Column: An Agenda to Strengthen Our Communities

I believe that our communities are best served when our state legislators work in close partnership with residents, local businesses, community leaders and local elected officials.  Working together, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made since last April when I was first elected to represent the Fifth Middlesex district in the state Senate.

Last week, I was honored to be sworn in as State Senator for the 2015-2016 legislative session which began on January 7.  I’m eager to continue our work in this new legislative session on behalf of the residents of Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and Winchester.

My first priority will continue to be promoting local economic development opportunities and securing resources for important needs in our communities.  When the legislature once again tackles the state budget in the months ahead, I will focus on advocating for critical resources for our communities, including Chapter 70 education funds, unrestricted local aid, the special education circuit breaker, elder services, veterans programs, public health and other essential programs and services upon which our communities depend.  Transportation and infrastructure investment is also critical to public safety and local economic development; I will continue to work collaboratively with our municipal leaders to address needs in these areas.

Another key priority will be updating and reforming our education funding formula to ensure that all our public schools receive adequate and equitable funding from the state.  I’m excited that after many years of championing this issue, the legislature has now established a Chapter 70 Education Foundation Budget Review Commission.  This Commission has already begun meeting and holding public hearings around the state to collect input and ideas from school officials, teachers, parents, and citizens.  I’m hopeful that the Commission’s recommendations, expected later this year, will provide clear direction and an impetus for action from the legislature and our new Governor, Charlie Baker.

Healthcare has also been a signature agenda item for me in the past and will continue to be during this new legislative session.  Working to contain healthcare costs while improving quality and affordability has been the aim.  We have had success by focusing on opportunities for investing in preventative care, and I will seek to expand on this in the years ahead.  I believe we must also urgently focus more attention and resources on treating mental health and substance abuse in our communities.

Because our economy thrives when everyone has access to opportunity, issues of economic justice —  working for greater shared prosperity, reducing poverty, helping working families, and supporting our communities’ small businesses and entrepreneurs — will be of paramount importance as we move forward and will continue to be a legislative priority for me.

Finally, we must continue to improve transparency and accountability in state government.  We have made significant strides in recent years with major reforms in many areas, but with resources already stretched thin we will need to pursue innovative ideas and new opportunities, such as social impact bonds, to deliver services and programs as smartly and efficiently as possible.

Your input and feedback are always welcome.  Please contact my office anytime at (617) 722-1206 or, visit us at the State House, or attend regular Office Hours which we hold across the district.  My staff and I will always be available to offer our assistance in any way we can.

I look forward to continuing our work together to strengthen our communities in the months and years ahead.