As we move into August, I would like to update you on the work that I've done over the course of July. I've worked with my fellow legislators on many important legislative items concerning local aid, transportation financing, and the passage of a sales-tax holiday to occur this August.
Local Aid & Transportation Finance Plan
I joined my colleagues to unanimously pass legislation that provides essential local aid to cities and towns.
The unanimous votes override the administration's veto of $177 million in unrestricted general government aid (UGGA). The funds, originally included in the Legislature's fiscal 2014 budget, mark the first increase in UGGA since fiscal 2010. The legislation provides $920.23 in UGGA, a $21.25 million increase from fiscal 2013.
By overriding the administration's veto of local aid, we will be able to make responsible and important investments in the commonwealth. The local aid funding that was restored in this year's budget will help to ensure that key services are protected and have the necessary resources that are essential in economic growth.
The House and Senate also cleared the two-thirds majority to enact a transportation finance plan that guarantees $805 million in new resources for the transportation system by fiscal 2018 and includes all tax provisions assumed in both the House and Senate fiscal 2014 budgets, generating $500 million in new tax revenue.
Both the local aid and transportation legislation are now passed into law.
Sales Tax Holiday
This month I joined my colleagues in the Legislature to approve a bill creating a sales tax holiday on Aug. 10 and 11, marking the eighth year the commonwealth will provide a two-day sales-tax exemption.
The legislation is designed to increase sales for local businesses and provide relief to consumers as we reach the end of the summer. The holiday provides a boost to our local businesses and helps to alleviate some of the financial burden that families often face as they approach the new school year and the back-to-school shopping that it entails.
As in previous years, the sales-tax holiday will apply to purchases under $2,500. It excludes vehicles, motorized boats, tobacco, meals and utilities. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
Around the Statehouse
I spent much of the month in the Statehouse attending various meetings, committee hearings, and events. Over the course of July, I attended hearings held by each committee that I am a member of. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy held a hearing covering bills related to renewable-energy issues. The Joint Committee on Public Service held a hearing covering various bills related to health insurance policy. The last week of July included a hearing for the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, which covered bills related to Mass Health policy issues.
I joined Representative Sannicandro this month in hosting an event held by the Special Education and Disability Caucus for Statehouse members and staff to show the documentary film titled "The Sandy Houghton Story." "The Sandy Houghton Story" is a 40-minute documentary that showcases the extraordinary life of Sandy Houghton, founder of the Self-Advocacy Leadership Series. Having grown up with cerebral palsy, Sandy recounts the barriers she faced as a child, adolescent and adult. She pieces together the emotional memories and experiences that have shaped her life and have led her to become a successful, strong leader in self-advocacy that she is today. I encourage everyone to take the time to view it and learn about the importance of self-advocacy.
Earlier in July, I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Government 2013 Eastern Regional Conference here in Boston. I joined my fellow women state legislators throughout the eastern and southern region to discuss many important topics that we face every day. I was able to attend sessions that will help me in my role as the House Vice Chair of the Health Care Financing committee. These sessions covered Medicaid expansion, health exchanges and quality health care, medical home model in health care, the Affordable Care Act, obesity and health implications. In addition, I also attended sessions that covered topics such as mental-health care, K-12 education, and economic security. The conference was incredibly informative and a valuable experience for me.
I want to thank all of you for communicating your concerns and priorities over the course of the month. As always, I encourage all of you to keep in touch by contacting my office at 617-722-2430 or sending me an email at Jennifer.Benson@ mahouse.gov.