Thanks to all the in-person and virtual Zoomers that made our hybrid meeting with Senator Jamie Eldridge a success. Special shout out to Zelda MacGregor for providing the technical expertise for this hybrid meeting.
Zelda MacGregor, Mass Dems State Committee and FDTC Member, opened the hybrid meeting welcoming the in-person attendees and on-line Zoom participants.
She introduced William (Bill) Keohan, the newly elected Plymouth & Barnstable District Mass Dems State Committee member. Bill announced that the 2024 Mass Dems State Convention would be held in Worcester on May 31, 2024. He invited everyone to attend Senator Susan Moran’s reception in Plymouth on Wednesday, November 29th. See Special Events in this Dmail for more details.
Matt Patrick then introduced.Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), our featured in-person speaker. Sen. Eldridge gave a legislative update regarding the Conference Commission on the Supplemental State Budget. One key issue is the balance of care of Migrants versus that of the Long Term Homeless. No decision has been reached as yet for funding. It was noted that hosting is primarily from 5 communities. Another area of discussion is Abortion protection and LGBTQ rights.
Sen. Eldridge began his planned talk on the MA Housing Crisis. Affordability on the Cape is apparent to all of us. The MBTA Communities Act is the first legislation that tackles affordable housing. It does not have an affordability requirement. Chief concern of opponents is population density and the cost of services and infrastructure. Gov. Healy has appointed a Cabinet Official to address this need. A budget of $1.6B is proposed to provide public housing. It includes Green requirements for Solar and Geothermal. The goal is to utilize sustainable energy not fossil fuels. The Governor also supports a Real Estate Transfer Tax for sales over $1 – 2M to fund the program. The Real-Estate Lobby has aggressively pushed back against this plan. In-Law apartments or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) can free up single family homes to add to the available housing stock.
Criminal Justice Reform was next on Sen. Eldridge’s agenda. He has been an advocate of this reform since 2018. He and his committee have made unscheduled visits to interview the inmates. They are typically from poor families and neighborhoods. They tend to suffer from a high rate of recidivism. A key goal of his is to eliminate solitary confinement. Although solitary rates have decreased 50% over the last 15 years, they need to be brought to zero. The practice is a racial and social injustice and does not help rehabilitation. High school and college courses with the goal of graduation has proven to reduce repeat offenses. Drug and alcohol rehab programs significantly reduce that as well. Vocational training has shown to have a positive impact on the prison population.
Medicare for All was his final topic of the evening. He sees this effort as the best way to provide affordable healthcare in MA and the country. It would allow everyone in and not exclude anyone. The government would be the interface between the public and doctors, hospitals and drug companies. The government would be our advocate to lobby for lower costs, reduced paperwork and sensible administrative policies. The major cost of family bankruptcy is due to excessive medical bills. The first step would be to pass legislation at the state level. This is the Senator’s 6th term filing this bill. Gov. Healy needs to support this effort for it to be successful.
We then shifted to the Q&A portion of the agenda. The first question posed asked about the status of the Real Estate Transfer Bill. Sen. Eldridge replied that it did not pass due to an aggressive campaign by the Real Estate Lobby. This will be brought up again in the Governors Housing Bond Bill of which the RE Transfer Tax is an attachment.
Deb Siegel asked if there will be any changes in the 40B Housing Law to increase RE affordability. Sen. Eldridge would like to see the rates at 50 – 60% of market rates for rentals versus 80 – 90%. Recently Brookline has passed an affordable housing program by a large majority. Many communities pushback against these programs citing increased school, infrastructure costs and crime as negatives.
Kirstin Moritz asked about the Comprehensive Gun Violence Bill. The Senator participated in writing the Senate Bill. The House has created their own. Assault rifles are the key element of concern for all of us. Ghost guns have been a dodge that gun dealers are using to provide these unnecessary weapons. The Senate has plans to address this during the Jan/Feb 2024 session. The tactic to be employed will be to have the State Police inspect Gun Dealers instead of the local police. Local Police Chiefs opposed Ghost Gun Control in the last session.
Sandra Faiman-Silva asked about Affordable Housing and Child Care. Sen. Eldridge responded that both topics are essential to providing a strong base of workers for Cape communities. Universal Early Education would help as well. He and Sen. Susan Moran passed a bill for this in the last session. Senate No. 884 is an Act to reduce the financial barriers to renting homes. Currently the bill is in need of funding.
Matt Patrick asked if state funding could be provided to subsidize green energy and energy conservation initiatives. Currently the rate payers and towns are on the hook to fund these initiatives. Sen. Eldridge said he filed bill S.2170 that sets a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The bill would require increased investment in renewable transportation, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and invests in electrifying the MBTA, RTA and fleets used for a public purpose. With this bill, MA can do it’s part to slow the Climate Change temperature rise by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. It safeguards the most vulnerable communities, and ensures a just transition for workers to renewable positions.
Zelda M closed the meeting by thanking Sen. Eldridge for his in person participation and conversation with our Q&A attendees. Scott S announced that our next meeting would be the Holiday Potluck on Thursday 12/7/23. (see details below). Scott requested attendees send him ideas for topics and speakers for FDTC meetings in 2024.
The meeting adjourned at 8:10PM.