Francia Wisnewski’s Statement on the FY2019 Budget and End of the 190th General Court

I congratulate our legislators on the completion of the 190th General Court as of midnight last night, and on the passage on the FY2019 budget in recent days. I am pleased to see approval of an expanded response to opioid addiction, including adoption of successful practices already in use in Franklin and Hampden counties to address addiction among inmates in our jails, and the passage of the NASTY Women Act, repealing archaic constraints on Massachusetts’ women’s right to choose. I also welcome the passage of an economic development bill that provides some protection to workers and support to our Massachusetts economy, infrastructure, and workforce development.

However, I am disappointed in what did and did not happen in the final weeks and days of the session. In budget negotiations over the past month, the Legislature gave up early on protecting the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of immigrants and their families. Its decision to drop a provision from the budget that would have restricted local law enforcement from acting on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security is a blow to some of the most vulnerable people in MA, and an unfortunate signal to the many cities and towns that have already implemented such policies that our state government is unwilling to follow its citizens’ lead.

More recently, the House and Senate gave in to insurance industry pressure and failed to reach a compromise on legislation aimed at supporting the struggling community hospitals and health centers on which most of our rural population depends. Chapter 70 school funding reform continues to be kicked down the road, despite recent research from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center further confirming that the current funding formula is shortchanging districts and harming our schools and students. The failure of the Healthy Youth Act means we will keep going without comprehensive and age-appropriate education about sexual and reproductive health. Disability insurers may continue to discriminate against women. Our commitment to transitioning to solar power and other renewables continues to appear half-hearted just when we need to be taking bold steps.

I’m also disappointed in the manner in which our Legislature consistently finds itself rushing to make major decisions at literally the 11th hour. The people of Massachusetts deserve a chance to truly hear and understand the major policy and funding decisions being debated by their representatives. It is unacceptable that final bills come out from behind closed doors only hours or even minutes before being voted on, and yet such practices seem to have become institutionalized on Beacon Hill. I believe that budgets are moral documents and, similarly, the process by which budget and other policy decisions are made demonstrates the priorities of the decision-makers. The people of the Commonwealth deserve decision-makers who prioritize transparency and accountability, not closed doors and last-minute deals.

I am running for State Representative because I believe we need people in the Legislature who bring new and different perspectives, and who value transparency, equity, and inclusive participation. As a woman of color, an immigrant, and a proud Massachusetts resident who has served our communities in the Pioneer Valley for nearly 20 years, I will work tirelessly to amplify the voices of working families and all who are tired of their wellbeing and safety being postponed by a Legislature that fails to reflect their experiences, priorities, and values.

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