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Senator Spilka Announces Critical Parts of Legislative Agenda

January 20, 2013

Priorities include economic development, transportation, and support for vulnerable

(Boston) – Looking to spur continued economic development, support transportation and infrastructure investments, and protect consumers and residents – throughout the state and in her district – Senator Karen Spilka announced on Friday that she has filed a number of bills in these areas as part of her legislative agenda this session.

“Supporting our communities, strengthening our workforce, improving the economy, and protecting our most vulnerable residents continue to be top priorities of mine,” said Spilka. “I remain steadfast in my commitment to these important issues and to being a strong advocate for the needs and concerns of my constituents and the entire MetroWest region.”

In her latest effort to stimulate job growth and support economic expansion throughout the state, Spilka filed comprehensive legislation to support the Commonwealth’s businesses and residents as the economy continues to recover. An Act to Create and Maintain Jobs in the Commonwealth directly addresses many of the issues brought to light by businesses and residents during the public hearings and meetings of the Jobs Creation Commission, chaired by Senator Spilka, and a number of the recommendations put forth by the Commission in their Final Report. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Working with the Department of Education to ensure the state’s education system is, in fact, preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary for employment;
  • Creating a preference in state government to purchase goods produced in the state and by Massachusetts companies;
  • Creating a Massachusetts Work Ready Program, a new supported internship program for unemployed job seekers to help give them the on-the-job training and skills they need to be eligible for current job openings;
  • Investing in the rehabilitation of state and local buildings to create jobs in the construction trades, an industry experiencing high rates of unemployment, while investing in critical maintenance and repair of important cultural, local, and historical facilities;
  • Supporting programs to help veterans identify the skills they have acquired from their military service and translate them to use in civilian employment;
  • Establishing a plan through the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership to help promote the state to outside businesses;
  • Requiring the One-Stop Career Centers in the state to provide the resources and training needed to improve the technology skills of workers seeking employment; and
  • Requiring the Office of Labor and Workforce Development to work with local career centers on maintaining a database of all available positions in a region to ensure alignment between career training, available jobs, and the needs of businesses.

Additional legislation filed by Spilka to promote economic and workforce development include:

  • An Act to Accelerate Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Partnering World-Class Entrepreneurs with State Agencies – Authorizes the state’s Executive Offices to establish a pilot Entrepreneur in Residence Program, to bring in a successful private sector leader into state agencies to provide insight into how to make state programs and services for small businesses and entrepreneurs easier to navigate, more efficient, and more responsive to their specific needs.
  • An Act to Reform State Economic Substance Rules – Streamlining and clarifying the state’s doctrine to better align with the stronger federal version to make the process clearer, simpler, and more predictable for companies in every industry.

Investment in the state’s transportation and infrastructure systems is crucial to ensure a high quality of life for residents and to promote economic vitality in the Commonwealth’s cities and towns. As in years past, Spilka has filed legislation that seeks to bring equity and fairness to the transportation system while supporting the transportation needs and priorities of her region. Highlights include:

  • An Act Prohibiting the Collection of Tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike – Eliminates the tolls on the Turnpike, which the Senator believes have placed an unfair financial burden on the commuters and residents of the MetroWest region.
  • An Act Relative to Fairness and Equity in Regional Transportation Planning – Promotes a regional approach to transportation planning in the state and helps ensure that communities have the opportunity to participate in planning discussions and be a part of the transportation planning in their region.
  • An Act Providing for the Evaluation of the Economic Impact of Transportation Projects – Encourages recognition that transportation infrastructure investments are an important economic development activity. This bill also calls for a study of the economic impact transportation and infrastructure projects have throughout the Commonwealth to encourage investment in key projects that will promote economic growth and job creation.
  • An Act Freezing the Tolls on the Turnpike and the Metropolitan Highway System – Calls for all tolls in the Commonwealth, including the Massachusetts Turnpike, the 128 and Allston/Brighton tolls, the tunnels, and the Tobin Bridge, to be frozen at January 1, 2008 rates.
  • An Act to Grant Authority to the Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to Charge and Collect Tolls at the Borders of the Commonwealth – Allows the state Department of Transportation to place tolls on all major routes at the Commonwealth’s boarders with New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • An Act Providing for Public Input into Public Transit Decisions – Requires the state’s Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to have a transit rider on their advisory boards, giving commuters a seat at the table. This bill also requires the RTAs to perform a comprehensive service assessment to look at how well their service matches the needs of residents and their communities.

Throughout her time in the legislature, one of Spilka’s top priorities has been to protect consumers and the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth. In this last session, the legislature passed Spilka’s foreclosure prevention bill, the major initiative to provide new protections to struggling homeowners, prevent unnecessary foreclosures, and help to stabilize the housing market and the overall economy. To build upon these reforms, Spilka has filed An Act to Establish a Foreclosure Mediation Program, which gives borrowers the ability to go into mediation with lenders prior to foreclosure proceedings to work out renegotiated loan terms through a neutral third-party. This would ensure that there is an opportunity for the parties to meet face to face to try and facilitate the best solution possible.

Highlights of additional bills she has filed this session targeted to support and protect residents include:

  • The Electronic Privacy Act – Requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access personal electronic information from telephone and internet service providers, including details of a person’s telephone use, contacts, location, emails, and other communication. This bill will help bring current Massachusetts law and practices governing search warrants into the digital age.
  • An Act Relative to Domestic Violence by Repeat Offenders – Creates a new aggravated assault and battery charge for repeat offenders where the victim is a household or family member and where the defendant has previously been convicted of certain violent crimes, including sexual assault and crimes that cause serious bodily injury. This bill also amends existing laws to allow no contact orders to be issued as conditions of bail. Ultimately, this bill improves the state’s ability to properly serve victims of domestic violence and ensure that victims of repeat, violent domestic batterers are protected.
  • An Act to Protect the Commonwealth’s Residents from Identity Theft – Provides protections of social security numbers, gives law enforcement additional tools to combat identity theft, encourages officials to collaborate and receive training in identity theft crimes, and criminalizes some of the specific tactics identity thieves are known to use.

“I am proud of all we have been able to accomplish these past few years to support our economy and residents but I know that our work is far from done. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the needs and priorities of our constituents and to build upon our recent achievements,” continued Spilka.

Senator Spilka was recently sworn in for her fifth term as the Senator for the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District, representing the Towns of Ashland, Framingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, and Natick. This is just a sampling of some of the key bills she is filing this session. For a full listing of the legislation she has filed, please contact her office at (617) 722-1640.

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