July was a sprint inside a marathon.
During any other two-year session of the General Court, July 31 of the second year would have marked the final day of what’s called formal sessions. (Certainly the work doesn’t stop. Both branches would continue to meet in informal sessions until the end of the calendar year, but during informal sessions any one member can block a debate, so only the most uncontroversial things can be dealt with after July 31.)
This year, we packed a tremendous amount into last month, but due to COVID-19 delaying the state budget and consuming much of the legislature’s bandwidth from March until now, we have changed the Legislature’s rules so that we can continue to meet in formal sessions beyond July 31, as we should.
July was a month filled with legislation, long debates, and lots of votes: on police reform, supplemental budgets, multi-billion dollar infrastructure packages, racial equity as it relates to maternal health and to our state flag and seal, and much more. As the mercury climbed on the thermometer, my team and I cranked up our fans and, through the keyboards of our respective laptops and the speakers on our respective phones, took on every single bill that came before the State Senate.
And let me opine for a moment about my extraordinary team who, in addition to all the work crammed into this newsletter, carry upwards of 60 individual constituent cases, work with municipalities on countless complex issues, and move what’s called home rule legislation (like the bill just signed into law which was a partnership between the Town of Hadley and Kestrel Land Trust to protect 500 acres of land on the Holyoke Mountain Range). They are stellar, good-willed, determined, exquisite humans. We are a six-person band, hell-bent on serving this district and our people.
And there’s more. Here are a few highlights.
- The Senate President appointed me to the Senate’s Racial Justice Working Group. Our first piece of business was police reform, embodied in the Reform, Shift, and Build Act which I wrote about here. My team took the lead in researching and drafting the pieces of this legislation that makes critical shifts towards non-police response to mental health and substance abuse crises. You can read more about our specific work here.
- The Senate President also asked me to join with Senators Friedman and Hinds to hold a Senate listening session on reopening, health care, and public health. You can watch the hearing (part 1, here) and (part 2, here).
- My team and I filed new legislation and are fighting for a bill to ban the high-stakes MCAS test. Here’s last month’s Dear Jo about that issue. And here’s a summary of a bill we filed to roll back some of the worst provisions of the Commonwealth’s so-called ‘Medicaid Estate Recovery’ program during the COVID crisis.
- I’ve continued to advocate around early child care and K-12 education.
- And, as Chair of the Senate’s COVID-19 Working Group, my colleagues, team, and I worked with Senate Ways and Means to infuse a timely supplemental budget with COVID-19 priority spending on critical issues like housing stability, PPE, child care and public school funding.
- Our team is blessed with rock star interns. Don’t miss an incredible Gen Z blog from Seth McKenzie and a jaw-dropping Boston Globe opinion piece on affordable housing from UMass student Tim Scalona.
- Closer to home, I joined with Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa to ensure Native American leaders are fully consulted around a roundabout project in Northampton. Our updates are here and here.
- And I joined Rep. Mindy Domb to help ensure an as-safe-as-possible opening for UMass. Our recent update is here.
- My team and I instigated and/or joined 20 advocacy letters on a wide range of critical issues focused on reopening, COVID-19 testing, and so much more.
- Don’t miss an important update about what’s in the state’s new COVID-19 vote by mail law.
Out and about
Glad to join the incomparable Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz who spoke at a press conference where the bipartisan Senate Working Group on Racial Justice unveiled the Reform, Shift + Build Act.
Speaking at a rally alongside Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Lindsay Sabadosa in favor of bills to change the state flag and seal and ban Native American mascots. Tribal support for these bills comes from the Chappaquiddick Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, the Herring Pond Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, the Mashpee Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation, the Nipmuc Nation, as well as nearly 20 state and national organizations.
Governor Michael Dukakis graciously took the time during our weekly intern seminar to speak with our team about the COVID-19 pandemic, health care, housing, transportation, and more. Thank you, Gov. Dukakis and thank you to Cameron Lease for making this seminar possible!
Thank you for giving us the honor of serving our beautiful district. Sending our love,
Jo, Jared, Sam, Elena, Cameron, and Brian
P.S. And remember: if you are a constituent in need of assistance with a state agency, including but certainly not limited to unemployment, the RMV, and MassHealth, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my team. You can complete and submit this form, call either office (413-367-4656 or 617-722-1532), or email me directly at email@example.com.