Things are hopping as we barrel toward mid-summer. That’s why this newsletter is jam-packed with links to updates, invites, and legislative highlights.
Before we dive in, I want to call your attention to testimony we received on a bill I filed with Representatives Mindy Domb and Marjorie Decker to ensure that all state documents have non-binary gender options. Nine-year-old Robbie’s views on this topic are so profoundly important, so courageous and inspiring, that I wanted to share them with you. I read them here: https://bit.ly/RobbiesTestimony.
We have an FY22 budget. While not perfect, it’s pretty far-reaching and will do a lot of good at home in our region. I’ve offered a brief summary through this link with some of our local wins itemized in the image below.
I was deeply honored to nominate Colrain constituent Rhonda Anderson, pictured below, for this year’s Commonwealth Heroine award to recognize her life-long work for Indigenous and environmental justice. Learn more about Rhonda and her award here, with special thanks to Sam Hopper from our team for leading.
Representative Natalie Blais and I called for an end to sweetheart deals for utility companies. Read the Commonwealth Magazine op-ed we drafted with Acadia Center President Daniel Sosland here.
In this month’s Dear Jo, I write about the intersection of bugs, weeds, and public health in a column that covers pollinators, mosquitos, and more.
I’m teaming up with Congressman McGovern, MassPIRG, and Clean Water Action to host a constituent briefing on PFAS — a group of dangerous chemicals that are found in many products we use every day. Tune in on July 14 @ 3:30 p.m., here: https://www.facebook.com/senatorjocomerford/posts/1838170903021386. Much more information via this link and below.I’m also joining Representative Christine Barber on a public briefing led by MassNAELA (National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys) focused on concerns regarding MassHealth’s “Estate Recovery” policy, amid news that the state has begun again issuing notices to seniors receiving care through MassHealth. Tune in on July 28 @ 10:30 a.m. More information here.
3 Legislative highlights
As Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, I had a June packed with critical bills on women’s and environmental health, including two bills I introduced to make our schools healthy and green and to ban a number of sources of PFAS contamination. And today, we’re hearing an anticipated 15+ hours of testimony on vaccines at a hearing that began at 10:00 a.m. You can tune in, here: https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/3819
The Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, which I chair for the Senate, launched a series of statewide listening sessions to capture lessons learned during the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response. The Committee is holding these listening sessions to help us make the sharpest, most effective recommendations on the Commonwealth’s pandemic preparedness status and the Commonwealth’s capacities and capabilities pre-pandemic and moving forward. We began in western Massachusetts with a hearing featuring regional frontline responders. Take a look here.
Finally, I’m delighted to let you know that many of the bills our team filed have received early hearings, including a bill to overhaul the way the state funds special education, the CHERISH Act to reinvest $500 million more in public higher education, bills focused on foster care, and more. You can find my testimony, here: https://senatorjocomerford.org/category/testimony-letters-reports-statements/testimony/.
Out and about
I remain beyond honored to have joined with Representative Mindy Domb and Senator Ed Markey in celebrating Amherst’s tour de force-like Juneteenth celebration. Amherst’s Juneteenth connection is long and strong. I join Representative Domb in being so grateful for the call to action that came from Amherst to make Juneteenth a state holiday and so very glad to join with colleagues in this work.
Sending our love to you,
Jo, Brian, Sam, Cameron, Jared, and Elena
P.S. Join me in celebrating the seven incredible humans who are helping to power the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester State Senate team this summer. These interns are drafting testimony, writing letters, engaged in issue research and legislative analysis and myriad administrative projects.
We simply could not do our work without:
- Emma Bowler, studying politics with a minor in history and an interest in the environment, food insecurity, and education – Mount Holyoke College
- Venesia Delancy, studying international relations with an interest in climate change, criminal justice reform, and healthcare – Mount Holyoke College
- Georgia Fitzgerald, studying computer science and international relations with an interest in criminal justice reform, economic development, and energy – Mount Holyoke College
- Tegan Oliver, studying public health and political science with an interest in education and public health – University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Brad Riley, studying public policy and administration with an interest in housing policy, social epidemiology, public health, and diversity and equity – University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Sydni Tung, studying politics and East Asian studies with an interest in criminal justice reform, climate change, and education – Mount Holyoke College
- Kamini Waldman, interested in ending/reducing the impacts of the current climate crisis, criminal justice reform, gun control, policing, homelessness and food insecurity – Northampton High School
P.P.S. Just have to love our team’s intrepid Chief of Staff, Jared Freedman, who marked Pollinator Week by traveling to the State Apiary with UMass Amherst and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) staff to learn more about work to protect pollinators. Pollinator health is a subject of serious concern, given the crucial role pollinators play in our food and ecosystems.
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