November Leominster Champion Column: Hearing held on bill to ban sale of cats and dogs in pet shops
Last month, the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture held its public legislative hearing on H.384/S.230, “An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops,” which would close the puppy mill-to-pet shop pipeline.
This legislation would prohibit the sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits in pet shops unless the animals come from shelters or rescue organizations. Typically, pet shops obtain animals from substandard breeding facilities, which results in consumers unknowingly purchasing sick or genetically-compromised pets. Puppy mills, in particular, are large-scale commercial breeding facilities where profit is given priority over the well-being of animals. Massachusetts state records consistently document such complaints from across the Commonwealth. State and federal records have also demonstrated that puppies from the worst “puppy mills” in the country have been sold to Massachusetts consumers via pet shops. These bills aim to protect both animals and consumers and would have no impact on responsible breeders.
The pet store industry is evolving, and the majority already partners with shelters and rescue organizations to host adoptions through their stores. Of the top 25 retailers in the country, only one sells puppies. While pet stores may claim that they obtain animals from small-scale, humane breeders, the reality is that pet stores cannot obtain dogs from responsible breeders because responsible breeders simply do not sell puppies to pet stores.
This legislation would not prevent consumers from acquiring one of these animals from a responsible breeder or a shelter or rescue organization. Further, it does not prohibit a pet shop from partnering with a shelter or rescues to provide animals in their store. California, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Illinois have similar state laws. There are more than 380 municipalities nationwide — including Boston, Cambridge, Holliston, Marshfield, North Adams, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Springfield, and Stoneham — that have passed laws prohibiting the sale of commercially-raised dogs and cats in pet stores.
I am proud to help lead the efforts to pass this legislation to protect puppies, kittens, and rabbits, as well as their human families, from the harmful practices of substandard out-of-state massive breeding facilities, like puppy mills. Beyond that, I am thankful to be teaming up with Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (7th Middlesex - Framingham), to launch a new Protecting Animal Welfare (PAW) Caucus in the Massachusetts Legislature. We want to continue to strengthen the voice of animal welfare advocacy, and work to pass vital legislation like H.384/S.230 into law.
Thank you for taking the time to read this month’s column. While my office continues to work remotely, we are still accessible by phone (978-227-5278) or email (Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov). We’ve moved our office hours online — Monday nights and Friday mornings. Please email or call to sign up.
Telegram & Gazette: Fund sought to revive underutilized buildings across the state
BOSTON — A new state fund outlined in a bill before the Legislature would help facilitate improvements to underutilized commercial or industrial buildings in economically distressed areas, a measure that supporters say would help spur job creation and business, and maintain historic structures.
The bill (H 285), filed by state Reps. Patricia Duffy and Natalie Higgins, would task MassDevelopment, the state's development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies.
Duffy, a Holyoke Democrat, said the bill is "simple" as it seeks to help developers upgrade, renovate or repair buildings in older cities and former manufacturing hubs.
"Some of our best assets and challenges are these beautiful, old mill buildings and warehouses," Duffy told the Community Development and Small Business Committee Tuesday. "Our promise also lies in local developers, local businesses that are going to be hiring local folks, taking advantage of our people and our resources here."
As proposed, the agency would administer funds via grants or loans for renovation projects where tenant rent rates or creditworthiness do not support commercial debt, according to the bill. The money could be used for things like elevator repairs, handicapped access installation, sprinkler system improvements, tenant fit-outs, or other building code requirements.
While the source of revenue for the fund is unclear, a potential sticking point for any new program, Holyoke Planning and Economic Development Director Aaron Vega said the fund could help a city like Holyoke build on other grant programs or local tax incentives to bring buildings back up to code or into a functioning state.
Vega, who previously filed the bill when he served in the Massachusetts House, said there are a number of advantages to repurposing an old building, including getting it back on the city tax rolls, creating jobs or new housing, and allowing companies to be more "green" by not tearing a structure down and building a new one. There's also a historic preservation aspect to the legislation, he said.
"I'm not just talking about those square buildings, warehouse, sort of mill buildings built 100 years ago, the architecture on many of these buildings, and many of our urban cores, throughout the commonwealth are fantastic, and will never be built again," Vega told the News Service.
Vega said the proposed fund is similar to another tool Holyoke has used in the past — the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund administered by MassDevelopment and aimed at transforming vacant, abandoned, or underutilized industrial or commercial properties.
Committee co-chair Sen. Nick Collins of South Boston asked Vega how the fund would be financed and receive contributions, saying his district faces similar challenges with older assets and buildings. Vega said the bill's sponsors leave it "up to you to find the best path forward."
The bill says the fund "shall be eligible to receive funds as appropriated by the general court, the board, federal grants and programs, and transfers, grants, and donations from state agencies, foundations, and private parties."
"I wouldn't obviously support increasing a fee or a tax to support this fund. Perhaps there could be ARPA funds utilized to start, perhaps a percentage of some developer fees across the state could go into to maintain it," Vega said to Collins. "But you're exactly right, it needs a funding source."
Duffy said in depressed real estate markets, developers are "ready to take on these buildings" and support historic redevelopment.
"We support these codes and safety so we want to help these developers be able to come up to code and protect these buildings," Duffy said. " ... In many ways, it's the smaller, local developers that we want to help support."
The Daily Hampshire Gazette highlights fund sought to revive underutilized buildings
"BOSTON — A new state fund outlined in a bill before the Legislature would help facilitate improvements to underutilized commercial or industrial buildings in economically distressed areas, a measure that supporters say would help spur job creation, business, and maintain historic structures.
The bill (H 285), filed by Reps. Patricia Duffy, D-Holyoke, and Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, would task the MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies. Duffy said the bill is “simple” as it seeks to help developers upgrade, renovate, or repair buildings in older cities and former manufacturing hubs."
Check out the full article here: https://www.gazettenet.com/Fund-sought-to-revive-underutilized-buildings-43714486
"The bill (H 285), filed by Reps. Patricia Duffy and Natalie Higgins, would task the MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency, with overseeing a redevelopment fund that would dole out money to both nonprofits and for-profit companies. Duffy, a Holyoke Democrat, said the bill is “simple” as it seeks to help developers upgrade, renovate, or repair buildings in older cities and former manufacturing hubs."
Check out the full article here: https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/fund-sought-to-revive-underutilized-buildings/article_2063827a-4d30-11ec-aae7-8b15389e59dd.html
Leominster Champion: Rep. Higgins Nominates New England Apple Products for 2021 Manufacturer of the Year Award
New England Apple Products Company in Leominster has been honored with a 2021 Manufacturer of the Year Award, nominated by State Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster).
This year marked the Sixth Annual Manufacturing Awards Ceremony hosted by the Massachusetts Legislative Manufacturing Caucus.
“Many people overlook the important role that manufacturing has across North Central Massachusetts,” Higgins said. “I am proud to lift up local manufacturers like New England Apple Products, who are not only job creators, but also continually try to find ways to give back to our community and neighbors.”
New England Apple Products Company came into being in the summer of 2011, but its roots run back to the end of the Civil War. Their owners, brothers Steve and Dave Rowse, grew up in their family’s business, Veryfine Products Inc. of Littleton; Veryfine traced its roots back to 1865. In 2011, Steve purchased the fresh apple cider-making business from Carlson Orchards of Harvard and moved it to Leominster. Dave joined Steve in the business a couple of years later. New England Apple Products presses apples and bottles cider all year long, and also produces in the summer months.
Additionally, New England Apple Products has a commitment to stewardship and sustainability. They have 960 solar panels on the roof of their cider mill building that produce a couple of million watts of power on a sunny day, which they hope will generate 100% of their electricity needs each year. They are also working towards zero solid waste and are currently at 95% recycled, and their leftover apple pulp is hauled away by a local dairy farmer who mixes it in with his other feed products to keep his cows well fed and happy. They donate as much cider as they can use to two local food banks, one in Leominster and one 10 minutes away at Devens, so that their client families can enjoy cider with their holiday meals.
October is Manufacturing Month in the Commonwealth. This year, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing, along with MassMEP, MassRobotics, Forge, WPI and the MassHire boards, hosted an exciting new conference to kick off October’s manufacturing month, the “Massachusetts Manufacturing Mash-Up” at Polar Park in Worcester.
The name hoped to inspire something new, unique and a place to see the “new face of manufacturing.” The “Mash-Up” included a mix of indoor and outdoor space throughout the park setting a new “vibe” for manufacturing, and offered numerous opportunities to meet new businesses or partners, find the resources to help manufacturers succeed, and gain the knowledge to join the advanced manufacturing world in which we now operate.
Rep. Lewis and Rep. Higgins Tour Recompose Facility in Kent, Washington in Effort to Ecological Burial Alternatives
November 3, 2021 (Boston) – Earlier this fall, Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) and Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (D-Framingham) toured Recompose's first facility in Kent, Washington, to better understand national best practices in ecological burial alternatives.
"We were thankful to learn more from the team at Recompose about Natural Organic Reduction and the positive impacts it can have in Massachusetts and to see their first facility in operation," said Rep. Higgins.
This session, Rep. Higgins and Rep. Lewis filed new legislation (H4036) to add two additional options for Massachusetts residents: alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction (NOR). With the hopes of combatting the present and ever-growing threat of climate change and provide Massachusetts families with new affordable alternatives to conventional burial.
"This legislation is about giving Massachusetts families additional options in burial care, options currently only available to families in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado," Rep. Lewis noted.
Natural organic reduction saves one metric ton of carbon dioxide from entering the environment when chosen in place of conventional burial or cremation - equivalent to 40 backyard propane tanks or 113 gallons of gasoline. Alkaline hydrolysis, which is available in 20 states, uses water and an alkali solution to convert remains into a liquid and sand-like substance that can be returned to the natural environment via the watershed or for use in farming, using only one-tenth of the energy involved in cremation. Natural organic reduction gently reduces human remains into soil that can be used for planting or scattering akin to conventional cremation.
Cremation costs nearly $9,000, and conventional burial costs are even higher at $10,000, according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association. In contrast, alkaline hydrolysis costs around $3,000 per burial, and natural organic reduction costs about $5,500.
"It's not easy to think about after-death choices, but being able to choose a last gesture that is beneficial to the planet can be comforting. Natural organic reduction is sustainable and informed by nature," said Katrina Spade, inventor of NOR and the founder and CEO of Recompose, the first full-service funeral home to offer this option. "Our research has proven this option to be safe and effective, and we're honored to have already provided the service to more than 50 families. We look forward to working with lawmakers and community members to make NOR available to all Massachusetts residents who want it." Spade first had the idea for the process while pursuing her master's degree in architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"Thank you to Rep. Lewis, Rep. Higgins, and their teams for making the trip to the Recompose Greenhouse, it was an honor to show them how we transform humans into soil at the first licensed funeral home offering human composting. We look forward to working with the representatives and the people of Massachusetts to bring this important death care option to the state very soon."
The legislation will be heard by the committee on Public Health on November 15th at 9 am, those who wish to testify, submit written testimony, or both, may sign up and/or submit written testimony by completing this form: https://forms.gle/5JVc1RUayfotvSYH7 by November 11th at 5pm.