Our view: Addiction’s most helpless victims

State Rep. Ann Margaret-Ferrante, D-Gloucester, a cosponsor of the legislation, told Statehouse reporter Christian Wade: “We’re living in a time where I think most people would agree that there’s more of a chance of a fetus being exposed to opioids than alcohol. We really need to have a discussion about what is happening to these pregnancies and what role the state should play.”

Read more on the Gloucester Daily Times website→

Representative Ferrante Announces Availability of JOE-4-SUN Solar Credits

State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) today announced the availability of $300 in annual household electricity savings through JOE-4-SUN, the state’s largest Low-Income Community Shared Solar program.

The initiative from Boston-based Citizens Energy Corporation, launched earlier this month, offers discount solar credits to about 2,000 low-income Massachusetts families each year.

“This is a terrific new program from my good friend, former Congressman Joe Kennedy, who has been helping low-income families in Massachusetts, the U.S., and around the world meet their energy needs with innovative programs for over 40 years,” said the six-term representative. “I encourage Gloucester families to look into this program before the subscriptions fill up.”

As a participant in the state’s SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) initiative, Citizens Energy is building five solar arrays on capped landfills around the state – in Bridgewater, Ayer, Springfield, Spencer and Ashland.

The 16 megawatts of electricity generated from the five projects will produce bill credits to be sold at a 50% discount to subscribers. As the largest Low-Income Community Shared Solar initiative in Massachusetts, JOE-4-SUN will offer guaranteed savings of about $10 million to 35,000 low-income Bay State families over the course of its 20-year lifespan.

Ferrante, a strong supporter of clean energy, played a key role in marshaling support for the legislation creating the state’s Low-Income Community Shared Solar programs.

“Rep. Ferrante has been a great advocate for renewable energy and finding ways to bring low-income families into the green revolution,” said Citizens Energy Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy II. “I welcome her support of JOE-4-SUN and our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and extend the benefits of renewable energy to low-income households while cutting their electricity costs.” 

In order to be eligible for JOE-4-SUN, renters or homeowners must be R-2 discount customers in the National Grid or Eversource service territories. Subscribers will continue to receive their R-2 discount on top of the savings from JOE-4-SUN. Citizens Energy will enroll households in the JOE-4-SUN program for at least 12 months. 

Households interested in subscribing to JOE-4-SUN must apply on-line by visiting the Citizens Energy website at www.citizensenergy.com/joe4sun. If questions arise not answered on the website, they can call the toll-free number 855-JOE-4-SUN (855-563-4786) or send an email to JOE4SUN@citizensenergy.com for further information.

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.