Senator Downing's Press Pass - February 2014

Senate passes FY14 Supplemental Budget

On February 13th the Massachusetts Senate voted 37-0 to pass a $200.8 million supplemental budget to cover time sensitive deficiencies and unexpected cost increases in Fiscal Year 2014. Several of Senator Ben Downing's priority programs and issues are addressed in the supplemental budget, including:

$15 million to recapitalize the Brownsfield Redevelopment Fund;

$1.7 million for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP); and

Clarification of the statute for fines levied against owners of elevators.  This new language requires the Department of Public Safety to inform municipalities, nonprofits and religious organizations of their responsibilities at least 30 days prior to the expiration of an elevator certificate and caps the maximum fine for noncompliance at $10,000. |more|


"Middle Mile" network for high speed Internet is complete!

This month the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) announced the completed construction and testing of MassBroadband 123, a 1,200-mile fiber-optic network bringing high-speed Internet access directly to 1,200 key facilities in more than 120 western and central Massachusetts communities. MassBroadband 123 is a critical component of the Commonwealth's strategy to invest in innovation infrastructure in order to create growth and economic opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth.  

"I am thrilled that we have reached another milestone in our work to ensure universal access to high quality, affordable broadband internet. My hope is that this brings us momentum in our efforts to invest in Last Mile projects and connect residences and businesses directly to the service they need and deserve," said Senator Ben Downing. |more|


Lenox Coffee &  Conversation

On Monday February 24th, Senator Downing held a Coffee and Conversation in the Lenox Town Hall auditorium. There was a full house as numerous constituents came from all over the district to discuss their concerns with the Senator and Representative Smitty Pignatelli, who was also in attendance.  

The highlight of the night was five-year-old Rorie, who presented both Senator Downing and Rep. Pignatelli with cards signed by her and her classmates thanking them for their support of legislation to improve quality in early education centers. Other hot topics discussed included broadband expansion, net metering/energy tax credits, wind turbine proposals, and MassPike tolls. 

Stay tuned for information about the next Coffee and Conversation!


Student Job Shadows

January 31st was 2014 Job Shadow Day.  In order to support this initiative, Senator Ben Downing hosted two student job shadows, local students who are interested in government, policy and public service.  These young men were able to spend a full work day each with the Senator and participate in every meeting and event that he had on his calendar that day.

Jacob Tarjick, a junior at Hoosac Valley High School joined Senator Downing at a Town Hall-style forum at Melbourne Place with senior citizens, a strategy meeting about the life sciences industry in Pittsfield, and then sat in on constituent meetings and phone calls on various topics.

Sean Peters, a student at Wahconah Regional High School, had the opportunity to join Senator Downing at his meeting with Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy, a legislative briefing by the Berkshire Youth Development Project, as well as the weekly district staff/scheduling meeting and meetings with constituents on elevator inspection issues and health care.

Local students who are interested in shadowing the Senator for school projects should contact his office.


MassHealth to restore dental benefits on March 1st

The Berkshire County Legislative Delegation is pleased to announce that on March 1, 2014 MassHealth coverage will be restored for dental procedures for more than 800,000 low-income adults across the Commonwealth, including 120,000 senior citizens and 180,000 people with disabilities.

Healthy smiles lead to more opportunities in the workplace and less time lost by students in schools. Good oral health prevents early tooth loss, promotes self-esteem, improves social interaction and raises the quality of life.
Cuts made to the MassHealth adult dental program in 2010 limited access to proper oral health care for Massachusetts' most vulnerable residents. Oral health care is a crucial function of maintaining overall good health: poor oral health has been linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease and Osteoporosis, and new studies are underway looking at connections with Arthritis, Lung Diseases and Obesity.
Currently the MassHealth dental program provides cleaning, screenings, extractions and very limited fillings, for just the front teeth. Beginning March 1st, MassHealth patients will begin to receive more complete care of all teeth resulting in fewer infections, fewer extractions and fewer people utilizing very busy and costly emergency rooms for dental care.
Restoring this coverage has been a joint priority of the Berkshire Delegation, comprised of State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) and State Representatives Gailanne M. Cariddi (D- North Adams), Paul W. Mark (D- Peru), Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D- Pittsfield) and Wm. "Smitty” Pignatelli (D- Lenox).

Downing receives JCRC/MAJF Legislative Achievement Award

On February 26th Senator Ben Downing was honored with the 2014 Legislative Achievement Award from the Jewish Community Relations Council/Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations (JCRC/MAJF).

"We are thrilled to honor Senator Ben Downing with the JCRC/MAJF Legislative Achievement Award during this year's reception," said Ellen Segal, Co-Chair of the Legislative Reception.  "Senator Downing is a remarkable presence in the Massachusetts Senate.  His leadership on behalf of policies to lift people out of poverty, such as the Bridges to College program and Transitions to Work, run by JVS, sets a high standard for our public officials and we are grateful for his partnership."  |more|



Municipal Service Entry-Level Firefighter Examination Announced

The state Human Resources Division (HRD) is currently accepting applications for both components of the 2014 Firefighter, Municipal Service Examination.

This examination consists of two components: the Written examination and the Entry Level Physical Ability Test (ELPAT). Candidates MUST APPLY FOR, TAKE and PASS BOTH components in order to be placed on the eligible list for appointment in a civil service city or town.

The Written examination component will be held on April 26, 2014 at various sites across the Commonwealth.  The ELPAT will be administered from January 2014 through July 2014 at the Hudson National Guard Armory in Hudson, MA.  For more information, click here.

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Legislature Enacts Downing's Pulse Ox Screening Bill
Yesterday, the Massachusetts state Senate gave final enactment to one of Senator Downing's top legislative priorities: S. 1919 An Act relative to newborn pulse oximetry screenings for congenital heart defects. The bill now goes to the Governor's desk for approval.

The legislation requires all Massachusetts newborns to be tested for congenital heart defect through pulse ox screening at hospitals and birth centers before they are discharged. Pulse ox, a non-invasive screening test, can identify infants with a congenital heart defect and newborns at risk for heart defects and potentially save their lives.  This commonsense measure is in place in twenty-seven other states across the nation; the bill's implementation date here in the Commonwealth is January 1, 2015. |more|


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