In The People's Blog, Updates from Jo

Today marks my 100th day in the Senate and it has been such an honor to represent the 24 cities and towns of the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district. I’m delighted to share some of our work we are proud to have accomplished since January 2.

My favorite votes

Since being sworn in on January 2, the Senate has already passed a number of important bills and other matters. As in every session, the vast majority of votes will come later in the session. In January, over 6,000 bills were introduced, including some 52 bills that I filed.

Most bills are still before one of the 29 joint committees that initially review all bills. Every bill will get a public hearing, where anyone can address the committee members or submit written testimony. Only if the bill is approved as part of the committee process (often requiring approval by multiple committees) will they then come to the Senate floor for a vote. In addition, a number of most important votes occur as part of the budget process, which will start in the Senate in May (the House budget votes will begin on April 22).

But, I have been proud to have voted a number of times for some important matters. Here are some of the votes that are highlights for me in the first 100 days:

  • Voting to elect Karen Spilka as Senate President: Senator Spilka is a strong progressive voice who leads the Senate with grace and smarts. In my first 100 days, I have seen how she works hard to build consensus and advance legislation to promote the needs of those most vulnerable in society. She has paid particular attention to the concerns of Western Massachusetts. I was pleased to host her for a tour of our district even before the session started, and I have been able to meet with her frequently to talk about issues affecting our region.
  • Strengthen Senate rules on sexual harassment: The internal Senate rules we adopted at the beginning of the session include a number of new provisions to strengthen the Senate’s enforcement of sexual harassment standards. The rules include language explicitly prohibiting harassment, requiring mandatory anti-harassment training for all senators and staff, and calling for instances of harassment or other rule violations to be referred to the Ethics Committee. (S. 8, passed the Senate on January 31).
  • Increase Funding for Heating Assistance: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides fuel assistance to 160,000 low-income families. This year’s frigid winter exhausted the funds, and so in January, the Governor proposed adding $11 million to the appropriation. However, that amount would cover less than half the need. So the legislature instead added $30 million to the LIHEAP account. (S. 2181, passed the Senate on March 7 and was signed into law by the Governor. The Governor subsequently announced that he would withhold all but $11 million of the approved LIHEAP funds, so I’m pushing back along with colleagues and allies.)
  • Assuring funds for family planning and sexual health clinics: After the Trump administration moved to cut support for health providers that offer abortion services, the legislature appropriated up to $8 million to replace withdrawn federal funds. The funding supports 93 health care clinics across the state, serving over 66,000 patients. (H. 3638, passed the Senate on March 28 and signed into law by the Governor).
  • “Lift the Cap on Kids” bill: This bill reverses a draconian policy that provided that families already on public assistance cannot receive additional benefits when they have a child. By repealing this law, some 8,700 Massachusetts children will no longer be denied benefits because of when they were born. (H. 3594, passed the Senate on March 28. The bill was vetoed by the Governor, and the Senate will soon vote on overriding the veto).
  • Ban LGBTQ Conversion Therapy for minors: This bill prohibits state-licensed mental health professionals from subjecting minors to debunked conversion therapy practices in an effort to change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Conversion therapy is based on the premise that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans youth is a mental illness or disorder and it often frames the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure. My first testimony as a State Senator was in support of this bill. (H. 140, passed the Senate on March 28, and signed into law by the Governor).

100 days in numbers

Our team has worked hard to represent the 160,000 people in our district, stay connected to constituents, and maintain our commitment to accessibility. Here is a numerical breakdown of some of our work so far, and I look forward to what’s to come:

  • 3,052 emails I’ve sent
  • 754 meetings and events our office has attended
  • 628 constituent contacts logged
  • 241 bills I’ve co-sponsored
  • 135 constituent cases opened
  • 56 letters I’ve sent to state agencies, in support of grants proposals, or directly to constituents
  • 48 bills I’ve filed this session
  • 7 teach-ins hosted
  • 1 website launched

Some of our favorite photos from the first 100 days

CHERISH Act press conference

Visit to Bardwell Farm in Hatfield

Testifying in support of banning conversion therapy

Enjoying a great visit to Warwick Community School

Public Higher Ed Advocation Day in the State House

                                        Meeting with the Center for New Americans

Touring the Packaging Corporation of America plant

Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

Jo speaks to gathered people at the declining enrollment hearingConnecting Point logo