Now that the holidays are over and we are already well into the New Year, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the important achievements that my colleagues and I in the Senate accomplished during the previous legislative year.
2017 was a busy and productive year for both me and my colleagues on Beacon Hill. We began our work in the Senate by traveling across the state for our second annual Commonwealth Conversations tour where we visited with residents, businesses, and interest groups alike to listen directly to their needs and concerns. Throughout the tour, we heard a variety of ideas from improving health care and fixing our criminal justice system, to improving our transportation system, among others. In response, over the past year, the Senate has worked hard to prioritize the people’s vision and turn your feedback into reality.
In 2017 alone, my colleagues and I in the Senate passed a number of comprehensive pieces of legislation including criminal justice reform, health care and cost containment reform, climate change adaptation management legislation, and the long-awaited Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These are just a few legislative highlights from a productive first year of session, and there are still a number of priorities that the Senate plans to tackle over the course of 2018.
On a personal note, 2017 was particularly special for me. In addition to being reappointed as Vice Chairman of Senate Ways & Means, I was also appointed to serve as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs, charged with identifying federal funding opportunities for the Commonwealth and fostering a strong partnership between the Legislature and the federal government.
As part of my duties as Chairman of this committee, I led two trips – one in April and again in November– to our nation’s capital to gather information on the future of the federal budget and to advocate against potential spending cuts and policy changes that would have a negative impact on the Commonwealth.
My Senate colleagues and I returned home from these trips with greater knowledge and understanding of changes to expect at the federal level, helping us to finalize our own state budget and make important policy decisions throughout the current legislative session here in Massachusetts. Now more than ever, the ongoing work of this committee is of the highest importance as my colleagues and I in the Senate continue working to protect the Commonwealth from regressive policy changes and budget cuts on the federal level.
Another highlight from 2017 was the release of Kids First: A Vision for a Stronger Commonwealth. As many of you already know, I was appointed by Senate President Stan Rosenberg to lead the Senate’s Kids First initiative tasked with proposing a series of recommendations to build strong and resilient kids in the Commonwealth. After collecting extensive input, my colleagues and I on the Senate working group unveiled our vision statement of strategic priorities, including budget and policy recommendations, selected to re-orient Massachusetts towards a twenty-first-century education system and to begin prioritizing long-term, smart, and strategic investments in children and their families. I am proud of the vision and values laid out by the Senate in Kids First, and I am confident that this document will provide our Commonwealth with a critical road map of steps we must take to make serious, significant, and sustained investments in our children’s futures.
I also had a number of legislative achievements in 2017, with one of the biggest being the signing of the LOOK bill into law. As the lead Senate sponsor of this bill for many years, I was very proud to sit on the conference committee that crafted the final version of this bill and to see this signed into law.
This legislation takes crucial strides towards guaranteeing that every student receives a fair opportunity at educational success, and I have no doubt this bill will help to improve educational outcomes for all of our students, especially our schools’ English learners. This new law is the culmination of years of hard work by many legislators, advocates, and staff, and I am very grateful to everyone who helped make this law possible.
Also in 2017, my colleagues and I in the Senate once again passed the Healthy Youth Act, legislation I sponsored that guarantees that students receive medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education and that parents play an active role in their child’s education along the way. This is the second time that the Massachusetts Senate has passed the Healthy Youth Act, and it now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. I look forward to continue championing this important piece of legislation and working with my House colleagues to secure the bill’s final passage.
Finally, I worked hard over the course of the last year to secure in the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget and bond bill key priorities for the Commonwealth and my district, including millions to eliminate the waitlist for pediatric palliative care services, increase the clothing allowance for children, as well as $244 million for a new Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea and for broadband infrastructure.
Overall, it was a very busy and productive first year of session, and I am already looking forward to the work that lies ahead. In 2018, my colleagues and I in the Legislature will continue to confront many of the most challenging issues that our communities and Commonwealth face, and I look forward to working for you this year as we move forward. As always, it has been an honor representing you in the Massachusetts Senate, and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2018.
Senator Sal DiDomenico