For Immediate Release Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
April 27, 2017 Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
Representative Natalie Higgins Elected Co-President of Freshman Class
Boston: On Monday April 24, 2017, the Freshman Class of Massachusetts State Representatives held Class Elections and elected Natalie Higgins (D - Leominster) and Jack Patrick Lewis (D - Framingham) as their Class Co-Presidents.
“I am humbled by my colleagues’ support,” said Higgins. “I hope to use this opportunity to work with Representative Lewis to foster a stronger camaraderie among the Freshmen Class and create more opportunities to learn from each other and support each other in our legislative priorities.”
Joining Higgins and Lewis in the bipartisan leadership team are Solomon Goldstein-Rose (D - Amherst) as Vice President, Will Crocker (R - Barnstable) as Secretary, and Dylan Fernandes (D - Falmouth) as Treasurer.
“It is a great honor to serve alongside Representative Higgins as co-presidents of our class,” Lewis added. “I am excited to have this opportunity to co-lead our class as we advocate for our communities on Beacon Hill.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Representative Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
House Passes Balanced FY18 Budget
Focuses on supporting vulnerable residents and fostering sustainable economic growth
April 26, 2017 (BOSTON) - The Massachusetts House of Representatives this week passed a $40.4 billion FY18 budget which represents a commitment to fiscal responsibility. The spending bill protects vulnerable residents through investments in early education and care (EEC), substance addiction initiatives, homelessness programs, and funding to help individuals with developmental disabilities.
This budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained economic health in Massachusetts as we face uncertainty on the national level. For the fourth year in a row, the House budget reduces Massachusetts’ reliance on one-time revenue. It includes a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund which will result in projected balance of more than $1.4 billion and help preserve the state’s AA+ bond rating, the highest in the Commonwealth’s history.
“This budget extends the House’s legacy of balancing fiscal responsibility with investments in inventive programs, a strategy that has resulted in Massachusetts becoming a national leader,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am particularly proud of the work we have done on early education and care, and I believe that our efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless families. I want to offer my sincere thanks to Chairman Dempsey and the members of the House Ways & Means Committee for their hard work and foresight.”
"This is a fiscally responsible budget that makes targeted investments in the shared priorities of our Commonwealth,” said Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “I am proud that the House continues its leadership on early education, local aid and services for our most vulnerable citizens."
“My first House Budget is completed, and I am proud of the investments we made in early education, services for individuals with developmental disabilities, and HIV/AIDS prevention and education, said Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster).
Higgins further remarks, “I am glad to restore $50,000 to Johnny Appleseed Trail Association, that Governor Baker cut in the last round of 9Cs. JATA fosters tourism in North Central Massachusetts and makes our local economy stronger.”
The FY18 budget makes unprecedented investments to improve Massachusetts’ early education and care system, with a focus on supporting the EEC workforce and providing access to high-quality learning opportunities to ensure children are better prepared for academic success. In response to the findings of Speaker DeLeo’s EEC Business Advisory Group, the budget provides $20 million for the early educator rate reserve and $4 million for quality programming and workforce training. The House also builds on its notable commitment to behavioral health by doubling funding for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant to help early detection and prevention efforts.
Recognizing that municipalities have unique and diverse needs, the House continues to fund local aid at historic levels. This budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by $106 million. The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive a minimum of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also begins to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations by making adjustments to more accurately reflect employee health benefits through a $31 million investment. It also adds $4 million to the special education circuit breaker and increases our investment in regional school transportation by $1 million.
In 2014, under the House’s leadership, Massachusetts passed a nationally-heralded gun safety law which includes the Safe and Supportive Schools initiative. This budget bolsters continued efforts by directing the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission to establish an infrastructure to help schools leverage and coordinate community based health, youth development and social services resources that enable students to achieve well-being and academic success.
In addition to local education investments, the House funds numerous programs to support college students and provides increased finding for higher education campuses across the state including increases from FY17 of:
· $5.1 million for the University of Massachusetts;
· $2.5 million for State Universities;
· $2.7 million for Community Colleges.
· Provides $1.5 million for the Intern Partnership program to help young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups.
· Creates the UMass Innovation Voucher program and provides $2 million to encourage start-ups and manufacturing companies to partner with the university’s research and development facilities.
· Increases the state scholarship by $1 million in order to ensure Massachusetts students are able to afford higher education.
· Invests $4.8 million in the STEM Starter Academy to strengthen and expand STEM programming in community colleges. The program has shown incredible early success by connecting students with employment opportunities. It has also resulted in a national award for Springfield Tech Community College.
Since FY12, the Legislature has increased funding for substance addiction services to unprecedented levels and passed two landmark bills to help address this public health epidemic. This year’s budget makes notable investments related to behavioral health and addiction, including almost $132 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS). The budget also proposes changing the name of BSAS to the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services in recognition that addiction is a health issue and should be treated as such. Additional provisions include:
· $1 million for new substance addiction beds;
· Funds to open two new recovery centers for family supports;
· $1 million that will allow for the purchase of 15,000 new doses of Narcan and $1 million for extended release naltrexone;
· $5 million increase for the Department of Corrections’ Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center;
· $1 million to grow the Massachusetts Access to Recovery assistance program.
The House, under the leadership of Chairman Dempsey who has put an emphasis on providing increased access to permanent housing options, has proven effective at combatting homelessness in Massachusetts. For example, the caseload for hotels and motels is expected to zero out by the end of this fiscal year and projections indicate that caseloads for emergency assistance will return to pre-recession levels. The House’s spending plan invests $18 million in new funding for homelessness including:
· $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program;
· $15 million for residential assistance for families in transition;
· $6.5 million for the Department of Mental Health rental assistance;
· $46.2 for homeless individuals.
The budget includes an increase of $4.75 million to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to fund several cross-agency initiatives including $2 million in new money for the expansion of the Crisis Intervention Training Team. In addition to behavioral health and substance addiction initiatives, the FY18 budget features numerous provisions to protect residents facing adversity including:
· $1 million in additional funding for rental subsidies that will support 87 new DMH clients;
· The House’s budget rejects the Administration’s proposal to change the calculation for supplemental security income, resulting in a $12.6 million increase over the Administration’s FY18 budget to support individuals receiving these benefits;
· Allows survivors of domestic violence to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit in a safe manner;
· An increase of $34.2 million for the Department of Children and Families which will allow for 547 new hires to address caseloads.
After healthcare spending and local aid, the budget for developmental services receives the largest increase in the House’s spending bill. Given the growing and changing need for developmental services this budget funds a $87 million increase bringing spending to more than $1.9 billion for these critical programs.
In anticipation of a criminal justice reform bill later in the session, the budget includes $3.5 million to fund recommendations made by the Council on State Government.
The budget also creates a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans. Eligible businesses would receive $2,000 per year for the first two years of a veteran’s employment. This provision enhances the Commonwealth’s reputation as a national leader in providing benefits to military personnel, veterans and their families.
The budget will now go to the Senate for its consideration.
Contact: Lauren Scribi, Executive Director, Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators
Lauren.Scribi@MAHouse.gov (617) 722-2266
WOMEN’S CAUCUS AND LT. GOVERNOR POLITO TO HOST DENIM DAY
BOSTON – To recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators is partnering with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito to host the first Denim Day at the State House. The purpose of Denim Day is to highlight that no matter what you are wearing, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Women’s Caucus members will be wearing denim in solidarity with the rest of the nation to raise awareness about the sexual assault epidemic.
The speakers will discuss the work of the Sexual Assault Working Group that was organized by the Women’s Caucus, legislative priorities for this session and the importance of raising the voices of victims. Lt. Governor Polito will also speak about her work on the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
WHAT: Press Conference for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
WHEN: Wednesday, April 26th at 10:00AM
WHERE: Third Floor, Staircase in front of State Library at the State House
WHO: Speakers Include
- Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad
- Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
- Representative Elizabeth Poirier
- Representative Natalie Higgins
STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATALIE HIGGINS RECOGNIZES LOCAL YOUNG LEADER FOR SERVICE
Leominster Project 351 Ambassador Kicks off Transformative Year of Service
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Leominster, April 6, 2017 – State Representative Natalie Higgins today recognized Leila Cucciara, an eighth grader from Leominster, for her year of service as a Project 351 Ambassador. Leila joins more than 360 other young leaders across the Commonwealth as a participant in this statewide youth-led service initiative.
Project 351 is a nonprofit youth service organization that convenes an eighth-grade Ambassador from every city and town in Massachusetts for a transformative year of leadership development, values-based enrichment, and transformative impact through unique service and training opportunities. Project 351’s Class of 2017 includes more than 360 inspiring eighth graders like Ms. Cucciara, who are selected by hometown educators for an exemplary ethic of service and the values of kindness, compassion, humility, and gratitude.
“I am so proud of the work Leila is doing in our community,” said Higgins. “Project 351 could not have a better Ambassador from the city of Leominster. From her work with Cradles to Crayons to her own project ‘Fancy for Free,’ Leila is making a huge impact in so many people’s lives. It is so important for our students to feel supported by the adults in their lives, when they take on the hard work to solve problems in our community. ” Fancy for Free is a United Way Youth Venture program co-lead by Ms. Cucciara. The group takes donation of gently used clothing and then maintains a ‘clothes closet’ at school from which students in need can discretely get free clothing.
“Our Ambassadors unite from every corner of the Commonwealth to engage hundreds of communities in service and encourage kindness and generosity in their hometowns,” said Carolyn Casey, Executive Director and Founder of Project 351. “Over a year’s term, they demonstrate the unlimited potential of young people in service to a cause greater than self.”
Project 351 Ambassadors engage in three statewide service campaigns throughout the year, including this Spring Service in support of Cradles and Crayons, September 11 Tribute Service in support of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, and Fall Service, which aims to end hunger through the support of hundreds if hometown food pantries. Since its start in 2011, Project 351 has empowered more than 2,600 8th grade Ambassadors, impacted over 340,000 people, and fostered a culture of kindness, compassion, and gratitude in hundreds of schools and communities across the Commonwealth.
ABOUT PROJECT 351:
Project 351 is a youth service non-profit organization that develops a rising generation of “community-first” citizen leaders. Launched by Governor Deval Patrick in 2011 and now convened by Governor Charlie Baker, Project 351 fosters unity and strengthens the ethic of service through the engagement and enrichment of an eighth grade Ambassador from every city and town in Massachusetts. Annually, Ambassadors are selected by hometown educators for an exemplary ethic of service and the values of kindness, compassion, humility, and gratitude, and engage in a transformative year of youth-led service projects. Since its founding in 2011, Project 351 has engaged more than 2,200 eighth-graders as Ambassadors, who have united to impact more than 250,000 lives through youth-led service. Project 351 is supported by the generosity and civic engagement of private sector and civic leaders including Carob Tree Foundation, John Hancock, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Martin Richard Foundation, Converse, HYM Investment Group, the Carmen Family, and the O’Brien Family.