Revving Up

As fall begins and our formal sessions resume at the State House, I want to update you on some of the important work that is happening on Beacon Hill and around Cape Ann!

First, some exciting news on education. The Joint Committee on Education released an education funding reform bill last week that fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. This bill would provide an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the next seven years. The bill also provides additional state financial support to public schools to deliver high-quality education to every student, implements policy updates designed to maximize the impact of new funding in improving student outcomes, and identifies education policy areas requiring further analysis. Be on the lookout for more details on this important legislation in an upcoming post.

This year, the legislature passed a balanced budget for the 2020 fiscal year that makes major investments in our people, infrastructure, and economy. Importantly, this year’s budget includes significant increases to local education aid in line with the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s report on school funding, as well as new funds to assist school districts with high levels of low-income students. It also provides resources to address non-academic barriers to school success. Locally, the budget allocates over $15 million in local aid for Cape Ann’s communities and over $500,000 in targeted local initiatives to strengthen public safety, build economic opportunity, and celebrate and preserve our history.

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges we are facing on Cape Ann. In July, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to provide grants to avert climate change, invest in climate and coastal resiliency, and promote renewable energy, providing over $1.3 billion over 10 years. The details of this legislation can be found here. This plan helps prepare our cities and towns for the future and will create new jobs across the Commonwealth. I am now working with a bipartisan coaltion of House colleagues to establish a corresponding research fund to solely focus on climate change and coastal resiliency. You may be aware that the Trump Administration has significantly reduced funding to the Northeast Climate Center at UMass Amherst, with which the UMass Marine Station Gloucester is affiliated. We must do all that we reasonably can to prepare for and mitigate climate change.

This summer, I sent a letter requesting that the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Export Development hold a hearing to determine the effects the retaliatory tariffs China has levied on American lobster are having on the Massachusetts lobster industry. Since the tariffs went into effect, there has been a 70 percent drop in U.S. lobster exports to China and a 50 percent increase in Canadian lobster exports to China. Last week, I testified before the committee, along with several local business owners and stakeholders, about the enormous negative impact the Trump Administration’s trade war with China is having on Cape Ann and communities around the Commonwealth. Thank you to Vince Mortillaro and Monte Rome for coming to Boston to testify before the committee. The Boston Globe also published my op-ed on the subject last week, which you can click here to read.

Earlier that same day, I chaired a hearing of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies at the Gloucester House to hear testimony on coastal and cultural economic development issues. Committee members came from around the state and heard from local residents, businesses, and nonprofits on how the bills before the committee would affect their lives and businesses, including several filed by myself and Senator Bruce Tarr. The goal is to revitalize our working harbors on Cape Ann, form a strategic plan for our fishing industry, and promote our cultural economy. Thank you to Lenny Linquata, Patti Page, Angela Sanfilippo, Karen Ristuben, and Valerie Nelson for your testimony.

In July, we cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Manship Artists Residency + Studios along with my state and local colleagues. MARS started several years ago as a dream by local artists to preserve the property of Paul Manship and to continue its use by artists. Because of support from our local donor community and Mass Cultural Council – as well as a lot of volunteers – this dream has come true. I have been pleased to have seen this vision grow into a reality and to have been able to help bring support from the state to the table. Art and culture enriches our spirit and our economy. We will continue to make strong investments them on Cape Ann and around Massachusetts.

Cape Ann is really moving the needle forward on arts and culture. I visited the Cape Ann Museum campus by Grant Circle twice this summer. In June, I joined Senator Bruce Tarr, Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, local officials, and museum supporters for the “raising of the beam” of the new construction. Senator Tarr and I returned last week to tour the historic buildings on the property and view the worksite. Cape Ann Museum director Oliver Barker, board president Charles Esdaile, and board member Wilber James guided us through the property and laid out the vision for the campus. When completed, this project will be a wonderful asset to Cape Ann’s heritage and culture.

As fall approaches, I am looking forward to discussions that the legislature will be having about education, transportation, and other issues of importance to us on Cape Ann and around the Commonwealth. In these discussions, I have and will continue to make sure that Cape Ann’s interests are represented on Beacon Hill.

Investing in Opportunity

This week, I joined my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a balanced fiscal year 2020 budget that invests heavily in education, economic development, and local aid, strengthens Cape Ann’s local economy and celebrates its history.

The funding in this year’s budget for Cape Ann is reflective of our area’s people, our collective history, and our economic future. Investments in our residents through support of the Open Door, our public safety officers, our schools, and our environment are priorities reflected in this budget. Specific funding for lobster processing, marine science, the Blue Economy and marine genomics all foster opportunity and economic prosperity for our district. The collaboration within our state delegation, our local partners in government and our community has proven productive and yielded much success for Cape Ann.

The budget provides $5.17 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $268 million increase for investments in schools over FY2019, nearly double the average year-to-year increase over the past five years, as well as $345 million for special education reimbursement. Additionally, to ensure that we are investing in the whole child, especially those most in need, the budget provides:

  • $2 million to establish a grant program to address the need for integrated student health and wellness supports
  • $10.5 million for a reserve for low-income students

With the opening of the new Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute building on the waterfront and the presence of the state Department of Marine Fisheries and the UMass Amherst Marine Station, Cape Ann is uniquely positioned to continue to grow its marine genomics and blue economy industries, supporting our historic maritime-based industries while creating opportunities for new jobs for Cape Ann residents. The FY2020 budget invests in this potential in several ways, including:

  • $200,000 for a program of collaborative research to study communicable diseases in shellfish, managed by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI) in coordination with UMass and the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, which will provide new insights into communicable diseases in shellfish, providing better data with which we can manage those resources
  • $25,000 for the planning and design of regional broadband infrastructure in order to ensure that Cape Ann has necessary bandwidth to handle the amount of data that GMGI and other information-intensive companies need
  • $55,000 for a study of the North Shore’s blue economy to ensure we are prepared for smart growth in our marine industries

Cape Ann has a long and rich history, evident as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of Essex this year and the 400th year since the settlement of Gloucester in a few years. To celebrate this history, the budget allocates:

  • $50,000 for the design, research, and distribution of a commemorative publication of the history of the City of Gloucester on the occasion of the 400th year from its founding, inclusive of all its diverse peoples
  • $35,000 for the Essex Bicentennial Committee for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Essex

In addition to nearly $5 million of unrestricted general government aid and $11.2 million in Chapter 70 aid to Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, the budget also contains several local aid items, including:

  • $50,000 to purchase additional sets of firefighter turnout gear for the Gloucester Fire Department
  • $40,000 for the planning and design of a new public safety building in Essex
  • $25,000 for the replacement of filters at the Rockport water facility

To help protect the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens, the budget allocates over $20 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program, which helps to fund food pantries such as The Open Door, which serves Cape Ann. The budget also provides $100,000 for The Open Door, so that they may better serve our most vulnerable citizens on Cape Ann, as well as those forced into food insecurity by circumstances such as the federal government shutdown at the beginning of this year.

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is one of the state’s most effective local aid programs and has been a tremendous resource to our cities and towns, funding the restoration of Gloucester City Hall, the Rockport Meeting House, Essex Town Hall, and many other of our treasured local landmarks and spaces. I’m glad to report that the budget includes a one-time adjustment to filing fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, which will increase the state match to local community preservation committees to nearly 30 percent. At the beginning of this legislative session, I was joined by over 100 of my colleagues in filing a similar proposal and I am glad that this increase was included. In addition, the budget contains language to transfer of up to $20 million of the FY2019 surplus to the Community Preservation Trust Fund.

I’m pleased that this budget focuses on lifting up and providing opportunities to the residents of Cape Ann through collaboration with state, local, and private partners. The legislation is now on Governor Baker’s desk, awaiting his signature. I look forward to seeing the allocations in this budget put to work in the coming year.

House Unanimously Passes $1.3 Billion for Community Climate Resiliency Projects

Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to unanimously pass legislation investing $1.3 billion to help cities and towns across Massachusetts fund infrastructure  projects aimed at fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The legislation establishes a $1 billion, 10-year grant program – known as GreenWorks – to fund clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate change resiliency measures that cut greenhouse gas emissions, fortify infrastructure and reduce municipal costs. The legislation also invests $325 million in other municipal green projects, such as funds for municipalities to hire climate adaptation and coastal resiliency planners.

Massachusetts became the national leader in the life science and biotechnology industries in large part because of a $1 billion investment by the state legislature. This bill is similar in nature and could propel Massachusetts as a leader in green technology and infrastructure jobs for years to come.

“GreenWorks builds on a long-standing House approach to provide concrete tools directly to cities and towns that result in both immediate and long-lasting positive effects,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, (D-Winthrop).  “This forward-looking investment helps Massachusetts cities and towns build resilient communities, lower long-term operating costs and cut greenhouse gases while creating jobs for workers across the Commonwealth.” 

“Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges we are facing on Cape Ann,” said Ferrante. “During the fierce storms in January and March of 2018, we saw the Essex Causeway flooded, the Gloucester High School football field completely submerged, and Bearskin Neck in Rockport pummeled by the Atlantic Ocean. These events confirmed many of our beliefs that major investments were needed in our communities to plan for solutions to rising sea levels and more intense storms.”

Modeled after the state’s MassWorks program, GreenWorks funds projects that improve climate preparedness and resiliency, promote or produce clean energy or energy efficiency, build energy storage facilities, implement measures included in Massachusetts’ statewide climate adaptation strategy or otherwise help mitigate the impacts of climate change or reduce carbon emissions.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will accept applications annually and administer the program, which is funded through the issuance of bonds. In addition, the legislation makes targeted investments of $325 million in energy infrastructure, including:

  • $100 million for investments in municipal microgrid energy systems
  • $125 million for electric vehicles in municipal or regional transit authority fleets
  • $20 million for the hiring of sustainability coordinators to develop and manage municipal projects resulting from the GreenWorks program 
  • $50 million to establish the Green Resiliency Fund to offer low-interest loans for municipalities when pursuing GreenWorks projects
  • $30 million for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ MOR-EV electric vehicle rebate program 

“This is one piece of legislation among several intended to ensure that Massachusetts is taking substantial action toward addressing climate change and coastal resiliency adaptation,” Ferrante added. “I anticipate that additional legislation will be passed this session that will demonstrate that the Commonwealth is taking as many steps as possible to remain the national leader in addressing climate change and creating green technology and infrastructure jobs.”

The bill will now go to the Senate.

Tarr and Ferrante Secure Support For Local Priorities in State Budget

Gloucester lawmakers Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante have secured a significant amount of state support for innovative and important initiatives serving Cape Ann communities in the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget bill now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker.

The lawmakers authored, proposed, and successfully championed, amendments which will aid in public safety, water quality, economic development, fisheries, marine genomic research and efforts to support the anniversary celebrations of Gloucester and Essex.

“Residents in our communities are very fortunate to have people who are committed to helping others. Each of the programs, projects and ongoing initiatives identified for support in the state budget came about as a result of our strong partnerships with local officials and organizations,” said Senator Tarr, the Senate’s Minority Leader. “Our area fared well because it is served well by those partnerships and the efforts of individuals that are involved in them.”

“The funding in this year’s budget for Cape Ann is reflective of our area’s people, our collective history and our economic future. Investments in our residents through support of the Open Door, our public safety officers, our schools and our environment are priorities reflected in this budget,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D- Gloucester). “Specific funding for lobster processing, marine science, the Blue Economy and marine genomics all foster opportunity and economic prosperity for our district.  The collaboration within our state delegation, our local partners in government and our community has proven productive and yielded much success for Cape Ann.”

Among those items which were included in the final budget:

  • Lobster Processing – a major provision to strengthen the Massachusetts lobster processing laws to allow the sale, transport and processing of shell-on lobster parts
  • $50,000 to assist the Gloucester Fire Department with the purchase of 40 units of firefighter protective clothing known as turnout gear
  • $200,000 for a program of collaborative shellfish research by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute, Division of Marine Fisheries and UMass Amherst/Marine Station in Gloucester
  • $25,000 for the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute to plan and design regional broadband infrastructure
  • $35,000 for the Essex Bicentennial Committee for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Essex
  • $50,000 for the research, design, and distribution of a commemorative publication of the history of the City of Gloucester for the 400th Anniversary
  • $40,000 for the planning and design of the public safety building in Essex
  • $25,000 for the replacement of water filters at the water treatment facility in Rockport
  • $100,000 for the Open Door Food Pantry
  • $55,000 for phase two of the ongoing efforts to develop a plan to foster the growth of the North Shore Blue Economy
  • A provision to ensure that the state’s $500,000 Buy Local program includes locally harvested seafood, including fish and shellfish

In addition, the budget also contains $16.4 million in Chapter 70 education aid and unrestricted local aid for Cape Ann communities.

A six-member conference committee working to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget reached consensus this week on a compromise spending plan for the new fiscal year that began on July 1. Senator Tarr appointed one of the three Senate members of that conference committee.

Governor Baker has until August 2 to approve or disapprove of the contents of the $43.1 billion budget proposal which was approved by both legislative branches by a near unanimous vote on July 22.