special primary, among other reporting requirements.

The bill requires any independent expenditure or electioneering communication transmitted through paid television, internet advertising, or print advertising appearing larger than fifteen square inches to include a written statement of the top five contributors if contributions exceed $5,000 and directions to OCPF website for a listing of all contributors.

The bill directs political action committees to designate a depository for campaign funds and to report on all contributions received and expenditures made twice a month. The bill also prohibits public employees from serving as the treasurer of a political committee.

In addition, the bill increases individual contribution limits from $500 to $1,000 in a calendar year and increases the contribution limit by money order or bank check from $50 to $100.

The bill also removes an aggregate limit on individual campaign contributions in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down a similar federal provision.

The Senate and House will now form a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.

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Gov. Deval Patrick Signs Senator Jason Lewis’ Shark Fin Ban Bill Into Law

Flanked by a dedicated coalition of animal welfare and marine conservation activists, Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday, July 24, signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Jason Lewis that bans the possession, sale, trade, or distribution of shark fins in Massachusetts.  The practice of “shark finning,” which is both morally repugnant and harmful to the health of our oceans,  is when a shark’s fins are sliced off, often while the shark is still alive, with the mutilated shark thrown back into the ocean, unable to swim and left to die.  The fins are primarily used to make shark fin soup.  While the practice of shark finning is prohibited by both federal and state law, the market for fins continues to promote the practice in foreign and international waters.  This law will end that market in Massachusetts.

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