By Kim Siebert MacPhail
Fresh from his orientation at the State House, newly elected State Senator Mike Barrett was joined by newly elected State Representative Ken Gordon at the Selectmen’s meeting Monday night to discuss Bedford’s legislative priorities. Gordon is due for his own orientation later this month; both begin formal duties in January.
The Selectmen shared ten action items they believe warrant Barrett and Gordon’s vigilance. It was noted that some of items are of particular interest to Bedford and others are regional, wide-spread concerns. The items are:
- Establish a permanent agreement for how local schools are reimbursed for educating dependents of military bases;
- Reimburse all costs related to educating displaced students who reside in transitional housing in communities other their own;
- Increase state transportation revenue to provide more funding for roads maintenance and construction and mass transit service. Establish a predictable annual Chapter 90 appropriation that matches the needs of the municipality;
- Increase the leverage that municipalities have in their relationship with investor-owned power companies (i.e.-utilities such as NStar and National Grid.)
- Amend state law to require more transparency for how utilities address power outage emergencies so that residents know how long it will take to restore power;
- Adopt legislation that will make it easier for towns to form their own municipal light and power companies;
- Change Massport’s enabling legislation so that town bylaws, land protection and zoning regulations will guide development in matters not directly related to airport operations;
- Prepare for potential Hanscom AFB closure in the event the worst case scenario is borne out;
- Provide State funding for transportation to bring employees from Boston/Cambridge to high tech/health care companies along the emerging Rt.3/Middlesex Turnpike corridor; and
- Provide State grant money/incentives to fund economic development planning and/or a coordinator for the new Middlesex 3 Coalition target area.
The Selectmen discussed each item with Barrett and Gordon in detail. Priority number one—reasonable and consistent reimbursement for the education of Hanscom students—was the subject of legislation introduced by former State Representative Charley Murphy. Gordon and Barrett surmised that since the bill is already at an advanced stage of development, it would be easy to re-file.
On the issues that concern a broad number of districts, Barrett suggested that forming a caucus would increase the likelihood that the matter would receive attention.
Barrett added that he has been impressed with how State House procedures have changed in the time between his earlier terms as State Senator and State Rep and the term he is about to begin.
“I’m very happy to report that my sense of how you can advocate for Bedford in 2012 is that things have become much more systematized and that access to important decision makers within the institution seems somewhat more formalized and somewhat easier. Each of us in the Senate will be able to meet with the Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means and his staff in order to present a short list of items of importance to our district.”
Barrett continued, “That’s not to say that any of these priorities are going to be granted. The tug of legislation is as difficult as it’s ever been. The shortage of money is very real. People in the State House are very concerned about the possibility of the fiscal cliff occurring on the federal level.
“In addition there’s been a lapse in State tax collections that we’ve read about in the papers over the last week. I was hoping the Governor was actually leaking the possibility of reduced tax collections, simply to reset expectations, but in fact there is a formal process which requires that he give some early notice that tax collections—month by month—are coming in at less than projected levels. That is concerning. …. Nevertheless, my first priority—across my entire district— would be to fight for Bedford’s school funding for Hanscom students…We have a strong case.”