Archive 2008 - 2019

State House Update-Summer 2017

by Representative Carolyn Dykema

FY18 Budget Update

In July, the House and Senate passed a FY18 state budget, two weeks after the end of the fiscal year. The budget was approved late after revenue projections had to be decreased by $749m, a decline which was unexpected given the strength of the economy and has been attributed to possible changes in federal tax policy.  

The FY18 budget that was adopted, protected increases to education and unrestricted local aid to communities. Budgets for the other major categories of state funding, including education, human services, environment and recreation, public safety, infrastructure, housing and economic development, remained largely the same as last year. 

The budget included the following local aid funding for our district:

Holliston                                                                                                         Hopkinton

Chapter 70 local education aid: $7,441,480 (+1.1%)                                      Chapter 70 local education aid: $6,256,963 (+1.7%)

Unrestricted local aid: $1,547,029 (+3.9%)                                                     Unrestricted local aid: $784,762 (+3.9%)

Southborough                                                                                                Westborough

Chapter 70 local education aid: $7,441,480  (+1.1%)                                      Chapter 70 local education aid: $7,878,155 (+33.9% for 5-year phase-in)

Chapter 70 regional education aid: $3,078,274 (1.5%)                                    Unrestricted local aid: $1,157,670 (+3.9%)

Unrestricted local aid: $436,945 (+3.9%)

In addition, the following local programs relative to substance abuse were funded: 

Holliston Drug and Alcohol Awareness Coalition $50,000; Holliston School Substance Abuse Prevention $50,000; Hopkinton Serenity House $50,000; Hopkinton Organizing for Prevention $100,000.

$100,000 toward the new public safety complex in Southborough was included in the legislative budget but was vetoed by the Governor. I'm advocating that this veto be overridden when we take up overrides in the fall. 

Veterans employment tax credit: The budget also included a veterans employment tax credit for a $2,000 credit to local businesses that hire veterans. The Dept. of Veterans Services is drafting the regulations for this new program which I will share when they're complete.

Healthcare: The cost of healthcare consumes approximately 40% of the state budget annually. The FY18 budget included a debate over a proposal by the Baker administration that would charge employers a fee for employees who choose state-provided healthcare over their employer's plan, and make changes to benefits offered through MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program. The legislature adopted the fee proposal but rejected the changes to benefits for low-income residents. Instead, the legislature in the coming months will be crafting a new cost-saving proposal and I'm looking forward to participating in this conversation as a member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

The full FY18 budget can be found here.

Rep. Dykema Hosts Tour of Veterans Inc.

As Chair of the Metrowest Regional Veterans Consortium, I hosted the spring meeting, joined by State Representative Hannah Kane and other members of the veterans' community, at Veterans, Inc.'s facility in Shrewsbury on April 7. Denis Leary, Executive Director, and Jason Palitsch, the Government and Public Affairs Manager for Veterans, Inc., welcomed the consortium. Members discussed the connection between trauma and substance abuse, with speakers emphasizing the importance of securing support services and providing treatment to the veterans community.

Executive Director Denis Leary opened the meeting with an overview of addiction, specifically referencing opioids, and provided his expert clinical perspective on the challenges veterans face in seeking treatment. He also led a tour of the recently-renovated facility. Dr. Sharon Baker, the clinical director of the Women's Integrated Treatment and Recovery Program at the Brockton VA, highlighted the intersection of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder (SUD), and military sexual trauma (MST) that many in the military experience. She also highlighted the disproportionate effects of military sexual trauma on female veterans. Participants shared ideas for improved screening processes and acknowledged the increased importance this issue has taken on in light of the recent opioid epidemic.

With more veterans doing multiple tours of duty, it is more important than ever to ensure access to supports upon returning from service. This is especially true in the areas of trauma and substance abuse treatment. 

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Signed into Law

In May I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in unanimously voting to support protections for pregnant workers in the workplace. H.3680, An Act establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act adds pregnancy and breastfeeding to existing employment non-discrimination laws. As someone who experienced pregancy while in the workforce, I was proud to co-sponsor the bill.

At the hearing in April, women from across the Commonwealth testified with personal stories and accounts highlighting the need to add these protections. The legislation reached the Governor's desk in July and I attended the bill signing alongside many of my colleagues.

The new law makes it unlawful for employers to deny reasonable accommodations requested by a pregnant employee, and outlaws retaliation or unreasonable conditions related to the provision of accommodations. Accommodations can include longer breaks, seating, relief from performance of physically-intensive or strenuous duties, or provision of private space for lactation or expressing breast milk. 

This legislation also requires that the most basic accommodations, such as restroom breaks or heavy lifting, do not require written documentation from a medical professional. Employers may require documentation from medical professionals for more extensive or long-term accommodations. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is tasked with providing public education about the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers as the law is implemented. 

Water Infrastructure Awareness Day 2017

This May, I was honored to speak at the annual Water Infrastructure Awareness Day at the State House alongside former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The event was hosted by the Mass Water Works Association, Mass Water Pollution Control Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts and highlighted the need to focus on and invest in the infrastructure that our residents and businesses rely on for clean water. 

Former administrator McCarthy spoke about the need to plan for a comprehensive, well-funded, and resilient water infrastructure system and the impacts that our water system has on our economy, environment, and public health. She stressed the need for strong advocacy on this issue and for vigilance on the state level in an uncertain political environment. Her comments were spot on: "It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat if you don't have access to clean drinking water."

I have worked on water infrastructure issues for many years and and investment in our "hidden infrastructure" continues to be critical to the future of our economy. This session I have again filed H.2117 which would provide more funding to cities and towns for pipe repair and allow pipes to be replaced in conjunction with road repairs.

Rep. Dykema's Memorial Day Remarks

Holliston and Hopkinton Receive Green Communities Grants

I am proud to congratulate two of my constituent towns, Holliston and Hopkinton, for receiving a combined total of almost $500k in grants for local green initiatives as part of the Energy and Environmental Affairs' Green Communities program. 

The Green Communities program promotes clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs for all of the Commonwealth. Qualifying towns must certain criteria to be considered a Green Community. Among other things, this includes having designated locations for alternative energy generation, research and development, or manufacturing facilities. They must also develop a plan to reduce energy consumption by 20% over five years. 

The grants awarded will be used for local projects to increase the usage of renewable energy and energy efficiency as a whole. In Holliston, the funds will be put towards initiatives in the Town Hall, Senior Center, and library such as upgrading building lights with LEDs and purchasing an electric vehicle. In Hopkinton the funds will be used in the elementary school and town facilities for similar purposes. Town Planner Elaine Lazarus of Hopkinton and Holliston Town Administrator Jeff Ritter and Fire Chief Michael Cassidy attended the ceremony to accept the grants on behalf of their communites.

This program is a great example of a true state-local partnership that promotes the common good!

Legislature Passes Updates to Marijuana Legalization Law

In July, the House voted to approve updates to the law legalizing recreational marijuana that was approved at the ballot in November. While I was opposed to legalization of recreational marijuana, I voted in favor of the legislation which upholds the will of the voters while ensuring that when legalization is implemented any potentially harmful impacts to public health and safety are mitigated. 

Essential elements of the legislation include:
  • Expanding the scope of expertise represented in oversight entities to ensure that the most relevant aspects of legalization are addressed including public safety, health, substance abuse, and industry regulatory and legal oversight.
  • Increasing the effective tax rate from the 12 percent established in the ballot question to 20 percent, which includes a 3 percent optional excise tax that can be collected by cities and towns where dispensaries are located. It also allows for a host agreement with the town guaranteeing the town up to 3 percent of gross revenue.
  • Preserving medical marijuana's untaxed status and updating the regulatory structure to ensure consistency between medical and recreational use.
  • Establishing testing and labeling standards.
  • Creating minimum standards for advertising and marketing and puts in place strict standards to limit marketing to youth.
  • Modifying provisions for towns to restrict local sales. Towns which opposed recreational use at the ballot have a more streamlined process for prohibiting local dispensaries.
  • Allowing for growth of industrial hemp to support the agricultural sector.
  • Establishing a commission to make recommendations on driving under the influence.
  • Putting in place a timeline for implementation, with a June 1, 2018 date to begin issuing licenses.

I have received calls and emails from constituents on all sides of this issue, and I believe the bill we passed reflects our efforts to be responsive to the variety of concerns raised. Although the question of legalization may have been a divisive one for the legislature and voters alike, we can all agree that, in an environment where recreational marijuana is legal, its production and sale should be done in a safe, responsible, and well-regulated manner.  


Dual-status Youth Subcommittee Releases Report

In 2015, I was asked by Rep. Kay Khan, Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Person's with Disabilities to Chair a subcommittee to investigate and make recommendations relative to young people who are involved with child welfare protective services and who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. I was joined on the subcommittee by Reps. Michelle Dubois, Kim Ferguson, Danielle Gregoire, and Jon Hecht as well as Sen. John Keenan.

Dual-status youth are among the Commonwealth's most vulnerable individuals and often present with a complex array of needs. Approximately 70% of young people in youth criminal detention have a history of childhood abuse and neglect. 

Over the past year and a half, the subcommittee has worked with stakeholders across state agencies and advocacy groups and conducted research to compile key findings and policy recommendations on how to improve the functioning of state systems to improve outcomes for these young people. 

The final report of the subcommittee has now been completed and is available here. A special thanks to Holliston constituent Amber Ahronian, a Dartmouth College student, who interned in my office last summer and provided invaluable help researching and drafting the report.


Suburban Edge Communities Commission Completes Hearings

For the past year I have participated as a Commissioner on the 495/MetroWest Suburban Edge Communities Commision (SECC). The SECC, chaired by Rep. Kate Hogan, Sen. Karen Spilka, and Undersecretary Juan Vega, is a public-private partnership established by the legislature in 2015 to study and address economic opportunities and challenges of suburban communities in the Metrowest region. Public sector commission members are working in collaboration with the 495 MW Corridor Partnership.   

Over the course of the SECC's work, we heard from experts on key issues that impact the region's economic potential. Issues included transportation, downtown redevelopment, housing, water resources, commercial real estate, energy, business sectors, education and skills, and telecommunications. On June 19th, the SECC held its final meeting in Westborough. 

The SECC's final report is being drafted and will frame the development issues facing the region and highlight areas of the highest need. The report will also offer a roadmap for legislative advocacy and promoting economic development in the region. I'll be sure to make the report available as soon as it is complete. 


State House Agriculture Day and Pollinator Health Bill Update

Support for my legislation to protect pollinators, H.2113, has been growing since I refiled this bill this legislative session and the bill now has support from two-thirds of the legislature. This legislation would require anyone using neonicotinoid pesticides to be licensed and trained to use them properly. 

At the State House's annual Agriculture Day, I had the chance to speak with many advocates involved in Massachusetts's booming agriculture industry, from farmers and beekeepers to landscapers and flower growers. As I continue to advocate for this bill, I'm meeting with as many stakeholders as possible to balance the different interests and respond to practical concerns.  

Scientific evidence of the need to limit these pesticides to protect pollinators continues to grow. Most recently, a prominent study was published in the journal Science that found a strong association between neonicotinoid exposure and bee decline. 

The photo above includes (l to r) Dick Callahan, Director of the Worcester County Beekeeper's Association, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who recently filed my legislation in the Senate, and Dr. Rob Gegear, Associate Profession at Worcester Polytechnic Institute whose local research is confirming the lethal impacts of neonicotinoids on bees, especially native bees.


Summer 2017 Intern spotlight: Ben Kaplan

Hi everyone!

Ben Kaplan here, intern for the summer of 2017. 

I am about halfway through my time here with Representative Dykema and I just have to say that it has definitely been a learning experience. When I first got off the T at Park Street Station and walked through Boston Common I got my first view of the golden dome that tops the State House. I could not believe that I would be working in such a grand building in the middle of such a busy city. And after getting lost on my way to the office and accidentally sitting in on the wrong internship program briefing my first morning, I quickly realized how confusing this place could be.

Just a bit of background information: I am a rising junior at Ithaca College in New York State where I am majoring in journalism and minoring in politics. I have always had an interest in what makes our society tick. I come from a family that is fairly politically active and my parents have always pushed me to learn about what is going on around me. 

Being an intern for Representative Dykema has given me insight into the equally complicated and rewarding world that is our state government. I have learned about the ins and outs of the legislative process and the many committees and hearings that go into creating law. I have also had the honor of hearing the insight of a number of respected politicians, including former governor Michael Dukakis, and meeting with constituents to discuss the issues that matter to them the most. 

I want to thank Representative Dykema for giving me this great opportunity and I hope that in my last few weeks I can continue to be of service in her office!

-Ben Kaplan 


Thank you to our 2017 State House Interns!

Introducing young people to state government and public service is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. We had some wonderful new interns again this year! Kate Healy and Ben Kaplan joined us from Holliston, and Melissa Hayes, Momina Haidri, and Alex Wojcik from Hopkinton. Interns participated in a speaker series where they heard from Gov. Baker, Speaker DeLeo, and other leaders across state government. They also assisted with research and projects in the office.   

Momina Haidri, Kate Healy, and Melissa Hayes in front of the State House with Liz and David from my office.