Senate Closes Out 2013-2014 Legislative Session
Legislation will support economic growth and quality of life in MetroWest
The Massachusetts Legislature’s schedule of formal sessions came to a close in the early hours of Friday morning as legislators finalized and enacted a wide range of bills and sent them to the Governor’s desk to be signed, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced. Legislation includes a comprehensive bill to encourage job creation and continued economic growth, spending authorization for environmental projects and facilities improvements and other initiatives to improve quality of life and promote economic prosperity in MetroWest and across the Commonwealth.
Promoting Economic Growth
The legislature enacted a bill to encourage economic development and support innovation and job creation in communities across the state. The bill makes targeted investments to boost the state’s economic drivers, including innovation and Big Data, manufacturing, workforce development, tourism and marketing.
“This bill takes important steps to encourage economic growth and support innovation,” Senator Spilka said. “We are improving opportunities for education and lifelong workforce training for people in our communities, especially in the STEM subject areas, and we are helping to connect businesses with the educated, skilled workforce they need to continue to grow, thrive and compete in Massachusetts.”
Among many initiatives designed to support small businesses and workforce training, the bill advances one of Senator Spilka’s long-standing priorities as co-chair of the Tech Hub Legislative Caucus to encourage computer science and STEM education. The bill allocates $1.5 million for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to develop a plan to establish computer science education in public schools across the state. This funding supports the efforts of the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) to strengthen the growth and vitality of the state’s technology industry by increasing the number of students prepared to pursue computing technology careers. The bill also expands a tech internship program Senator Spilka worked to establish in 2012.
The bill also establishes the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund through the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to bring together academic institutions, industry and public sector organizations to make recommendations on how to educate and prepare a workforce for careers in Big Data.
Many of the fastest-growing jobs in the Commonwealth are middle-skill jobs, which require more than a high school education but less than a 4-year college program. The bill includes $10 million for the Advanced Manufacturing and Information Technology Workforce Training Trust Fund and sets a goal of training 4,000 workers in 4 years.
The bill also sets August 16-17 as a holiday from the state’s 6.25% sales tax.
Senator Spilka successfully advocated for several provisions to further strengthen workforce training programs and support small businesses, including:
- $1 million for the expansion of a college and career readiness program that would drastically reduce the number of students in remedial courses, especially math courses, at community colleges.
- $250,000 in increased funding for the Smaller Business Association of New England’s Layoff Aversion Program, which is designed to prevent layoffs at small businesses across the state by providing targeted consultant assistance and strategic alternatives to keep workers in their present jobs or quickly move them into comparable new jobs.
- Requiring the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative to conduct an analysis of the state’s manufacturing supply chain every two years to identify opportunities for the future development and expansion of manufacturing across the state.
Environmental Bond Bill
The legislature also enacted a bill providing for the preservation and improvement of land, parks and clean energy in the MetroWest region and the Commonwealth. The legislation authorizes a $1.9 billion, 4-year capital plan, including funding for energy and environmental infrastructure, water and air quality protection, innovative green projects, recreational trails and other initiatives to preserve and protect natural resources and encourage energy efficiency.
“Well-maintained, accessible recreational trails and open space have a significant impact on quality of life,” said Senator Spilka. “These projects will encourage people to get outdoors, be active and create connections with the community while enjoying the beautiful natural resources our region has to offer.”
Senator Spilka successfully advocated for funding for the following projects to preserve and improve recreational trails and access to open space in MetroWest:
- $5,000,000 for the preservation of and improvements to the Birch Road well field in Framingham
- $4,000,000 for the planning, acquisition, design and construction of multi-use recreational trails in Ashland
- $1,200,000 for the planning, acquisition, design and construction of an extension of the Upper Charles Trail in Holliston
- $1,500,000 for the planning, acquisition, design and construction of an extension of the Upper Charles Trail from Milford into Hopkinton
- $1,000,000 for repairs and improvements to the Lake Maspenock dam owned by the town of Hopkinton
- $1,000,000 to acquire and increase public access to open space in Medway, including the construction of improvements and facilities that increase the accessibility of walking trails and outdoor programming for children with special needs
- $2,000,000 to create a network of recreational trails on aqueducts owned by the MWRA and located in Central Massachusetts and MetroWest
- $1,500,000 for the design and construction of improvements to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail (SNETT) where it crosses Prospect Street in Franklin
- $500,000 for invasive aquatic plant species eradication at Lake Cochituate State Park in Natick
- $100,000 for the Natick Trails Committee to develop and maintain walking trails
Senator Spilka also worked to include funding in the bill for a Massachusetts Water Technology Innovation Trust Fund, which will be administered by the Clean Energy Technology Center, to promote water innovation in the Commonwealth.
Supporting Statewide Building Projects
The legislature authorized $1.31 billion in bonds for the improvement of state capital facilities and for general government operations. The bill includes funding for accessibility improvements, cultural facilities, school equipment at vocational schools and public library improvements and increases in spending authorizations for state universities and community college campus facilities.
Senator Spilka successfully advocated for $14 million in additional funding for MassBay Community College to build a new campus in downtown Framingham, bringing the state’s total capital contribution to $36 million for the $59 million campus project. Last week, the college released a request for proposals for property in downtown Framingham, the next step in the project.
“MassBay is a true partner for the MetroWest region, and this additional funding for a new campus is wonderful news for the college and for our ongoing efforts to transform and revitalize downtown Framingham,” said Senator Spilka. “MassBay will be able to improve and expand educational opportunities for students, and a new campus in the heart of downtown will also provide a significant boost to local businesses in the area.”
MassBay’s new campus will be located near the downtown Framingham commuter rail station and MetroWest Regional Transit Authority bus service, benefiting students and faculty who commute to campus from other parts of the state and bringing new customers to downtown Framingham businesses, restaurants and shops. The new campus is expected to serve as an anchor institution for downtown Framingham and as a springboard for further economic growth in the area.
These pieces of legislation and others await the Governor’s final approval and signature.