State House News from Ken Gordon: First-ever Evening Office Hours in Bedford on Thursday, January 29

Submitted by Representative Kenneth Gordon

Ken-Gordon-letterheadFirst-Ever Evening Office Hours in Bedford on Thursday, January 30

Kenneth Gordon’s first evening office hours will be held at 6:30 pm on Thursday, January 30 at the Prince Street Café on 200 Great Road Bedford, MA.

After conducting monthly office hours at the coffee shop on weekend mornings, Representative Gordon has switched to an evening format to make it easier for some residents to visit after dinner or on their way home from work. “I am looking for ways to make it easier for Burlington residents to let me know of their concerns or bring any questions to me they may have” said Representative Gordon. Representative Gordon will be available to answer questions and to listen to concerns and ideas of the constituents of the district.

Notes from Rep. Gordon’s January Newsletter

January has brought with it the opening of a new year on Beacon Hill, and while we have not been called to take many votes, I have been busy standing up for working people as I said I would do.

Many of you know that the Senate passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $11 an hour gradually over three years, and tie it to inflation. A group of citizens has filed a ballot initiative with sufficient signatures that would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over two years and tie it to inflation. The governor has expressed support for an increase.

The measure is now before House of Representatives, where the Speaker has expressed a desire to package a wage increase with a major reform to unemployment insurance. All sides agree that unemployment insurance funding must be restructured, because the state has relied on a band-aid approach for several years. If no fix is identified, the trust fund that pays benefits will quickly become insolvent.

I have spent much of my career in the area of employee rights. I have made the issue of the minimum wage and, if we must tie it together, reform of the unemployment insurance program, a focus of my term. I met with Speaker Robert DeLeo for 40 minutes last week and the result is that he is listening to my proposal that we can accomplish true unemployment reform without reducing benefits or cutting eligibility. We can make sure the trust fund is solvent without increasing cost to small business and — if the statistics I am expecting from the governor prove me correct — will decrease the cost to small business.

If nothing else, I convinced Speaker DeLeo that he must be absolutely sure that he is not helping one group of low-wage workers, by harming the unemployed. He is receptive to my proposals and has asked me to return when we receive more information from the governor’s office.

Bedford Plaza: Family Roll Continues to Decline

The number of families assigned by the Commonwealth to the Bedford Plaza Hotel has decreased by 35 since Rep. Gordon became involved with the issue of the number of homeless families assigned to the Bedford facility. The number of families now stands at 53, down from 88 in the four months Ken met with Aaron Gornstein, the undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development (“DHCD”).

Gordon was able to obtain DHCD’s promise to reduce the number of families assigned to the hotel by convincing the department that the town was forced to host more than twice the number of families of any other town or city on the basis of the population of the town, and more than double the average share. DHCD has also assured Rep. Gordon that the families moved from the facility have gone to facilities closer to their homes, or otherwise a more favorable situation for the families.

Gordon will appear with DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein on a panel that will address family homelessness at the 10th annual Forum on Family Homelessness March 2, 2014 at 3 p.m. at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord.

In addition to his work in reducing the number of families assigned to the Hotel, Rep. Gordon has also been working with Senator Mike Barrett to help children of the families living at the facility obtain medical and dental check-ups, and he has worked with the Bedford Family Connection to support its efforts to provide recreational opportunities to the children of the families.

“I am proud that Bedford has shown itself to be a community with a heart”, said Rep. Gordon. “We will do our part, and DHCD is satisfying its promise to reduce our part to a level more in line with other communities.”

Unemployment Insurance Reform and Minimum Wage Issues

The major issue on the plate of the House of Representatives this month has been the bills that would increase the minimum wage and those that would reform the way Massachusetts raises revenue for unemployment insurance. Gordon has been hard at work gathering facts for both of these issues, which have been linked by the Speaker of the House.

“These are issues I have been addressing during my career as a lawyer,” said Gordon. “I feel fortunate to be in exactly the right place at the right time, to roll up my sleeves and contribute to this solution.”

Much has been said by Speaker DeLeo’s plan to provide a benefit to workers by increasing the minimum wage, and at the same time providing a benefit to small business by restructuring unemployment insurance rates. However, some of Gordon’s opponents in the House have been floating a proposal that would cut eligibility for benefits in two ways. One would increase the number of weeks a worker has to have stayed at his last job from 15 to 20. The second proposal would decrease the number of weeks a Massachusetts worker is eligible for unemployment benefits from 30 to the federal minimum, 26. From 2008 through 2013, the federal government extended UI benefits to all workers due to the recession, so the federal government paid the bill for Massachusetts residents collecting for weeks 26-30. That extension ended with the New Year.

“Marty Walsh filed a bill that he claimed would raise enough money by revising the tables employers pay toward unemployment benefits to fully fund our UI needs for years to come, in a way that would actually reduce the UI premium bill for most small business,” said Rep. Gordon. “Once Marty was elected Mayor of Boston, I took the principles behind his bill to Speaker DeLeo.

“I met with the Speaker for more than 40 minutes while the snow fell on Boston last Tuesday,” said Gordon. “I told him how I have been lucky enough to attend two and sometimes three ribbon cuttings a week in Burlington and Bedford. Our district is open for business, and it is attracting and maintaining business for a good reason. The people. When I attend a grand opening, I ask the owner why he chose Burlington, Bedford or Massachusetts and the answer I always get is that our educated workforce is the draw. The high tech businesses are attracted by graduates from our nearby colleges and universities. Retail and other business is attracted by graduates of community colleges, our technical schools including Shawsheen and Minuteman Tech. All employers are impressed with our public education and high graduation rates.

“I told the speaker that if we build it they will come, and the ‘it’ in this case is our investment in education and in our workers.” It is important that we train our workforce to fill openings that are currently available, that we make sure they earn enough money that the lowest-paid full time employees earn enough that they can at least feed their families without public assistance, and that we maintain our minimal level of benefits for people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”

Speaker DeLeo listened, and asked Gordon to return with more information about the formula proposed by Mayor Walsh’s bill, once that information is provided by the governor’s office.

Lost and Found

Ken is helping Treasurer Steve Grossman identify residents of the district who have unclaimed money held by the treasurer. More than a million dollars is sitting with the Commonwealth, waiting to be claimed.

We have been given a list of residents who have money waiting to be claimed, and will be contacting those folks directly. However, we also urge you to visit www.findmassmoney.com  to see if there is lucre awaiting your claim. It is easy, and certainly worth the effort.

Upcoming Events

Jan 30 at 6:30 p.m., Bedford Office Hours at Prince St. Cafe, 200 Great Road.
Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Bedford Democratic Caucus.
March 2 at 3 p.m., Forum on Family Homelessness, Trinitarian Congregational Church, 54 Walden Street, Concord.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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