The following is an opinion piece by State Senator Katherine Clark:
January brings the start of a new legislative session, and this week I will be sworn in for a new term representing the 5th Middlesex District, a district that now includes portions of Winchester and all of Melrose, but no longer includes Lynnfield. As I take the oath of office, I am committed to the shared priorities of our communities, families and local businesses.
This is a natural time to consider what we have accomplished over the past year and what challenges and opportunities face us now. During the last session, the legislature approved a series of bills to control rising health care costs, improve public safety, rebuild our infrastructure, promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, and stabilize the housing market. In addition, the House and Senate acted on several of my top priority bills to address early literacy, care of premature infants, domestic violence, and employment discrimination.
In June, the legislature enacted a $32.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2013 that prioritizes funding for education, cities and towns, essential services for the most vulnerable citizens, workforce development and public safety. The budget also included my amendments: to close a drunk-driving loophole to improve safety on our roads and highways; and to examine issues facing unaccompanied homeless youth.
I am proud of the progress made during 2012, but both challenges and opportunities remain. Too many families continue to struggle, and our nation’s fiscal picture is shrouded in uncertainty. I look forward to pursuing a legislative agenda that reflects the priorities of our district: to create jobs, grow our local businesses, and strengthen our schools, communities and public transportation system, all while improving the state’s fiscal health.
As we begin a new legislative session, my top priorities will include:
- Supporting Our Municipalities and Schools
Particularly in light of the federal budget picture and continued demands on our cities and towns, I will prioritize support for local aid and our schools. Other priorities include ensuring that all children have access to high-quality early education programs and expanding access to targeted education and job training for high-tech manufacturing and other skilled jobs. I will also continue to advocate for protective services for our seniors and vulnerable individuals, reducing toxins in our everyday products, and supporting our veterans and military families.
- Transportation and Economic Development
A top priority for the new session is building a modern public transportation system that is financially sound and sustainable for the long-term. Recognizing that public transportation is critical to regional economic development and economic growth statewide, we need a network that keeps fares reasonable while expanding service, and we must break the cycle of emergency funding for the MBTA and get it on stable financial footing.
- Fair and Efficient Tax System
Through my work as Chair of the Committee on Revenue, I will work to ensure that our tax system is fair and efficient. This will include continued examination of how the state uses tax expenditures and subsidies.
- Safer Communities
I have begun work with my colleagues and local law enforcement to reform the Commonwealth’s Sex Offender Registry laws, and I will file legislation this month. I will also continue to examine ways to end domestic violence, improve drunk driving laws and support families in crisis.
These are just some of the issues I will be working on this session. I look forward to partnering with you to continue to create jobs, support our schools, and improve our quality of life in our district.