Sen. Lewis Appointed To Lead Negotiations To Finalize Education Funding Bill

BOSTON – Earlier this week, Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, was appointed by Senate President Karen Spilka to serve as the lead Senate negotiator on the conference committee named to finalize the Student Opportunity Act.

Senator Lewis will lead the conference committee along with State Representative Alice Peisch. The conference committee also includes State Representative Paul Tucker, State Representative Kim Ferguson, State Senator Michael Rodrigues and State Senator Patrick O’Connor.

The Student Opportunity Act is a landmark education funding reform bill which would invest $1.5 billion in Massachusetts public schools, ensuring adequate and equitable funding for all districts. The bill has passed both the House and Senate unanimously, but there are some modest differences between the two versions. The job of the conference committee is to reconcile these differences, and Senator Lewis expressed his hope that negotiations will be speedy and productive.

The Student Opportunity Act was developed through many months of collaboration among legislators and a variety of stakeholders, and Senator Lewis also emphasized that the voices of all stakeholders, including students, educators, parents and other community members, will continue to be vital to realizing the long-sought goal of school funding reform in the Commonwealth.

When the conference committee concludes negotiations, the product of their work will require final votes of approval from both the House of Representatives and the State Senate before being sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

Sen. Lewis and State Senate Pass Supplemental Budget Bill, Investing in State’s Rainy Day Fund and Other Priorities

BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate passed a $779.8 million closeout supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 on Thursday. The legislation would transfer $356 million to the state’s stabilization fund, building the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund and placing the state on firmer financial footing.  At approximately $3.2 billion, the fund would reach its highest level to date, ensuring that the state is well prepared in the event of a future economic downturn.

“This supplemental budget, drawn from surplus state revenues, improves our Commonwealth’s fiscal health while also investing substantial resources in important priorities for our communities and the state,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Vice-Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m proud to join my Senate colleagues in supporting this legislation, which is financially responsible and responsive to the needs and priorities of the people of Massachusetts.”

The Senate’s supplemental budget furthers the chamber’s commitment to ensuring all children have access to greater educational opportunities. Consistent with the Senate’s long-standing support of increased investments in education, the supplemental budget dedicates $50M to fund educational programming costs associated with the Student Opportunity Act, a school funding reform bill authored by Senator Lewis and the Joint Committee on Education which is in the final stages of the legislative process. In addition to increasing educational opportunities, the Senate’s budget ensures student safety and mental well-being through separate $10M investments in both school behavioral health services and enhanced public school safety and security measures, respectively. Additional education investments include:

  • $30M for targeted assistance for school improvement
  • $20M for the Endowment Incentives Program for public higher education institutions to provide an incentive for campuses to leverage private contributions
  • $10M for campus safety and security infrastructure grants to institutions of higher education
  • $2M for special education circuit breaker reimbursements

The Senate’s closeout budget makes a number of targeted investments to help communities update aging transportation and water infrastructure, and improve public health.  The supplemental budget invests $60M in Chapter 90 funding to support improvements of local roads and bridges. It also provides $5M for a new pilot program to tackle increased traffic congestion, which is currently threatening quality of life and access to jobs. Additional investments to support our communities include:

  • $50M for the MBTA capital acceleration program
  • $35M for the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to help finance improvements to local water systems
  • $28.4M for targeted per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination remediation of public water supplies and ongoing monitoring
  • $5M for culvert and dam repairs
  • $5M for costs associated with mosquito spraying to reduce the risk of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE)
  • Authorizes $5M in grants for de-leading projects at early education facilities, childcare centers and elementary schools

The Senate’s budget addresses the pressing issue of climate change by investing $5M for a program to provide consumer rebates and other economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, the proposal dedicates the use of $32M in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds per fiscal year to promote the purchase and lease of electric vehicles, and to support the Green Communities program through December 31, 2021.

The supplemental budget reinforces the Senate’s belief that voting is key to a healthy democracy by authorizing an early voting period for the 2020 presidential primary, to begin on Monday, February 24, 2020 and end on Friday, February 28, 2020. It also funds $1.25M for early voting implementation.

The supplemental budget passed by the Senate commits $3M to bolster a network of community-based Family Resource Centers that offer a wide range of family, child, and community based services. It also provides an additional $3M for grants to support the agriculture, commercial fishing and cranberry growing industries, vital components of the Commonwealth’s economic fabric.

Recognizing the need to prioritize public safety and raise awareness about incidences of hate, the Senate’s closeout budget provides $1M for a statewide grant program to secure non-profit institutions at risk of terrorist attacks, and $400,000 for a new statewide grant program focused on the prevention of hate crimes in public schools.

The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2019 closeout supplemental budget will now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed last week.

Sen. Lewis Joins Senate in Unanimous Passage of Legislation Promoting the Safety, Health and Wellness of Children and Persons with Disablities

BOSTON – On Thursday, Senator Jason Lewis joined colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate to pass An Act to protect persons with intellectual or developmental disability from abuse, also known as “Nicky’s Law,” and An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness.

“Protecting the most vulnerable members of our society is a longstanding priority for me, and I was proud to join my fellow senators in unanimous support for these two important bills,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Nicky’s Law will create essential new protections for people with disabilities in order to ensure their safety and dignity, and the children’s health and wellness bill institutes a wide variety of new measures to support the physical and mental wellbeing of our youth, close health disparities, and make our Commonwealth safer and healthier.”

Under Nicky’s Law, the Disabled Persons Protections Commission (DPPC) would establish a registry that identifies individuals who have abused people with disabilities. The registry, which mirrors an existing registry for childcare employees, would include former employees who have been terminated or separated from employment as a result of abuse. The legislation requires providers to review the registry and prohibits the hiring of anyone who is on the registry.  More than 20 states have enacted and established similar registries.

The Senate also unanimously passed An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness. This comprehensive bill addresses issues related to health care access for children who have aged out of the foster care system by automatically enrolling them in MassHealth. The bill also addresses issues effecting the Department of Children and Families (DCF) by establishing a new data working group to help streamline the agency’s reporting process. It calls for an examination of the barriers to mental and behavioral health supports for children and establishes a commission to study mandated reporting laws and calls for increased education around child sex abuse and exploitation.

The legislation also includes language directing insurance provider directories, which include a list of participating health professionals and their services, to have the most up-to-date and consumer-friendly information available to avoid so-called ‘ghost networks’. The bill calls for the formation of a task force to study and recommend further improvements to provider directories — particularly information about behavioral health providers.

The legislation also creates a commission to study the effectiveness of school-based health centers in closing health disparities among Massachusetts students. Senator Lewis has long championed the idea that preventative healthcare and other resources should be integrated into Massachusetts schools to afford all children access to affordable and adequate health care resources.

Both pieces of legislation now move to the House for further consideration.

Community Conversation: Sen. Lewis to Host Forum on Green Technology

Continuing his “Community Conversations” discussion series, Senator Jason Lewis is pleased to host an upcoming conversation on policy strategies to address climate change with emerging green technology. Community Conversations are issue discussions delving into a different timely topic at each forum, with ample opportunity for residents to share feedback and have their questions answered by experts on the given topic.

This upcoming event — Community Conversations: Addressing Climate Change with Green Technology — will take place on Tuesday, October 29, at 6:30pm. The event will occur at the Reading Public Library, 64 Middlesex Avenue, Reading, and is free and open to the public. This Community Conversation is proudly co-hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts,  a nonprofit educational and advocacy organization committed to combating climate change and protecting our land, water, and public health.

Attendees will hear from Coleen O’Brien, the Executive Director of the Reading Municipal Light Department; Will Lauwers, the Director of Emerging Technologies at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources; and Casey Bowers, the Legislative Director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. Introductory remarks will be offered by Senator Lewis, the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and the Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. There will be ample time for audience questions and community feedback.

With questions about the event, please contact Senator Lewis’s office at (617) 722-1206 or Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov. All are welcome to attend.

The forum is co-sponsored by the Environmental League of Massachusetts, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, State Representative Rich Haggerty, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, Sustainable Winchester, Sustainable Melrose, the Winchester Climate Action Advisory Committee and other local sustainability and environmental advocates.

Previous “Community Conversations” forums have addressed topics including: public education; public transportation; small business and entrepreneurship; challenges facing senior citizens and caregivers; veterans’ issues; mental health; housing; sustainability and environmental priorities; and efforts to combat substance abuse and opioid addiction in our region.

Massachusetts Senate Unanimously Passes Student Opportunity Act With Leadership of Education Chair Jason Lewis

BOSTON – On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Student Opportunity Act, an unprecedented $1.5 billion new investment in Massachusetts K-12 public education. This legislation ensures public schools have adequate resources to provide high-quality education to students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level. Assuming inflation, over time the bill could provide an estimated $2.2 billion.

Senator Lewis has long advocated for adequate and equitable funding for our public schools, and as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education,  led the efforts this year to draft the Student Opportunity Act.

The Student Opportunity Act significantly helps school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students. At the same time, school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as transportation, school construction and renovation and special education. The bill passed 39-0.

“Access to a high-quality public education is a fundamental right for every child, and that’s why the Student Opportunity Act will make an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in our public schools, ensuring that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide all students, especially those facing adversity, with a high-quality public education,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education “The passage of the Student Opportunity Act today marks a bold step into the 21st century for our public schools in Massachusetts and for all future generations of students.”

“With the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, the Senate is reaffirming its commitment to the idea that providing a quality public education is not a luxury—it is both our greatest responsibility and our greatest opportunity as a state,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka “I am proud of the diligent and thoughtful work done by Senator Jason Lewis, the education committee and the Senate, as well as the tireless work and advocacy done by students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others to bring this bill to fruition. Massachusetts made a commitment to public education in the 18th century, and today we are much closer to bringing that commitment into the 21st century to meet the needs of students today. I look forward to this bill passing the House and becoming law.”

Taking into account these new investments, policy updates and the needs of all types of districts, the Student Opportunity Act creates new ways to monitor and measure progress, support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps, and deliver results for all students.

The Student Opportunity Act fully implements the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) ensuring that the school funding formula provides adequate and equitable funding to all districts across the state. The bill provides an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the next seven years. The bill modernizes the K-12 education funding and policy landscape in four areas:

  • Estimates school districts’ employee and retiree health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collected by the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC).
  • Increases special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment.
  • Increases funding for English learners (EL) that is differentiated by grade level to reflect the greater resources required to educate our older EL students.
  • Addresses the needs of districts educating high concentrations of students from low-income households by:
    • Providing additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district; districts educating the largest percentage of low-income students will receive an additional increment equal to 100% of the base foundation;
    • Returning the definition of low-income to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, as opposed to the 133% level that has been used in recent years.

In addition to implementing the FBRC’s recommended formula changes, the Student Opportunity Act provides additional state financial support in several categories to help public schools and communities deliver a high-quality education to every student. Those fiscal supports include:

  • Increasing foundation rates for guidance and psychological services in recognition of the growing need for expanded social-emotional support and mental health services.
  • A commitment to fully funding charter school tuition reimbursement, which provide transitional aid to help districts when students leave to attend charter schools, within a three-year timetable.
  • Expanding over four years the special education circuit breaker, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education costs, to include transportation costs in addition to instructional cost.
  • Raising, as the result of a further amendment, the annual cap on Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)spending, for construction and renovation by $200 million (from $600 million to 800 million) , enabling more projects across the state to be accepted into the MSBA funding pipeline, which reimburses towns and cities for a portion of school building costs.

In addition to new funding and other support, the Student Opportunity Act establishes the 21st Century Education Trust Fund to provide districts and school’s access to flexible funding to pursuing creative approaches to student learning and district improvement.

In order to track and reproduce successful school and district-level innovations and policies, the legislation calls on school districts to develop and make publicly available plans for closing opportunity gaps. These plans will include specific goals and metrics to track success. In addition, the Secretary of Education will collect and publish data on student preparedness in each district for post-graduate success in college and the workforce.

Moreover, the Student Opportunity Act establishes a Data Advisory Commission to help improve the use of data at the state, district, and school levels to inform strategies that strengthen teaching, learning and resource allocation.

Following robust debate on the floor, the Senate also adopted several amendments to the Student Opportunity Act related to recovery high schools, the Massachusetts School Building Authority and municipal fiscal challenges related to Ch70.

To ensure that education-funding levels remain adequate, effective and equitable, the legislation also includes forward looking provisions to address additional funding challenges and policy areas. The Student Opportunity Act:

  • Directs the Department of Revenue (DOR) and DESE to analyze the method of determining required local contributions in the Chapter 70 school funding formula for the purpose of improving equity, predictability and accuracy; and
  • Establishes a Rural Schools Commission to investigate the unique challenges facing rural and regional school districts with low and declining enrollment. The Commission will make recommendations for further updates to help impacted districts and communities.

The legislation now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for its consideration.

Column: The Student Opportunity Act Reaffirms Our Commonwealth’s Commitment to Public Education

Massachusetts has a long and proud commitment to public education. President John Adams, the author of our state constitution, saw public education as the spark that would set the fire of democracy alight. Horace Mann championed the once radical idea of a free public education for all children.

The Commonwealth’s strong commitment to high quality public schools has provided us with a highly educated workforce and a dynamic 21st century economy. The passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act has been credited with putting Massachusetts students at the top of national and international lists of student achievement. That legislation set high academic standards, along with assessments to measure student performance, and established a first-in-the-nation funding formula to ensure that all districts had the resources necessary to provide the education needed to meet the standards.

While the standards and assessments have been periodically updated, and the funding annually increased to reflect cost increases, concern that some elements of the formula were not keeping up with inflation led the Legislature to reinstate the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC). The FBRC identified four areas within the formula that needed to be updated — employee and retiree health insurance costs, special education costs, and the additional amounts provided to serve the needs of English learners and low-income students. The Legislature and Governor Baker began implementing these recommendations in Fiscal Year 2018.

The Student Opportunity Act, released by the Joint Committee on Education last week, ensures full implementation of the FBRC’s recommendations over a seven year schedule, giving school districts the additional resources needed to educate students and the predictability needed to build an effective school budget. This unprecedented $1.5 billion pre-inflation investment will go a long way towards closing opportunity gaps facing students, especially for our minority and low-income students. The Student Opportunity Act also recognizes that more needs to be done to support our schools, and it contains a number of additional funding provisions, including: updating foundation budget rates for guidance and psychological services to better meet the social-emotional and mental health needs of students; fully funding charter school transitional tuition reimbursements to help districts that lose students to charter schools; expanding the special education “circuit breaker” to reimburse districts for out-of-district transportation costs in addition to instructional costs; and lifting the annual spending cap on the Massachusetts School Building Authority so that more school construction and renovation projects can move forward sooner.

The Student Opportunity Act also recognizes that additional steps are necessary to maximize the impact of this new funding in improving student outcomes and closing opportunity gaps. The bill establishes a new 21st Century Education Trust Fund that will support districts and schools pursuing creative approaches to closing opportunity and achievement gaps, and will help schools identify effective practices that can be shared across the Commonwealth. This Fund will also support efforts to achieve greater efficiencies in districts facing low and declining student enrollment, particularly in rural areas of the state. In addition, the bill requires school districts to develop public plans with clear goals and metrics for improving student outcomes; directs the Secretary of Education to collect and publish data on student preparedness in each district and high school for post-graduate success in college and the workforce; and creates a new Data Advisory Commission to improve the use of data at the state, district, and school levels in strengthening instruction and learning.

This consensus legislation is the result of work shaped by ongoing and vital input provided by education stakeholders from across Massachusetts, including teachers, administrators, students, parents, state and local officials, business leaders, academic experts and community organizations.

We believe this legislation reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to providing a high quality public education to all students, and will set a course for greater academic and life success for current and future generations of students.

 

Representative Alice H. Peisch
House Chair, Joint Committee on Education

Senator Jason Lewis
Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Education

Sen. Lewis Announces the Student Opportunity Act

On Thursday, the Joint Committee on Education, chaired by Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Alice Peisch, released the Student Opportunity Act. This legislation, an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in Massachusetts public schools, will expand opportunities for all students, especially those facing educational disadvantages, and provide more resources to all of our communities.

The Student Opportunity Act significantly helps school districts that serve high percentages of low-income students. At the same time, school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as transportation, school buildings and special education.

These new investments are coupled with policy updates designed to monitor and measure progress, support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps, and deliver results for all students.

Senator Lewis and other legislative leaders commented on the bill’s launch:

“The Student Opportunity Act will make an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in our public schools, ensuring that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide all students, especially those facing adversity, with a high-quality public education,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and all education stakeholders as this bill advances in the legislative process.”

“We know that education drives opportunity, and that’s why access to a quality public education has been a guiding principle in Massachusetts since its founding,” said Senate President Karen Spilka. “With the Student Opportunity Act, we recognize that providing the resources and tools that students need is both our basic responsibility and our greatest path to creating opportunity in the 21st century. I commend the work of the Education Committee in developing a bill that will help create educational opportunities to serve students across the state, now and throughout their lives.”

“The Student Opportunity Act builds on our ongoing efforts to support our neediest students and to close opportunity gaps,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “The bill includes significant investments, placing a special emphasis on English learners and districts serving high concentrations of low-income students. In addition, this bill makes investments in school buildings, special education and transportation for districts across the state. Both the House and Senate have taken the noteworthy step of collaborating, side-by-side, to craft a bill that reflects a joint approach to support students. Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership on this issue, and for the hard work of Chairs Peisch and Lewis to move this bill forward.”

“The Student Opportunity Act is the result of the analysis of input from a wide variety of stakeholders including students, parents, educators, the business community, as well as experts in the education field,” said Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I want to thank Senator Lewis, my co-chair, my fellow committee members, and legislative staff for their tireless efforts to craft this legislation. Today’s executive session was just the first step in the process of enacting this legislation. We all share the common goal of providing the highest quality public education for all our children and this bill is a giant step towards achieving that goal.”

Column: Strong Action Needed to Rein in Prescription Drug Costs

As published by CommonWealth Magazine on September 8, 2019.

Everyone should be able to count on having access to health care that is high quality and affordable. But even in Massachusetts, where we have the highest rate of health insurance of any state in the country, access to affordable care is out of reach for many people. One of the biggest drivers of increasing health care costs for families, businesses, and taxpayers is rising prescription drug prices, which drive up health insurance premiums and increase out-of-pocket costs. It is time that we take strong action to rein in prescription drug costs. 

The oftenexorbitant prices of many commonly-prescribed medications are driving vulnerable patients to ration their prescriptions and to go to extreme lengths to afford their medications. For example, a Malden resident recently shared her challenge, saying, “For years now, I have struggled with the extremely high cost of prescription drugs. In the last year, I paid $1,888 out of pocket for my prescriptions. More than 10% of my income is going to prescription costs alone. I have been forced to get by on sample pills from my doctor. I had to ask a friend to send me an arthritis gel from Germany where it is sold over-the-counter for a much cheaper price. My children have even bought pills for me from a friend in Canada.”

She is not alone. The Health Policy Commission’s 2018 Cost Trends report showed that residents in Massachusetts increased spending on prescriptions by more than 4% last year, more than twice the 1.6% total increase in health care spending across the system. In addition, drug spending in MassHealth, our state’s Medicaid program, nearly doubled over the past five years. Massachusetts has made major strides in containing other health care cost drivers, but drug prices continue to grow unchecked. 

On Beacon Hill, the state legislature recently tackled the first part of this affordability crisis. The Fiscal Year 2020 state budget empowers the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who oversees MassHealth, to directly negotiate additional rebates with pharmaceutical companies and hold a public hearing on the proposed value of high-cost drugs. It also charges the Health Policy Commission with reviewing drug prices to determine if they are unreasonable or excessive. These much-needed reforms, which will increase the state’s bargaining power when purchasing drugs and drive down MassHealth costs, are an important first step.

The next step is to pass comprehensive legislation we filed that will address rising drug costs for people with private health insurance. Our bill, An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability, has the support of Health Care for All and the broad Massachusetts Prescription Drug Affordability Coalition. It will rein in prescription drug costs for all consumers by:  

  • Requiring transparency on the underlying costs to produce prescription drugs; 
  • Authorizing the Health Policy Commission to set upper payment limits for unreasonably high-priced drugs; 
  • Requiring pharmacists to inform consumers if purchasing a drug at the retail price would be cheaper than using their insurance; 
  • Tackling the abuses of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs); and  
  • Supporting “academic detailing” programs that ensure doctors get accurate unbiased information to counter drug company marketing. 

The pharmaceutical industry says that any effort to rein in high drug prices threatens the development of new treatments. But this obscures the fact that the industry has been raising prices for longstanding medications for treating common and widespread health conditions. For example, from 2011 to 2016, the average price for Doxycycline (used to treat bacterial infections) increased by 338%; the price for EpiPen (used to treat severe allergic reactions) increased by 214%; and the price for Clomipramine (used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder) increased by 771%. Another very troubling example has been the dramatic increase in the price of insulin, which is putting the health and wellbeing of many people with diabetes at risk. 

The state legislature and Governor Baker must take the next step to rein in prescription drug costs by passing this legislation. This is critical to ensuring that patients have affordable access to their medications and to controlling overall health care costs. 

Senator Jason Lewis
Representative Christine Barber

Column: Massachusetts Should Update its State Flag and Seal

As published in the Boston Globe’s “The Argument” feature on September 6, 2019.

Have you ever seen the Massachusetts state flag flapping in the breeze? Many people will no doubt recognize the white field, blue crest, and gold figure, but surprisingly few stop to consider the meaning of this image — our state seal — which we display as the official emblem of our Commonwealth.

The current state seal was adopted in 1898. The Native American figure is a composite of features primarily based on a portrait of a Chippewa Native American chief not from Massachusetts but Montana and the Dakotas. Above his head is an arm holding a colonial-era broadsword believed to be the sword of Myles Standish, a Plymouth Colony military commander known in part for killing Native Americans. The Native American holds a downward pointed arrow that could be interpreted as signifying the pacification of the native population.

This imagery on our state seal has long been viewed by Native Americans and others as racist, symbolizing white supremacy and ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the indigenous peoples of this region. Based on research by my office, Massachusetts and Mississippi are the only two states with flags that contain what can be interpreted as explicitly racist imagery (the Mississippi flag contains the Confederate battle flag).

I believe it is high time we replaced the flag. As a first step, I’ve joined with state Senator Jo Comerford and state representatives Nika Elugardo and Lindsay Sabadosa in filing legislation to establish a special commission to examine the state seal and motto of the Commonwealth to ensure they reflect and embody our commitment to peace, justice, liberty, and equality for all.

Composed of people with relevant historical and cultural expertise — including Native Americans — the commission would be asked to recommend a revised or new design for the state seal for consideration by the Legislature. State law requires the flag to display the seal, so any new seal would also mean a new flag. The process would be inclusive and thoughtful, hopefully fostering a healthy dialogue, particularly in our schools, about our state’s history.

Our collective symbols of identity matter, and if they marginalize some of our fellow residents and perpetuate harmful stereotypes, they should be replaced.

Senator Jason Lewis Participates in Stoneham Alliance Against Violence White Ribbon Day

State Senator Jason Lewis, Chairman of the Stoneham Board of Selectmen Thomas Boussy, and Stoneham Police Chief James T. McIntyre joined Stoneham Alliance Against Violence (SAAV) for SAAV’s White Ribbon Day event held outside Stoneham Town Hall on Tuesday, May 6.  White Ribbon Day is an effort to encourage men and boys to play a more proactive role in combating domestic violence and sexual assault.

StonehamAllianceAgainstViolence