Senator Ben Downing's Press Pass - October 2013

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox! 2013 World Series Champions!

Photo Credit:  Boston Globe

Governor visits PHS/Senator Downing lectures at MCLA

Monday, October 7 was an exciting day for students at Pittsfield High School!  At the request and invitation of Senator Ben Downing, Governor Deval Patrick, Education Secretary Matt Malone, and other state and local officials joined him for a visit at PHS to network with students.  The Governor listened to PHS students share their concerns during a student Town Hall Forum. You can learn more - and watch a video - about the students' conversation with Governor Patrick from the coverage by the Berkshire Eagle and YNN News.
Additionally, on Tuesday, October 15th Senator Ben Downing was the guest lecturer at Professor Jim Canavan's Social Justice class at MCLA.  Each student, including the Senator's current District Aide/Scheduler Liz Connor, was asked why they are interested in politics.
Senator Downing enjoys visiting local classrooms and interacting with students of all ages.  If you are a local teacher please do not hesitate to contact the Senator's district office to invite him to visit your classroom or participate in your events.

Coffee & Conversation:  Conway

On Tuesday October 15th, Senator Ben Downing held his  monthly Coffee and Conversation  open forum at the Conway Town Hall, situated next to the beautiful and historic Field Memorial Library. Many constituents and municipal officials, including selectmen, the police chief, and members of the planning board, attended to share and discuss their concerns. 

Issures pertaining to rural development, such as broadband expansion, the status of a a Community Development Block Grant project and possible restoration and protection of the South River were discussed. Residents of neighboring communities were also in attendance to pose questions about state trooper training and voice their support for increased public transportation. 

The November Coffee and Conversation will take place on the 18th from 2-4pm at the Cummington Town Hall (33 Main Street).

Please mark your calendar - we hope to see you there!  

Policy Update: Bills, Budgets and the TUE Committee

This month, in anticipation of the coming Veterans Day holiday, the Massachusetts Senate passed the Valor Act, II -- legislation increasing benefits to Massachusetts veterans and their families.  The Senate also tackled legislation improving protections for victims of domestic abuse and regulating compounding pharmacies. Additionally, a home-rule petition that Senator Downing filed on behalf of the Town of Adams authorizing the Town to convert a seasonal liquor license to a year-round license was sent to the Governor's desk and a second home rule, establishing a recall election process in Middlefield was enacted and signed into law.

The final deficiency closeout budget for Fiscal Year 2013 was also enacted by the Legislature and sent to the Governor for his signature. Among the accounts receiving additional funds were Senator's Downing's local priorities: $20 million to supplement the LIHEAP Program; the Berkshire District Attorney's office, which received $58,305 for State Police overtime costs; and $250,000 previously appropriated for storm damage repairs to the Charlemont Sewer District was authorized to be spent in the current fiscal  year. 

On October 30th Senator Downing co-hosted a briefing on the 2013 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report with his Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy Committee co-chair Representative John Keenan (see photo). MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton addressed a crowded room and detailed the progress to date in the clean energy sector while also identifying areas for improvement and growth in the future. Notably, the Clean Energy Industry Report shows that clean energy jobs have grown by 11.8% since 2012 and is anticipated to grow another 11.1% in 2014.

The TUE Committee held two hearings in October on bills relating to telecommunications and municipal lighting plants. Both hearings were well attended. Our next hearing is on Tuesday, November 12th from 10AM-1PM in hearing room A-2, during which the Committee will be hearing bills on water Infrastructure, coal, towing reform, and other miscellaneous issues.

Gateway Cities Legislators tour Downtown Pittsfield

This year the members of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus are visiting the  26 Gateway Cities to understand the common challenges these communities face.  On Monday, October 21st Senator Ben Downing, co-chair of the Caucus, joined Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier in welcoming legislators from around Massachusetts to downtown Pittsfield.

While in the City Caucus members met with local officials, including Mayor Dan Bianchi and Cory Thurston, the Executive Director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA), to discuss Pittsfield's ongoing redevelopment goals and current challenges. The Caucus learned about Pittsfield's investment in cultural facilities and opportunities, like the Berkshire Museum and the Beacon Cinema. Members also visited the Rice Silk Mill, a former mill that was recently renovated into 45 apartment units in downtown Pittsfield and spoke with local leaders in the field of education to discuss educational trends in Gateway Cities.

Legislators from various regions of the Commonwealth enjoyed their visit and were overall very impressed with downtown Pittsfield!

The MassInc Gateway Cities Innovation Institute defines "gateway cities" as midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies around the state. For generations, these communities were home to industry that offered residents good jobs and a "gateway” to the American Dream. Over the past several decades, manufacturing jobs slowly disappeared. Lacking resources and capacity to rebuild and reposition, Gateway Cities have been slow to draw new economy investment.

Elder Services of Berkshire County Keynote Address

On Wednesday, October 23rd Senator Ben Downing attended Elder Services of Berkshire County's Annual Meeting at Berkshire Hills Country Club and delivered the keynote address. 

Senator Downing used his time to discuss anti-poverty initiatives that he intends to pursue on Beacon Hill.  Today, according to the most recent census, 9,094 seniors in Berkshire County live in poverty. 

This year legislators used the state budget to reaffirm their support for Massachusetts' seniors, by approving $6.3M for Meals on Wheels; the highest ever level of funding for local Councils on Aging (COAs); and infusing the Elder Home Care program with an additional $6.2M, in order to eliminate the waitlist for services.

Pittsfield Municipal Airport Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Today, MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey joined Senator Ben Downing, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi, and other local, state and federal officials to celebrate the completion of the runway expansion and safety improvements project at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, a $13.4 million investment in the Commonwealth's aviation infrastructure. |more|

"An updated and improved Pittsfield Airport is part of making sure Berkshire County has the infrastructure it needs to grow and add jobs,” said Senator Benjamin B. Downing. "I am glad we were able to complete this project with the help and support of Governor Patrick, former Congressman Olver and others.”
Looking Back:  Senator Ben Downing joins state and local officials at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Pittsfield Airport Runway Expansion Project on October 12, 2010. (see photo)

Happy Halloween!

Senator Ben Downing wishes you have a safe and spooky Halloween!! 

Parents are invited to take a minute to review these Halloween Health and Safety Tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Also, click here for local Halloween events and Trick or Treat times, as reported by Berkshire Family  Focus and!

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