Rep. Randy Hunt: Second term accomplishments
Friday, August 15th, 2014 @ 2:00PM
1) 100% voting record – Someone said that 80% of success is showing up. I’m not sure I’d hang my hat on that simplification of what it takes to be successful, but I do believe that being there for committee hearings and legislative votes is an important means to engage my fellow representatives and to earn their respect. I have not missed a roll call vote in the House of Representatives since I was sworn in on the first Wednesday in January 2011.
2) Addiction treatment and diversion programs – Several things have happened on this front during the past year. In September, I set out to speak with as many of my legislative colleagues, executive branch administrators, and court personnel as I could to spread the message of how Massachusetts has lagged behind other states relative to dealing with substance addiction. I spoke with over 100 people and helped to expand awareness of the issue.
In addition to almost $18 million in the fiscal year 2015 budget newly dedicated to increased substance addiction treatment and expansion of drug court diversion programs, the legislature passed a bill that will cut down on waiting times for patients to enter treatment facilities. It also gives the Department of Public Health emergency powers to deal with dangerous drugs new to the market, such as “spice” and “bath salts” that are similar but chemically different from currently banned substances. This legislation also includes two items that I authored relative to making the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention a permanent rather than ad hoc council and establishing a commission to plan for next steps in our state’s effort to curb substance addiction (the ASSIST Act Commission). Click here to see my whitepaper on this issue. Click here to see my House Chamber speech on the actions.
3) Supporting local cultural councils – I filed a bill that would add a line item to the Massachusetts personal income tax return allowing taxpayers to make a contribution to their local cultural council. These councils work on a shoestring budget but accomplish much by providing grants to local groups and individuals for entertainment and educational productions, museum days, historical reenactments, and many other events. This contribution mechanism could easily raise more than $1 million a year for our tourism generating arts and cultural activities. With over 40 co-sponsors, I hope to get the bill passed during our informal sessions by the end of this year.
4) Other legislation that I worked to pass this legislative session includes the following:
- Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) – Funding to provide educational opportunities in computer sciences. MassCAN is a collaborative which includes partners such as Google, Microsoft, Mass Business Roundtable, Mass Tech Collaborative, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, Mass Tech Leadership Council, and Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
- Early education – Also on the education front, we voted for an additional $15 million to expand access to early education and care. In my role as a Revenue Committee member, I personally worked with the Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators Union (MECEU) to craft legislation creating an Early Educator Tax Credit that would provide up to a $600 refundable credit to early educators who have requisite degree credentials and work experience as an inducement to remain early educators and to reduce chronic turnover in these critical teaching positions.
- Road repairs – A 50% increase in Chapter 90 funds to help towns and cities deal with deteriorating roads and road infrastructure.
- Local budget predictability – Passage of a resolution which gave town and cities a solid local aid number to use in their budget planning for FY2015 rather than forcing administrators to guess at a figure for local aid.
- Domestic violence – The House of Representatives also passed a domestic violence bill which creates new criminal offenses and elevated penalties, boosts prevention efforts, seeks to empower victims and establishes new employment rights. The bill creates a specific felony charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that statistically indicate an abuser is more likely to commit domestic violence related homicide in the future, and establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge. Current law includes penalties for subsequent offenses but fails to include a first offense, making the statute unenforceable.
- Beach renourishment funding – After the Town of Sandwich lost out on a Federal grant of $5 million to execute a beach management plan for the sand-starved beaches southeast of the Cape Cod Canal, we were able to earmark $5 million in the 2014 Environment Bond Bill for this effort.
- Veterans benefits – As a follow-on to the Valor Act which was passed in 2012, the Valor Act II adds a number of benefits and rids veterans of several obstacles to returning to work in the private sector.
- Drinking water and wastewater infrastructure – Legislation was passed to provide towns and cities with clean water and wastewater technical assistance grants as well as to add $50 million annually to the state’s revolving fund that finances water infrastructure projects with low or no interest loans. This funding is critical for Cape Cod as we continue working to protect our single-source water supply.